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Shaking up myths about sex toys

In this film image released by Sony Pictures Classics Maggie Gyllenhaal portrays Charlotte Dalrymple left Hugh Dancy portrays Mortimer Granville

In this film image released by Sony Pictures Classics, Maggie Gyllenhaal portrays Charlotte Dalrymple, left, and Hugh Dancy portrays Mortimer Granville in a scene from "Hysteria." (AP Photo/Sony Pictures Classics, Liam Daniel)

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Updated: August 12, 2012 6:08AM

‘Hysteria,” starring Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal, recently opened in theaters. The romantic comedy was inspired by the real-life story behind the creation of the vibrator.

Although it is hard to believe, the vibrator actually first came to use in the conservative Victorian era. As the title of the movie implies, the vibrator was used to treat ‘hysteria,’ which was an umbrella diagnosis of the day that doctors used for women who suffered from a variety of emotional ailments ranging from depression to anxiety and beyond. (Hysteria actually has female roots in the Greek language, in which it is directly translated as “uterus”). Sadly, many women who suffered from legitimate emotional issues during the Victorian era were either ignored or patronized by their doctors, as they were believed to be merely suffering from a “female” matter or sexual frustration.

In response to such theories, medical professionals began to employ electromechancial vibrators, which used to help treat “hysterical” disorders and alleviate built-up sexual tension. It might sound a little crazy, but doctors actually used these early vibrators to bring their female patients to orgasm in the name of health!

Even though over a century has passed since the invention of the vibrator (the first was sold in 1902), there are still many misconceptions and myths that surround sex toys. Here are a few common urban legends debunked:

Sex toys are for single people. People often think that vibrators are just for swinging singles, but coupled-up women are more likely to use sex toys than their single counterparts do. In fact, 78 percent of women who use sex toys are in a relationship.

You have to go to a sex shop to buy toys. You don’t have to shyly slink into a sex toy store if it’s not your thing. Thanks to the Internet, you now can purchase sex toys in the comfort and privacy of your own home. If you are worried about your kids seeing a package from “Sex Toys R Us,” simply turn to your favorite Web sites such as Amazon and, where you can order everything from lubrication to vibrators to erotica.

If you use sex toys, it means your sex life is inadequate. Actually, the exact opposite is true. A study I recently performed with found that women who use sex toys reported more frequent orgasms and greater sexual satisfaction with their partners than women who did not use sex toys.

Additionally, recent research from the Kinsey Institute found a host of other positive benefits. The researchers found that women who used vibrators were more likely to have seen their gynecologist in the past year, and vibrator users also reported higher levels of desire, arousal, lubrication and orgasm.

Of course, vibrators can never replace the intimacy that exists between couples, and there is no amount of battery-operated pleasure that can replace the love and excitement you and your partner give one another. Instead, sex aids such as these are merely meant as a supplement and as a tool to help increase your excitement and pleasure.

So, as it turns out, sex toys actually are nothing to get hysterical about!

Dr. Berman is the star of “In The Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman” on OWN and director of

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