THE ELECTRIC VIBRATOR AND FRIGIDITY (Oct, 1964)

THE ELECTRIC VIBRATOR AND FRIGIDITY

by Isadore Rubin, Ph.D.
Dr. Rubin is Managing Editor of this publication.

Two recent news items have called attention to a device which has undoubtedly had very wide sexual use but has rarely before come to public or professional notice. The device is an electric vibrator.

In December of last year, in an article dealing with the “feverish” preparation being made to clean up Tokyo in time for this year’s Olympics, Time magazine reported: “For one thing, (police) banned the manufacture and sale of a variety of ingenious aphrodisiac devices such as battery-powered vibrators, for whose production Japan is famous. Plain-clothesmen were posted at the special ‘sex drugstores’ where the gimmicks had been sold.”

A few weeks later, physicians were given some indication of the use to which these vibrators could be put. Reporting to the annual meeting of the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine in San Francisco, Dr. William Masters and his research associate Virginia E. Johnson described how they had used the vibrator as part of a program to overcome frigidity.

Dr. Masters is director of the Division of Reproductive Biology at the Washington University Medical School in St. Louis. The work done at this institute has contributed some of the most important research information on sex response and reproduction in recent years.

According to a report in the Medical Tribune (Dec. 27, 1963) the following example was given by Masters and Johnson of one aspect of their treatment of frigidity: “A woman who has never had an orgasm and fears she cannot, thus dreadfully inhibiting her sex life, is shown that it is possible by the very direct means of having a vibrator applied to her clitoris until she reaches an orgasm.”

At a later meeting, incidentally, both Masters and Johnson took a decidedly negative view of the value of the vibrator in treating frigidity.

Few marriage counselors recommend the use of the vibrator. Most are unfamiliar with it. Those who are familiar with its use are sharply divided on its usefulness. What are the pros and cons of this device?

The vibrator was probably mentioned first many years ago by a famous sex pioneer, Dr. W. F. Robie. He reported the case of a woman with 2 children who had never reached orgasm during her years of marriage.

On one occasion she was using an electric vibrator to massage the upper part of her body and accidentally dropped it upon her pelvic area. She reported getting the first sexual stimulation by means of this accident that she had ever had!

Dr. LeMon Clark reported at various meetings of counselors that he had been stimulated by this story to have patients try out the vibrator in cases where women came to him with problems of frigidity.

His first patient, he reported, was a divorcee who had never responded sexually. When she tried the vibrator, she got no reaction at first, but after a long period she did finally reach a very powerful orgasm.

His second patient told him that after an experience with the vibrator she had gotten “an entirely new idea” about marital relations.

Dr. Clark has based his use of the vibrator on work done some years ago in England on the establishing of habits. Before any nervous stimulus can be effective it must travel across a synapse, the point of contact between 2 nerve cells.

Each time a response occurs the distance between nerve cells becomes narrower. A worn pathway makes it easier for nerve impulses to be transmitted.

Thus, the important thing in marital sex response is to form the habit of orgasm. Once this has been done, one could then go on to orgasm in intercourse.

The vibrator is thus a learning device which can be discarded once proper response has been achieved. Dr. Clark has suggested that, in or- der to achieve transfer of orgasm from vibrator to intercourse more easily, the vibrator should be used by the husband as part of the sexual foreplay, rather than by the wife alone.

Most marriage counselors, however, feel that a device such as this should he used with considerable caution, even though it may be effective in bringing about orgasm.

For one thing, they say, in using the device, there is a likelihood of ignoring the fact that the wife’s lack of response has been caused by an inadequate husband. It is important that work be done to make the male more efficient and satisfying as a sex partner. Relying on the vibrator may defeat this purpose, and transfer of orgasm capacity to intercourse may not be possible.

Some doctors feel that there nay be some useful purpose in using the vibrator in some cases. However, since the problem is basically not a mechanical, but rather an emotional problem, they suggest that one should be very careful about trying to find a mechanical answer to it.

Psychiatrists have also pointed to the dangers of trying to cure a deep-seated problem by merely getting rid of a particular symptom. While the problem may seem to be solved temporarily, it may return with greater force—perhaps in a different form—in the future.

This may be true of treatment with a vibrator. Though the vibrator may seem to solve the problem for the woman, if the basic cause of her lack of sex response is not removed, her sex life might come to an abrupt end at a comparatively early age or at some crisis in her life.

One counselor who has made considerable experimental use of the vibrator in treating frigidity characterized it a “fabulous gadget.” She de- clared that in therapy it could be used as a very effective learning device in showing a woman what an orgasm was.

However, she also had some careful warnings to make about its use. It was very easy, she said, for a woman to come to rely upon it completely; in fact some became actually “addicted” to it.

Her experience had convinced her that it was “unbelievably difficult” for a woman to convert the orgasm response attained by use of the vibrator to a pattern of orgasm response in intercourse with her husband.

She also warned that a constantly-used vibrator induces a certain amount of pelvic anesthesia—or lack of feeling.

On the other hand, another well-known marriage counselor reports that he has used the vibrators on 5 or 6 couples. He found that, far from becoming addicted, the wives soon gave up the use of the vibrator because the orgasm was induced too quickly by the vibrator and the whole process was over “too soon.”

Thus, it is clear that no agreement exists among leading marriage counselors and sexologists on the potential of the vibrator in treating women who do not reach orgasm.

All of those who have had experience with it admit that it may possibly be an effective learning device to show the woman just what the experience of orgasm consists of.

Most of them also agree that the vibrator cannot be used indiscriminately since it may—for some women —create more problems than it may solve.

At any rate, one important thing has been established—counselors should not ignore the potential value or harm of these devices, but should carefully evaluate their immediate and long-term effects.

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IN presenting this article, Sexology cautions its readers that this subject is still highly controversial. Marriage counselors are very sharply divided on the advisability of using the vibrator, and some warn against its use at all.

Sexology brings this provocative article to its readers purely for the purposes of information since the subject has become a matter of public knowledge and private debate. Sexology presents the diverse opinions of experts in the field, so that readers can get a balanced understanding. Sexology will not recommend any make of vibrator nor supply names of manufacturers or places where vibrators can be purchased. Reeaders are requested not to write to Sexology and are directed to their marriage counselors or doctors for their opinion.

3 comments
  1. JMyint says: April 7, 201112:06 pm

    Interesting, and these days Walgreens sells sex toys under health and well being.

    http://www.walgreens.co…

  2. Lelo Soraya says: April 8, 20117:18 pm

    Yes, very interesting to see how people used to think about this topic (and I even learned something about the 1964 Olympics).

  3. chapelcross99 says: August 7, 20114:07 am

    Surprising to think that some therapists didn’t know about electric vibrators, which had been sold for over half a century at that point..

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