The History of Sex Toys
Although advances have been made in the sex toy industry over the past decade that have catapulted adult toys into the forefront of our attention (or at least the bedroom), the truth is that people have been using toys in sexual ways for thousands of years or longer. While some historians believe that sculptures of erect penises that date back to 2500 years B.C. are, in fact, the world’s first dildos, other schools of thought suggest that it wasn’t until 2000 years later that the dildo was “born”. One must wonder, however, if Egyptian artwork from the period depicting females dancing naked carrying an erect penis was actually telling the story of the evolution of the dildo, or if it was, as scholars suggest, a tribute to the god Osiris, and thus merely a fertility ritual meant to enhance the year’s crops. We may never know.
What we do know as a documented fact is that an early dildo was in use around 500 B.C. This dildo, known as the olisbo, was sold by the Greeks all over the Mediterranean region. The olisbo was a rudimentary dildo made from wood, tar, or stone. It is possible that other materials may have been used to create these forefathers to the modern dildo, provided that the material could be shaped into a penis shape and that it was firm enough so that it could be useful in penetration. Although it is hard to discern just how popular the use of these early sex toys were at the time, a Greek vase that is dated to the sixth century B.C. depicts a woman bending to perform fellatio on a man while a second man is staged to thrust a dildo into her backside. Dildos are mentioned in Lysistrata, Aristophanes’ 411 B.C. comedy.
Since the dawn of time, men have been comparing notes with other men, determining who has the largest penis, and hoping against hope that theirs will suddenly grow. Not all men are well-endowed, and it is obvious that this is a classic problem that dates back at least until the year 300 A.D., when the first penis extender was created. The first known mention of the penis extender, which is a sheath that goes over the penis to make it appear to be longer and rounder, is in the Kama Sutra, the infamous Indian guide to sex. According to this well-known authority, penis extenders could be crafted from copper, leather, wood, buffalo horn, gold, ivory, or silver.
Around the year 1200, Chinese men discovered that they could constrict the blood flow to the penis, causing a larger erection, by tying the eyelid of a goat around their shaft. While the mechanics are unclear, and we certainly have no clue who the man was who made this discovery, or how he came to be in the possession of the eyelids, but we do know that the eyelashes were left on the lids to enhance pleasure during sex, likely by stimulating the clitoris.
It was not until the year 1400 that the Italian Renaissance brought with it a new toy – wooden dildos made from leather or wood, dubbed officially dildo, which was from the Italian term “diletto”, which translates to “delight”. Some scholars say that the word is derived from the Latin term “dilatere”, which means “open wide”. Either way, these dildos were used with the most popular oil of the period, olive oil.
Vibrators are the most popular sex toy on the market, but most people don’t know that the invention of the vibrator came as a treatment for so-called female hysteria. The treatment of the time was for the physician to massage the vulva of the hysterical woman until she came to orgasm. Repeated treatment was required, which lead the American doctor, George Taylor, to create a large steam powered device in 1869 that would speed treatment of hysteria while reducing the fatigue felt by the treating physician.
There you have it – a brief historical account of sex toys. Based on these early beginnings, one can really appreciate the technological advances that have come about to transform the sex toy industry into the behemoth that it is today. There is a toy for nearly any taste, any fetish, any preference, and any mood.