The Victorian Era which spanned the majority of the 1800s was a time of much invention, scientific discovery and sexual conservatism. It was not a great time for sexual progressives and it was (as most historical eras were) a terrible time to be a woman. One could explore in great detail the shittyness of this era for anyone who’s notion of sexuality was less than Christian but this will not be that particular post. No, I intend to cover three inventions of the Victorian Era who’s original purposes may surprise you (unless you’ve read the title, then you will be less surprised).
Hysteria was a catch all term going back to ancient history that, by the Victorian era, was used to pathologize essentially every woman alive who wasn’t Queen Victoria herself. The symptoms of hysteria ranged from being nervous to having any kind of sexual desire to “a tendency to cause trouble.” So what was the treatment for this terrible ailment that was sweeping the globe? Pelvic massage. Yup, a physician would lay the hysterical woman down and manually manipulate her vulva and clitoris until she reached what was termed “hysterical paroxysm” or what is more commonly known as orgasm. So the treatment for horny, nervous, trouble making women was to make them cum…ok then. The only problem was that these physicians had the same problem that many sexual partners of women have: they weren’t all that good at making their patients climax. It took a long time and they needed lots of training to get good at it (shocking). Enter the vibrator. The common masturbatory aid seen in bedside dressers across the world today was originally only to be found in a doctors office. Sure it’s intended purpose was perhaps one of the most sexist and spiteful things ever but joke’s on those assholes, am I right?
Now vibrators are one thing but did you know that around the same time a reverend named Sylvester Graham and a doctor named John Harvey Kellogg were trying their darndest to figure out why boys wouldn’t stop masturbating! I mean, didn’t they know it was a sin? On their crusade to liberate these young men from their path towards damnation they both came up, at about the same time, with the answer. Really, really boring food. Kellogg invented the now ubiquitous Corn Flakes and Graham invented the cracker (cookie?) that would go on to be a necessary element of the campfire favorite, S’mores. These two believed that it was the diet of these young men that was causing them to masturbate with such fervor and the only path to salvation was to buy their product…nice, real nice.
So the next time you’re in the market for a vibrator or you’re walking down the cereal isle in the grocery store remember, if it wasn’t for ass-backwards, sexually conservative, sexist quacks, you wouldn’t have some of your favorite products. It’s true the 21st Century is no utopia, and sexual and gender equality are still a long ways off but I don’t think that should stop us from celebrating the fact that it’s not 1869, the year that the terms heterosexual and homosexual were invented by some politicians. That’s all.