It may surprise you to learn that products designed for sexual intimacy were popular well before Sex and the City or Fifty Shades of Grey. In fact, the global phenomenon that is today’s sex toys actually originated in the civilisations of ancient history. It is fascinating to discover just how sex toys have developed through the centuries, from primitive and humble beginnings to the technological wonders of a sexually progressive 21st century.
The first historically documented sex toy is an 8 inch stone phallus, what we would now call a dildo, which dates back to 23,000 BC. It was found in Germany in 2004. Around 500 BC, Greek women showed an early positive attitude towards sex toys by gifting wooden or leather dildos to friends whose partners had gone off to war, or who had sadly already lost their men in battle.
Ben Wa or Love Balls (now commonly known as ‘jiggle balls’) were the next sex toy to make an appearance in history – in the Orient, around 500 AD. These silvery metal balls were actually first used to give sexual pleasure to men, although women soon followed suit. Further into the medieval era, a plant called the ‘Cantonese Groin’ was soaked in hot water and women used the hardened, enlarged form of the plant for penetrative sexual pleasure.
Love rings didn’t appear on the sex toys scene until 1200 AD, where they were crafted from animal parts to help Chinese nobility of the Jin and Song dynasties to sexually pleasure their partners. These penis rings were soon considered a status symbol, with increasingly rare and exotic materials selected to form the love ring.
Back in Europe meanwhile, the Renaissance of the 1400s saw Italy come into its own as far as sex toys were concerned. They were known as ‘diletto’ and made from a surprising range of materials such as leather, stone, ivory and wood. It’s from here that the word ‘dildo’ originated. It wasn’t until the 1500s, though, that the dildo first made its appearance in the UK.
The vibrator as we know it today had humble beginnings with a steam powered version invented by Dr George Taylor in 1869. The steam powered vibrator was originally viewed as a medical device, to relieve symptoms of ‘female hysteria’. Alleviating sexual frustration had previously been undertaken manually by doctors, but after many complained of boredom and wrist-ache this vibrating contraption was manufactured.
The steam powered vibrator wasn’t as big a success as the electrochemical style, devised and produced by J Granville in 1880. Any pretences of medical use were soon dropped as society accepted the vibrator as a pleasurable rather than merely clinical product. Interestingly, anal sex toys also began as supposed medical equipment, with Frank E Young’s ‘Rectal Dilator’ touted as a cure for haemorrhoids since its creation in 1892.
With electric becoming more common in homes at the beginning of the 20th century, plug in vibrators were created to cope with the demand for sexual satisfaction from sex toys. Vibrators found acclaim in the adult films of the 1910s and the roaring ’20s, then stayed comparatively taboo until a resurgence in popularity in the 1960s and ’70s where sexual liberation enjoyed society’s spotlight.
The development of latex rubber in the 1950s allowed people to enjoy many different styles of vibrator and dildo. With innovative sex toys created at both the behest of sexual pleasure seekers and borne from the imaginations of brilliant designers, a sex toys industry revolution was achieved.
One of the best selling modern sex toys is, of course, the rabbit vibrator. This style soared in popularity after that infamous episode of Sex and the City in 1998. The dual action rabbit style vibrator is by no means the most technologically advanced sex toy either. In 2009 Apple began approving adult applications, opening the floodgates for app controlled sex toys to be sold to countless sex and gadget lovers worldwide. The rise of the internet has also played its part in the most revolutionary sex toys. Long distance lovers are now able to keep the spark alive with sex toys that are controlled via the web over Wi-Fi, or close range Bluetooth control.
For example, the We Vibe 4+ takes the original bestselling We Vibe couples vibrator and brings it into this century with smartphone control, as well as wireless remote control. As our smartphones are never too far from us these days, it made perfect sense to turn one into a remote control for a shared pleasure vibrator. Magic Motion vibrators are another brand which has combined powerful vibrating functions and the technological convenience of bluetooth control through an enabled mobile phone.
Other major names thrusting ahead into the realms of innovative sexual pleasure technology are the VStroker for Fleshlight, which upgrades a standard Fleshlight into a responsive to porn dream machine, and the ‘sexy selfie stick for women’ – the Svakom Siime. It can be used as your bedside/handbag/glove compartment powerful vibrator, but it can also capture footage of the inside of your vagina whether for your own interest or to share with a partner. Compatible with Apple Mac ‘Facetime’, you can even beam those inside sex shots to a lucky recipient on the other side of the world, if you so wish.
One thing vibrators can’t do yet is give you a long, warm hug after you’ve orgasmed then bring you a cup of tea, do the dishes and put the bins out. There’s time yet. The way things are going with sex toy technology, it won’t be long before an AI sex doll can satisfy you in any carnal – or domestic – way you desire.
– Cara Sutra