A History Of Sex Toys
Nowadays, we’re pretty spoiled for choice when it comes to adult toys.
If you spend any time at all looking at sex toys online, chances are that you’d find toys that vibrate, rotate, and even talk to you.
But, like all good things, the adult toys we have today came from humble beginnings.
Well we spent some time talking about the more advanced toys out there (the kind that tech nerds would love), today’s blog is about the beginnings, and how we’ve reached the point we’re at today.
So, without further ado, let’s get into the history of sex toys.
The Beginning - 29000BC
An archaeologist by the name of Petra Kieselbach found something resembling a stone phallus in the Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany.
Though there’s some speculation about whether it’s an idol or a toy, there’s no denying that it looks like (and could very definitely be used as) a dildo, given the fact that its size, and the fact that its made of siltstone (an incredibly smooth stone) leads many to believe that it’s an adult toy.
(Although there’s a good chance that it was used for worship as an idol would be. Just not exactly the same way).
Around 500BC, we found the first instance of Rin no Tama, popularly known today as Ben Wa Balls. Unlike its modern counterpart, however, the original Ben Wa Balls consisted of only one ball and were designed to be coupled with a male partner for increased pleasure.
This is where we have the first documented use of a dildo.
It comes from Ancient Greece, where merchants sold something called olisbos, which translates into “slip” or “glide”.
The tool was usually made of leather or stone (sometimes wood), and allegedly became a tool purchased predominantly by single women.
Taking a step even further east, there’s been speculation that the first instance of a double-sided dildo was developed in China somewhere between the 12th and 13th centuries.
In the 1400s, our old friend the olisbos came to Italy and became known as diletto (“delight” in Italian).
It’s also the first time we’ve come across the usage of lubricant in the form of olive oil.
On top of that, this is also the first instance of literary pornography, courtesy of Pietro Aretino.
In 1592, we saw the concept of literary pornography travel to England, with Thomas Nashe’s Merrie Ballad of Nash, His Dildo - a story of a young man who hires a prostitute on Valentine’s Day only to find that he wasn’t quite able to perform in the bed. After a few tries, the prostitute becomes frustrated, and reaches for her dildo to finish the job.
In France in 1734, the first instance of a vibrator (known as the tremoussoir) was invented, and became available for purchase as a medical instrument.
They were mainly purchased by physicians due to their cost, but were available for anybody who had the funds to buy them.
1791 saw the publication of a book called Justine by Marquis De Sade - arguably the most infamous writer in the history of French literature.
De Sade was famous for publishing erotic writings which would give rise to the first instance of sadism (which was given an entry into the dictionary in 1834).
His writing was also key to the creation of the BDSM movement, with many of his tales involving bondage toys.
In 1844, self-taught chemist Charles Goodyear became famous for vulcanising rubber - eventually leading to the creation of tyres (and the founding of the Goodyear tyre company).
But, his discovery wasn’t just good for wheels - it also became key in the creation of condoms, dildos, and other sex toys.
Just before the 1870s, George Taylor was credited as being the first American to create a steam and foot/hand crank device.
In 1880, his “Manipulator” (which turned a wheel, pushing a rod that created a movement) would be the first instance of the sex machine.
In 1882, one Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville patented the world’s first electromechanical vibrator.
At least 24 models were available to medical professionals, ranging from musical vibrators to vibrators hanging from the ceiling.
In fact, by the turn of the century, there were entire operating theatres devoted purely to the treatment of hysteria.
While the advent of motion-picture films had just come into being, it wasn’t long before early filmmakers began producing the first instance of pornographic films, which included films with shots of women masturbation with various adult toys such as strapon dildos and massagers.
1900 - 1920s
By this point, there were more than 20 types of vibrators available, running on everything from batteries to electricity, and even water-power.
Prices ranged from $15 to $200 depending on your preference, with the most expensive model being the Chattanooga.
The vibrator became the fifth household appliance to be electrified (10 years before the vacuum cleaner and iron).
Most vibrators were also advertised in respectable women’s magazines such as Modern Priscilla and Good Housekeeping.
Additionally, in 1917, KY Jelly was introduced, though it was only available for pelvic examinations, and wouldn’t be available over-the-counter until 1980.
As vibrators began being used more and more in pornographic films, it became more and more difficult for manufacturers to hold on to the idea that the adult toy as nothing but a massager, which would lead to them slowly beginning to disappear from those respectable women’s magazines.
Around this time was also the discovery of rubber latex, leading to the development of latex sex toys.
At this point, the American Medical Association decided (unsurprisingly) that hysteria wasn’t really an ailment. That meant that the vibrator was no longer seen as a medical device.
It was around 1971 that a woman by the name of Betty Dodson began teaching masturbation workshops, focusing on how to properly use vibrators.
Her adult toy of choice was the Prelude and the Panabrator (two electric vibrators), and her reputation and love for these two toys are famous today in the sex toy world.
In 1977, sexual therapist Joanie Blank opened the first official adult toy store, which she called “Good Vibrations”.
The mid-to-late 1990s would be historic as the time when Alabama would implement a law which outlawed sex toys - owning one would lead to heavy fines, and even jail time.
However, within a few years, the law was overturned, despite the state’s argument that women don’t have a “fundamental or constitutional right” to items used for sexual pleasure.
1998 was the point where adult toys became almost acceptable, with many of them becoming household names thanks to HBO’s hit series Sex And The City - the point where the Rabbit style vibrator became world-famous.
Surprisingly, it was only in 2003 that Texas decided to fully lift the ban on sex toys.
With technology advancing, many toys became more advanced, including apps, Bluetooth (and eventually internet) control.
As of today, there’s little limit to the types of toys out there. We’re seeing dolls that can talk and learn and the implementation of VR as well.
Currently, the marketing is estimated to grow to $52 billion by 2026.
Who knows, maybe in the future we’ll have sex toys modelled after alien life forces?