It’s unsettling to imagine your grandmother or grandfather having sex or, worse, using a vibrator. But your ancestors (well, maybe not yours, but someone’s ancestors) undoubtedly used sex toys.
Their sex toys weren’t made from the finest purple silicone, but they did the job. Isn’t that the most important thing? Here’s a brief history of sex toys, ranging from the bizarre and hilarious to the downright brilliant.
And so folks (since we featured a while ago some sex toys you should be getting for your wife or girlfriend), here is a history of the pleasure instruments.
Around 2000 Years Ago In China (yup, they already existed then)
This bronze dildo with a ring attached (possibly to be worn as a strap-on?) was discovered inside an aristocratic tomb in the Chinese city of Yizheng, Jiangsu province. The materials and intricate details used to create this relic indicate that the ancient Chinese considered sex toys to be an art form.
This jade and bronze butt plug was discovered in a king’s tomb near Shanghai. Butt plugs, according to researchers, were used to seal certain orifices in corpses and to maintain the body’s chi (the life force and energy found in the body), not as sex toys. However, this one could easily pass as a prototype for today’s toys…
The Ancient Greeks Used Them Too
If you were a horny woman or man in Ancient Greece, you probably didn’t have a plethora of sex shops nearby, but you did have plenty of bread — which could be fashioned into a perfect bread dildo. People back then reportedly did not identify as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual — they simply indulged in whatever pleasure they desired. According to Vicki Leon, author of “The Joy of Sexus: Lust, Love, and Longing in the Ancient World,” bread dildos were used as a sexual aid by both men and women — a biodegradable sexual aid that made them responsible sexy people.
Steam Punk Pleaser (1869)
The steam-powered Manipulator is known as the first hand-crank vibrator ever created — years before electricity would truly change the game. American physician George Taylor came up with this unique, utterly frightening design, which consisted of a dildo attached to a steam engine that produced vibrations.
You have to give credit where credit is due: Unlike many vibrators that followed it, there’s no way to pass this off as a beauty tool — it was upfront about its intentions to produce bodily stimulation. It’s important to remember that this device wasn’t designed with female orgasm in mind — the goal back then was to help alleviate hysteria in women — and by “hysteria,” they meant sexual frustration, but it would be decades before those exact words were used.
And Just A Little After The Industrial Age 1880s-1900s
One of the more advanced hand-cranked sex toys sold throughout the early 1900s was Macaura’s Pulsocon Hand Vibrator. This handheld vibrator may appear to be a torture device, but it was capable of delivering 5,000 vibrations per minute. Of course, it took far more effort than modern vibrators. You had to hold one end, put the other on your body, and then turn the crank handle manually. The vibrator was marketed as a do-it-yourself cure for illnesses, as well as to combat female hysteria. Let’s hope that women have the last laugh with this device.
Up until The 1920s
Following the success of the previous vibrator, the model was improved, and the Blood Circulator, the next-generation vibrator, was created. The vibrator, which you would place directly on your body, featured applicators that screwed into the center of the device so that you could manually increase the vibrations and have more control over how powerful a vibration you wanted on your body, similar to the original.
1928s Polar Club
The Polar Club Electric Vibrator gets bonus points for its attractive green handle and packaging, which depicts a woman wearing this device around her neck — right. This vibrator, which was released in 1928, has two interesting features: it uses electricity — hurray for no more hand cramps — and it has a textured knob to provide different pleasurable sensations. It’s impossible to know how many people bought this as a beauty aid versus its… other uses because women weren’t yet admitting to using vibrators on their vaginas or breasts, but the Antique Vibrator Museum includes it as an example of past sex toys — and the appeal is pretty obvious.
The Good Ole 1930s
The Andis Vibrator was marketed as a beauty and health tool for both men and women, with the ability to help blood circulate to the scalp, face, and body. However, given the number of texturized add-ons included with the device, it’s believed that a woman’s cheeks weren’t the only body part benefiting from all of those different types of stimulation.
The Rolling Pin Heat Massager may appear unassuming, but it packs a powerful punch: it generates heat and vibrations, allowing you to give your body an incredible massage. This device appears to be too large and bulky to directly stimulate the clitoris, but it could be used for indirect stimulation.
The Pre-WWII Vibrators
Vibrators, such as this vintage find known as the Hollywood Vibra-Tone, were also known as “spot reducers” because their manufacturers claimed they could aid in weight loss. It’s bulky, and it looks more like a vintage radio than a sex toy, but it was unobtrusive and wouldn’t raise any suspicions if a guest discovered it in the bathroom. This is yet another vintage vibrator from the Antique Vibrator Museum’s extensive collection.
The Oster Stim-U-Lax for Barbers was a vibrating device that you strapped to the back of your hand and used to deliver powerful sensations wherever you put it. Sure, it was marketed for barbers to use on their customers’ scalps, but other people quickly realized its other benefits and it took off as a sex toy. A multipurpose vibrator that delivered “forceful vibrations… down through the fingers, and onto the scalp — or other body part” is featured in Babeland’s Vintage Vibrator Museum. And we know… It looks like a steampunk Spiderman web shooter as well.
A Modern Classic in the 70s
The Hitachi Magic Wand was a well-known Japanese gadget known as the “Cadillac of Vibrators.” It was first marketed as a massager. But heck, with its shape (the handle and the vibrating head), it didn’t take long for the people to have a full understanding of what its business is. The 1970s were the decade when vibrators became widely accepted as sex aids.
The 80s up until Today
Vibratex, a Japanese sex toy company, invented The Rabbit in 1983, a now-iconic sex toy that boldly went where no other device had gone before: it provided both penetration and clitoral stimulation. There was only one problem: Japanese manufacturers were not permitted to make outright sex toys, so they circumvented the law by forming their devices into animal shapes (other companies made toys shaped like beavers, turtles, and kangaroos). A rotating band of pearls on the shaft of the Pearl Rabbit provided additional stimulation. It shot to fame after Charlotte on Sex and the City famously used it.