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The Technology of Orgasm

, 208 pages

26 b&w illus.

March 2001



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The Technology of Orgasm

"Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction

Winner of the Herbert Feis Prize from the American Historical Association

Winner of the AFGAGMAS Biennial Book Award

Winner of the Science Award from the American Foundation for Gender and Genital Medicine

From the time of Hippocrates until the 1920s, massaging female patients to orgasm was a staple of medical practice among Western physicians in the treatment of "hysteria," an ailment once considered both common and chronic in women. Doctors loathed this time-consuming procedure and for centuries relied on midwives. Later, they substituted the efficiency of mechanical devices, including the electric vibrator, invented in the 1880s. In The Technology of Orgasm, Rachel Maines offers readers a stimulating, surprising, and often humorous account of hysteria and its treatment throughout the ages, focusing on the development, use, and fall into disrepute of the vibrator as a legitimate medical device.

Rachel P. Maines is an independent scholar and a technical processing assistant at Cornell University's Hotel School Library. She is also the author of numerous articles in scholarly and popular publications.

"Thorough, original, and surprising."

"Full of wonderful descriptions of the 'job nobody wanted,' including photographs of early vibrators and vaginal electrodes."

"Feminist scholarship exactly as it should be: a work that not only illuminates an astonishing bit of herstory, but does so with a neat balance of anger, wit and humor... A wonderful book."

"Exhaustively researched... decidedly offbeat."

"Here's a provocative history with a chip on its shoulder and a buzz under its skirt... Exhumes startling facts from the underground sexual history of the early twentieth century."

"Maines has produced an exhaustive and deliciously savage history of the vibrator-as-sex-aid... This fascinating and exquisitely referenced true story reads like twisted science fiction."

"A titillating and often hilarious account of the rise and fall (as it were) of the vibrator as a medical tool for the treatment of hysteria... A book that can delight as well as enlighten."

"Rachel Maines offers readers a stimulating, surprising, and often humorous account of hysteria and its treatment throughout the ages."

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