“Disease of the Mid-Quarters, From the Neck to the Knees”: Inside The Antique Vibrator Museum (San Francisco)

Sep 22, 2021

For my birthday this year, I visited Good Vibrations’ Antique Vibrator Museum in San Francisco, California and, y’all, vibrator technology has come so far in a short amount of time! 🕰️

This privately-curated collection features vibrators from the late 1800s to the current day. In fact, the museum is housed in Good Vibrations Polk Street store in SFO, so you can take home a souvenir that you’ll enjoy time and time again, lol! (Even I had to indulge in a new sexy prop, lol. Harmless pleasures should never be denied, IMHO.)

Btw, did you know that before the turn of the 20th century, doctors were the primary source of orgasm for women rather than their husbands?  In fact, doctors were encouraged to perform ‘vibration therapy’ on their female patients in order to achieve “medically necessary” orgasms! 

Actually, the first vibrator was invented in 1869 for use by doctors because their hands were tired from all the manual clitoral orgasms they were giving! 🤣 The first one was steam-powered, which sounds a bit frightening, actually. I’m not interested in hot steam anywhere near my pussy, thank you very much! 

Luckily by 1880, British physician Joseph Mortimer Granville designed the first battery-powered vibrator, followed quickly by more designs from a variety of sources. After the turn of the 20th century, these vibration machines started being marketed for home use. 

Vibrators were advertised in women’s magazines like Good Housekeeping, sold through mail-order catalogues like Sears, yet orgasm wasn’t mentioned. The ads talked about the results from using these ‘pleasure devices’, but didn’t mention the actual pleasure.

As the 20th century marched on, vibrators started appearing in adult films, porn and sexy publications, but they didn’t start being advertised as “sex toys”, “sex aids”, or “marital aids”, until the 1970s.

The founder of Good Vibrations, Joani Blank, spent over twenty years collecting antique vibes, taking it so seriously that she published a book on the topic: “Good Vibrations: The Complete Guide to Vibrators.”  She also opened her first store in the late 70s, and created the Antique Vibrator Museum within one to house her impressive collection and showcase the “secret” tradition of pleasure in our country. 

One of my “Meaningful Memories” from my visit to the museum is the fact that Hamilton Beach, Oster, Rolex and other big brand names, successfully manufactured vibrators when no one would admit they were designed to create orgasms for women.  Sadly, once the pretense was removed, but the need remained, these reputable businesses stepped away.  Unfortunately, that disdain led to less reputable manufacturers stepping in to raise prices while decreasing quality.  Also, mainstream retailers then stopped carrying vibrators, which led to the creation of the “undesirable” shops that became referred to as “sex stores” but were not what most of us would consider sexy at all. 

That’s why Joannie Blank was such a disruptor.  She created a store that was welcoming and shame free, but given how hard that was in 2016 when I opened Darling Way, the fact that she did it in the 1970s is a feat of courage worthy of admiration. We all owe a huge debt to Joannie and all the women of the time who refused to embrace shame and slink away from pleasure. 

If you ever find yourself in the San Francisco area, go check out the Antique Vibrator Museum yourself,  and let me know what your takeaway is. 

Cheers, to how far we’ve cum, lol!

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