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Old-School Sex Toys You Have to See to Believe

Old-School Vibrators

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One of the things we loved most about performance artist Dorian Electra's recent music video was how quickly she took us through the history of the vibrator, from the very first model in the 1880s to the Hitachi Magic Wand's arrival in the 1970s. But at the same time, the video left us wanting more.

So, we decided to slow things down and take a closer look at each decade's interpretation of the vibrator, with Electra as our professor. In an exchange over email, we discussed the history of the vibrator, which Electra described in three words: "Medical. Secretive. Fortunate."

The first word refers to the vibrator's origins as a device intended to treat "hysteria" in women, because, as Electra told us, doctors's hands would get too tired treating it manually. It was only in the 1920s, when vibrators stopped being used as medical devices, that the public started viewing them as "obscene," Electra explained. And so began the era of the "personal massager," a rebranding that Electra describes as "a wink-wink from companies to consumers that continued for decades and decades before the idea of women pleasuring themselves started becoming less taboo." This, it's safe to say, was the vibrator's "secretive" phase.

Today, we find ourselves in the midst of the "fortunate" era of the vibrator. With countless varieties of sex toys to choose from, all we have to do is look forward to what the future holds. What does the vibrator of the future look like to Electra? "Maybe some kind of implanted device that you can control via Bluetooth using EEG signals (i.e., a brain-wave reader), so that you can basically control it WITH YOUR MIND."

Read on for Electra's take on some of history's most memorable vibrators.

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1880s

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1880s: The first electric vibrator was made by Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville

"The one pictured here was built by our director, Weston Getto Allen. The original is impossible to find, except in museums. It was designed by Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville in 1886 to be used in doctor's offices for treating women with 'hysteria' by giving them orgasms (known as 'hysterical paroxysms' at the time, thought to be a kind of seizure of pain and pleasure, yet a necessary part of treating it and considered to be completely non-sexual, since no penetration of the vagina was involved)."

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1910s

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1910s: Hamilton Beach Vibrator

"Super-heavy, lots of metal, but it gets the job done."

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1920s

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1920s: Polar Cub Electric Vibrator

"The user's manual says you need to 'oil' this machine regularly and I believe it. It smells like a car engine when you turn it on."

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1930s

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1930s: Lady Fair

"Super industrial-looking with amazing '30s streamlined design. Coincidentally looks like an airplane jet."

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1940s

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1940s: Vibrosage

"This thing looks like a weapon and I'm sure it could be used as such."

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1950s

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1950s: Magic Disc

"One of the coolest-looking vibrators, like a '50s flying saucer, but probably the least practical design for you know, fitting in-between your legs."

[For the full story, head over to Refinery29!]

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