What Sex Toys Looked Like Throughout HistoryLove Naughty Editor
It can be unsettling thinking about your grandmother or grandfather having sex or, heaven forbid, using a bunny vibrator. But your ancestors (well, maybe not yours specifically, but someone’s ancestors) definitely used sex toys.
Granted, their sex toys weren’t made from the finest purple silicone, but they still got the job done. And isn’t that all that really matters? Here’s a brief look at sex toys throughout history — from the bizarre and hilarious to the straight-up genius.
2,000 YEARS AGO
This bronze dildo with a ring attached to it (perhaps to be worn as a strap-on?) was found inside the tomb of an aristocrat in the Chinese city of Yizheng in the Jiangsu province. Judging by the materials and intricate details used when creating this relic, the ancient Chinese considered sex toys an art form.
This jade and bronze butt plug was discovered in the tomb of a king near modern-day Shanghai. Researchers believe the butt plugs were actually 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. But this one could certainly pass as a prototype for today’s toys…
If you were a horny woman or man living in Ancient Greece, you probably didn’t have a slew of sex shops downtown, but you did have plenty of bread — which could be fashioned into a perfect bread dildo. Folks living back in those days reportedly didn’t identify as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual — they just indulged whatever pleasure they fancied.
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 consists of a dildo attached to a steam engine that produced vibrations. You’ve got to give credit where it’s due: Unlike many vibrators that would come after this one, there’s no way you can pass this off as a beauty tool — it was honest about its intentions to produce bodily stimulation. It’s important to remember that a device like this one wasn’t created with female orgasm in mind — the goal back in those days was to help alleviate hysteria in women — and, by “hysteria,” they meant sexual frustration, but it would be decades before those actual words would be used.
Macaura’s Pulsocon Hand Vibrator was one of the more advanced hand-crank vibrators created in the 1880s and sold throughout the early 1900s. It may look like a torture device, but this handheld vibrator was capable of delivering 5,000 vibrations per minute. Of course, it required a lot more effort than modern vibrators. You had to hold one end, place the other on your body, and then manually turn the crank handle. The vibrator was marketed as a DIY cure for illnesses — oh, and of course, to combat female hysteria. Here’s hoping women got the last laugh with this device.
So, what do you do after you’ve invented Macaura’s Pulsocon Hand Vibrator? You improve upon the model and create the next-generation vibrator: the Blood Circulator. Similar to the original, this was a hand-crank vibrator with a little something extra: The vibrator, which you would place directly on your body, featured applicators that would screw into the center the device so that you could manually increase the vibrations and have more control over how powerful a vibration you wanted on your body.
You have to give the Polar Club Electric Vibrator extra points for its attractive green handle and packaging, which pictures a woman using this device on her neck — right. Two interesting things about this vibrator, which came out in 1928, are that it uses electricity — hurray for no more hand cramps — and boasts a textured knob to provide different pleasurable sensations. Since women weren’t yet owning up to using vibrators on their vaginas or breasts, it’s impossible to know how many purchased this as a beauty aid versus its…other uses, but the Antique Vibrator Museum includes it as an examples of past sex toys — and the appeal is pretty obvious.
The Andis Vibrator was marketed for both men and women as a beauty and health tool that could be used to help the blood circulate to the scalp, face, and body. But, considering how many texturised add-ons were included with the device, it’s believe that a woman’s cheeks weren’t the only body part benefitting from all of those diverse forms of stimulation.
Vibrators like this vintage treasure called the Hollywood Vibra-Tone were also called “spot reducers” because their manufacturers claimed they could help you lose weight. It’s bulky, it looks more like a classic radio than a sex toy, but it was definitely inconspicuous and wouldn’t raise any flags if a guest found it in the bathroom. This is another example of a vintage vibrator included in the Antique Vibrator Museum’s vast collection.
In 1983, Japanese sex toy company Vibratex invented a now-iconic sex toy called The Rabbit that boldly went where no other device had gone before: It provided both penetration and clitoral stimulation. There was one problem: Japanese manufacturers were not allowed to make outright sex toys, so they got around this pesky rule by shaping their devices into animal shapes (other companies made toys shaped like beavers, turtles, and kangaroos). The Pearl Rabbit also featured a rotating band of pearls on the shaft that provided additional stimulation. It became insanely popular after Charlotte on Sex and the City famously used it.