For me, sex toys were never less taboo than having sex before marriage. The popularity of sex toys has been steadily rising over the last couple of years, and it’s become more and more accepted to use them.
In the US, around 50% of men and 65% of women have used a sex toy at one point, but have you ever wondered how and when sex toys came about? You might be surprised to hear that sex toys date back as far as 30,000 years. Perhaps it’s fair to say that popularity has been a long time coming.
The Dildo, The First Sex Toy Known To Man
Dildos are known to be the first sex toys and are older than civilization, religion, and matrimony; the very first one that’s known about dates back 28,000 years and was discovered in the Swabian Jura, a German mountain range, in 2005. The dildo is made out of rock, eight inches long and three centimeters wide. The dildos that followed were made out of stone, tar, wood, bone, ivory, limestone, and teeth and were all shaped like penises. While archeologists have tried to formulate non-sexual uses for the prehistoric dildos, the general scientific opinion now backs up that the objects were likely meant for sexual pleasure.
After the Stone Age, the ancient Greeks have been recorded to create dildos out of bread, as well as wood or pressed leather, which was smeared with olive oil before use. In their culture, masturbation was healthy and normal, which backs up the idea that dildos at the time indeed served a sexual purpose.
During the Western Han dynasty (206 C.C. – 220 A.D.), people buried bronze dildos with the bodies in their tombs. It was believed that the spirit of the dead would live on in the tomb, and thus important possessions were left alongside the bodies. While the toys were used for sexual pleasure, they were also essential to achieve a peaceful and loving afterlife. It was believed that “the female and male spiritual principles could be achieved during sex. In this regard, sex, especially if it was pleasurable and lasted for a sufficient amount of time, had a real spiritual dimension.”
By the 16th-18th century, dildos started being more scandalous. Thomas Nashe 16th century poem The Merrie Ballad of Nash, His Dildo, describes a scenario in which the speaker is so excited to see his lover that he ejaculates as soon as he sees her. She’s dissatisfied and whips out a dildo from under her bed. She praises it for always standing stiff and avoiding the risk of impregnation and gets herself off in front of the humiliated man. Unsurprisingly then, dildos were outlawed and confiscated at English customs from 1670. It became so bad that women were prosecuted for owning and making dildos in the absence of men.
It’s in modern times that both societies’ attitude towards sex toys changed, and the right material for the dildo was found. During the 1960s and 1970s, most dildos were made out of rubber, which was more comfortable than stone but not strong enough to stand a good wash. Gosnell Duncan created the first silicone dildo in 1970 with the aim to provide medical aid for people with disabilities. Instead, it became a sex toy, which can now be found in any form and shape you like.
Two of the most popular dildos on Adam and Eve are Adam’s 10 Inch Dildo and the Big Shot Squirting Vibrating Dildo. The former is designed to resemble a real penis and comes complete with balls. The latter dildo has all the same realistic features but also comes with a vibrating ejaculator.
Other toys that date back to before the modern era can be found with the Araucanian people in South America, who stimulated their clitoris by binding bundles of horsehair together. During the Ming dynasty in China, Baoding balls were created for meditation purposes, but they later became Ben Wa Balls, used for sexual stimulation. Chinese aristocrats are also reported to have enjoyed jade butt plugs and bronze strap-ons, going back as far as to the Han Dynasty. Dyak men tried to increase the pleasure of their partners by piercing themselves with bamboo and ivory. After the 17th century, sailors started experimenting with sex dolls by dressing bundles of straw in women’s clothing. Following this, in the era of industrialization, vibrators finally came about.
The Origin Of Vibrators
The first vibrator was recorded in France in the 18th century. It was a handheld and wind-up contraption and called a Tremoussoir. In 1869, the American physician George Taylor created a steam-powered version of a vibrator called the Manipulator, and in 1880, Dr. Joseph Granville invented an electromechanical version. Unlike the uses of sex toys nowadays (though I suppose a wand can be used for non-sexual back massages), it has been suggested that the vibrators of the 19th century were not intended for sexual pleasure. Rachel Maines, a historian and a former visiting scientist at Cornell University, wrote in her book The Technology of Orgasm that doctors treated female patients by stimulating them to orgasm to treat “hysteria,” classed as a medical condition at the time. Vibrators, she proposed, weren’t meant for female pleasure but for the ease of male physicians.
