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93 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read: sophisticated, learned, and funny.
"The Technology of Orgasm" is one of the funniest books I've read in a long time. Maines' ostensible purpose is an examination of the history of vibrators and other mechanical means to induce female orgasms. This subject is covered in depth and apparent thoroughness, but her real focus is "androcentric" definitions of female sexuality and their...
Published on January 29, 1999 by john.vancleve@gallaudet.edu

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative, but repetitive.
This was an interesting and informative book, however I feel the title is a bit misleading. Although the technological growth and spread of the vibrator is covered fairly well, the book is actually about the medical profession's lack of understanding of female orgasm. The points that are constantly reiterated are: the continuing androcentric view of female sexuality, the...
Published 10 months ago by Douglas Fulkerson


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93 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read: sophisticated, learned, and funny., January 29, 1999
By 
"The Technology of Orgasm" is one of the funniest books I've read in a long time. Maines' ostensible purpose is an examination of the history of vibrators and other mechanical means to induce female orgasms. This subject is covered in depth and apparent thoroughness, but her real focus is "androcentric" definitions of female sexuality and their cultural and technological repercussions.
In witty and humorous language, demonstrating that Maines has mastered post-modernism and even found a use for it, she lampoons men's refusal to recognize that for most women, insertion of a male penis into the vagina followed by a male orgasm is not necessarily a complete sexual experience. In droll tones, Maines discusses the long-held male claim, supported by what was called science, that if a woman did not achieve an orgasm from sexual penetration by a male, she was not "normal," although some 80% or more of women were thus "abnormal." And never mind that 80% of a population cannot, by definition, be abnormal.
Maines is a good historian, and she recounts the historical medicalization of female orgasm, terming its inducement "the job nobody wanted." For hundreds of years, physicians or midwives were paid to stimulate manually the clitoris of women suffering from "hysteria" and thereby to bring about a therapeutic paroxism. Since this was a time-consuming task, doctors turned to hydrotherapy and then to electric powered vibrators to shorten the time necessary to induce such relief on each patient. HMOs would be proud.
This is a book on a serious topic in western cultural history that could have been androphobic or, worse, terribly dull. Instead,it charms and educates with wit and erudition. I hated to see it end.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars hysteric paroxysm, August 1, 2002
By 
Jessica Jernigan (Mt. Pleasant, Mi.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology) (Paperback)
for centuries, troubled -- or troubling -- women were diagnosed with "hysteria." the classic treatment for this vague malady was inducement of the "hysteric paroxysm" -- known to us contemporary types as the orgasm. according to rachel maines's wryly hilarious history, the first mechanical vibrators were labor-saving devices for doctors tired of inducing orgasm in their patients manually. who knew? this book is clearly her dissertation & primarily intended for academics, but i found it mind-blowing & frequently quite amusing. i frequently recommend it to friends & colleagues looking for a quick, smart, engaging read.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Social history buffs MUST read, November 8, 2000
By 
Joan Jacobson (Lakewood, CO USA) - See all my reviews
Anyone who reads social histories, biographies of Victorian women or historical fiction must eventually ask this question, "What the heck is neurasthenia and how come nobody ever gets it anymore?" The plague of wealthy Victorian women simply disappeared without a trace in the 1920s. Why? Finally -- here's your answer.
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52 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Vibrations: The Doctor Is In., June 2, 1999
By 
odea@scn.org (San Francisco, USA) - See all my reviews
* *
The dustjacket of Rachel P. Maines's new book, THE TECHNOLOGY OF ORGASM: "HYSTERIA", THE VIBRATOR & SEXUAL SATISFACTION, reads as follows:
-*-*- From the time of Hippocrates until the 1920s, massaging "hysterical" female patients to orgasm was a staple of medical practice among Western physicians. Hysteria...was thought to be the consequence of sexual deprivation. Doctors performed the "routine chore" of relieving hysterical patients' symptoms with manual genital massage until the woman reached orgasm, or as it was known under clinical conditions, the "hysterical paroxysm". The vibrator first emerged as an electromechanical medical instrument in direct response to demand from physicians who, far from enjoying the implementation of pelvic massage, sought every opportunity to substitute the services of midwives and, later, the efficiency of mechanical devices... Invented in the late 1880s by a British physician, the vibrator was popular with turn-of-the-century doctors as a quick, efficient cure for hysteria which neither fatigued the therapist nor demanded skills which were difficult to acquire... Hysterical women presented a large and lucratve clientele for doctors, and vibrators reduced, from about one hour to ten minutes, the time required for a physician to produce results, significantly increasing the number of patients he could treat in the course of a single workday. These women were ideal patients in that they never recovered nor died from their condition but continued to require regular medical "treatment". -*-*-
-0-0-0-0-
That male doctors were freely encouraged to perform sexual acts upon female patients is startling when compared to today's more regulated climate, and it inspires these observations:
* The vibrator was not an amorous invention - no Cupid's dart - but a labour-saving clinical instrument to substitute for undesirable professional tedium the more desirable swellings of the wallet. Improved productivity is good for business.
