The Mind-Boggling History Of Sex Toys, From Ancient Butt Plugs To Steam-Powered Vibrators

With the oldest-known dildo clocking in at 28,000 years, sex toys are older than civilization, religion, and marriage combined.

The oldest-known dildo dates back 28,000 years and was recently found in Germany. Due to its size — a lengthy eight inches — experts believe it was used as a sex toy by ancient humans. However, it could have also been used for creating fires (of the non-sexual kind).

As long as 3,000 years ago on the island of Borneo, men of the Dyak, or Dayak, tribe would pierce their penises with silver needles and set them with rods of brass, ivory, bamboo, and small bunches of bristles in order to increase the stimulation of their sexual partners.

According to the text of Vatsyayana’s third century Sanskrit Kama Sutra, “If a man is unable to satisfy a Hastini, or Elephant woman, he should have recourse to various means to excite her passion.” One of these means was by inserting his penis into a tube and tying it to his waist. The Kama Sutra suggests that this tube be outwardly studded and covered in oil.

During China's Sui Dynasty (581 - 618), female homosexuality was common and free from the same taboos of male homosexuality. Because of this, double-sided dildos were created, usually carved out of wood or ivory. This one, on display at the Chinese Ancient Sex Culture Museum, is made of marble.

During a 2010 excavation in Sweden, scientists found an antler bone that had been carved into the shape of a penis. It dates back as far as 4,000 to 6,000 B.C. and clocks in at a little over four inches in length.

During the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), Burmese Balls, also known as Ben Wa Balls, were a popular Chinese sex toy for both men and women. They were made by filling tiny ball-shaped objects, made of either copper of gold, with the sperm of a mythical Burmese bird who was known for its sexual appetite. Initially, men would insert these balls into their penises, but soon enough women also started inserting them into their vaginas.

In Ancient Greece, both women and men had to get creative with their sex toys and this led to the creation of dildos made of bread called olisbokollix. As author and historian Vicki Leon said, “From this moment on, lonely widows in Arcadia, unsatisfied mums in Athens, and partnerless gals on Lesbos had a DIY pal, discreet and disposable. Custom made to fit; even nutritious, should the need arise.”

As far back as 500 B.C., the Araucanian people in South America attached what was called a "geskel," or a little bundle of horsehair, to a man’s penis in order to stimulate the woman’s clitoris during sex. It is created by taking several bushels of horsehair which are then folded in half and knotted into a band. Historians believe that these were made by skilled women in the tribe.

This bronze dildo was recently found in the 2,000-year-old tomb of an aristocrat in the Chinese city of Yizheng. Due to the ring attached to the dildo, it is believed that it was worn as a strap-on penis. However, it cannot be determined whether it was meant to be worn by a man or a woman.

Like the bronze dildo, this jade butt plug was also found in the tomb of an ancient aristocrat from the Han dynasty (221 - 206 B.C.) but this time with a king, no less. While its shape is undeniable, some experts theorize that its purpose was to keep the corpse's chi from leaking out of their rectum, rather than for sexual pleasure. This is because jade was believed to ward off spiritual and bodily decay.

Fast forward to the year 1200 and Chinese sex toys were still popular among the nobility. However, they weren't quite as aesthetic. Ancient men would create cock rings using the circle of skin around a goat's eyelid in order to stimulate an erection. With the eyelashes still intact, the goat's eye was most likely used to pleasure the woman as well.

This French dildo was reportedly found in the seat of a Louis XV armchair which had been abandoned on the banks of the Seine River near a convent. It dates back to the 18th century and can even simulate an ejaculation, if its user so pleases.

The future King Edward VII, before he claimed the throne in 1901, was well-known in Parisian society for his playboy antics. So intense were his sexploits that he had a “siege d’amour,” or loveseat, crafted solely for his threesomes. It was built to hold his weight during his affairs while also ensuring that he had to use the least amount of effort possible in order to please his partners.

In a scene from an ancient Shunga (a sex-themed woodblock print popular in 17th- to 20th-century Japan), two women are depicted lubricating a strap-on dildo. Called "harigatas," these strap-ons were hollow so that men could insert themselves into them like a tube in order to make their penises seem both larger and harder.

Macaura’s Pulsocon, later called Macaura’s Blood Circulator, was a hand-cranked vibrator that dates back to the 1880s. Although it was no doubt used as a female sex toy, the Pulsocon was marketed as a pain reliever. It was on the market until 1920 when it was replaced with similar — and quieter — versions.

Known simply as “The Hitachi,” this vibrator first came on the scene in the late 1960s as a general body massager, but soon gained a cult following as a sex toy. It even helped spark the modern sexual revolution: Sex educator Betty Dodson popularized The Hitachi with her women-only masturbation workshops in the 1970s.

In the mid 20th century, ventriloquist Ted Marche wanted to create prosthetic penis attachments to act as modern marriage aids. First he carved them out of wood, then made metal molds that he would fill with a plastic polymer. They would then be cooked in an oven and marketed toward a female audience, where they exploded in popularity thanks to their user-friendly design, and consequently gave birth to the modern dildo.


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