“Men, as often observed, can find pleasure or at least release in the briefest encounter. Women on the other hand, take longer, needing more subtle stimulation from a talented and caring lover.” Autumn Stanley — Mothers and Daughters of Invention: Notes for a Revised History of Technology
Between Outrunning Sabertooth Tigers and Hunting Wooly Mammoths
Sex toys have been around for nearly as long as humans have been having sex. In 2005, German archeologists discovered the world’s oldest dildo — an 8″ siltstone phallus dating back some 28,000 years. Scientists described the member as “highly polished,” suggesting that our prehistoric ancestors knew a thing or two about spicing things up in the cave.
Putting the Ram in Ramesses
The dildo makes its appearance in Egyptian art circa 2500 BCE, in which paintings portray nearly naked women dancing while parading faux boners above their heads. By 500 BCE, Greek traders had gotten into the sex toy business, schlepping artificial schlongs made of jade and ivory (known as olisbos) around the Mediterranean. A couple of centuries later, our forebears found that olive oil made a pretty decent lube and, from there, it was only a hop, skip and a hump to cock rings.
The cock ring was the first major advancement in marital aids in millennia. While the dildo was usually used by the woman sans partner, the cock ring brought the man into the action and made him at least partially responsible for his wife’s pleasure. The device slips around the base of the penis to constrict blood flow and keep a man’s erection harder longer. They often feature a little something for her as well; the earliest ones, from China around 1200 AD, were made from the flexible eyelids of goats — with the rigid lashes left intact to provide clitoral stimulation.
It Would Just Be Omasachism Without Him
Speaking of filthy beasts: In the late 18th Century, the French philosopher and famed libertine Marquis de Sade brought bondage to the sexually repressed masses via his erotic novels, short stories and plays (which were all considered scandalous and were mostly illegal at the time). Writing mainly from the prisons and insane asylums where he spent much of his life, Sade smuggled his titillating tales out to a populace hungry for a little naughty fun. He was definitely on to something. Today, we have the Marquis to thank for much of the kinky ropes, riding crops and nipple clips of the BDSM community.
In 1841, a crafty British scientist named Thomas Hancock learned how to vulcanize rubber, which, in short (or long) order, was used to create a stiff-yet-flexible dildo. It made for a more pleasurable (and lifelike) experience for women and couples. In 1869, an American physician named George Taylor invented the first vibrator. Taylor created the steam-powered monstrosity because, it seems, the good doctor had become bored with treating women for hysteria — a supposed medical condition that could only be relieved by rubbing a woman to climax. The invention would leave his hands free for more important things (although I’m not sure what those things might have been).
Silly Rabbit, These Are Definitely Not For Kids
Once the vibrator was up and running, the story takes the well-worn path from Sears-Roebuck catalog to Walgreens. The first electric vibrator hit the market at the turn of the 20th Century, making only the fifth home appliance to be electrified (right behind the teakettle, toaster, fan and sewing machine). By the 1920s, AC vibrators with names like Hamilton Beach’s Try-New-Life and the Gyro-Later were being advertised to both men and women as “The Greatest Medical Discovery Ever Known.” Since then, new “marital aids” have been getting safer and more ergonomic. Today, there are cute bunny rabbits (to replace the goat’s lashes) to stylish products from company’s like Sweden’s Lelo, which can be left on a mantlepiece when they’re not being used to help couples cure their relationship hysteria. Never before in history have couples had so many options to spice up a dull relationship but, even though the materials have changed, kudos to our ancestors who created the basic design that is still used for many of the sex toys of today. But, even though their hearts and loins were in the right place, they were still stuck with the tools at hand — aren’t we lucky to live in an era where we can get our rocks off with something other than actual rocks?
When he’s not penning posts for Tokii, award-winning Portland, Oregon writer M L Kerr takes solace in uncomfortable silences.