The Electropathic Sex Belt

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Advertisement – Electropathic Sex Belt


Electricity was first discovered 2 500 years ago (around 600 BC) by the Greeks. They noticed that rubbing two materials together produced a static charge. Near Baghdad, pots were discovered in the 1930s with copper sheets inside that are believed to have been used as ancient batteries to produce light in the Old Persian Empire.

Baghdad batteries with schematic representation
Baghdad batteries with a schematic representation

For unknown reasons, humanity forgot most of its knowledge about electricity until the 1600s, when numerous studies described the differentiation between positive and negative currents.

While electricity was known and understood by many scientists, Benjamin Franklin is credited to have ‘discovered’ electricity through a series of experiments he performed with lightning and a kite during storms.

 From that moment on, a lot of fascinating new devices were introduced in the area of medicine. These new devices produced electric discharges (zapping) and were supposed to cure everything from liver disease to hernias. Despite this, they become popular as means to enhance sexual performance.

Electropathic Belt for Men and Women
Electropathic Belt for Men and Women

 One of those devices was the Electropathic Belt.

The Electropathic Belt

One of the most popular, scandalous inventions of Victorian times was the electric bracelet — a device made from zinc coated in silver, copper coils, and wires which shocked the body with tiny doses of electricity.

In the late nineteenth century, Cornelius B. Harness was managing director of the Pall Mall Medical Association and the Medical Battery Company and was a driving force for the electropathic belt.

Pall Mall Medical Association Magazine
Pall Mall Medical Association Magazine

Harness devices were not the first electrically powered band made for medical purposes–Isaac Pulvermacher had introduced the electrically powered band in the late 1850s, and there were several other competitors–but the Electropathic Belt became the leader in its own right, and made Cornelius B Harness wealthy.

Advert for Harness Electropathic Belts c.1890. Image credit Wellcome Library London. Electropathic Sex Belt
Advert for Harness’ “Electropathic Belts” – Wellcome Library, London. Helps weak backs, and cures debilities, hysteria, nervousness, sleeplessness, rheumatism, sciatica, lumbago, torpid liver and kindred ailments.

The Electropathic Belt (also known as Electric Band, Electric Chain, and Electro-Galvanic Band) became the most popular among them all. Although the electric belt was briefly promoted by doctors, it had become symbolic of quackery by the 1890s. Medical research had moved on, and practitioners rejected the devices as bogus and fraudulent.

Advertisement for Electrophatic Belt
Advertisement for Electrophatic Belt

Advertisements of the electroshock band began to wane around 1910, and organizations such as the American Medical Association began more aggressively targeting the sellers of medically invalid devices. The combination of the dealer’s unreliable business practices and the fact that the belts did not work, progressively embroiled the company in legal proceedings, until they were handed a compulsory cease-and-desist order in 1894.

The price range for an Electropathic Belt was between $4 and $18 according to the 1902 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogue and the Alvah Roebuck catalogue from 1897.

Heidelberg Electric Belt
Heidelberg Electric Belt

Electroshock Medical Treatments: The Cure for Impotence

The medical profession has had differing opinions about the causes and possible cures for impotence. Repressive Victorians focused on a man’s “moral weakness” as the cause of genital dysfunction, and in the 19th century impotence was thought to be caused by too much or too little sex or masturbation.

As the surgeon, Samuel W. Gross pointed out in his book, A Practical Treatise on Impotence, Infertility, and Allied Disorders of the Male Sexual Organs, “masturbation, gonorrhoea, sexual excesses, and constant arousal of the genital organs without gratification” would lead to impotence.

Some doctors introduced “galvanic baths,” or bathtubs filled with electrodes, that were supposed to restore sexual desire in just six sessions.

Heidelberg Alternating Current Electric Belts
Heidelberg Alternating Current Electric Belts

Others took an even more localized approach, where rods with currents running through them were placed inside the man’s urethra. The treatment would last five to eight minutes and would be repeated once or twice a week. This was thought to be particularly helpful for those with significant atrophy in the genital area.

Where there is money to be made from an insecure customer, quack doctors and unpleasant businessmen are sure to follow. At the end of the 19th century there were advertisements for “electropathic belts” or “electric belts” aimed at “weak men”.

Dr. Sanden's Electric Belt and Suspensory for Weak Men
Dr. Sanden’s Electric Belt and Suspensory for Weak Men

They claimed to help cure kidney pain, sciatic nerve problems, backaches, headaches, and nervous exhaustion, but the underlying message was that they could cure men’s sexual problems.

Electrophatic Battery Belt - Weekly illustrated Journal 1886
Electrophatic Battery Belt – Weekly illustrated Journal 1886

Although today impotence is considered a combination of physical and mental problems, there is still a belief that electric shock therapy is a useful cure for impotence. Studies conducted in Haifa, Israel (2009) and San Francisco, California (2016), and several other studies that have been carried out after claim that low energy shock wave therapy has advantages in curing erectile dysfunction.

Boston Medical - Electric Belt
Boston Medical – Electric Belt

The Sex Belt

While the Victorian Electrophatic Belt was advertised as having many properties to cure an array of diseases, it is interesting to note that it became extremely popular among most men (and some women) for its physical sexual properties. A lot of people found wearing the belt to be extremely arousing. So much so that in the current modern-day era, sex shops are littered with electric sex belts and many other electrical devices that are used during sex play.

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