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Sex Toys Archive

By Rachel P. Maines, Cornell University Vibrators have been causing a buzz for as long as they’ve existed: sometimes this happens behind closed doors, and sometimes in the public sphere. But as the 2011 film Hysteria shows, there’s still fascination in this area of female sexuality. The 19th-century American author and humorist Mark Twain once observed, on the difference between history and fiction, that: “it’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense”. He was right: many truths about history are so strange that they are believable when fictionalised only if the author/creator can point to an historical precedent. Such is the case with Tanya Wexler’s film Hysteria. Jessie Pearl Wexler’s narrative about the invention of the vibrator is based in part (a very small part) on my historical work The Technology of Orgasm: ‘Hysteria,’ the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction. For those of you that don’t know, hysteria in this context refers to a once-common medical diagnosis, exclusively in women, considered to be suffering from wide array of symptoms including sexual desire and the nebulous “tendency to cause trouble”.