New Documentary on the History of Vibrator Technology

Illustration for article titled New Documentary on the History of Vibrator Technology

Two filmmakers spent 7 years and $150,000 of their own money to make a documentary about the history of vibrators, called Passion and Power. The doc delves deep into the past, starting with the first steam-powered devices in the 1860s and early electrified vibes in the 1900s (see pic). Passion and Power debuted at New York's Lincoln Center to a sold-out crowd which gave it a standing ovation, and shows at the Mill Valley Film Festival in the Bay Area next month.

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Based in part on the award-winning book The Technology of Orgasm by history of tech professor Rachel Maines, the doc is full of cool stuff, including interviews with ladies arrested for selling vibrators in states like Texas where the little pleasure buzzers are still illegal. Maines aroused public interest in vibrator history after she published an article about it in a 1987 issue of IEEE Technology and Society. In the movie, Maines recounts her battle with the IEEE about publishing the article — apparently the editorial board thought her article on hundred-year-old vibrators was a hoax. Maines says:

They did a full-scale investigation. I had to prove that I existed and I had to give them a Social Security number. My husband called it the attack of the dweebs.

The documentary will be coming soon . . . to a theater near you.

[Passion and Power: The Technology of Orgasm]

DISCUSSION

@schrosa: Indeed, read about female hysteria:Patients diagnosed with female hysteria would sometimes undergo "pelvic massage" - manual stimulation of the woman's genitals by the doctor to "hysterical paroxysm", which is now recognized as orgasm. ... The only problem was that physicians did not enjoy the tedious task of massage

Hence the introduction of massage devices, hydrotherapy, and finally electromechanics.

It's fascinating that society knew about this and was somewhat open about it, but refused to acknowledge female hysteria was often simply sexual dissatisfaction. Once that connection surfaced, vibrators became sordid. Damn you, sexually insecure patriarchal society and 80% of Giz posters! Girl power!

"You're getting hysterical. Let me comfort you."

(THE Annalee Newitz, of SF Bay Guardian and Wired? Welcome!)