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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

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.