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Books, Journals, New Media
January 12, 2000

"Hysteria"The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available


by Rachel P. Maines (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology), 181 pp, with illus, $22, ISBN 0-8018-5941-7, Baltimore, Md, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

JAMA. 2000;283(2):261. doi:10.1001/jama.283.2.261-JBK0112-3-1

Feminists, often criticized for taking the world too seriously, now have something to laugh about. In The Technology of Orgasm, Rachel Maines—independent scholar and outspoken feminist—provides readers with a titillating and often hilarious account of the rise and fall (as it were) of the vibrator as a medical tool for the treatment of hysteria.

Maines begins with a scholarly history of "hysteria" as a medical, and eventually psychological, diagnosis. Next, she applies her skills as a museum consultant and archivist to describe the evolution of the electric vibrator at the turn of the century. Finally, she discusses her findings with a feminist lens, providing one explanation for why an instrument apparently so clearly designed for sexual use could be marketed for decades as a labor saving device for a medical treatment.

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