However, the claimed origins of the vibrator might not be true. Ten years after the publication of Maines’ book, Hallie Lieberman, author of Buzz, a popular history of sex toys, went through Maines’ book and found significant errors. In one passage, Maines describes how a vibrator can speed up the massage process, quoting a 19th-century physician. The quote says that a doctor without a vibrator “consumes a painstaking hour to accomplish much less profound results than are easily affected by the [the vibrator] in a short five or ten minutes.” Lieberman points out that vibrators were patent medicine, used for many types of titillating massages such as for “the intestines, kidneys, lungs, and skin.” Thus there is an argument that the vibrator was invented as a labor-saving massaging device and not specifically to treat female hysteria. Nonetheless, there are images of medical massager’s which look eerily similar to what we have come to know as sex toys.
In 1910, battery-powered vibrators started being available to the consumer and were advertised as general health and beauty cure-alls; women were promised that “all the pleasures of youth… will throb within you.” By 1918, vibrators started coming with attachments, described as “aids that every woman appreciates,” and in the late 1920s, vibrators first appeared in porn films, having lost its previously medical purposes.
For a few decades, vibrators stopped being advertised. Instead, massagers were discreetly advertised in weight-loss ads. It took until 1973 for the vibrator to return at NOW’s Sexuality conference; it was reintroduced by Betty Dodson, who became a huge advocate for the Hitachi Magic Wand.
In 2009, the first peer-reviewed study on the vibrator found that people who used vibrators lived happier sex lives, with about 53% of women and 45% of men having once used one.
My First Sex Toy, The Vibrator
My very first sex toy was a one-dollar blue vibrator recommended to me by a friend. She was very open and a big advocate for self-pleasure, believing all women should take the time to learn their own bodies and find out what works for them. At the time, I had never had an orgasm and didn’t understand what they were or why people were mad for them. I didn’t really see the appeal of stimulating myself as I wasn’t under the impression that I was missing out. However, she was adamant I should try, and the best way to achieve pleasure was by getting a vibrator, she said. Skeptical as I was, I figured I wouldn’t lose out much if the vibrator were just one dollar. I ordered the type she suggested and lifted a thin dildo shaped vibrator out of a discreet package two days later. I looked at it and had no idea what to do with it.
I took out the battery of my mum’s razor and used it for my new vibrator while my parents were still at work. The vibrating object seemed so alien in my hands. Was I supposed to insert this or something? My friend had mentioned I should try and find my clit. With raised eyebrows, I observed the moment the vibrator touched the skin between my legs. It made me feel something, but it felt far off the euphoric experiences she’d described with her vibrator.
It wasn’t until after I’d had sex for the first time that I discovered the great power of a vibrator. I had learned how to successfully stimulate my own and my girlfriend’s clit with my fingers but found that the repetitive motion could become quite tiring. I dug up my old vibrator, and suddenly its use made a lot more sense; the vibrations of the toy were pleasurable, and it helped me reach orgasms much more quickly. If we think back to the original use of a vibrator (a labor-saving massaging device), its current use isn’t necessarily that far off!
While my first vibrator ended up being alright, I only truly started enjoying orgasms when I discovered the Hitachi wand, which was gifted to me by my best friend who knew I didn’t always care as much for orgasms because of the effort it took to reach them. The wand he got me is similar to the Adam and Eve Magic Massager Deluxe 8x wand and was a bit of an orgasmic life changer for me!
Normal vibrators can make it easier for me to come, but it’s not always necessarily the case. In fact, I know pretty well how to use my fingers, which means they can be more successful than sex toys. Believe it or not, I’m someone who thought orgasms weren’t worth the effort it took to get there. I thought orgasms were nice but nothing special, really. A wand, however, can make all the difference and is pleasurable for the entire ride. I find that wands cover a larger surface area, which means they provide more stimulation. I don’t need to move a wand in order to have build-up, which smaller vibrators sometimes did require. With a wand, I can simply lean in, let go and let the sensations take me until I reach the pleasurable wave. In short, I can orgasm within 2 minutes of turning on a wand, and it feels good every single time.
While it is safe to say that the wand is one of my favorite toys, other sex toys, the kinky type, take my fancy even more. As far as we know, these toys weren’t used for sexual pleasure before the Modern Era, and if they were, they wouldn’t have been accepted. In fact, a taboo has long rested on kink and BDSM, and some media (like the documentary Fetishes and the film Secretary) have been trying to destigmatize. I remember watching a sex documentary when I was younger in which the woman was trying to help couples spice up their sex life. She stepped into a sex shop where every corner was filled with another exotic toy and discussed them with the shop owner at great lengths. During the show, the presenter tried out a kidnapping scenario and discussed different forms of roleplay. However, it wasn’t until the release of Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James in 2011 that the popular opinion shifted significantly. Suddenly, the interest in restraints, blindfolds, and impact toys spiked, and a whole new group of sex toys started being sold under the Fifty Shades name. After the success of the first novel, the sales of love beads spiked by 400%. The beads were introduced to readers by the following passage:
“He holds out his hand, and in his palm are two shiny silver balls linked with a thick black thread … Inside me! I gasp, and all the muscles deep in my belly clench. My inner goddess is doing the dance of the seven veils … Oh my … It’s a curious feeling. Once they’re inside me, I can’t really feel them—but then again, I know they’re there … Oh my … I may have to keep these. They make me needy, needy for sex.”
