What is the origin of sex toys?

Let’s face the facts—we come from a horny species. For about as long as people made objects, they were figuring out how to make tools for pleasure—with some sex toy creations dating back over 30,000 years ago. Though now, we have USB, battery-powered, and warming options for sex toys, back then, things were a bit more, well, primitive. If you’ve ever powered on your device before a self-pleasuring sesh and thought, “who on earth invented this marvelous thing?” prepare yourself for some wacky answers and origins that may surprise you.

A dildo you can eat

Ancient Greeks concocted dildos from whatever natural resources they had on hand, like leather or stone. But another readily available resource was something you can serve with any meal.

Today’s vocabulary lesson of the day is olisbokollikes. Try saying that ten times fast. Olisbokollikes means a dildo made out of old bread (think: the round curvature of baguettes.) Budget-friendly? Absolutely. Waste-conscious? Totally. Great for vaginal pH? Not so much.

Though the invention of the dildo and its purpose were well established, the word dildo wasn’t actually coined until 1400 AD, during the Italian Renaissance. The word dildo comes from the word diletto, meaning to delight or give pleasure to. Makes sense.

The Western Han dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.) also unveils an interesting history of sex toys. Because of a belief that you would essentially take your objects with you in the afterlife, the Hans packed their prized possessions in their tombs, such as bronze dildos.

Sex Dolls for Sailors

Have you ever thought about who developed the sex doll? Well, only those who had no human contact in the 1600s and were out to sea for long periods of time. We’re talking about French sailors, of course. All we can say is they must have been long and lonely voyages because these sex dolls were made from straw, and sailors referred to them as “dames de voyage,” or traveling ladies.

In another account of seamen looking for sex doll companionship, Japanese and Dutch sailors traded hand-sewn sex doll puppets in the 17th century. In the U.S., sex dolls were first advertised in porn magazines in the 1960s, when selling sexual devices was legalized. Today, sex dolls have come a long way from their straw origins and now are more lifelike than ever.

“If sex is dessert, aftercare is the cherry on top.”

Condoms and Contraceptives

The Ancient Greeks initially thought that olive oil, which they used for lube, might prevent pregnancy. But it wasn’t until 1564 that the first condom was recorded, and boy, have they come a long way since their inception.

During the time period, there was a fatal epidemic of syphilis (thank you, modern medicine, for your advancements!) People were desperate for a way to get it on without catching the rampant STI. Left untreated, we now know that syphilis can be deadly, which left people with a horrible risk to pay for having sex.

It wasn’t until Gabriele Falloppio invented a very primitive interpretation of what we now call the condom. What made it so primitive? Falloppio soaked a linen sheath in chemicals and laid it out to dry. Sounds like a pretty awful genital sensation, right? Strangely, his invention worked. We have Falloppio to thank for condoms and safer sex. Europeans even named a reproductive organ after his honor—the fallopian tubes!

Thank goodness that we now have a plethora of condoms to choose from that have advanced from dried linen soaked in chemicals—lubricated, strawberry-flavored, ribbed, studded, warming, glow in the dark, and different sizes to choose from.

What about the origins of BDSM toys?

One of the earliest texts about sex, the Kama Sutra, mentions practices such as spanking. The Kama Sutra also eludes to some of the earliest innovations in penis enlargement by way of using wasp stings, ouch.

But what about other BDSM toys like whips, chains, clamps, and restraints? In 1791, Marquis de Sade published Justine, one of the earliest novels detailing BDSM and some of its toys, like nipple clamps and riding crops. You might know Sade’s name from the word “sadism” in the acronym BDSM. Because many BDSM toys are pervertibles, meaning you can use everyday items as sex toys, their origins come from texts and BDSM culture, which developed in the 1800s.

The Origins of the Cock Ring

The point of a cock ring is to slow the blood flow to the penis for a more prolonged erection. In modern times, people with penises might use them for longer and hotter sexscapades. The origins draw from the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) so that Chinese men could have sex with multiple brides, thus producing multiple heirs.

Someone thought to invent cock rings from goat eyelids, eyelashes and all, to prolong erections. Nowadays, some cock rings vibrate and are made from materials like silicone or metal. Needless to say, it’s much easier now to be a vegan and use a cock ring.

Ancient Vibrations

Before we had rechargeable vibrators, we had a steam-powered invention by a doctor named George Taylor in 1869. “The Manipulator” was a dildo attached to a train track, essentially, which produced vibrations. Unlike other early vibrator innovations that were marketed to solve medical ailments, such as backaches, headaches, and indigestion, this vibrator’s intentions are pretty clear. Many vibrators at the time did not have the dildo attachment hence it was easier to claim that vibrators without a dildo offered medical benefits.

Though the origins of sex toys are just about as weird and wacky as possible, it’s clear that people made use of what they had. It’s also clear that, historically speaking, people have always looked for tools to enhance sex and pleasure. This is all the more reason to be thankful for the many advancements of sex tech and also to realize that if you use sex toys, there is absolutely no shame in your game—people have been using sex toys for centuries for just about any reason.