The Happy Trail

Sex Toys Satisfy Through the Ages

For many college students, the concept of sex toys is not a revolutionary one. While not necessarily a passtime that many flaunt, the use of sex toys—either for masturbatory purposes or for use with others—would not be considered unprecedented to many of us.

When discussing sex toys, the main image that comes to mind for many college students is the dildo. But where did the dildo come from, and why does it dominate our imaginations so?

The oldest known dildo is a siltstone 20-centimeter phallus from the Upper Palaeolithic period 30,000 years ago that was found in Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm, Germany. But it was not merely the Germans who were fond of such pleasure seeking; so too were Chinese women of the 15th century, who made dildos from lacquered wood, and the Ancient Grecians prior to the 5th century B.C., who made dildos of a sort of breadstick called an olisbokollikes. Archeological evidence across a variety of nations and throughout many cultures reveals evidence of dildos made from materials such as stone, tar and wood. It remains unclear as to whether these were used for ritualistic purposes, pleasure purposes or both.

Sociological studies suggest that the attitude that a society has toward non-procreative sexuality is one that both reflects greatly upon that society and affects it greatly. The attitudes behind the use of dildos in these times seem to demonstrate just that—showing, more than anything, a view on women’s sexuality as subservient to men’s sexuality.

In Ancient Greece, for example, women frequently spent long stretches of time without their husbands, and were publicly advised to “cure” their hysteria by means of achieving orgasm. This belief was echoed centuries later in Victorian England as women’s husbands went away to work or to fight in wars, leading to doctors performing manual masturbatory massage on their female client in order to bring them to orgasm and end their “hysteria.”

Alongside the onset of the Industrial Revolution, however, this also allowed items of sexual stimulation, such as “The Manipulator” to be commercialized for the first time. This was an enormous, steam-powered machine invented by American physician George Taylor, created to bring women to “hysterical paroxysm” (orgasm) without the tiring overexertion of their physician’s hands. Oddly enough, the sexually stifled nature of the Victorian Era, with its history of puritanical purity, denied the relationship between women’ sexuality and the act of bringing them to “hysterical paroxysm.”

As the social conservatism of the era faded, and events such  asthe Women’s Rights movements began to sweep America, views on sexuality changed again and again until we arrived at the present day.

Of course, the nature of social views on sexuality—and sex toys specifically—varies by enormous degrees—from San Francisco’s “Folsom Street Fair,” an annual BDSM and leather subculture fair that ends San Francisco’s “Leather Pride Week,” to Alabama’s Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1998, which criminalized the sale of sex toys. But one of the greatest signals of liberated views on sexuality is the variety of sex toys now available, and in particular, the production of sex toys for men.

For those of us with penises, the most basic of the sex toys would be the Fleshlight. Intended as a sort of artificial orifice, the Fleshlight is a hand-held device that can be penetrated through an opening that, in more common versions, is in the shape of a vagina, an anus or a mouth. For those of us with vaginas, the most basic sex toy might be the dildo, because it is so commonly known and so straightforward in nature, but a better first-time choice might be an external vibrator.

Given the fact that penetrating oneself with something other than another person’s body part can be intimidating, studies by the Kinsey Institute for Research in Gender, Sex and Reproduction suggest that women can more easily achieve orgasm by means of clitoral stimulation, possibly because it is a less stressful and invasive experience and because the clitoris has so many more nerve endings than the inside of the vagina does.

But whatever your genitals, gender or sexual preference, you should know that there are so many sex toy options beyond the dildo. So go forth and explore that brave new world!