A vibrator, sometimes described as a massager, is a sex toy that is used on the body to produce pleasurable sexual stimulation. There are many different shapes and models of vibrators. Most 2010-era vibrators contain an electric-powered device which pulsates or throbs. Vibrators can be used for both solo play and partnered play by one or more people. Devices exist to be used by couples to stimulate the genitals of both partners.They can be applied to erogenous zones, such as the clitoris, the vulva or vagina, penis, scrotum or anus, for sexual stimulation, for the release of sexual frustration and to achieve orgasm. Vibrators may be recommended by sex therapists for women who have difficulty reaching orgasm through masturbation or intercourse.
Vibrators very often generate their vibrations using eccentric weights driven by a conventional electric motor, but some use electromagnet coils.Some vibrators are marketed as "body massagers"—although they still may be used, like the ones sold as adult sex toys, for autoeroticism. Some vibrators run on batteries while others have a power cord that plugs into a wall socket. There is also a vibrator that uses the flow of air from a vacuum cleaner to stimulate the clitoris. Modern versions of old musical vibrators synchronize the vibrations to music from a music player or a cell phone. Some luxury brand vibrators are also completely covered in medical grade silicone with no exposed control panels or seams. Although proper cleaning is required for any sex toy, having fewer places for bacteria to grow reduces the chance of infection.
While some companies sell significantly larger dildos and vibrators, most that are marketed for vaginal or anal insertion are sized around the average penis size.
There is a wide range of vibrators but most of them fall into several broad categories:
Disabled people can find that vibrators are an essential part of their sex life for two reasons: First, it might be the only way to get sexual satisfaction due to impaired arm and hand function.Second, for some disabled men, the use of a vibrator is their only way to provide a semen sample for in-vitro fertilization.
The electric vibrator was invented in the late 19th century as a medical instrument for pain relief and the treatment of various ailments; one account gives its first use at the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris in 1878, with Romain Vigouroux cited as the inventor. English physician and inventor Joseph Mortimer Granville, who also developed an early model, asserted his own priority in the invention and has been described as the 'father of the modern electromechanical vibrator'.Mortimer Granville's 1883 book Nerve-vibration and excitation as agents in the treatment of functional disorder and organic disease describes the intended use of his vibrator for purposes including pain relief and the treatment of neuralgia, neurasthenia, morbid irritability, indigestion and constipation. These early vibrators became popular among the medical profession and were used for treating a wide variety of ailments in women and men including hysteria, arthritis, constipation, amenorrhea, inflammations, and tumors; some wounded World War I soldiers received vibrotherapy as treatment at English and French hospitals in Serbia.
Vibrators began to be marketed for home use in magazines from around 1900 together with other electrical household goods, for their supposed health and beauty benefits. An early example was the 'Vibratile,' an advert which appeared in McClure's magazine in March 1899, offered as a cure for 'Neuralgia, Headache, Wrinkles'. These advertisements disappeared in the 1920s, possibly because of their appearance in pornography, and because growing understanding of female sexual function made it no longer tenable for mainstream society to avoid the sexual connotations of the devices.
Historian of technology Rachel Maines, in her book The Technology of Orgasm,has argued that the development of the vibrator in the late 19th century was in large part due to the requirements of doctors for an easier way to perform genital massage on women, often to 'hysterical paroxysm' (orgasm), which was historically a treatment for the once common medical diagnosis of female hysteria. Maines writes that this treatment had been recommended since classical antiquity in Europe, including in the Hippocratic corpus and by Galen, and continued to be used into the medieval and modern periods, but was not seen as sexual by physicians due to the absence of penetration, and was viewed by them as a difficult and tedious task. Maines writes that the first use of the vibrator at the Salpêtrière was on hysterical women, but notes that Joseph Mortimer Granville denied that he had, or ever would have, used his invention for this purpose; additionally, Maines states that the true use of these medical vibrators, and the vibrators marketed for home use in the early 20th century, was not openly stated, but proceeded under 'social camouflage'. One example of suggestive advertising given is a 1908 advert in National Home Journal for the Bebout hand-powered mechanical vibrator, containing the text "Gentle, soothing, invigorating and refreshing. Invented by a woman who knows a woman's needs."
