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A Little History Of Sex Toys

A Little History Of Sex Toys


I’ll never look at olive oil the same way again. Used to be, it was what it was … a healthful, diverse product squeezed from the delicious olive to enhance our food and keep our garlic from sticking to the pan. Diverse indeed. In researching the history of sex toys, I found that since around 350 B.C., cooking with this slippery fruit juice doesn’t happen only in the kitchen. Our ancestors were making whoopee wilder with olive oil lube. Mmmm!

It was quite a clever idea, really, and after all, KY Jelly wouldn’t come along until 1927, and even then it was sold only to doctors until 1980. But what all were our great, great, great, great (you get the idea) grandparents putting this organic lube on, we might wonder? Well, I might wonder. Maybe for you that’s TMI, but my curiosity was peaked. Turns out Gram and Gramps may have been slathering up their very own dildo. Although Upper Paleolithic art dating back more than 30,000 years contains images of the dildo, the real thing was erected around 500 B.C. when Greece gave the world its first “olisbo.”

Although art and relics of ancient cultures from Egypt to China and Rome to Amsterdam show us that sex play enthusiasts worldwide got on board with the olisbo or other toys of choice, Big Brother wasn’t exactly rolling out the welcome mat for these enhancers of erotica. Case in point: nevermind that the Roman Empire gave us the luscious word “sex” from its Latin “sexus.” If you ventured into sex toyland in Middle Ages Rome, you could end up as barbecue on a stake.

300 A.D:

Wanting more of a good thing, the good folks of approximately 300 A.D. invented the penis extender, version 1 of the modern prosthetic penis attachment (PPA). This cylinder enhanced length by cloaking the erect penis … a lucky fellow that would get more help from 1907’s Penis Stiffener for erectile dysfunction. Maybe not widely thought of as a “toy,” but tell that to the man’s satiated partner.

Ben Wa Balls:

“Play ball” took on a whole new meaning near 500 A.D. Solid, or hollow with clappers that rang as they rolled around in the vagina, Ben Wa balls entered our consciousness as a single unit that amped up a man’s intercourse experience. Later use would see them come (hee hee) in sets of two to help women buff up their pelvic floor muscles (read: the modern Kegel exercise).

About 655 A.D., “the mirror has two faces” became “the mirror has two or more body parts” when the Chinese added reflective glass to the sex accessory palette.

Lock Up Your Daughters:

Not exactly considered a “toy” except maybe to the keeper of the key, the chastity belt found the light of day in 12th century Europe, leaving the women it sealed to only dream of a whimsical escapade with an EVOO drenched olisbo.

The Chinese Invent The Cock Ring:

In China, the year 1200 spawned the proto cock ring. It was the ancestor of the modern cock ring circa 1600, some of which were paired with the clitoral stimulator to offer a 2-for-1 deal. Carved dragon tongues extended from the cock ring to show the clitoris some love during intercourse.

Dildo Means “Delight”!

The name we’ve all come to know was born in Renaissance Italy in the 14th through 16th centuries, when “diletto,” meaning “delight,” evolved into “dildo.” (The Latin “dilatare,” meaning “to open wide,” may have also had an influence). Stone, wood, leather or ivory penises popped up at the hands of skilled craftsman.

BDSM Old School:

Kinky wasn’t exactly kind to patrons of European brothels around 1750, who submitted to the dawning of bondage/sadomasochism. Compliments of debated literature, the end of that century saw the popularization of BDSM and its many toys, including restraints, harnesses and whips. Giddyup!

Rubber Comes Into The Picture:

In 1844, vulcanization made rubber stronger and more pliable, opening the gates for the invention of rubber condoms, dildos and other sex toys. Fast forward to 1930, and latex rubber’s lighter, softer, and more elastic composition not only put contraception ahead by leaps and bounds, but, just as importantly, led to our modern latex sex toys.

Vibrators Arrive!

Ironically, Victorian England had hopped on the “sex toys are taboo” bandwagon, but the mid-19th century gave us the vibrator, butt plug, and rubber dildo! And that era’s health spas provided “civilized” alternatives to hand-powered self-serve by way of steam-powered, vibrating devices and water jets spouting “medicinal waters.”

