Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction” as Want to Read:
The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology)

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  690 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
From the time of Hippocrates until the 1920s, massaging female patients to orgasm was a staple of medical practice among Western physicians in the treatment of "hysteria," an ailment once considered both common and chronic in women. Doctors loathed this time-consuming procedure and for centuries relied on midwives. Later, they substituted the efficiency of mechanical devic ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published March 1st 2001 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published 1998)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Technology of Orgasm, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Technology of Orgasm

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Jim
Well now! I don't know why I started to read this particular book. Maybe I thought it would give insight into the "why" of the female orgasm, but recent readings of other publications have given me to understand that scientists still don't have the "why", since female orgasm is not required for conception. The writer, a feminist, would probably attribute some lurid motive to my reading the book, so let's just write it down to morbid curiosity.

I was surprised to learn that doctors regularly profi
...more
hypothermya
Aug 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the sexually curious
I wish I could give this book a star for each aspect of it that delighted me. Unfortunately, this site caps me out at five stars, much less the 10 or so stars that this book deserves.

This book is exhaustively researched, in a way most other books dealing with the broad subject matter of human sexuality are not. Better, it is superbly organized -- starting out with a clear idea of what topics it is going to cover, and managing to tackle that subject matter in only a scanty 124 pages (with at leas
...more
Ana Rînceanu
I like how well-researched this book is. Two hundred years of medical attitudes towards women's body and sexuality are smartly explained so even the lay person like me could understand.
james
Jul 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Content-wise this book deserves a 5. But the writing style drastically brings it down. Published in 1999, it reads like an unedited 1980s history textbook. It jumps around and at times has very confusing sentences/paragraphs. The chapters don't seem to build on each other, and rather end up repeating themes/facts that were already covered or implied.

The content itself you're not going to find anywhere else, and the bare boring facts often are fascinating in and of themselves, no matter how drol
...more
Jessica
Oct 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, nonfiction
I'm not going to lie, sex is a topic that greatly interests me.

This was an incredibly fascinating book about female orgasms. I liked it a lot. I'm so glad someone wrote a book about this topic.
Laura
Jul 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book is awesome. I'm reading it for thesis work but recommend it to you even if you are not an unabashed and wholescale nerd. My only gripe-- having nothing to do with the content or the author-- is that this book is pigeon-holed on the back cover as "women's studies," which suggests to me that culture and history most relevant to women are still considered outside the "androcentric" mainstream and relegated to the scholarly periphery.
Justin Cormack
Jun 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
One of those alas so rare tweeter-woofer crossover moments of academic writing (must get another copy of In Search of Respect actually).

Rachel Maines, by accident starting looking at the adverts in the old magazines and catalogues and accidentally discovered the early history of the electric motor, when motors and appliances were still not integrated due to costs, and the vibrator was born. That in turn leads into a fascinating story of medical history - the story of hysteria, a condition that h
...more
C
Oct 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Marit!
An absolutely fascinating book. Combined with other books I've read recently on the state of obstetrics and childbirth in the United States, Maines' book really sheds some light on how attitudes towards women's bodies become attitudes towards women as a group, and how those are then institutionalized, as in medicine.
David
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The content of this book (and therefore this review) are NSFW (not safe for work). So, if you're at work, or worse, if you're a co-worker of mine, don't click the "view spoiler" link. :-)

(view spoiler)
...more
Fred
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really like the idea of the microhistory genre, where someone grasps that there is a history of *everything* and seeks to tell that tale. I know its been a trend for a few years, but since this book was published in 1999 and Maines's research goes way back to the 80s, I consider her an early adopter, if not a pioneer. I liked her description of poring through ads in 100 year old periodicals, because I do the same thing.

The book is a history of hysteria, which no one quite knew what that was, v
...more
Vlad Golovach
I got this book to read the history of vibrator (I'm a great fan of history of techne). But this book is so much more! Basically it's about surprisingly effective efforts of both medicos and lay persons to ignore just one relatively simple (and very easy to prove) fact - that women are not necessarily happy with just a penetration. All to keep the useless notion that dick makes a man. Even more alarming (for women of goode olde times) and funny (for me, male from a present) is the long and convi ...more
lola
Oct 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: project_apoc
WERE YOU AWARE: That hysteria means "womb disease?" That
"Susan B Anthony is said to have regarded male behavior at sports events as evidence that men were too emotional to be allowed to vote?" Or perhaps that "What is really remarkable about Western history in this context is that the medical norm of penetration to male orgasm as the ultimate sexual thrill for both men and women has survived an indefinite number of individual and collective observations suggesting that for most women this patter
...more
Pete
Dec 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medicine
The Technology of Orgasm a great book by Rachel P. Maines . Surprisingly, I’ve had this on my shelf for a very long time. An acquaintance asked me about the subject, and I suggested this book and another one.

The research behind this book is huge with facts gathered together over many years and I have recommended whenever curious questions get asked about this. Obviously, it is focused for the female body in terms that anybody can understand. It’s not written for sexual scientists.