Other historians disagree with Maines about the historical prevalence of genital massage as a treatment for female hysteria, and over the extent to which early vibrating massagers were used for this purpose. The idea that stimulation to orgasm was a standard treatment for female hysteria in ancient and medieval Europe has been disputed on the grounds of being a distortion of the sources,and cases of this treatment in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and of the use of early vibrators to perform it, have been described as a practice that, if it occurred at all, would have been confined to an extremely limited group. Maines has said her widely reported theory should be treated as a hypothesis rather than a fact. In 2018, Hallie Lieberman and Eric Schatzberg published a peer-reviewed article that found "no evidence" to support Maines's claims in the book's citations. They called the wide acceptance of Maines's work "a fundamental failure of academic quality control". As of 2020 both sides of the debate continue to be put forward.
The vibrator re-emerged during the sexual revolution of the 1960s. On June 30, 1966, Jon H. Tavel applied for a patent for the "Cordless Electric Vibrator for Use on the Human Body". [ failed verification ] The cordless vibrator was patented on March 28, 1968, and was soon followed by such improvements as multi-speed and one-piece construction, which made it cheaper to manufacture and easier to clean.The patent application referenced an earlier patent dating back to 1938, for a flashlight with a shape that left little doubt as to a possible alternate use.
As of 2013, rechargeable vibrators were beginning to be manufactured to reduce the environmental impact of battery-operated vibrators.
In 2017 Lynn Comella, associate professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies noted that "sex toy packaging... has been replaced by softer and more sanitised imagery... it’s now possible to buy a vibrator at many neighbourhood Walgreens".The UK pharmacy Boots followed the US pharmacy’s lead and since 2019 have been selling sex toys both online and in some stores.
Research published in a 2009 issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine demonstrates that about 53% of women in the United States ages 18 to 60 have used a vibrator.A 2010 study in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that 43.8% of heterosexual males in the United States had used vibrators. 94% of these men had done so as part of foreplay with their partner, and 82% had done so as part of sexual intercourse. Among non-heterosexual men, 49.8% have used vibrators.
The possession and sale of vibrators is illegal in some jurisdictions, including India, although they are sold online.
Until recently, many American Southern and some Great Plains states banned the sale of vibrators completely, either directly or through laws regulating "obscene devices".In 2007, a federal appeals court upheld Alabama's law prohibiting the sale of sex toys. The law, the Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1998, was also upheld by the Alabama Supreme Court on September 11, 2009.
In February 2008, a US federal appeals court overturned a Texas statute banning the sales of vibrators and other sexual toys, deeming such a statute as violating the right to privacy guaranteed by the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. [ citation needed ] Similar statutes have been struck down in Colorado and Kansas. As of 2009, Alabama is the only state where a law prohibiting the sale of sex toys remains on the books, though Alabama residents are permitted to buy sex toys with a doctor's note.The appeals court cited Lawrence v. Texas , where the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 struck down bans on consensual sex between gay couples, as unconstitutionally aiming at "enforcing a public moral code by restricting private intimate conduct".
An American bioethicist and medical historian, Jacob M. Appel has argued that sex toys are a "social good" and that the devices, which he refers to as "marital substitutes", play "an important role in the emotional lives of millions of Americans".Appel has written:
I cannot say whether more Alabama women own vibrators than own Bibles. If I were guessing, I would suspect that a majority derive more use out of the vibrators. Certainly more pleasure. Nor does there appear to be any remotely rational basis for keeping sex toys out of the hands of married adults, or single adults, or even children. Now that we are relatively confident that masturbation does not make little girls go blind, or cause palms to sprout hair, exposure to sex toys shouldn't harm them. On the list of items that I might not want children to be exposed to in stores—guns, matches, poisons, junk food—sex toys are way down the list.
