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Sexperts: Dildos through the Decades

She is known to flaunt her collection of fuzzy handcuffs and beginner bondage kits, toys with which she shamelessly used to arouse a notable portion of the male and female student body; on the evening I discovered her secret satin baggie, however, concealing what could only be assumed to be a phallic shaped product, the doe eyes hidden behind her Kim Kardashian-inspired eyeliner looked as sheepish as they had on the day she lost her virginity. She snatched the dildo out of my hand while her collagen-injected lips quivered in embarrassment. I stared at my friend, the Regina George of my high school clique. How can a sexually liberated woman revert to the mannerisms of a school girl in a sex ed. class? It’s just a dildo.

While the sex toy industry may appear a seemingly modern institution designed to liberate the sexually curious, the dildo dates back thousands of years.

30,000 BCE The oldest artifact identified as a dildo was uncovered in a cave in Germany. The phallic object dates back to the Upper Paleolithic period. It measures 20 cm in length and is constructed of siltstone.

Other sex toys from the period that have been unearthed are most commonly made of stone, tar, or wood. These early models of the modern dildo are thought to have been used in religious and fertility ceremonies.

350 BCE In Ancient Greece, there was an outbreak of “hysteria” among Grecian housewives: during times of war, men left their homelands to serve as soldiers, causing a shortage of sperm which was believed to cause “wandering uterus syndrome” in women. Symptoms of the alleged disease included physical pains throughout the body, thought to have been caused by the woman’s uterus moving through the body and inflicting pain in the area in which it settled. As a precautionary action against the disease, men would present their wives with “olisbos” as a gift. Olisbos are phallic shaped objects, typically constructed of either wood or leather, and were inserted into the woman’s vagina, believed to remedy wandering womb syndrome. The phenomenon of hysteria continued for decades following. The Greeks also marketed olive oil as a lubricant.

50 BCE It was Queen Cleopatra who is believed to have invented the first vibrator: legend has it that the Queen filled a hollow gourd with live bees. After shaking the gourd, the angry bees buzzing against the walls of the gourd caused the DIY dildo to vibrate.

1860s The first marketed vibrator did not emerge until 1869. The steam-powered early model was a large, bulky object used in medical practices as a treatment for hysteria, a phenomenon that emerged in Western states.

Women suffering from hysteria were treated to a “pelvic massage,” which essentially entailed a doctor fingering his patient. During the outbreak, doctors found the pelvic massage treatment was a tedious and time consuming task, thus stimulating the invention of the “massager.” The miniaturized vibrator was used in the home and was invented before the vacuum cleaner.

1890s The first electronic vibrator was invented in 1890, Dr. Macaura’s Pulsocon Handcrank 1890. The device was handheld and featured a manual crank.

1900s In 1900, the vibrator was more widely available to consumers and was not limited to medical use; phallic products were marketed to women for recreational use, including the Oster Stim-U-Lax (1937) a miniaturized hand vibrator designed to induce external stimulation of the clitoris rather than pleasure from manual penetration. The Gyro-Lator (1945) was a full metal sex toy and was the first dildo that actually looked more like a penis and less like a torture device.

The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of The Sandspur, its staff or Rollins College.

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