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History of Sex Toys
The World’s First Dildo Is 28,000 Years Old!
It might surprise you to know that sex toys have been around as long as humans have, with the first known example of a phallus (an object that resembles an erect penis) being an estimated 28,000 years old. The Upper Paleolithic era, also known as the Old Stone Age, broadly dates between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago with humans of this time living in shelters or caves.
This phallus was found in Hohle Fels cave in what is now Germany, with the cave being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not because of the discovery of the world’s first dildo, but because of the many other important archaeological artifacts which have been found there.
Made from sedimentary rock (siltstone) and measuring 7.8 inches long (or 20cm) with a high gloss finish, there remains much discussion whether the phallus was actually used as a dildo as we know them today or served some other purpose such as an object of religious ritual or for decoration. However, some experts believe this phallus is actually the world’s oldest ever sex toy.
You may think this prehistoric phallus is not actually a phallus at all and it’s another object which just so happens to look like a large erect penis. Wrong, penis shaped objects have been discovered by archaeologists and paleontologists for many years and from a very wide variety of cultures and ages and are typically constructed from bone or carved from stone. The word dildo originated in the 1400s from Italian words “diletto” meaning delight and the Latin 'dilatare' which means open wide.
In Neolithic times, a period between 10,200 BC and 2000 BC at the historical site called Membury Rings in Dorset United Kingdom, archaeologists found many interesting artifacts made from bone, antler, and flints.
One such object was a 4-inch (10cm) chalk phallus-shaped object, although its exact use remains unknown, being made from chalk, it was unlikely to be used as a sex toy, especially as lube wasn’t invented yet.
The Greek Fertility God
Jumping forward a few thousand years to the time of the Greeks, an exaggerated phallus (an oversized erect penis) was a symbol of the Greek God Priapus, the God of Fertility. Depending which myth, you believe, Priapus was protector of bees, fruits, plants, livestock and yes, you guessed it, the male genitalia.
In some pagan cultures, a female orgasm was seen as an offering to the gods of fertility, while the phallic symbol was popular during ancient Roman times.
While he may have been a protector of the carrots and the bees, Priapus was depicted in artwork with an enormous erection. This gave rise to the medical terms for a persistent erection, which can be rather painful and can last from a few hours to a couple of weeks (priapism).
The Greeks and Romans had many gods including Bacchus (aka Liber or Dionysus), who was a god of fertility and wine (as we all know, those often go hand in hand). During fertility parades held for this fun-sounding deity, people carried massive phallic-shaped objects that were draped in flower wreaths by maidens at the end of the parade.
Romans and Greeks were also known for their sexual proclivities and both women and men used dildos for pleasuring themselves and others. When men went off to war, women were often presented with an 'olisbos', which was said to prevent the condition known as hysteria, due to a lack of sperm. Perhaps it was more of an attempt to prevent ladies from turning to other men or each other as the dildos did not in actual fact actually contain any sperm.
Artworks from this period show masturbation and group sex which includes the use of dildos, especially on some of the ancient Greek vases which show some very risqué scenes.
Romans were possibly the originators of the double dildos as well. These were used in ceremonies (or play time with friends).
The Greeks also experimented with early materials to make their dildos feel more like the real thing. Carved phalluses were covered with animal intestines and leather to make them softer and more natural feeling as well as not being completely smooth, but adding in some interesting bumps and ridges (ribbed for pleasure).
Although there is no real proof, there is a story that persists that Caesar's sexy lady Cleopatra invented the vibrator. The lady is said to have used a gourd full of angry bees to satisfy herself. That takes risqué to a whole new level.
While this sounds quite outrageous and makes for a good story, it is, however, rather unlikely. There are documented records of Caesar presenting her with certain sculptures in the shape of erect penises but carved beautifully and inlaid with gold. We’re not sure if these were used for play or display, but she was quite likely to have used the stone and wood dildos available back then.
Early 1500s to 1800s
While there were some naughty plays and poems around, these were often banned and not printed by reputable publicists as they were deemed obscene, but more than a few of them survived to amuse and entrance us today.
One of these poems refers to an age old dilemma of falling in love with a prostitute. The lover-boy has to pay good money if he wants to spend time with his ladylove, and after paying up, he is unable to do the deed and so resorts to using a glass penis to ensure her satisfaction and pleasure.
The naughty bard, William Shakespeare, was also known to mention dildos and other items of pleasure in his plays. The word dildo was first used in Willy Shakespeare's play The Winter's Tale, as well as in The Alchemist by Ben Jonson in 1610.
In later centuries, Spanish and French sailors were known to take along their “ladies of the journey” on their sailing expeditions. These rubber sleeves probably were the time period’s equivalent of the flesh light or blow up doll of today.
The first real vibrator was a wind-up item known as a Tremoussoir, developed in the 18th century in France. This was mostly used by physicians at the time. A later version, created in the same century in America, was steam powered and dubbed “the manipulator”.
These were tools for treating the threat of female hysteria. As there was little study of the female libido, physicians of the time (generally male) assumed that women did not have one. The sex toys were used by doctors to relieve female tension when it had become too tiring for them to have to stimulate the women by hand in order to achieve the paroxysms (orgasm) required to cure this problem.
Women who complained of irritability, anxiety, erotic fantasies, or sleeplessness were often treated to mechanical or hands-on clitoral stimulation to cure them of their symptoms.
Nowadays, some women may still pay to alleviate these symptoms this way, but it is unlikely that the guy with the vibrator is a medical doctor and they may have to pay extra for him to wear a lab coat.
The 19th and 20th Centuries
The dildo started becoming more widely available and was mentioned in movies from as early as the 1930s. These items were classified as marital aids as opposed to being classed as sex toys.
Vibrators could be purchased by the public but were still mostly reserved for doctors. Battery and manually operated vibrators were available as well as ones that could be powered by water. I'm sure these were only for the very naughty mummies as they connected to the kitchen sink! You could even buy vibrators to help you lose weight and improve your looks if the advertising of the time was to be believed.
The Japanese developed some good-quality toys in the 60s, many of which were appropriated by military personnel stationed in the area. The first silicon dildo was created in 1970 and set a precedent for what was to come. Silicone feels natural, is hypoallergenic, non-porous, and does not degrade when used with the usual water-based lubricants.
You can also purchase glass dildos in all shapes, sizes, and designs. These are easy to clean and non-porous as well and can hold heat for a little longer than many other materials.
You can buy almost anything you want on the internet and sexual toys are no longer well kept secrets hidden in your bedside drawer. Anyone can purchase the sex toys that appeal to them online and have it delivered in a discreet packaging to their door.
The ranges have grown exponentially and we expect there may be many more innovations to come. Items such as sex selfie cams and dildos that are operated using your brain waves may not just be science fiction and might be seen for sale in your favorite sex toy store soon.