Vibration-is-life

Ye Olde Coal-Fired Vibrator

What were the earliest female genital "manipulators" like? One had to be powered by a doctor shoveling coal in the next room; another looked "like a cross between a visitor from outer space and an old-fashioned telephone." So says historian of technology Dr. Rachel Maines, who has written a bestselling study and participated in a recent Philoctetes Institute roundtable on the subject.

In her Big Think interview, Dr. Maines cheerfully supplies many other facts that inquiring minds want to know, including the prevalence of vibrator use across the globe and what those 19th-century doctors who treated female "hysteria"were really up to. She also discusses her newest book ("Hedonizing Technologies"), which explores how formerly productive activities—from home-brewing to knitting to, yes, sex—became recreational in modern society, and predicts which of today's household chores will someday be fun.

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