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The evolution of vibrators as a milestone of female empowerment

Sara Dobie Bauer is a writer, model and mental health advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. Her short story "Don't Ball the Boss" (inspired by her shameless crush on Benedict Cumberbatch) was nominated for the Pus...

A brief history of vibrators and why women shouldn't be ashamed to own one

We've come a long way from "The Magic Wand": the so-called personal massager made famous during the women's liberation movement of the 1970s. Vibrators now fit in purses. You can wear them on your finger. You can have an orgasm in the middle of a fancy dinner party if you want to — and who wouldn't want to?

I sat down recently with sex toy historian and expert Amy Donohue. She prides herself on her extensive personal collection of toys. Surprisingly, some of her more "historic" pieces were found at Goodwill. When Grandma dies, people just toss old stuff into a box (no pun intended) and get rid of it, not realizing they're tossing pieces of history. According to Donohue, Goodwill employees usually put old vibrators in the tools section. Makes sense to me.

Is it shocking to think of Grandma with a vibrator? Shouldn't be. Historically, Donohue said, vibrators were used to "cure 'women's madness' or hysteria." In the late 1800s, a doctor named Joseph Granville accidentally invented the vibrator, claiming his invention was for muscle aches. Other doctors of the period used to massage the genitals of women suffering from irritability and nervousness.

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It took some time, but vibrators eventually took on the phallic shape we're accustomed to in sex shops. However, as Donohue pointed out, even that's changing, as vibrators have "evolved into something more discreet, more feminine looking, since a penis doesn't always hit the g-spot."

She mentioned one vibrator called "The Womanizer" which is for clitoral stimulation only, and when I looked it up, I was shocked to find a pretty little product that claims to act almost like a clitoral vacuum. More research required…

Despite the great leaps and bounds vibrators have made over the past century, some men still see toys as threatening. Donohue blames it on insecurity: "They feel they should be the one making you feel good all the time. If you have to resort to something else, they're not doing their job." However, adversely, she pointed out that men masturbate, too.

Vibrators have changed the way women look at their own sexuality. It's no longer necessary to be in a relationship to have an orgasm. We don't have to rely on anyone else to give us sexual pleasure. We can have an orgasm whenever we want — and wherever we want. We can order toys from the privacy of our own homes and have them delivered to our doorsteps.

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Founder of the website My Secret Luxury, Stacy Rybchin said, "Pleasure is a woman's birthright and many women and men forget that because society is focused on male pleasure. The only job of the clitoris is pleasure. In fact, the clitoris has about 8000 sensory nerve endings — much more than the penis."

In defense of the vibrator, she continued, "A vibrator is an object that doesn't get tired and has the right amount of pressure and vibration. A vibrator cannot rub your feet or tell you, 'I love you.' Men should appreciate a woman's pleasure no matter how it's achieved."

And hey, for the more insecure guy, there are remote control-operated vibrators. He can still easily be a part of your pleasure process, and your fellah might even enjoy getting to know your toys. Donohue's advice? "Learn how to use new toys together. Shop for each other. Test each other's boundaries."

Doctors aren't prescribing masturbation for anxiety anymore (although they totally should), but there sure are benefits to the highly evolved, scientifically researched toys known as vibrators. If you've never tried one, it might be time to start for you, your man and your own sexual confidence.

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