On one of my first dates with my ex, she joked about wanting to tie me to the radiator pipe in my student room. We dated and made small references to kink but never outright said anything about dominance and submission. It wasn’t until I asked her to be my girlfriend that I admitted I couldn’t do a relationship without BDSM, so naturally, one of the first sex toys we bought was a rope. She had seen something online and wanted to make under the bed restraints with it. We pretty quickly discovered that we could’ve simply bought pre-made under the bed restraints, which then became our second toy.
As we were still rather shy in regards to talking about kink and sex, we used Tumblr to discuss our likes with each other. I followed several kinky accounts, which posted gifs and images of women tied up in various positions and predicaments. It was here I saw a woman restrained in a spreader bar; she was wearing nipple clamps that her partner was pulling at. I forwarded the picture to my ex, and not long after, we received a package with a spreader bar like the Adam and Eve Scarlet Couture Spreader Bar. To get around our embarrassment, we used Tumblr to find things we were into and shared them with one another. It’s here we found certain positions and predicaments that took our fancy, and one such image contained a spreader bar.
The spreader bar had its appeal because, as the name suggests, it spreads you wide open and leaves you quite vulnerable and exposed. The first time I tried the spreader bar, I was lying down on my back and lifted my arms and legs to above my shoulders, where they were fastened and restrained by the spreader bar. In this position, my bottom and vagina were fully exposed, which made me feel incredibly vulnerable and aroused. The restraints meant I had little wriggle room or any ability to escape, and my ex used it to spank me hard with a wooden kitchen spoon. It surprised me how effective the spreader bar was. Upon first look, it had seemed a bit flimsy, perhaps. I was proven this wasn’t the case when my ex mercilessly delivered her blows on my butt cheeks; it didn’t disappoint me one bit. In addition to its effectiveness in terms of restraints, the position it put me in was humiliating. It opened the door for teasing remarks and brought us naturally closer to the dominant and submissive roleplay.
Another popular sex toy for couples nowadays is the sex swing. Ancient Indians were the first to create wing-like devices to facilitate different sex positions, for which we would use a sex swing nowadays. Back then, it was believed that the main reason for separations was the lack of varied pleasure and subsequent monotony. The theory was that by using varying positions and imagination, a couple’s desire for sexual intimacy could be renewed. However, the devices the Indians invented often didn’t work as they were limited by the material and technology at the time. The swings were difficult to use, uncomfortable, and sometimes even dangerous. Nowadays, anyone can own a fully functioning, safe, and comfortable sex swing.
The Adam & Eve Naughty Couples Door Swing is a sex swing that can be set up very easily and can be used anywhere as long as you have a door. The swing can elevate you and/or your partner and helps you explore new positions or create your favorite positions with ease. A sex swing is versatile, and apart from penetrative sex, can be great for oral sex. The swing takes care of your leg placement so that the focus can be on the pleasure.
While sex toys for women became more and more acceptable over time, sex toys for men still carry around the sense of taboo sometimes. A man who mentions the use of sex toys to his friends is more likely to be ridiculed than when a woman mentions using a vibrator to her friends. However, sales have risen massively over the last ten years, and popular toys have been different types of masturbators, sometimes designed to look like a real vagina.
After the invention of the internet in 1990, men started communicating with each other about the easiest way to get off. They used things such as cushions, condoms, and petroleum jelly and started making homemade fake vaginas. As a result, the fake vagina market began to boom, and small silicon-based devices designed to be carried around started being designed. From here, customizations were added, and the fake vaginas could be bought in different skin tones or with fake pubic hair.
In 1995 someone set out to create what we now know as the fleshlight, a more realistic version of the fake vagina. In order to help destigmatize male masturbation, they put the vagina in a fleshlight since a flashlight was seen as something innocent.
Two of the most popular male sex toys on Adam and Eve are the Super Head Honcho Masturbator and the Sasha Grey Pocket Stroker. The former is specially designed to fit bigger buys, which increases your satisfaction, while the latter is molded from adult star Sasha Grey!
Sex toys have been around since before civilization and have become more varied and advanced than ever before. While our ancestors had to do with rock dildos, we have the luxury to pick and choose materials that are most comfortable to us. I think we should all take advantage of this and use sex toys to enhance our sexual pleasure. And if you’re indeed planning to, why not have a look at all the sex toys Adam and Eve offers?