Sex toys are a topic that has been shrouded in taboo for centuries, but they have been around for just as long. While we tend to think of sex toys as a relatively modern invention, the truth is that they have been used throughout history in many different cultures and have taken on many strange and wonderful forms. How far back, you might ask?
Believe it or not, the oldest sex toy known to man dates back to roughly 28,000 BC. A paleolithic stone phallus was discovered at Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany by archeologist Petra Kieselbach. This highly polished siltstone phallus measured 7.56 inches in height and 1.1 inches in width (what’s that remind you of?) and is speculated to have been used as a dildo.
Yes, you read that right, a dildo made of stone. Polished or not, that just sounds painful to me. But it’s the stone age, so it’s not like they had a lot of options. Work with what you got, right?
Archaeologists have dug up other prehistoric phallic objects from excavations in France and other parts of Europe made from antlers, bone, and stone. While it’s not 100% clear what the artifacts were used for, given the size and shape of them, it’s a pretty safe bet that that these were used for sexual pleasure.
The ancient Greeks also got in on the action around 500 BC, creating olisbos made from wood, leather, stone, and even bread! Fun fact, the word “dildo” comes from the Greek word “dilein,” which means “to thrust.” In fact, there’s even a Greek literary story from the time that tells the story of a Metro, a young woman whose husband is away. She goes to visit her friend Coritto to borrow her olisbo, only to find out that Coritto lent it to another woman. Metro leaves crestfallen.
Not only that, but those freaky Greeks also came up with the idea of lube, using olive oil to make things a little slicker. We take lube for granted these days, with a variety of options to choose from. But back then lube didn’t exist, so they had to get a little creative if their lady was on the drier side down there.
As time went on, more and more sex toys came onto the scene. In ancient China, they invented Ben Wa balls, usually made from silver, originally used to increase the man’s pleasure during intercourse. Cock rings (made of goat eyelids, with eyelashes intact) were tied around a man’s erection to keep him hard, with the lashes said to increase his lover’s pleasure. An interesting idea, but kind of gross if you ask me. Can you imagine what that must have smelled like?!
Thankfully, later cock rings were carved from ivory, with some having a nub protruding from one side to be placed against the woman’s clitoris for her pleasure. If you think about it, this was essentially the forerunner of today’s clitoral stimulators.
In medieval Europe, the “daisy wheel,” a wooden wheel with spikes on it that was rolled over the skin to produce a tingling sensation, was introduced. Similarly, the French tickler, a small wand with feathers on the end used to tickle and stimulate the erogenous zones, was also introduced and became very popular.
Now here’s where it gets really interesting. The first vibrator appears in the 1800s, a solution to help “hysterical” women (who were anxious or unhappy) release that pent-up sexual energy via an orgasm. Amazingly, doctors would treat these patients by giving them orgasms. Not surprisingly, when word of this treatment spread, cases of “hysteria” spread like wildfire, and doctors and their feeble hands couldn’t keep up. So they turned to science, inventing the first “manipulators” to help get the job done.
These vibrators came on the scene prior to electricity, so they had to get inventive. One of the first mechanical vibrators was actually steam-powered. It was called the Manipulator (great name!), and it was invented by Dr. George Taylor in 1869. This massive machine had an engine in another room, with the apparatus sticking through the wall. Not exactly discrete or quiet I imagine, but it got the job done!
Macaura’s Pulsocon Hand Vibrator came along in the 1880’s, and this egg-beater looking contraption was one of the more advanced hand-crank vibrators. Sold throughout the early 1900s, this bad boy was capable of delivering 5,000 vibrations per minute, helping women “combat hysteria”, assuming their hand didn’t cramp up from the constant cranking.
From there, vibrators became big business. It wasn’t long before a battery-operated vibrator was introduced, and dozens of companies began producing battery-powered vibrators and line electricity-powered vibrators alike. Seeing as how women were already comfortable with electrical appliances, this was an easy bridge to gap. In 1928, the Polar Club Electric Vibrator was the first to boast a textured knob to provide different pleasurable sensations. Women, you can thank them for this fantastic innovation.
Over the next few decades, sex toys became more widely available and were no longer a taboo subject. The sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s led to a boom in the production and consumption of sex toys, with the iconic Hitachi Magic Wand finding its way here from Japan in 1968 and changing the game with its long handle and powerful vibrating head. All these years later, it’s still a favorite of women around the world.
These days, sex toys come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, and are used by people of all genders and sexual orientations. They range from simple objects like vibrators and dildos, to more complex devices like anal beads and cock rings, to high-tech toys like remote-controlled vibrators and sex dolls. One of my girlfriend’s favorite toys is this rose toy with tongue, it gets her off in record time.
Despite their long and fascinating history, sex toys are still stigmatized in many cultures and are often associated with shame and embarrassment. But as we continue to explore and embrace our sexuality, it’s important to remember that sex toys are a natural and healthy part of human sexual expression. Today, sex toys are a multi-billion-dollar market, and research shows that half of all adults use sex toys regularly.
There’s no telling what the future holds, but we’re guessing it’s a whole lot of orgasms.
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