Those who ha
...more
Conrad
Apr 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Who knew Galen invented the vibrator? There's a lot of nifty material in here on how vibrators were initially advertised, too. Really a great book, if you can get over the initial hump.
Lynn Vannucci
Nov 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Read this book! You will be outraged, amused, and much smarter after you do. Then see the brilliant movie PASSION AND POWER made from this book.
Cara Ellison
Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: e-book, journalism
About halfway through I forgot why I wanted to read it. By the end I was just glad it was over.
Jessi
The author variously refers to vibrators as "socially camouflaged technologies," "electromechanical medical instrument" (this one several times,) and ,finallyvibrators.
Bringing orgasms to women was the "job that nobody wanted" ... at least until it became lucrative. Until then, women were supposed to get married and then rely on penetration only to do the deed. Especially since masturbation was highly discouraged and at times deemed completely immoral.
She says that she fell into this subject as
...more
Mike Hankins
Nov 11, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is more about the history of "hysteria" as a disease and the intellectual history of how what is considered "normal" sexual behavior for women evolved over the years. Part of this is the fact that normal arousal in women was once viewed as a disease named "hysteria" that doctors would treat... by hand. Surprisingly, doctors tended to hate this, and eventualy machines were designed to do it automatically. Early vibraotrs were thus official medical instruments, much like dentists tools a ...more
Jen Mcgovern
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
So fascinating! Solidly researched. Feels repetitive and dry at times but very worth it.
Sophia
Jun 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sex, non-fiction, 2009
The origins of this feminist work lie in the author's discovery of turn-of-the-century advertisements of vibrators as therapeutic appliances, designed to save doctors time and labor. What?!

Reclaiming the original definition of hysteria from Freudian reinterpretation, Maines shows that in the Western medical tradition, manually massaging female genitalia to orgasm was an accepted practice for treating 'womb disease.' This was accepted as a legitimate condition and treatment, the author argues, be
...more
Marto Mugss
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
It came as a surprise to me that the vibrator was invented in the late 1880s as a time-saving device for physicians, who had been treating women's "hysteria" for years with clitoral massage.Maines, an independent scholar in the history of technology, presents a plain-sailing account of the mechanism from its beginning through the 1920s, when it came into ignominy as a medical instrument. Going beyond a summary of therapeutic advances, however, she wryly chronicles the attitude toward women's sex ...more
John Carter McKnight
Aug 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: academic
A Great Big Idea, but a toothpick-thin book. In 122 pages, Maines covers two thousand years of the history of the medicalization of women's bodies and sexuality, the hundred year history of the vibrator, and dips into contemporary studies of sexuality - while still managing to be a bit redundant.

The book's historical scope begins with extensive classical sources, read in the original Greek and Latin, but oddly comes to a stop in the 1970s, with virtually no discussion of the vibrator as a moder
...more
Satrina T
Once more I'm happy of the times I get to live. I know we, as a society, still have a long -loooong- way to go but thankfully things have improved.

Favorite part: Chapter 5 Revising the Androcentric Model. From this chapter I loved the part where it is explained according to a text from 1965 by Alexander Lowen that basically "most men" considered a burden bringing woman to orgasm by clitoral stimulation and also felt that it imposed "a restraint upon his natural desire for closeness and intimacy.
...more
Katie
Oct 17, 2007 rated it it was ok
I actually didn't even finish this before I had to return it to the library. The subject matter (that doctors used to masturbate women as part of treatment for what was essentially a made-up ailment) is of course fascinating, yet the writing, being part of the Johns Hopkins series in the History of Technology, I suppose, was so, ahem, dry. I was also distracted by the pencil comments of some previous reader, whom I imagined to be a naive undergrad learning for the first time women's place in sex ...more
Danielle
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminist
The writing is pretty dense and academic, but this book is pretty much everything you could possibly want to know about the history of "female hysteria," female orgasm, and the rather "interesting" origin of the vibrator. It's full of so much historical research, insights from 19th century physicians and philosophers, images of different vibrator machines and even old advertisements. Once you get through the jargon and overly-academic sentences, you really learn a lot. With that said, this is pr ...more
Helen
Feb 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Helen by: Mark
Shelves: favorites
There is not a person on earth, male/female/other, young/old/other, who wouldn't benefit from reading this book. While the author, at times, belabors some points or uses too many like examples, the information she's given is unique and it is absolutely worth slogging through the occasional slow part to walk away from this small tome with that much empowering knowledge. My friend Mark wrote an amazing review which compelled me to go get this book immediately, and if you would like a more thorough ...more
Annamarie
Mar 23, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is PACKED with politics and fascinating tidbits about the long history of the vibrator. I think it is less accessible than some of the other books in the genre, mostly because it reads very much like a thesis or dissertation, but it is impeccably referenced and does have some humor thrown in. The excuses that the medical establishment came up with for what was essentially orgasm as catch-all therapy are very amusing and horrifying all at the same time. Thankfully technology can finally ...more
Jason Williams
Apr 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: european-history
The people of Lysol ought to be ashamed of themselves. As should Clark University, which fired Maines for this book. It's ironic, since Clark University was an early pioneer in American psychology (before the behaviorists hijacked psych and turned it into an industry) and was the only American college Freud ever set foot on (see Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis). Books like Technology of Orgasm are proof that there is so much more to history than wars and elections and "great men." Indeed, the ve ...more
Wendy
Sep 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club, nonfiction
It's been a long time since I was in college, and I've become unaccustomed to reading scholarly, academic writing, so I had difficulty maintaining interest at times. Certain topics were covered in what I found to be an overabundance of detail, while others were only touched upon. But the topic is fascinating, and Maines is a top-notch researcher. The sheer number of sources she consulted is mind-blowing. And I did learn a lot. I particularly liked the examination of our society's definition of s ...more
Jennifer Kincheloe
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: progressive-era
This is a scholarly work about the medical practice of treating hysterical women with vulvular massage - something doctors routinely did in the Western world from the time of the Greeks up through the 1920's. It focuses on the early 20th Century, and addresses the telling question, "why didn't anyone notice that this was sexual?"