The historical fiction film Hysteria features a reworked history of the vibrator focusing on Joseph Mortimer Granville's invention, and the treatment of female hysteria through the medical administration of orgasm.Its historical accuracy has been criticised on the grounds that Granville's vibrator was for male pain relief.
In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) is a play by Sarah Ruhl. It concerns the early history of the vibrator, when doctors used it as a clinical device to bring women to orgasm as treatment for "hysteria".
In the 1980s and 1990s vibrators became increasingly visible in mainstream public culture, especially after a landmark August 1998 episode of the HBO show Sex and the City , in which the character Charlotte becomes addicted to a rabbit vibrator. Appearing in a regular segment on the popular US television series The Oprah Winfrey Show in March 2009,Dr. Laura Berman recommended that mothers teach their 15- or 16-year-old daughters the concept of pleasure by getting them a clitoral vibrator. Today, CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, Safeway, Target and Walmart are among major national US chain retailers that include vibrators on store shelves.
In Grace and Frankie , which premiered in 2015, the two title characters form a business designing and selling vibrators for seniors.
Orgasm is the sudden discharge of accumulated sexual excitement during the sexual response cycle, resulting in rhythmic muscular contractions in the pelvic region characterized by sexual pleasure. Experienced by males and females, orgasms are controlled by the involuntary or autonomic nervous system. They are usually associated with involuntary actions, including muscular spasms in multiple areas of the body, a general euphoric sensation and, frequently, body movements and vocalizations. The period after orgasm is typically a relaxing experience, attributed to the release of the neurohormones oxytocin and prolactin as well as endorphins.
The G-spot, also called the Gräfenberg spot, is characterized as an erogenous area of the vagina that, when stimulated, may lead to strong sexual arousal, powerful orgasms and potential female ejaculation. It is typically reported to be located 5–8 cm (2–3 in) up the front (anterior) vaginal wall between the vaginal opening and the urethra and is a sensitive area that may be part of the female prostate.
A sex toy is an object or device that is primarily used to facilitate human sexual pleasure, such as a dildo or vibrator. Many popular sex toys are designed to resemble human genitals, and may be vibrating or non-vibrating. The term sex toy can also include BDSM apparatus and sex furniture such as slings; however, it is not applied to items such as birth control, pornography, or condoms. Alternative expressions include adult toy and the dated euphemism marital aid, although "marital aid" has a broader sense and is applied to drugs and herbs marketed to supposedly enhance or prolong sex. Sex toys are most commonly sold at a sex shop, but they may also be sold in a pharmacy/chemist store, a pornographic DVD store, a head shop, or a department store. Today's sex toys are available in almost all countries for male and females.
Doggy style is a sex position in which a person bends over, crouches on all fours, or lies on their abdomen, for sexual intercourse, other forms of sexual penetration or other sexual activity. Doggy style is a form of a rear-entry position, others being with the receiving partner lying on the side in the spoons sex position or the reverse cowgirl sex position. Non-penetrative sex in this position may also be regarded as doggy style.
Erotic massage is the use of massage techniques by one person on another person's erogenous zones for their sexual pleasure. The process may achieve or enhance the recipient's sexual excitation or arousal and sometimes achieve orgasm. The person providing the massage is called a masseur (male) or masseuse (female). Massages have been used for medical purposes for a very long time, and their use for erotic purposes also has a long history. In the case of women, the two focal areas are the breasts and pubis, while in case of men, the focal area is the male genitals. When the massage is of a partner's genitals, the act is usually referred to as a handjob in the case of men and fingering in the case of women.
Prostate massage is the massage or stimulation of the male prostate gland for medical purposes or sexual stimulation.
A Sybian, or Sybian saddle, is a masturbation device primarily designed for use by women. It consists of a hollow saddle-like seat containing two powerful electric motors, motor speed controller boards, gearing, pulleys and a platform on cranked axles such that a ridge on the top of the unit can be made to vibrate through a range of speeds as set using a wired external hand controller, and an upward pointing shaft set on an angle through the ridge can be made to rotate at speeds from zero rpm to several hundred rpm, again by use of the wired remote control. Flexible moulded attachments are supplied which fit over the vibrating ridge and shaft which mostly have integrated dildos on their top. In use, the rider locates the dildo into their body cavity for internal stimulation while pressing their external erogenous parts on the vibrating ridge.
