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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).Museum Of Prehistory Blaubeuren
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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.Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
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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.
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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.Photo by Sylvain GRANDADAM /Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
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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. Peter Zetterlund/Swedish National Heritage Board
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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.
Wellcome Collection gallery / Wikimedia Commons
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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 moms in Athens, and partnerless gals on Lesbos had a DIY pal, discreet and disposable. Custom made to fit; even nutritious, should the need arise.” Makes you reconsider the baguette, huh?Wikimedia Commons
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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.The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images
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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. Yizheng Museum
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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.Nanjing Museum
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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. Amazon
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Ancient Roman writer Pliny the Elder was not your average philosopher. In his encyclopedia, Natural History, he listed a slew of potions to both stimulate and lower a man's libido. One such method was to take "the right lobe of a vulture's lungs" and attach it to one's body "in the skin of a crane." He also suggested attaching the testicle of a cock to a man's body with a ram's skin. Wikimedia Commons
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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. SSPL/Getty Images
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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.Sex Machines Museum Prague
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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.Wellcome Images
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According to a largely disproven legend, the famous philosopher Rene Descartes may have been one of the first founders of the modern sex doll. During one of his long (and last) voyages in 1650, his crew decided to break into his cabin while he was away only to find a leather and metal female-shaped device that moved like a human. While it cannot be proven that Descartes was using the machine for sex, or that this machine existed at all, it would not be the first recording of a female doll found on a ship. For centuries seamen had bundled straw into human forms and dressed it in women's clothing using it for their own pleasure. These were called dames de voyage. Wikimedia Commons
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Doctor Frank E. Young created some of the most widely advertised butt plugs which he patented in 1892. He advertised them as rectal dilators marketed in popular journals as at-home medical devices that supposedly cured constipation and enlarged prostates. The plugs came in sets of four, the longest of which was four inches, and were intended to be inserted anally in order of increasing size. However, they were ultimately banned in 1938 for “false advertising.”Wikimedia Commons
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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. Antique Vibrator Museum
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There was a popular hoax disproven in the 2000s called the Borghild project that was nonetheless salacious. It purported that when Hitler sent his Nazi soldiers to Paris during World War II, syphilis was rampant among French sex workers. In order to keep his troops from catching the STD, the dictator ordered for blow-up sex dolls to be manufactured and delivered to the men. However, these sex toys were not overly popular with the Nazis, who were afraid of the embarrassment of ever being captured with one. The sex doll factory was ultimately destroyed in the Dresden bombings, or so the legend conveniently states.
Ajuntament de Sabadell / Flickr
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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. Antique Vibrator Museum
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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.Amazon
The Bizarre History Of Sex Toys, From Ancient Butt Plugs To Steam-Powered Vibrators
The sex toy market is booming. Between more variety in toys than ever — including vanilla vibrators and BDSM tools — and the rise of eCommerce platforms like Amazon, getting your hands on a toy of your unique fancy has never been easier or more satisfying.
In fact, the sex toy market was valued in 2018 at a whopping $26.5 billion — and that's just in the United States. It makes sense, though, with 53 percent of Americans stating that they use adult toys.
However, the Asia Pacific region is not far behind, with China housing the highest number of sex toy manufacturing facilities in the world. Here they make and distribute everything from dildos to A.I. sex dolls to countries across the globe.
Perhaps most interestingly is the storied history of sex toys. Let's take a closer look at the bold and bizarre collectibles of yore.
The Most Ancient Of Sex Toys: The Classic Dildo
European Association Of UrologyThese ancient dildos are made with everything from stone to bone to wood.
Asia has a long history with sex toys, far outdating the recent advancements of the American market, which is just starting to shrug off its taboos.
Going as far back as the ancient Han Dynasty, Chinese aristocrats enjoyed artfully crafted jade butt plugs and bronze strap-ons. The butt plugs were apparently used by embalmers to prevent bodily essences, like chi from leaving the body. Many of the strap-ons were light and used for either men or women and were bespoke.
These were not the first dildos in human history, however. The oldest sex toy to be discovered so far clocks in at 28,000 years old and is eight inches in length.
It seems dildos are older than civilization, religion, and matrimony combined.
Humans have been crafting dildos from whatever resources they had access to. They started with stones and bones, then moved to marble and metal, then even bread, before settling into our modern-day use of plastic and rubber.
The Expansion Of Adult Toys
Hebei Museum, ShijiazhuangA double-sided dildo and two Burmese Balls, also known as Ben Wa, or "orgasm" balls.
As the human race became more creative generally, so too did their sex toys.
The Araucanian people in South America tied bundles of horsehair together to stimulate the clitoris during sex. Dyak men pierced themselves with bamboo and ivory to increase the pleasure of their partners.
Thousands of years later, Burmese Balls or Chinese Ben Wa balls were created. At first, these tiny metal balls were meant to be inserted into a man's penis in order to increase his pleasure. Then, women created larger balls for their own pleasure.
When inserted into the vagina, the balls would move and click together releasing waves of satisfaction.
The devices started small and needed to be hand-cranked in order to work, but soon advanced to steam-powered toys.
The Manipulator, the first of its kind, was a terrifying steam-powered tool patented by an American man in 1869. It was supposedly intended for medical use, though most likely not to cure a woman's "hysteria" as a prominent myth would imply.
Instead, the Manipulator and a variety of other vibrators of the time were marketed as cures for sore necks and weight gain. While we can't be sure if the creators of these devices knew what their target audience was actually using them for, there's no doubt that they quickly became the latest and greatest sex toy.
This false advertising continued up until the late 20th century, perhaps most notably in the case of the now-infamous Hitachi Magic Wand. First sold as a back massager, this most revered of vibrators gained a cult following during the sexual revolution of the 1960s and '70s, which has continued to this day.
Breaking Sexual Taboos In The 21st Century
FlickrThe Hitachi Magic Wand was marketed as a massager, but was widely (and primarily) used as a vibrator.
After the sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s, sex-positive experts and enthusiasts began to sell adult toys for what they were.
Feminist sex stores, such as Eve's Garden and Good Vibrations, opened their doors and catered to women who didn't want to experience the shame that went with asking a department store clerk for the latest Hitachi model.
Shows of the '90s and early aughts such as Sex and the City continued to break the model of secrecy put forth by the Victorians, featuring vibrator heavyweights such as the Hitachi and the more modern Rabbit.
Finally, as we enter the third decade of the 21st century, sex toys are advertised and discussed with unprecedented openness.
This is perhaps thanks in part to the advent of the internet and social media, as well as a more open attitude about sex in general, from pre-marital sex to the LGBTQ+ community and even the world of kink.
At our fingertips now are new and improved versions of humankind's ancient favorites, such as remote-controlled vibrators, and even VR-controlled sex simulations.
Indeed, it seems that sex toys are a primal corner of human history and aren't projected to disappear anytime soon. We've come a long way from bone and bronze phalluses, and who knows what sophisticated toys are in our future.