At Fleshlight, you could say that we’re pretty big fans of sex toys. We like to think we’re pioneers in the industry, but did you know that sex toys aren’t a modern concept?
The history of sex toys is long and complex. To fully appreciate the trappings of 21st-century pleasure devices, it’s important to appreciate the history. Sex innovation wasn’t just relegated to the British and the French, either. The Japanese and ancient Chinese also got in on the kinky action, furthering the ancient sex options.
In this article, we’ll discuss the evolution of the sex toy from ancient times to the modern era. Let the sex-ucation begin!
The History of Sex Toys Through the Ages
Before we begin our journey throughout kinky history, it’s vital to understand that socially discussing sex has commonly been taboo throughout the ages (with some notable exceptions; shout out to the ancient Egyptians).
Most of these sex toys were made to be kept in the house and out of the public eye, similar to modern times. That fact, combined with the toll of age and the lack of proper preservation, means that our knowledge of ancient sex toys is limited. Many of these devices simply degraded and decayed into obscurity.
It’s safe to assume that from ancient Germany to Japan to France, individuals were getting themselves off with creative and functional devices. It’s just challenging to create a full history of these practices through archeology. (We’re bummed about it, too.)
Still, we’ll cover what we do know about these dated masturbation massagers and what this means for the modern man and woman.
Our ancient ancestors were probably just as freaky as their modern-day descendants. Way back in the prehistoric age, they were carving penises out of stone (sounds a bit uncomfortable). However, historians disagree on whether these devices were actually used as sex toys.
Thousands of years ago, symbolism was exceedingly important, and a phallic-shaped baton could be used for fertility rites, symbols of power, or other cultural passages. Some of these carved dicks were made of wood, leather, and even camel dung, so there’s a chance that some were used for some self-sex action. We’re all pretty grateful that sex technology has evolved past using feces.
The ancient Greeks and Romans created our first documented and confirmed use of sex toys. Ancient Greece crafted tools for sexual pleasure out of all kinds of materials, including brass (ouch) and stuffed leather. However, their most creative, kooky, and famous creation was the olisbokollikes, also known as the bread dildo.
That’s right. You read that correctly. This group of ancient geniuses created a special kind of bread that could be used as a dildo—human ingenuity at its finest. They also were the first civilization to use olive oil as lubrication, making it much easier to use these devices and engage in intercourse.
At this time, there is a notable lack of sex toys for penile insertion. The primary focus was on crafting a fake penis, not a fake vagina. This focus could be because making a bread dick is much easier than making a bread pussy. Still, it’s a shame for the ancient men.
The Medieval and Renaissance Eras
Welcome to the Middle Ages! The Chinese and Europeans are at the forefront of sexual innovation during these years. Here are just some of the inventions that happened during this period:
- Cantonese Groin: This is a plant that was soaked in water and would allegedly harden for ideal vaginal insertion.
- Adoption of the word ‘dildo’: We have the Italian Renaissance to thank for the word ‘dildo.’ Allegedly, it comes from the word ‘diletto,’ which means pleasure.
- Ben Wah Balls: Similar to kegel balls and anal balls, these little round toys were invented during the medieval age in China. These devices were created to bring about sensual awakenings and plenty of pleasure.
The Renaissance was also a source of sexually explicit literature, with plays, poems, and books all referencing sex toys and some kinky stories. These stories were used to shock and amuse, but many were also used in conjunction with toys like ancient cock rings to bring about sexual pleasure. Proving that erotica has deep roots in the Victorian age.
This literature also informs us that dames used strap-ons, along with other clitoris manipulators, eventually giving way to the electric vibrator.
18th-20th Century Evolution
The industrial revolution, the invention of electricity, and the beginnings of modern society all took place during these centuries. More importantly, there was a sex toy boom!
The 18th century saw the invention of the clockwork vibrator (one of the first vibrators) and the beginnings of the BDSM movement. Sex toys are still not regulated or approved by any state. This lack of approval will continue as the norm for the next 200 years. Unregulated toys meant crazy ideas like the steam-powered dildo (not a real thing, just an example, thank god) could theoretically be sold to unsuspecting individuals.
The 19th century saw a boom in the vibrator industry; however, many of these devices were marketed as health solutions for other ailments, such as back pain. While they were no doubt used as sex toys, this was not met with approval from most of their creators. The late 1800s also led to the rise of the first film and, therefore, the first pornos.
During the 20th century, sex toy innovations were prevalent and revolutionary. Vibrators were advertised in women’s magazines, sex dolls and pornos were available for purchase, and the first sex toy store (called Good Vibrations) opened its doors. The invention of the first comfortable silicone dildo took place in the 1970s, and from there, we saw an explosion of toys on the market. There were even sex educators like the famous Betty Dodson, who taught people how to use their new toys.
Still, it’s important to note that in the United States, the ban on sex toys wasn’t lifted until 2003. It took the Lawrence v. Texas decision to protect an American citizen’s right to jack off with device assistance. (And thank goodness for that.)
Welcome to the modern era! The rise of the internet also gave rise to innovative methods of self-pleasure, from online retailers to virtual sex to smart sex toys. Some of the most popular toys are sold right here at Fleshlight, with our female pocket pussy remaining a 21st-century stable in anyone's sex closet.
Other toys like the oral sex simulator toy and sex toy mounts innovate off of previous designs to deliver powerhouse devices that provide endless pleasure. From vibrating butt plugs to advanced clitoral stimulation, the 2000s are the time to be alive when it comes to your self-sex life.
The 21st century has also given rise to a less stigmatized sex culture. Our modern society is much more comfortable discussing and advertising sex devices. This sex-positive culture has paved the way for exciting innovations in the sex toy community.
Celebrate the History of Sex Toys With Fleshlight
It’s safe to say that the times of phallus-shaped stones and hand-cranked sex aids are behind us. Now is the time for blazing new frontiers in sexual pleasure, like the ultimate oral sex toys.
At Fleshlight, we prioritize crafting modern sex toys that appeal to a wide variety of kinks, genital anatomy, and preferences. All of our expertly designed toys are made with body-safe silicone and made in America.
Discover what the best in the sex toy industry can create and celebrate modern toys with Fleshlight.