That picture to the left? That's a vibrator, not a hand grenade, and it comes courtesy of a new film by two Bay Area women, Passion & Power: The Technology Of Orgasm, set to premiere in New York this weekend. As a feature article on the film from yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle notes, 'home medical appliances' like the one seen above (check out more medieval-looking monstrosities here) were more common in early 20th-century households than you'd think. In fact, by 1904 vibrators were being advertised in magazines, and by 1918, Sears Roebuck had a number of types of vibrators available to the public, including a $6 'portable' model, described as "very useful and satisfactory for home service." But that's not all. Before the advent of the at-home model, women were routinely sent to see doctors who would, for lack of a better term, get them off for a fee.

The filmmakers were particularly startled by the relationship between doctors and vibrators. Maines wrote that gynecological massage had been a standard medical treatment for "hysteria" — viewed as the womb's response to sexual deprivation — since antiquity. In the 1860s, an American physician created the Manipulator, a steam-powered device. Two decades later, Dr. Mortimer Granville of Britain invented the electromechanical vibrator, though he intended it solely for male skeletal muscles and warned that it would be morally indefensible to use it on women. Some of his colleagues thought otherwise. It could take more than an hour of manual labor to induce the "hysterical paroxysm," as it was called. With the aid of the vibrator, this could more profitably be achieved in less than 10 minutes.

Forget the troubling, paternalistic implications in the above paragraph; when we think of an orgasm achieved in less than 10 minutes, we think of the four blissful weeks after we bought our first vibrator, a Hitachi Magic Wand, back in late 2001. You know, before week 5 set in and our bliss turned into something more resembling addiction, with all its attendant compulsions, drawn blinds, and occasional forays outside for food. Who knows, maybe it was the trauma of 9/11, but damn weren't we glad when we overheated the motor and had to go back to manual! [Um, speak for yourself, Anna. "Manual" is for transmissions! -Moe.]

The Making Of A Feel-Good Film: 2 Bay Area Women Trace The (Shocking) History Of Vibrators [SF Chronicle]
Dr. John Butler's Electro-Massage Machine: A History Of Manufacturing Female Pleasure [Our Bodies, Our Blog]
Related: Hitachi Magic Wand [Babeland]