86°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Bibliophile

The Bibliophile

America is a land of ingenuity. She has been a leader in invention dating all the way back to the days of Benjamin Franklin. However, America’s passion for invention goes far beyond lightning rods and bifocals, and in the outstanding book “American Sex Machines,” author Hoag Levins reveals what happens when America’s obsession with technology and its lust for kink come together.

The inventions chronicled in the book are all straight from the files of the U.S. Patent Office. The book explores such marvels as bionic penises, and anti-masturbation devices. In the chapter titled “America’s Assault on the Solitary Vice,” Levins reveals all manner equipment meant to restrict such naughty practice. Apparently there was concern during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries over the large number of Americans who had “masturbated themselves into insanity,” and so an industry of devices meant to discourage and prevent such deviant behavior sprung up. Speaking of things springing up, inventor Albert Todd patented two electrified anti-masturbation harnesses in 1903, devices that were meant to limit “longitudinal expansion” of the wearer’s love hammer.

If a cock shocking apparatus is difficult for you to imagine have no fear, this book has got you covered. With over 300 illustrations of the various “sex machines” even the most phallus-mutilating device can be seen in all its glory. The images of these inventions range from the peculiar to the unpleasant and utterly horrific. Such is the case with Raphael Sonn’s mechanical penis sheath, a device that could be called the cotton gin of anti-erection technology. The mechanism would cause great physical pain, and love organ dismemberment, if any unfortunate soul should attempt to remove it without the key.

However, the fight against impure thoughts and deeds goes far beyond anti-salami-stroking technology. There is also the endless “war on wet dreams.” Nocturnal pollution was as much of a problem at our nation’s birth as it is today. Thank goodness there have been a long line of great Americans that have combated seminal weakness through the creation of state-of-the-art anti-nocturnal emissions technology. This actually led to one of my personal favorite inventions found in the book, George Dudley’s erection detection and prevention mechanism. This little gadget would alert a sleeping man if any impure thoughts should cause their family heirloom to grow to unacceptable proportions. The device involved a long shaft worn over a males unit while he slept. If the man’s penis were to become erect it would trigger a bell at the end of the shaft that would ring, waking the man before he unintentionally sinned all over bed.

The book also follows the development of contraceptives from processed sheep gut to Paul Lyons’ musical condom that used a sound producing computer chip activated by pressure. However, the innovation in the fight to assure safe sex doesn’t stop there. The book contains details on a dozen inventors who have strived to create functional “condom garments,” essentially a condom underwear hybrid in various designs meant for both men and women. I’m not certain exactly how such impermeable apparel is meant to be cleaned, but I imagine it would make for a fairly awkward trip to the dry cleaners.

My favorite section of the book deals with anti-rape technology. This technology, which unfortunately never gained approval for sale on the open market, would have made rape a thing of the past. The devices included such genius inventions as vaginal spikes, a penis locking and lacerating vaginal insert, and Charles Barlow’s vaginal harpoon tube (in one and three prong versions). Such devices put the accomplishments of Edison and his light bulb to shame.

Various sex toys abound, but I won’t ruin all the surprises this book has to offer. It is something that is best explored first hand, preferably with a willing and open-minded partner. Anyone interested in the innovative history of America owes it to themselves to pick up this book, for any collection of America’s spirit of invention would be incomplete without this compilation of American sex machines. If you think the Hubble telescope was an accomplishment, wait until you read this book.