The first vibrators were used to give men erections, a sex historian discovered

The first vibrators were used to give men erections, a sex historian discovered
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  • On the podcast "Maintenance Phase," author Aubrey Gordon and journalist Michael Hobbes debunked the popularized story of the vibrator.
  • Gordon said the story led people to wrongly believe doctors invented vibrators solely to give women orgasms and treat their "hysteria."

The first-ever vibrators, created in the 1880s, were used to help men get erections.

On the "Vibrators" episode of the health trend debunking podcast "Maintenance Phase," hosts Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes discussed the much-contested history of the vibrator.

Gordon said the vibrator was originally a multifunctional wellness tool, used for erectile dysfunction, constipation, diabetes, and muscle aches.

She went on to explain how Hallie Lieberman, historian of sex and gender at the Georgia Institute of Technology, had disproven the well-known tale of doctors using vibrators for the sole purpose of giving women orgasms, a cure for the made-up condition "hysteria."

"This is where we get the story about doctors using their hands for genital massage, their hands cramping up and vibrators becoming a labor-saving device," Gordon said during the episode.


But in 2017, Lieberman said she fact-checked the original story and found no evidence it was true, Gordon said.

By then, the 2001 book that popularized the story, Rachel Maines' "The Technology of Orgasm," had been made into a movie, cementing the not-so-true tale.

Doctors used vibrators for various conditions, including erectile dysfunction

Doctors, including vibrator creator Joseph Mortimer Granville, used the device to treat diabetes, constipation, aches, and pains, said Gordon. They were also used for men's sexual health.

Lieberman, the researcher, found vibrators "were used and applied to men's perineum, to restore sexual vigor. So, not only were they not being used to provide pleasure to women, they were being used to give dudes boners basically," Gordon said.

Advertisements at the time said things like, "Relax, have a massage," and "An enjoyable, helpful means to slim trim hips, small waist, flat abdomen, shapely legs, a streamlined figure, and physical well-being," Gordon said.