The History of Sex Toys Uncovered

Have you ever wondered where it all started?  Who was the first person to use a foreign body for sexual stimulation?

What is it that first started the sexual revolution that has progressed to this huge profusion of sex toys stimulators and pleasures that we have today. What was the first ever dildo?

Pulse and Cocktails the history of sex toys

Well, as far as we know it all started in 26,000 BC with an eight inch long stone dildo discovered in the famous Hohle Fels Cave in Germany. This phallic shaped sculpture is thought very likely to have been used as a sex aid by its Ice Age makers. Humans might not have been able to read or have known how to write, but we knew how to have sex! Needless to say, we’ve come a long way since then!

Early Vibrators

500 BC (around 2,500 years ago)

The Greeks were next on the scene to use dildos. Sex toys were considered such an important part of life for the Greeks that they were depicted in art and on porcelain.

Women were encouraged to use dildos whilst their husbands were off fighting at war.

27 BC (around 2,000 years ago)

By the time the Romans ruled the world the sex toy market had expanded. The Romans were not only using dildos to satisfy their desires, they were also using penis extenders and olive oil as a lubricant (how resourceful!). Thankfully, we don’t have to resort to household cooking ingredients these days. From silky silicone to cheeky cherry flavoured and even tingle sensation lubricantlubricant has come a long way!

500 AD (around 1500 years ago)

Geisha Balls (also known as Kegel BallsJiggle Balls or Love Balls today) were first invented to help stimulate the Penis more during intercourse.  Like many women today, women in this period also used them to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles.

800 years ago

The must-have accessory for any couple, the first cock ring appeared in China. Apparently, the first ever cock rings were made from the eyelids of goats, and the eyelids were still attached – Yuk! Don’t worry, our cock rings have never seen a goats eyelid, we promise!

1400 (around 610 years ago)

The Italians got into sex toys by the 1400’s and were crafting dildos from wood and leather.

The 1700s (around 300 years ago)

By the late 1700’s the publication of Marquis de Sade of which the term sadism is derived popularised many bedroom accessories such as riding crops, whips, nipple clamps and restraining devices. Kinky!

Revolution L’Dildo – Advanced Sex Toys 


A revolution in dildo manufacturing occurred in 1841 with the invention of Vulcanised rubber. This enabled the manufacture of condoms and more realistic rubber dildos – finally!

But those frustrated Victorian women, unfortunately, had to wait until 1869 for the invention of the first vibrator. Inventor George Taylor, an American physician, brought the first large steam-powered vibrator to play. Taylor recommended his invention for the treatment of an illness known at the time as female hysteria.

Hysteria or “womb-fury” was diagnosed by physicians of the time when they believed the womb wasn’t a fixed organ, but wandered about the body looking for trouble. This theory was first written by the ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, claiming at the moment of orgasm it gripped the windpipe causing the breathless panting familiar to all who watched ‘When Harry Met Sally’.

Female complaints characterized by nervousness, fluid retention, insomnia and lack of appetite were thought to be the result of a blockage in the womb; hence it was called hysteria from the Greek for womb (hysteros). Galen, a Greek physician, claimed it was caused by sexual deprivation, particularly in passionate women, and was noted in nuns, virgins, widows and occasionally in married women whose husbands were not up to the job (oh dear).

Massage to “paroxysm” was the ticket – what you and I would call an orgasm. “Arising from the touch of the genital organs required by the treatment, there follows twitching accompanied at the same time by pain and pleasure…from that time she is free of all the evil she felt,” proclaimed Galen.

The trouble was that doctors at the time regarded this treatment as numbingly tedious. Bringing a woman to paroxysm (orgasm) by hand could, understandably, take some time. It was a job that required stamina and more than a little patience. And, significantly, because it took so long, it wasn’t profitable for doctors who needed to see many patients for a reasonable income.

Late 19th century

In the late 19th century, the spa’s introduced water treatments to do the job more efficiently.

A scary French pelvic douche from about 1860 used what looks like a high-pressure fire hose on the clitoris, this beast claimed to induce paroxysm in less than four minutes (a miracle for the times). If marriage wasn’t delivering the goods, rickety trains, rocking chairs or horse riding were advised for nervous women to relieve their sexual stress. But if the 2.20 express service to Paddington failed to do the trick, there was no option but recourse to a medical man. Given that many in the medical profession thought that as much as 75 percent of the female population was “hysterical”, there was a pressing need for cheaper, less awkward devices.