Fingering is typically the use of fingers or hands to sexually stimulate the vulva or vagina. Vaginal fingering is legally and medically called digital penetration or digital penetration of the vagina. Fingering may also include the use of fingers to sexually stimulate the anus.
A forced orgasm is consensual BDSM or kinky sexual play whereby a person consents to be forced to orgasm in a way that is beyond their control. The person being brought to involuntary orgasm would typically be put in physical restraints to deprive them of the ability to control the onset and intensity of orgasm, and to increase the feeling of helplessness, a situation which some people find sexually arousing.
A strap-on dildo is a dildo designed to be worn, usually with a harness, during sexual activity. Harnesses and dildos are made in a wide variety of styles, with variations in how the harness fits the wearer, how the dildo attaches to the harness, as well as various features intended to facilitate stimulation of the wearer or a sexual partner. Strap-on dildos can be used by people of any gender or sexuality.
A rabbit vibrator is a vibrating sex toy, usually made in the shape of a phallic shaft for vaginal stimulation with a clitoral stimulator attached to the shaft. The name of the device is derived from the fact that the clitoral stimulator looks like a pair of rabbit ears. The first rabbit vibrator appeared on the market in 1984 and, along with the magic wand vibrator, is considered by Cosmopolitan magazine to be one of the classic sex toys.
A clitoral pump is a sex toy designed for sexual pleasure that is applied to the clitoris or labia to create suction and increase blood flow to the genitals. This device derives from the male prototype, the penis pump, which appeared in the early 1900s and is intended for sexual enhancement, or the treatment of erectile dysfunction.
A G-spot vibrator is a sex toy with female and male varieties. The female version of the device is built to massage the G-spot, described as a bean-shaped area of the vagina. Some women report that it is an erogenous zone which, when stimulated, can lead to strong sexual arousal, powerful orgasms and female ejaculation. The male version of the G-spot vibrator is used for massaging the prostate for both sexual and health-related reasons.
A double penetration dildo or double dildo is a sex toy that allows for the simultaneous penetration of two bodily orifices at the same time. It is designed in the form of two penetrative stimulators that come separately or fixed on the single shaft. Some of them include a vibrating motor that turns them into double penetration vibrators.
An anal vibrator is a vibrator designed for sexual stimulation of the anus of both men and women. All anal vibrators have one common feature: they produce a vibrating effect in the rectum for pleasurable sensations.
Clitoral vibrators are vibrators designed to externally stimulate a woman's clitoris for her sexual pleasure and orgasm. They are sex toys created for massaging the clitoris, and are not penetrating sex toys, although the shape of some vibrators allows for penetration and the stimulation of inner erogenous zones for extra sexual pleasure. Regardless of the design, the main function of the clitoral vibrator is to vibrate at varying speeds and intensities. Vibrators are normally driven by batteries and some of them can be used underwater.
Lesbian sexual practices are sexual activities involving women who have sex with women, regardless of their sexual orientation. A woman who has sex with another woman may identify as a lesbian if she is sexually attracted to women, or bisexual if she is not exclusively sexually attracted to women, or dispense with sexual identification altogether. The term may also be applied to a heterosexual or asexual woman who is unsure of or is exploring her sexuality.
A sex machine is a mechanical device used to simulate human sexual intercourse or other sexual activity.
Hysteria is a 2011 British period romantic comedy film directed by Tanya Wexler. It stars Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal, with Felicity Jones, Jonathan Pryce, and Rupert Everett appearing in key supporting roles. The film, set in the Victorian era, shows how the medical management of hysteria led to the invention of the vibrator.
Hallie Lieberman is a writer and a sex and gender historian. Her first book, Buzz: The Stimulating History of the Sex Toy (2017) traces the history of sex toys in the USA from the 1950s to the present. Lieberman teaches science and technology journalism at the Georgia Institute of Technology.