Rachel Maines to Visit the Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum

Good Vibrations Welcomes Noted Historian & Author Rachel Maines for Reception & Discussion at its Antique Vibrator Museum

Good Vibrations is honored to welcome Rachel Maines, award-winning scholar on the history of the vibrator, to its Antique Vibrator Museum for a special tour and presentation on Friday, February 22nd at 6:30pm at Good Vibrations Polk Street store.

Maines is best known for her book about the history of vibrators, The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction. Studying needlework and textiles as an independent scholar in the 1970s, Maines was astounded to find ads in the primary-source needlework magazines she consulted that advertised a product she didn’t expect to see depicted in such mainstream, ladylike publications: electric vibrators. What on earth, she wondered, was a sex toy doing there?

The fascinating answer – that it wasn’t exactly a sex toy, at least not the way we understand them today (though old-school vibrators were capable of doing the same thing our new-fangled vibes can do) – and the story of how it came to be invented and marketed to ladies in the first place, took a significant amount of sleuthing and research. Pretty close to twenty years later, her book was hailed as a brilliant example of independent, not to mention feminist, scholarship; it won the 1999 Herbert Feis Award of the American Historical Association (Best Book by Independent Scholar), and the 2000/01 Biennial Book Award of the American Foundation for Gender and Genital Medicine and Science, presented by the World Congress of Sexology.

Meanwhile, Good Vibrations founder Joani Blank had been showcasing her antique vibrator collection since the first GV store opened in 1977; in those days, the “Antique Vibrator Museum” consisted of one shelf with about a dozen vibrators, max, displayed on it at the Valencia Street store. She had bought most of those early items at flea markets and junk stores; she displayed them to amaze and educate her customers: no, women of the 1970s were not the first to own this superlative pleasure device!

Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum

Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum

Maines discovered how the vibrator developed in the latter half of the 19th century, and how it moved into private homes as electrical power became ubiquitous; she also learned that medical doctors had been using these busily-buzzing items to treat a “disease” called hysteria, which had been thought since at least the time of ancient Greek physician Galen to affect women, especially unmarried ones. Vulval and clitoral massage, and later vibration, was the treatment of art in great-grandmother’s time; later in the 20th century the vibrator, a perfect example of a “socially camouflaged” technology, escaped its hiding-in-plain-sight role when it was featured in early sex movies.

Maines’ early academic history played a role in her research, too – she’d graduated in 1971 with BA Cum Laude degree in Classics, specializing in ancient science and technology – clearly readying her to comb through old medical texts, looking for descriptions of orgasm. Now a visiting scientist in the Cornell University School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, her principal research interests are in the history of technology, especially issues relating to technology and the body, including sexuality, medicine, technological risk, and injury epidemiology.

A film version of her book, by Bay Area filmmakers Wabi Sabi Productions (Wendy Slick and Emiko Omori), premiered at Lincoln Center in 2007. Called “Passion and Power: The Technology of Orgasm,” it’s a fabulous visual tour through the history Maines uncovered in researching her book.

Event details

Maines will speak on this most fascinating bit of women’s and technological history at Good Vibrations’ Antique Vibrator Museum on February 22nd at 6:30pm, 1620 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA.

Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations is the premier retailer trusted for over three decades to provide high quality products, education, and information that promotes sexual health, pleasure, and empowerment. We invented the concept of the clean, well-lighted vibrator store and we’re proud to provide a safe and welcoming environment where customers can shop for sex toys, books, movies, and attend workshops.

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2 Responses

  1. Go Rachel Maines! Your research completely blew my mind.

    jill
    http://www.inbedwithmarriedwomen.com