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National Masturbation Month: The history of the vibrator

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

O-O-Oh, it's magic!

In honor of National Masturbation Month, we're celebrating the vibrator with a quick look at its surprising history. Take a minute to get better acquainted with every gal's best friend.
Dr. Harry Waite's vibrator
Dr. Harry F. Waite's Tissue Oscillator
Photo credit: Ephemeral Scraps

Believe it or not, the vibrator was invented in 1869 by an American doctor, George Taylor. Even more surprising, the first model was steam-powered. (Can you imagine?)

A popular British model, Macaura's Pulsocon (later renamed Macaura's Blood Circulator) was introduced in the mid-1880s and continued to be sold well into the late 1920s. This model was hand-cranked, which seems a little distracting to us, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

The first battery-powered and electric vibrators weren't introduced until around the turn of the 20th century. Unsurprisingly, it was among the first personal devices electrified, only falling behind the sewing machine, fan, tea kettle and toaster.

Vibrators through the years

Vintage vibrators

Check out our roundup of vintage vibrators here!

The first vibrators were marketed for use by doctors and spas, but in the 1900s, ads began appearing as cure-alls in magazines geared toward women. American Vibrator Company was even so bold as to state their product "can be used by yourself in the privacy of dressing room or boudoir..." They even claimed it would keep a woman young. The glow of satisfaction will do that to a girl.

Unfortunately, in the '20s, vibes showed up in pornography, effectively ending their appearance in "respectable" publications. Leave it to a man to blab and spoil our fun!

Fast-forward to the 1950s, when one company began marketing the Vibra Finger "Gum Massager" (uh-huh). Featuring a "full-size" finger attached to an electric base, the massager was dentist approved. For only $7, this little gadget was also said to be a great gift. The money-back guarantee is nice, but we have a feeling no one ever took advantage of it. Others were marketed as plain-old massagers, beauty aids and weight-loss devices.

The sexual revolution ended that nonsense, and in the '70s, vibrators reappeared as devices used solely for sex. (So next time you meet a certified '60s bra-burner, give her a hug!) But despite how far we've come, they're still called novelties in the fine print.

Photo credit: Good Vibrations

Modern vibrators

Dr. Charlie Glickman, sexuality educator and spokesperson for Wet personal lubricant, gave us the scoop on the three most popular types of vibrators. He recommends experimenting to see what you like. "Battery vibes are usually less powerful," he says, "but stronger isn't always better. After all, some people don't like spicy food, either."

Love eggs

Love eggs

Love eggs are little egg or bullet-shaped vibrators. They're small and discreet and usually don't pack the power of a full-sized vibrator. They can be hard to hold for some, but there are models that take care of that. Most people find them best for external stimulation, but if you don't need deeper penetration, it can work well for that, too. We like the Pleasurette Mini Waterproof Vibrator. It's a little more powerful than other models and uses AAA batteries instead of watch-style ones. (Good Vibrations, $20)

Curved vibrators

Curved vibrators

Curved vibrators are often a great if you're looking for G-spot stimulation. Just insert the toy and aim the curve toward your navel. The Spirit Leaf Vibrator is a popular choice. While it's likely too small for G-spot stimulation, it's waterproof and eco-friendly and travels well. Celebrity activist Alicia Silverstone is a big fan, too. (Good Vibrations, $128)

Rabbit-style vibrators

Rabbit-style vibrators

Rabbit-style vibrators are phallus-shaped vibrators equipped with a simultaneous clitoral stimulator. Some women think they're a bit much, but if your current vibrator isn't getting the job done, you should try one. The Butterfly Bliss is comfortable and waterproof. It's a great starter vibe and works just as well in the tub as it does in the bedroom. (Good Vibrations, $28)

USB vibratorNew technology

After hundreds of years of breakthroughs in vibrator technology, we're not done yet. We recently discovered the Revel Body (available for preorder now), a device that takes advantage of sonic vibrator technology instead of the typical rotary motor. That's right, for all you ladies who've ever wished your Sonicare toothbrush could be put to better use, this orb-shaped beauty has 10 vibration settings, two power settings and 400 percent greater vibration. It also comes with a USB charging dock and is 90 percent quieter than other models. (Revel Body, $179)

More on masturbation and sex

Beat bedroom boredom: Ways to spice things up
A lesson on orgasms
12 Must-read erotic novels: One for every month this year!

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