Cleopatra and the Bee Vibrator

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We have a rule about spreading rumors here at PinkCherry, and here it is: we don’t! Hopefully, you won’t be surprised to learn that we definitely don’t believe in spreading rumors about sex and sexuality. There’s plenty of misinformation out there (fake news, anyone?) and far too many misconceptions as is. Our job is, and will always be to celebrate and support sexual positivity, freedom and pleasure. Now, that being said, (almost) every rule has an exception, and we’ve found the exception to ours – Cleopatra’s bee vibrator!

Who Was Cleopatra?

For anyone who might be thinking ‘wait, what?!’, here’s the scoop. Cleopatra was 1st century BC Egyptian royalty - the last active monarch of the Ptolemaic Empire, to be specific. Aside from acting as solo ruler of her kingdom (queendom?) Cleopatra was a naval commander, linguist, author, philosopher, astronomer and diplomat. She was a pretty big deal, and her very interesting life and impressive accomplishments have inspired artists, poets, playwrights (perhaps you’ve heard of Shakespeare?) and filmmakers.

There are many glorified accounts of Cleopatra’s life – none other than Elizabeth Taylor portrayed her in 1963’s super-lavish namesake movie, for instance – but as for her everyday existence and real, true facts about who she was, historians have had to do a lot of guesswork. See, most of the existing records of Queen Cleo come from a Roman perspective. Cleopatra wasn’t particularly popular with the Romans, not only because she’d allied herself politically with two powerful Roman military leaders - Julius Caesar and Mark Antony - but because she was romantically involved with them. Rome and Egypt had been in a love/hate power struggle even before Cleopatra’s time, so there was some serious animosity in place. Rome eventually conquered Egypt - Cleopatra having either been bitten by a poisonous snake or committed suicide in the meantime - and it’s safe to say that some records were probably destroyed or altered during/after the takeover process. What does this all mean for the late Queen Cleopatra? Well, it’s very possible that some of what we think we know about Cleopatra could be the result of Roman propaganda. And that, friends, brings us back to the topic of rumors!

One of the most-repeated ‘facts’ about Cleopatra is that she was something of a temptress; beautiful, dangerous and sexually adventurous. Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra: A Life has a very different take. “It is less threatening to believe her fatally attractive then fatally intelligent.” It’s very likely that Cleopatra was simply a very smart, very competent woman who had successfully ruled an empire for many years. The sexual shenanigans (orgies, for instance) credited to Cleo could just be sour grapes - an age-old myth created to detract from female success. On the other hand, maybe Cleopatra was, in fact, a super sexy force of nature! Perhaps she was a powerful woman AND a sex maven. We’d like to think so.

 

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Ancient Vibrators for Women...Maybe

On that note, let’s get to the rumor that inspired today’s post. Cleopatra is credited with inventing the first vibrator. How? Clearly there were no batteries, electricity or USB charge cords in 1st century BC. According to those good ol’ rumors, she (or someone she was able to talk into it) gathered a few handfuls of honeybees and placed them in a gourd. The angry bees would buzz around their prison, making the gourd vibrate in the process. Let’s get one thing straight – there are no trusted historical records of the bee-vibrator, but it’s supposed existence is all over the internet. Google it! We dug around a little and found a possible rumor source – The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sexual Practices, a 1992 publication by author Brenda Love. It’s there, along with coverage of some pretty interesting fetishes. If Cleopatra actually got her ya-ya’s using the equivalent of bees in a box, it could be considered an unusual sexual practice. We agree with Brenda on that point.

Just for fun, let’s imagine that Cleopatra’s DIY bee vibrator was real. Do bees even vibrate? How did she get ‘em in there? Did ancient Egyptians have access to bees? So many questions! Luckily, we have an expert on call. One of our good friends (and former employees) is a longtime beekeeper. We had a great but admittedly very weird conversation with her about the bee vibe, and here’s what we found out. First, honeybees DO vibrate - sort of. What they actually do is beat their wings very, very quickly – up to 230 times per second. If enough bees were concentrated in a small area, you’d feel some vibration for sure. The frequency of vibration, however, wouldn’t be anywhere near that of your favorite rabbit vibe, or even a classic bullet. Second, it’s possible to get bees pretty much anywhere, if you know what you’re doing. The ancient Egyptians, as we found out, did know what they were doing. They may not have been the very first civilization to practice beekeeping, but they were among the first, for sure.  Researchers have uncovered hieroglyphs and temple-paintings picturing beekeepers blowing smoke into hives – a technique that’s still used today. The Egyptians, with Cleopatra among them, definitely had access to bees.

