Sex toys used to look very different – and people thought they ‘cured disease’
Before she passed away in 2016, sex-educator Joani Blank had been collecting antique vibrators for over 20 years.
And her weird and wonderful collection is now on display at the Antique Vibrator Museum in San Fransisco.
But what some of the items look like might surprise you – that’s because you won’t find any pink or bedazzled devices on display at their exhibits, like the sex toys that are sold now in stores such as Ann Summers.
Instead the museum is home to a selection of gadgets that look like they could be used to inflict torture – including a blood circulator, a pneumatic vibrator and something called The Niagra Hand Unit.
Up until about 1900, vibrators were used exclusively by doctors and they are thought to have been created to treat women suffering with hysteria (a fake condition).
The first ever vibrator was made in 1869 by American physician George Taylor and it was described as a “steam-powered massage and vibratory apparatus”.
Flash forward to 1880 and the first battery-operated vibrator was created. By 1900 more than a dozen companies had started making electric devices.
Initially these vibrators were sold as ‘home appliances’ with adverts for them in magazines proclaiming that they could “cure diseases” and “relieve all suffering”.
According to the museum’s website, another hilarious advert proclaimed: “American vibrator… can be used by yourself in the privacy of dressing room or boudoir, and furnish every woman with the essence of perpetual youth.”
It wasn’t until the mid-1920s that vibrators began to be seen as having less than respectable connotations, as they started cropping up in pornographic movies and photos.
Despite this they weren’t marketed as sex aids until the 1970s, but continued to be thought of as beauty aids.
The Antique Vibrator Museum has been open since the 1970s and their collection continues to grow, as women all over the world send in unusual sex toys they find at flea markets and antique stores.
The museum is located next to Good Vibrations, a modern sex toy store which was also set up by Joani Blank.
Throughout her lifetime, Joani had a very interesting career, working as a published of sex-related books, before opening Good Vibrations which was the second feminist sex toy business in America.