5 Fun Facts About the History of Sex Toys

5 Fun Facts About the History of Sex Toys

Sex toys have had a fascinating trajectory, with humble beginnings and many stellar plot twists along the way. Here are 5 fun facts about the history of these exciting products!

1. They’ve been around since the Ice Age
Archaeological evidence shows us that human beings first started making and using sex toys about 30,000 years ago. These prehistoric sex toys were usually just pieces of stone or animal bones that had been carved into phallic shapes. They say necessity is the mother of invention!

2. Vibrators were invented for men’s pain relief
English physician and author Joseph Mortimer Granville, often considered the “father of the modern electromechanical vibrator,” invented a handheld device called “Granville’s Hammer” in the 1880s. However, contrary to urban legend (and the film Hysteria), he did not create it with the intention of administering orgasms to hysterical women. Rather, he used it to treat pain, nerve weakness, constipation, and various other conditions, and made a point to only use it on male patients because he believed applying vibration to women’s bodies would just exacerbate their “female hysteria.” Whatever you say, Joseph!

3. Wand vibrators were popularized at all-women masturbation parties
Legendary sexpert Betty Dodson famously bought Magic Wands by the case full in the ‘70s and beyond, to hand out to participants of her Body Sex workshops. These initially all-female sessions encouraged body positivity, self-love, and – yes – masturbation and orgasms! Decades later, the Magic Wand is still considered one of the all-time greatest vibrators, and is one of the most lasting components of the late Dodson’s legacy.

4. Silicone dildos were invented by a disabled Caribbean immigrant
Former auto mechanic and Grenadian expat Gosnell Duncan was paralyzed from the waist down in a work accident. The silver lining of this tragedy: Duncan’s inability to get an erection post-paralysis inspired him to look into making “penile substitutes,” and eventually to start producing his own silicone dildos. Prior to his groundbreaking work, dildos had generally been made of unsafe materials like jelly rubber. We can thank Gosnell Duncan and his contemporaries for the proliferation of silicone sex toys on the market today.

5. Sex toy sales spiked 400% after Fifty Shades of Grey
The launch of the first Fifty Shades book in 2011 – and its subsequent film adaptation in 2015 – changed the sex toy industry forever, particularly its kinkier corners. Specific types of toys mentioned in the book, such as “love balls,” paddles, and blindfolds, saw a huge boost in sales. The story itself may be problematic, but its legacy of normalizing BDSM and sex toys has nonetheless no doubt helped countless people around the world.

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Kate Sloan is a journalist, blogger, podcaster, and educator who has been writing about sex online and in print for over five years. She writes about sex, kink, relationships, fashion, beauty, writing, and mental health. She has been voted a Kinkly.com Sex Blogging Superhero for four years running, and her words reach over 22,000 sex nerds, weirdos and queerdos every month. As a journalist and essayist, Kate has written for Glamour, Teen Vogue, Daily Xtra, the Establishment, Maisonneuve, Herizons, the Plaid Zebra, xoJane, and more.

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