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A Little History of Sex Toys

by Beth Divine 7 Jan 2018
You might think that our obsession with sex toys began with our generation, or – at the least – the one before ours. But this is very far from the truth: sex toys have been with us a very long time. In fact, as long as people have been recording history and/ or leaving traces of their civilisations for archaeologists to discover they have been stimulating themselves with all manner of artificial aids. (Oh, and by the way – we aren’t even the first generation to enjoy Viagra – the ancient Romans discovered an aphrodisiac called silphium that also acted as a natural contraceptive. The distinctively shaped seeds are thought to have given us the shape of a romantic heart, and the Romans used the plant so widely that they actually made it go extinct, leaving only records of the useful little plant in song and verse…) 

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The first sex doll was invented over one hundred years ago. In 1904 an enterprising Frenchman known only as ‘Dr P’ was known to have been producing reasonably realistic looking inflatable dolls for ‘discerning gentlemen’. This replaced a vaguely female shaped bundle of cloth and rags which lonely sailors used to console themselves while at sea. It was only when vulcanised rubber was perfected that Dr P could perfect his product. Within a mere four years, the blow-up doll had already evolved considerably, so you can imagine how Dr P would feel were he around today and able to – ahem – get to grips with some of the sex dolls being produced today, with their realistic feel skin, authentically shaped orifices and carefully crafted faces and bodies. 

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Vibrators were invented as a medical tool when doctors complained that they were bored and their wrists ached… That’s right, a roaring orgasm was a medical treatment! Women went to their doctors with a vague litany of complaints: irritability, lethargy, sexual fantasies and unwonted wetness – symptoms we would recognise instantly as a raging case of horniness! However, women were believed not to enjoy sex and the fact of their libido was doubted (by men, recently rediscovered women’s writings show that a lot of Victorian women knew exactly what an orgasm was and complained bitterly if their husbands did not satisfy them on a regular basis) to exist at all. Therefore, to relieve these symptoms, known collectively as ‘hysteria’ doctors and nurses would lube up their hands (with vegetable oil) and stimulate the patient until ‘paroxysm’ occurred. It wasn’t called ‘orgasm’ because women were believed not to have them… Needless to say, this was a most popular service and greatly helped doctor’s bank accounts as satisfied customers returned over and over to enjoy the relief offered. However, as mentioned above, doctors became bored and suffered aches and cramps in their hands and fingers, especially as some customers needed more stimulation than others. Therefore, there were several manual vibrators in existence, that could be operated without taxing the doctor’s digits. As soon as Nicolai Tesla and Thomas Edison did their things with electricity, doctors leaped upon this new power source, and soon electric vibrators were throbbing away in doctor’s rooms all over Europe and the US. However, cannier inventors made vibrators smaller and battery-powered and offered them directly to the end user. All manner of coy advertisements for ‘personal massagers’ soon appeared in ladies’ magazines and doctors were soon mourning the passing of the age of hysteria-based income. 

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Buttplugs and dildos can be classed together as they are basically the same thing, depending on where they are inserted! These are the great-grand-daddy of all sex toys with the oldest known example being a whopping 28,000 years old! There are, in fact, older specimens that may be venerable sex toys, but this, found in the Hohle Fels caves in Germany, is the oldest undeniable phallus – a cock literally as hard as rock! Penis-shaped alternatives have been found all over the world, and can be made from almost anything – ivory, stone, metals both precious and otherwise (the world’s most expensive dildo is made from gold and encrusted with diamonds), even wood and, in ancient Greece, bread. There are some doubts as to whether bread was actually used, or whether the suggestive shape merely gave rise to smutty jokes about what could be done with the right shape and size of loaf, but there are several vases and images that make it very clear that the possibilities were considered – one even shows a woman about to nibble on one ‘bread stick’ while she ‘dips’ a second one into herself…  

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