History of Sex Toys

Posted by Anna Bergeron on

A Look At The World’s Oldest Dildos

The archaeologist's gloved hands tremble as he brushes the dust from atop the object.

Finally, after a day of painstaking, back-breaking work, he is able to look at the unearthed treasure in its entirety.

It's cylindrical in shape, wider at the base than the tip. One end is simple and without decoration, while the other features a sort of rounded knob.

Although years in a dusty tomb have tarnished the once-glittering treasure, the archaeologist can tell it is made from some sort of metal-bronze, or possibly even gold.

From the distinct shape of the object, he knows what purpose it must have once served. The question isn't "what is it," it's "is he going to say what the entire team was thinking".

He could take the easy way out - call it a "scepter" or write it off as "unknown item, possibly religious".

But that's not right. It's his job to uncover history, not cover it up. So he stands tall and makes his announcement:

"Looks like we've got a dildo here."

The beam of his flashlight illuminates several similarly shaped objects.

"Maybe even a whole bunch of dildos!"

While this may sound like a dirty joke, it is in fact a true story.

For decades, archaeologists and historians vehemently insisted that phallic objects found in worldwide dig sites were "religious trinkets" or "weapons." But the truth has begun to come out: these carved bits of bone, molded clay and forged metals are none other than the ancestors of the modern dildo.

Today, purchasing sex toys is a simple task. With a few clicks, anything from the tiniest bullet vibrator to the most monstrous of dongs can be yours.

It's not just dildos, either - websites such as Lovegasm offer sexual aids from whips to harnesses to vacuum-sealed latex suits!

But, centuries ago, one simply couldn't go buy a sex toy.

Dildos were valuable objects, produced by master potters, carvers and craftsmen. They were gifted at weddings or between spouses. They were used in religious ceremonies honoring deities of love and fertility.

Kings, pharaohs and emperors were even buried with their dildo collections so the toys might continue to bring them pleasure in the afterlife!

Now that the "dildo drought" has ended, historians around the world have begun to write about the fascinating history of sex toys.

An in-depth history of everything from whips to anal beads could easily fill a book!

An article such as this barely scratches the surface. However, it can start you on a journey into the world of sex toys by discussing the people and cultures who owned history's first dildos.

Paleolithic Period

Debates still rage regarding whether certain objects from this time period were used for sexual purposes.

For decades, any cylindrical object without an obvious function was grouped under the vague heading "baton de commandment" (rod of command) or "baton perce" (perforated rod).

These objects were straight or slightly curved and made from materials as diverse as stone, wood, elk antler, various animal bones and tusks, and even tar.

They were often carved with symbols, many of a sexual nature, and featured holes and perforations which - together with their generally phallic shape - are now believed to represent the union of male and female genitalia.

Some archaeologists continue to insist that the batons de commandment were used for a more innocuous purpose - to sharpen spears and arrows, perhaps, or to smooth leather when making clothing or blankets.

However, the discovery of batons clearly featuring carved cock-heads and even testicles, it now seems disingenuous to deny that they are anything but the world's earliest dildos.

Greece & Rome

The use of sex toys by ancient Europeans - the Romans in particular - has been generally more widely acknowledged and talked about than that of other civilizations of this time period.

For this, we must thank the uniquely well-preserved ruins of Pompeii, which lay buried under ash and soot for centuries after the eruption of the mighty volcano Mt. Vesuvius.

Archaeologists studying the city could hardly claim that sex - and sex toys - were not an important part of Pompeian culture when many intact carvings and frescoes display prostitutes demonstrating various positions, including using dildos to penetrate both themselves and their customers.

The streets even feature a primitive "map" towards the town's most popular brothel in the form of a line of carved penises leading the way!

In addition, writings from this time period are far from shy about discussing dildos.

Dildos - sometimes called olisbos, from the Greek word for "slip" or "glide" - were often presented as gifts to the wives of soldiers or other men whose jobs frequently took them away from the home.

Olisbos were typically made from hardened leather or glass, but paintings and decorated vases show some women preferring something a bit less elaborate: long, cock-shaped loaves of bread, paired with an olive oil lubricant.

I bet you'll never be able to look at baguettes the same way again!

Arguably one of the most famous pieces of writing on the subject of dildos is Greek in origin: Aristophanes' Lysistrata, a comedic drama which also serves as social commentary regarding gender relations of the time period.

The title character leads her fellow women in refusing sex to their husbands until they agree to end the vicious Peloponnesian War.

"Eight-fingered leather dildos" - with "eight-fingered" referring to the objects' extreme size - are specifically mentioned as one of the tools used to see the women through the sex strike, with Lysistrata herself praising them as "a sort of flesh-replacement for our poor cunts".

Asia & Africa

Both ancient Egypt and China counted dildos among the items traditionally buried alongside royalty and nobility in order to accompany them to the afterlife. Because of this, a number of highly intact dildos from both of these cultures have been discovered.

Egyptian dildos were typically made from stone or molded clay and were fairly similar in appearance to their Roman cousins.

It is highly likely that dildos were among the many goods traded between these two great empires.

Sadly, however, other bawdy Egyptian tales - most famously, the anecdote that legendary female ruler Cleopatra used a clay jar filled with live, angry bees as a vibrator - have yet to be definitively proven or disproven by scholars.

The Chinese Han dynasty, on the other hand, was open about the widespread popularity of dildos and other sex toys.

Han aristocrats frequently maintained large households with many wives, and would gift their wives elegant dildos made from metal, stone, jade, or lacquer-ware.

In fact, giving dildos as gifts to your wives was seen as a sign of status, as it meant that a man had more wives than he could possibly satisfy!

Knowledge regarding dildo use in other Asian countries has been primarily gathered through written and artistic records.

In Japan, erotic woodcarvings called shunga were considered desirable collectors' items - and shunga were far from shy about depicting women engaging in self-pleasure.

In fact, some shunga show that Japan may have been responsible for innovations such as double-headed dildos and liquid-filled "squirting" dildos!

Meanwhile, in India, religious writings talk of "deflowering" ceremonies in which a (usually male) priest would use a large stone dildo to break a woman's hymen before her wedding night.

Scholars believe this was probably intended as a sigh of respect and fealty to the gods - certainly a far more favorable impression than being carried out because the poor husbands couldn't figure out how to do it themselves!

The history of sex toys is a fascinating subject on which our knowledge has unfortunately been limited by years of denial and prudishness - of refusing to admit what was right before our eyes.

Hopefully, taking "baby steps" such as acknowledging the existence of these prehistoric dildos from around the world will lead to much more open discussion and discovery in future years!

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