While The Rest Of Victorian Ireland Starved, One Wealthy Irishman Bought His Wife An Ivory Dildo

Published August 1, 2019
Updated August 3, 2019
Published August 1, 2019
Updated August 3, 2019

"There was so much going in that time period. People were literally starving to death and meanwhile, someone was bringing this home for their spouse."

Victorian Ivory Dildo

Matthews Auction RoomThe dildo is carved out of ivory and comes with its own scarlet-lined case.

Sex toy entrepreneur Shawna Scott has had her eye on a very special item for quite some time: an ivory dildo dating back to the 19th century. According to the Irish Times, Scott will finally be able to get her hands on the Victorian sex toy after she won it for $680 at an auction in Ireland.

The dildo is described on the Matthews Auction Room website as an “antique carved ivory ladies companion in scarlet lined leather upholstered carry box with inset bevelled glass panel.” Auctioneers estimate that the dildo was carved from the tusk of an elephant sometime between 1899 and 1901 in China.

So how did this ivory phallus end up in Victorian-era Ireland? Experts believe that the pleasure toy was brought back by a wealthy Anglo-Irish man after a trip abroad as a gift to his wife. According to Scott — who had herself an “Indiana Jones moment” when she learned that the dildo had been put up for auction yet again — the ivory dildo is exciting for a number of reasons.

Namely, the existence of the ivory-made dildo gives observers an intimate glimpse into what was otherwise a particularly grim time in Irish history.

“There was so much going in that time period. People were literally starving to death and meanwhile someone was bringing this home for their spouse,” Scott mused to the Times. “Sometimes I think with Irish history, unless something is tied to the famine or 1916 it gets a little forgotten or re-prioritized.”

Irish Auction House

FacebookThe ivory dildo was auctioned for $680 by the Matthews Auction Rooms.

The Victorian sex toy had first been auctioned off in April 2017. Once word got out it though, the auction house received more than 100 bids from nearly 40 different countries. The winning bid ultimately came from a private collector in the U.S. who put up €3,200 or $3,500 for the 130-year-old dildo, bidding out a Los Angeles-based erotica museum.

The second time it was put up for auction, Scott was determined to grab it. But not for herself — she wanted it to be put up in one of Ireland’s museums.

But given how much it had auctioned for the last time, she knew she needed to raise a lot of money quick. So, Scott solicited donations for the sexual relic via Twitter and raised more than €1,000 or $1,100. In the end, she only needed to spend $680 to win it — a bargain compared to the last time the dildo had sold.

Next on Scott’s to-do list is to verify that the item is in fact the same one that had been auctioned off in early 2017, lest there be another intricately carved fake penis made out of elephant tusk out there somewhere. Scuff marks on the sex toy’s fancy wooden case suggest that it is likely the same item, but Scott plans to get it confirmed by the original auction house just to be safe.

As for where the Victorian dildo will end up remains to be seen. Scott hopes that it will be displayed at either the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle or the Decorative Arts Museum in Collins Barracks.

“It’s not just a piece of erotica,” auctioneer Damien Matthews said. “It’s a work of art and a fascinating piece of social history.”

Indeed, Scott added that the dildo adds a new element to the history of Ireland. “I always get asked about how repressed we are in Ireland,” she said. “I think we’re much more liberal than we think we are.”


Next up, learn about how a wildfire in Ireland revealed a hidden message from World War II. Then, read the story of a doctor who was forced to invent a new tool in order to retrieve a 23-inch dildo stuck inside a man’s rectum.

Natasha Ishak
Natasha Ishak is a staff writer at All That's Interesting.