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7 Things you didn't know about vibrators

Ally Hirschlag is a producer/actor/writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY and buys way too many toys for her cats. She contributes to several publications, including Bustle, and The Nerve, and enjoys writing about all things woman. In her spar...

Vibrators have a long and very surprising history

Over the 135 years that vibrators have been in existence, they have had a number of different uses. While they are now mainly used for sexual stimulation and self-pleasure, that was far from their original purpose.

For one thing, vibrators were initially created as a remedy to a female "problem" that men believed was caused by just having a vagina. Of course, we now know that our physiology is not nearly as cut-and-dried as that, but despite the original shortsightedness, this notion led to some pretty spectacular advancements in the sexual toy industry. Here's a brief rundown of the vibrator's history, along with several other things you probably didn't know about your bedside companion.

More: 20 Interesting sex facts everyone should know

1. It was invented by a British doctor

While doctors had been using various massage therapies on women (which we would now call masturbation) for centuries, it wasn't until the 1880s that electronics came into play. Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville, a British physician, patented the first electromechanical vulva massager in order to treat various "female maladies." The first prototype weighed 40 pounds and had to be operated by two people. That had to make office visits particularly awkward for women!

2. It's original purpose was not at all sexual

As was mentioned above, the first vibrator was created to more efficiently deal with what doctors assumed was a medical condition that exclusively affected women. This condition was labeled as "hysteria," because that is the Greek word for uterus. Essentially, it was the catchall for any mental and/or physical ailments a woman had that could not be explained in any other way. Some of the many symptoms thought to be effects of it were depression, anxiety, bloating, sexual desire, irritability, insomnia and lack of appetite.

Doctors would use vibrators on women to help them achieve a "hysterical peroxism" (or orgasm as it's now commonly called), which they believed help quell the symptoms of hysteria. And while orgasms likely didn't cure any of these conditions, they did make the patients seem more relaxed afterwards. So you can see how doctors would assume the treatment worked.

3. It was a common household appliance in the 1900s in America

The still well-known home appliance company, Hamilton Beach, was the first to bring the portable vibrator into American homes in 1902. It was the fifth at-home appliance to be electrified after the sewing machine, teakettle and toaster.

More: Women are not the only ones faking orgasms

4. On average, more than half of women use them

According to a 2009 study, which was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine by Debra Herbenick, over 52 percent of women claim to use a vibrator in one way or another. They surveyed 2,056 women, aged 18 to 60, and learned that more than half use a vibrator for self-stimulation, extra stimulation during sex and/or foreplay.

5. "The Rabbit" vibrator was shaped that way to avoid a lawsuit

Remember that episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte gets addicted to a vibrator called "the Rabbit?" Well initially that particular vibrator was made in Japan where it's actually illegal to make and sell a vibrator shaped like a penis.

6. Sex and the City may be responsible for the surge in vibrator use

While not totally proven, many attribute the sudden rise in vibrator purchases to that infamous Sex and the City episode mentioned above. The trendsetting show was already quite popular when the episode aired back in 1998, and also happened to coincide with the first foray into online shopping — a development which allowed people to buy sex toys much more discretely. Thus, the correlation between the sex toy craze and the popular show is not all that surprising.

More: Female sexuality may be even more complex than we realized

7. Using a vibrator is good for your overall health

Several studies have proven that having regular orgasms is good for you. It can lower cancer risks, protect against heart attacks and even boost our brain performance. However, you may not know that women who regularly use a vibrator are generally healthier down there than women who don't. According to Dr. Herbenick's study in the Journal of Sexual Health, women who masturbate with a vibrator are more likely to get regular gynecological checkups and do their own visual self-checks.

So ladies, get to know a vibrator if you haven't already. It may do you far more good than you could ever know.

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