Victorian Doctor’s Inadvertent Personal Pleasure Discovery

So, what have we learned? We know that, theoretically, Cleo might have actually been able to get off with her bees. We also know that the frequency of bee vibration probably wouldn’t cut it for today’s pleasure seekers. So let’s skip forward a few (okay, a lot of) decades to the end of the 1800’s, when the personal vibrator as we know it was born. During this particular period in Western European history, some women weren’t feeling too hot. They reported fatigue, irritability, bloating and anxiety. Keep in mind that the late 1800’s happened to coincide with an age of intense sexual repression. Coincidence? Probably not. Doctors found that they were able to alleviate their female patient’s mysterious symptoms with something not-all-that-surprising – a pelvic massage. During said massage, patients would experience something termed ‘hysterical paroxysm’, or, in layman's terms, an orgasm. Post-orgasm, they’d feel much better. Obviously!

While it’s possible that the personal vibrator was invented because Victorian doctors got tired of manually massaging pelvises, that theory could be one of those rumors we don’t like to spread. So, we’ll skip a few more years and arrive in the time of Dr J. Mortimer Granville, inventor of the first patented electrical vibrator. Huge, a bit scary looking and quite expensive, the first vibe wasn’t pretty, and according to Dr. Granville, wasn’t intended for use as a pelvic massager. He marketed his invention as a therapeutic device intended for nerve-stimulation, muscle relaxation and various non-orgasmic bodily ailments. In Dr. Granville’s 1883 text Nerve-Vibration and Excitation as Agents in the Treatment of Functional Disorder and Organic Disease (snappy title, Dr. G), he wrote "I have never yet percussed a female patient ... I have avoided, and shall continue to avoid the treatment of women by percussion, simply because I do not wish to be hoodwinked, and help to mislead others, by the vagaries of the hysterical state ..." Regardless, other physicians did use Granville’s invention as vibrators for women for ‘paroxysm’ purposes with great success.

By the end of the 1900’s, handheld home-ready vibrators for women were in production. Of course, they were still being sold as medical and therapeutic devices at this point. We uncovered some very old ads praising the vibrator’s success as treatment for headaches, flatulence, nervousness, sprains and more. We’re fairly certain that more than one women had, by now, discovered that their ‘therapeutic’ device was good for treating something else - orgasm cravings. Funnily enough, one of the most famous and top selling vibrators in existence – the Magic Wand – started off much the same way!

A Long Way From Bee Vibrators

Over the years, the handheld vibrator grew in popularity, becoming a household appliance as common as the electric toothbrush - which was also reportedly being used as a vibrator in the ‘50’s. Even still, the vibrator wasn’t being marketed as a sexual pleasure tool. It wasn’t until the end of the sexual revolution, when dozens of outdated conceptions of sexuality had been overturned, that vibrators for women truly came out of the appliance closet. Today, we’re lucky enough to have hundreds of vibrating options. There are vibrators for women to target the clitoris, g-spot or both at once. There are vibrators that fit on a finger, and others that will barely fit under your bed. You can share vibration with a partner during sex or hoard the fun for yourself. Of course, you can always go classic and pick up a massager inspired by the electric original. Aside from the Magic Wand, which will probably buzz on ‘till the end of time, we make a pretty fantastic one, if we do say so ourselves.

Closing Thoughts on Bee Vibrators & Personal Vibrators

Speaking of buzzing, we’ll close out this edition of the PinkCherry blog with another fun fact from our bee expert. European honeybees have a specific (and not very surprising) method of attack when a predator enters the hive - they sting it to death. A certain species of Japanese honeybee, apis cerana japonica, uses a different approach. When a wasp or hornet gets too close to the hive, the bees swarm. Hundreds of winged warriors form a ball around the enemy and, working together, vibrate their flight muscles violently. All that movement raises the core temperature (where the unlucky wasp sits, surrounded) to exactly 115 degrees Fahrenheit. The bees can tolerate up to 122 degrees, but the wasp will start to fry at 115. Bye wasp!

We wondered if that heat could have, hypothetically of course, been put to use in Cleopatra’s fabled bee vibrator. After all, some vibrators for women (and men!) include a warming feature among their selling points. Technically, if Cleo had been able to somehow coax a colony of Japanese honeybees into her gourd and then popped in a wasp, she’d probably feel some heat! Now, hopefully this goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway - attempting to prove the hot-bee theory, along with spreading rumors are things that we 100% do not recommend! As a much safer alternative, and one that definitely won’t get you stung, have a look at our top vibrators for women and toys for her. No bees, guaranteed!