It's been a popular tidbit from history that doctors during the Victorian era once treated hysteria in women by manually stimulating them to orgasm. This made doctors popular but tired, so Joseph Mortimer Granville invented the vibrator to automate the treatment.
It’s a disturbing insight, implying that vibrators succeeded not because they advanced female pleasure, but because they saved labor for male physicians. And in the past few years, it has careened around popular culture. It’s given rise to a Tony-nominated play, a rom-com starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, and even a line of branded vibrators. Samantha Bee did a skit about it in March. A seemingly endless march of quirky news stories has instructed readers in its surprising but true quality, including in Vice, Mother Jones, and Psychology Today.
In short, the tale has become a commonplace one in how people think about Victorian sex. And according to a contentious new paper, it may also be almost totally false.