* Doctors were well-rewarded, respectable gigolos, weary as whores of the endless daily parade of hungry genitals and their distressed owners. Today, they would go to jail.
* Activities that otherwise would be considered odd, transgressive, or exciting are permitted when they can be defined as, or safely packaged within, "medicine" or "science", controlled and validated by bourgeois professionals. This can be liberating as well as oppressive: clinical authority can licence the forbidden while defending the status quo, such as relations between the sexes. The clinic is where we pay strangers to intrude intimately into all our velvet cavities - wearing latex - bringing fresh meaning to the phrase, "the doctor is in". Quickly nurse, the proctoscope!
* The doctor-patient relationship oppressed both parties yet remains charged with voyeuristic eroticism for the reader, paradoxically and perversely enhanced by references to the austere boredom of the clinician. The erotic relationship is toned by the pornographic whiff produced through the opposing tensions of: dominance and submission; demand and supply; buying and selling; need and numbness; control and abandon; restraint and convulsion; energy and fatigue; humiliation and relief; shame and paroxysm; tender, desiring flesh, and the subtly-perverse coupling of mechanical insult and pleasure. The clinical drama delivers a secret misogyny to be savoured as a thrilling, guilty vice by both sexes - a stolen cream bun for the soul. Spanking cures this sort of thing.
* All of this occurred under conditions in which the only female orgasm recognised as "true" was the sometimes elusive one produced vaginally through intercourse with a male. The more independent and easily achieved clitoral orgasm was belittled as secondary and "immature" [see Freud]. This attitude supported male sexual necessity, authority, and privilege: only a cock can make a real woman of you - it's a magic wand. Today, women buy their own magic wands and connect them to the power station, harnessing those giant turbines and nuclear rods to their appetites.
* It is widely recognised that some mental conditions are treated by electric shock but less broadly advertised is that others were alleviated by electric cock.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, September 24, 2002
By A Customer
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This review is from: The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology) (Paperback)
This book is utterly fascinating! Written by a woman who's really done her homework on the subject, The Technology of Orgasm proves to be a captivating historical account of the evolution of society's perceptions of women's sexuality. It's a must-read for a woman who's confident in her sexuality, or would like to become more so.
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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a pity this book got the author sacked :(, August 16, 1999
By A Customer
For her pains (the book took 20 years to research and write), according to Wired magazine, the author was apparently promptly sacked from the faculty of Clarkson U on publication. :( A great pity and another blow for academic freedom on subjects around sexuality.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How female bodies really work, and its just fine!, December 16, 1999
By A Customer
There was an irony and sadness to the truth that in the face of immense male denial of women's actual sexual physical workings in intimate relationships and in male psychological advice, there was this actual historical presence of awareness by male physicians of how our bodies work, albeit at such an unintimate distance it almost can't count as awareness. It was as if our bodies were like machines.Great research. Essentail reading for everyone.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A frustrating and yet hilarious read, March 28, 2000
By A Customer
This book is indeed a hoot. The idea that early 20th century medical doctors could not tell that they were stimulating their patients to orgasm is astonishing, until the reader progresses through more of the book. The book is not about conception--it's about female orgasm, which is not directly related to conception (and can be easily achieved with no penetration at all). The androcentric bias the author mentions pertains, for example, to the writers of sex manuals in past decades who counseled men not to bother bringing their partners to orgasm, and counseled women not to demand orgasm, because concentrating on "her pleasure" (as the condom boxes say) can be distracting for the male partner. THAT advice is androcentric, and a major point of this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars tough read but worth it, September 17, 2008
By 
Kitty "Lady Ace" (Franklin Park, Illinois United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology) (Paperback)
okay so as a lay person this was a bit of a tough read, however it was worth it. It's not just the history of the vibrator but on how we as a culture have evolved our views on sex, female sexuality and masterbation. Eye opening, it made me examine so of the views I hold and ask why, and thats always good in a book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The history of the vibrator!, March 11, 2010
By 
Julie (California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology) (Paperback)
What an interesting book! It is written in kind of an academic tone and thus it may not be to everyone's liking but I liked it. This was the first book to my knowledge to uncover the interesting history of the vibrator and how midwives and doctors used to use electric virbators to treat so-called hysteria among women.

I also like Sex for One by Betty Dodson which is about the social side of masturbation and women's sexuality. And of course Babeland's Sex Toys 101 which teaches about all the different sex toys (in full color) and Because It Feels Good which teaches how to use them (but doesn't have them in full color).

Great book. I highly recommend The Technology of Orgasm. I think there is even a movie version of this out now but cannot think of the name of it.
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