Bring on the steam! In the mid-1980’s steam power brought us “The Manipulator”.  The Manipulator consisted of a table with a cut-out area for the woman’s pelvis. But like the hydrotherapies, it was not suitable for the doctor’s treatment room.

History of the sex toy - the manipulator

The first British vibrator was manufactured by Weiss in the early 1880s. It was battery-driven, but as electrification swept the world, devices rapidly appeared that were powered by a street current. They delivered vibrations at the rate of 1,000-7,000 pulses a minute. There was every sort of vibrators: portable, floor-standing and, oh joy, the wondrous Carpenter vibrator which hung from the ceiling.

These devices were operated by doctors, which medicalised the process and made it entirely proper. But more importantly, the medical definition of sex was that women’s sexual pleasure involves penetration. A bit of rubbing by a doctor was perfectly acceptable because it didn’t involve putting anything in the vagina. In fact, there was fiercer controversy when the speculum (a metal device that is put into the vagina to allow a clear view of the neck of the womb) was introduced. The other point that is often raised is why, if paroxysm (masturbating to you and me) was the sovereign cure for hysteria, women were not taught how to masturbate and cure themselves.

Modern Dildos 

Early 20th century

Everything in the garden was rosy until electrification made vibrators available in the home. They were, incidentally, electrified ten years before either the washing machine or Hoover (clearly, these people had their priorities right!). The first home machines were anything but discrete, with a big box attached to the mains. One imagines that they were also extremely noisy. But then they were miniaturized (relatively speaking). Hand-cranked versions became available, which presumably must have been prone to running out of power long before satisfaction had been achieved.

With names like Dr Macaura’s Blood Circulator or the fabulously titled Veedee Vibrator, these were common devices. The Science Museum has many. “People never expect that the Science Museum has over 40 examples of vibrators,” says Katie Maggs, its assistant curator of medicine. The product leaflets of these machines claimed they cured not just hysteria but also deafness, polio, and impotence. No doubt dropped arches, bad breath and dandruff were in there somewhere, too. These machines were advertised everywhere. Good Housekeeping ran a “tried and tested” on vibrators in 1909, claiming they brought a glow to the face (I bet!).

From medicine to a must-have high street accessory

Once this “treatment” had escaped from the medical arena and was available for home use, doctors stopped using it. Moreover, although vibrators were still widely advertised before the First World War, the advent of silent films, some of which portrayed them being used sexually, discredited them. Vibrators then disappeared from view completely for the best part of 50 years (very sad times!). However, they continued to be offered labelled as “neck massagers” in catalogues.

Not until the late 70s did sex toys start to appear albeit sold from dirty back street bookshops, it was the 80s which brought the products more into the mainstream with Ann summers party planning. By the 90s the first couple friendly Sex Store hit the headlines, Pulse and Cocktails, which boasted thousands of sex toys from their two thousand square foot showroom which totally normalized the use of sex toys in a loving relationship.

By the 00s Pulse and Cocktails have over 20 superstores, Ann Summers made their way on to the High Street and the internet had thousands of sex toy sites.

Sex toys have become a normal way of life, revolutionising most singles and couples bedroom exploits. The next time you are shopping at your local Pulse and Cocktails store, when you reach for your top of the range rabbit vibrator, why not give a thought to the woman of Germany 28,000 years ago with their stone dildos, or the Roman with his Dick extension. When you turn on the vibration, have a thought for the woman with the steam pound contraption between her legs in 1869.

Without these early Sex Toy pioneers, our sex lives wouldn’t be half as interesting.

If you haven’t already – celebrate the evolution of the sex toy by treating yourself to one of the amazing vibrating friends modern technology has graced us with. Read our beginners guide to vibrators to find your perfect pleasure partner.

We recommend:

  • Mains rechargeable my wand, £99 (with three pleasure heads) – This powerful vibrating wand will give you the best intimate massage you’ve ever had, ‘back massagers’ have come a long way since the Victorian era.
  • Mains rechargeable seduction vibrator, £119 – Revolutionary electric-powered suction creates a new era in clitoral stimulation. Basically, instead of vibrating against the clit, it sucks on it!
  • Mains rechargeable Due Vibe couples toy, £99 – This remote control couples toy will blow you both wild. Providing intense clitoral and G-spot stimulation with enough room for vaginal penetration by the man (wow!).