This is Hysterical:

Although the blessing couldn’t be truly appreciated until the 1900s, the heavens opened in 1869, when an American physician unveiled the world’s first vibrator―primitive and torturous looking as it was. Doctors serviced “hysterical” women with this bulky, steam-powered number to relieve their “illness.” This hysteria (Greek for “suffering uterus”) was defined by symptoms including sexual fantasies, pelvic heaviness, and excessive vaginal lubrication (can anyone say “arousal”?). Because women in the Victorian era were not seen as sexual, these “hysterical” ladies were considered diseased and got some one-on-one time with the old jalopy. This was meant to relieve pre-vibrator physicians of having to manually bring the patient to orgasm to relieve her hysteria. (!) I wonder if my health insurance would cover that!

Massage Therapy?

A significant departure from its forefather and more closely resembling the modern vibe, the first electromechanical vibrator debuted in 1882. But, as with most of their history (which is thankfully fading as today’s toys swim closer and closer to the mainstream), sex toys were masked as tools of “massage therapy.” So, we’ll play along here. This smaller, battery-powered “massager” designed by a British physician even came with attachments that liken to today’s, enabling doctors to vary vibrations to best treat the “hysteria.”

Health And Relaxation:

From 1900 to 1920, the plug-in home vibrator shimmied right down from the heavens. This “health and relaxation aid” was advertised with verbiage such as “pleasure” and “throb” and graced the pages of many conventional magazines, as well as the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog.

A 1921 issue of Hearst’s Magazine told men to keep their wives young and pretty and hysteria-free with a vibrator. Sounds like a dandy cure-all to me! Where’s my husband …

A Backwards Step:

Through erotic cinema in which women openly used vibrators for their actual purpose (c’mon, who were those stuffed shirts trying to fool?!), the concept of vibes as sex aids was exposed, and by 1930 they were plainly marketed and available to all … heaven forbid! General society was still stuck in the “sex is shameful” rut, and as porn flicks continued to roll the awful truth, the “massager” concept walked the plank and vibrators followed, virtually disappearing from the public.

Free Love:

Thirty years later, “Free Love” of the ’60s got the vibe back in its rightful place and helped increase accessibility of all sex toys by getting them in specialized retail outlets and magazines. In the decades since, this liberation from the chains of judgment and ridicule continues to blossom, with sex toys of all shapes, sizes, colors, designs and purposes constantly evolving and being easily accessible in specialty stores and online.

You’ve Come A Long Way Baby!

Today’s toy makers are escalating sensual adventure to pure decadence with a new breed of playthings- meticulously engineered and masterfully designed pieces of art that take luxury to the nines. Elegant, sleek designs in a striking collection of colors; medical grades of silicone and metal; toxin-free materials; ecologically conscious compositions; and a buffet of speed, stimulation and pleasure modes to feed the erotic hunger of the hardest to please horn dog on earth. They can be specifically designed for stimulating a certain “yes please” zone. They can come in a richly painted wooden box in which the spoiled toy perches on a satin pillow, ready to spoil you in turn. And they can knock your very socks off.

Designer Toys:

Take for instance the brilliant creations of LELO, that in addition to the ergonomically curved, twin-motor Iris and hand contoured Nea locking vibrators, has gone full tilt with its Luxe collection of stainless steel and 18K gold plate pleasure objects. Award-winning JimmyJane brings us Form 6, a waterproof vibe with lighted buttons whose motors on opposite ends operate independently in both speed and mode, and the virtually silent Little Chroma that is super lightweight and compact, holds hot or cold temperatures, and on just one little battery delivers a fine-tuned resonant vibration that is huge on “YES!” Innovator Fun Factory delivers Delight, a velvety silicone, a rechargeable vibe that powers up right inside its case, and whose S design curves perfectly to a woman’s body to send her into orbit on rocket power vibration.

No More Olive Oil Thank You!

And then there’s modern lube, transcending even the most highly evolved sex toy to an even higher level of WOW! The family tree sprouting from Great Grandmother Olive Oil and Grandfather KY has brought lubricant to thrilling new heights. You can choose from long-lasting silicone based lube, or water-based in varying consistencies that treats your taste buds to a rainbow of flavors. Today’s lube can even heat up during use to warm the ole cockles.

From the cold, stone, idle olisbo to the fabulous, forward-thinking, dancing masterpieces of today, sex toys have been serving us tantalizing sensation south of the border for thousands of years. Through the creative and wonderfully naughty minds of our forefathers, and foremothers, and from the generations who dared to carry the torch despite the threat of ridicule and persecution, sex toys have secured their place in history as playmates we don’t want to, and shouldn’t have to, live without.


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