Sex toys date back further than you think. In recent studies, Hallie Lieberman and Kate Lister, discovered sex toys from as far back as the Ice Age era. In Eurasia, phallic objects were found, and in south-western Germany, dildo-like articles made of bone and ivory have been located. Archaeologists still argue about their uses, but it seems pretty obvious.
In around 411BC, penis-like “toys” grew in popularity in ancient Greece, even getting a mention in Lysistrata, a famous play of the time. The Bible also makes reference to sex toys in Ezekiel 16:7. While it says you shouldn’t use them, something we clearly didn’t listen to, it’s evident they have been around for ages.
Artistic representations of dildos have been found on vases from Greece and Japan from around 28,000BC. Many people believe sex toys are a sign of society’s immoral decline, but they have existed in human culture from the start.
What does the industry look like today?
Today, sex toys are a multi-billion dollar industry. You can get anything from vibrators and dildos to cock rings and pocket vaginas. You’d think this wide range of adult products signifies a more open minded society, particularly among men who see them as a threat, but it’s not the case.
In Lieberman’s book, Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy, she writes that in the 1800s and early 1900s we were more progressive. Newspapers like the New York Times would openly advertise adult products.
Sure, they focused on the medical benefits of sex toys, but today some famous brands still won’t acknowledge what their products are designed for. In fact, it’s only in recent history that obscenity laws changed, with early distributors having to disguise their products as “marital aids” or “novelty items”. Even in Sex and the City, the characters openly talk about their sex toys, but when purchasing one, they had to disguise its real use. Lieberman believes sex toys, which began being sold openly as such in the 1960s, are viewed as dangerous because they are symbolic of women’s sexual liberation.
Even Fifty Shades of Grey only demonstrates the use of sex toys with a male partner, choosing not to show how toys can assist women in discovering their sexuality alone.
The Man Who Revolutionised Vibrators for Women
Despite men feeling threatened by the booming sex toy industry, there was one man who stood for female independence. His name was Gosnell Duncan. In the 1970’s, he had been paralysed in an accident, leaving him unable to perform sexually. He decided to make female-friendly sex toys. At the time, the toys available were made from terrible material, often smelled like chemicals, and were exceptionally uncomfortable to use. On top of this, they were almost always fashioned after male genitalia. The assumption was if women wanted to please themselves, they definitely wanted to do it with toys resembling the male member.
Duncan knew this to be untrue and began creating dildos and vibrators that came in many different colours, shapes and sizes.
Toys for Women by Women
Duncan’s positive influence in the sex toy industry motivated women to design toys of their own. Thanks to his pioneering spirit, women began designing toys that focus more on clitoral stimulation than penetration. Inspired by the idea that sex toys don’t have to resemble phallic objects, women began creating massagers and dildos concentrating on girth instead of length. This truly allowed women to begin exploring their sexuality through masturbation. Lieberman believes vibrators should be covered by health insurance in the same way as Viagra. She says a woman’s sexual health is as important as a man’s.
Shift to Online Shopping
For the most part, the rise of adult products available online is positive. It gives people the comfort to buy products in complete privacy. People also review products, which helps educate people on what’s available in the part.