Interesting and helpful for researching for my book, "The Secret Life of Anna Blanc," an homage to old Los Angeles inspired by Alice Stebin Wells, an LAPD police matron,
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America
  • Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America
  • When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973
  • The Story of V: Opening Pandora's Box
  • Straight: The Surprisingly Short History Of Heterosexuality
  • What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl's Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety
  • Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation
  • Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex
  • A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis
  • Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire
  • The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World
  • Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life
  • O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm
  • Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire
  • S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College
  • How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States
  • Sex in History
  • Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry

Other books in the series

Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology (1 - 10 of 40 books)
  • Images and Enterprise: Technology and the American Photographic Industry, 1839-1925
  • Inventing American Broadcasting, 1899-1922
  • Authority, Liberty, and Automatic Machinery in Early Modern Europe
  • What Engineers Know and How They Know It: Analytical Studies from Aeronautical History
  • Edison and the Business of Innovation
  • Elmer Sperry; Inventor And Engineer
  • A Nation of Steel: The Making of Modern America, 1865-1925
  • Transforming Computer Technology: Information Processing for the Pentagon, 1962-1986
  • The Course Of Industrial Decline: The Boott Cotton Mills Of Lowell, Massachusetts, 1835 1955
  • All the Modern Conveniences: American Household Plumbing, 1840-1890

Nonfiction Deals

  • Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany
    $15.99 $3.99
  • The Monster of Florence
    $10.99 $2.99
  • The Westies: Inside New York's Irish Mob
    $9.99 $1.99
  • April 1865 (P.S.)
    $11.74 $1.99
  • Jesus Is ______: Find a New Way to Be Human
    $7.99 $0.99
  • Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Lab 257
    $8.74 $1.99
  • How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Girl in the Woods: A Memoir
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype--and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More
    $14.99 $2.99
  • The Last Lecture
    $10.99 $2.99
  • Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived
    $12.74 $1.99
  • Not Tonight, Honey: Wait 'Til I'm A Size 6
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology
    $12.99 $2.99
  • An Appetite For Wonder: The Making Of A Scientist
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience
    $27.99 $2.99
  • Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (Dakotas)
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Restless: Because You Were Made for More
    $7.49 $1.99
  • Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and The Dawn of the Modern Woman
    $10.24 $1.99
  • The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions
    $16.99 $2.99
  • Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
    $13.99 $3.99
  • Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal
    $5.99 $2.99
  • Pukka: The Pup After Merle
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Buddhist Boot Camp
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Flour: A Baker's Collection of Spectacular Recipes
    $21.99 $3.99
  • The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Van Gogh
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth
    $11.49 $1.99
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Church of the Small Things: The Million Little Pieces That Make Up a Life
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Moving Beyond Words: Essays on Age, Rage, Sex, Power, Money, Muscles: Breaking the Boundaries of Gender
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Woman's Worth
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Do the Work
    $4.99 $1.49
  • The Lost Tribe of Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century
    $4.99 $1.99
  • I Suck at Girls
    $10.74 $1.99
  • The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women
    $14.99 $2.99
  • A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives
    $18.99 $1.99
  • Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Peace Is Every Breath: A Practice for Our Busy Lives
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now--As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It
    $7.24 $1.99
  • The World's Last Night: And Other Essays
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Tracks: One Woman's Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Hell's Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men
    $5.99 $2.99
  • Life
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society
    $13.24 $2.99
  • Grace, Not Perfection (with Bonus Content): Celebrating Simplicity, Embracing Joy
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Promise and the Dream: The Untold Story of Martin Luther King, Jr. And Robert F. Kennedy
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Through the Eyes of a Lion: Facing Impossible Pain, Finding Incredible Power
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Why We Run: A Natural History
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple
    $12.99 $2.99
“The rifts in this ancient wall continue to be patched with exhortations to women to avoid challenging the norm even if it means faking orgasm and sacrificing honesty in their intimate relationships with men. In the past we have been willing to pay this price; whether we should continue to do so is question for individuals; not historians, to decide.” 0 likes
More quotes…