The History of Sex Toys: Part 2

Last week we covered Part 1 of the History of Sex Toys. Truthfully, the story of self-pleasure is as long as mankind. Sex feels awesome and we enjoy recreating that shit; it’s that simple.

This is not intended to be a thorough list on many sex toys. Obviously, there’s a lot of stuff out there and mentioning every kink and instrument would take forever. This is meant to cover most of the popular and culture-changing sex toys in the last century and show the evolution from the ancient dildos, balls and vibrators to the toys we have available today.

So, to avoid annoying chronological jumps, let’s separate them neatly into a few categories. We’ll start with the most obvious one…


After the invention of the vibrator, a couple of major changes were needed to allow their use as we know it these days. The first one was practicality, of course. Having a massive machine pumping a dildo inside of a scared housewife’s vagina wasn’t exactly inviting. Needing a doctor to attend these needs would surely turn some women off the idea. So when vibrators actually started being sold for private home use, the female masturbation game changed forever.

Hamilton Beach, an American company, released the first electric vibrator for consumer retail sale in 1902, and it became only the fifth (!) domestic appliance to be electrified — even before the iron or vacuum cleaner, because… priorities! The vibrators would sell as massagers in home catalogs like Sears and other major retailers all over the States without arousing a lot of suspicions; at least until some porn movies of the time included them in their activities, and just like that the massage charade was over. The post-war and depression years became even worse without vibrators.

Of course, moral standards have changed a great deal since that. During the 1960s’ sexual revolution, sex toys were back! New features were also welcome, as in 1966 a guy named Jon H. Tavel patented the first cordless vibrator, making it truly portable for the first time.

We could talk for hours about many vibrators that have surfaced since then, but let’s concentrate on perhaps the two biggest success stories that changed the format from a vibrating-dildo into something that could hit the perfect spots much more effectively: The Magic Wand and the Rabbit.

The History of Sex Toys: Part 2

The legendary Hitachi Magic Wand is, even to this day, the preferred sex toy of approximately 99% of porn stars — not to mention tons of non-professionals.

Patented in 1968 as a “personal massager”, the Magic Wand doesn’t look like a practical sex toy that would still be owning the market almost 50 years after, but it simply does, and with very few modifications needed in all that time. When something is this efficiently orgasmic on a clitoris, there’s no need for massive upgrades.

Its popularity as a masturbation aid probably started with Betty Dodson, an artist and sex educator that began using it in demonstrations and instructional classes in the 70s. The Wand became a sensation due to its powerful effectiveness and it’s nowadays a go-to sex toy for most women who are serious about their masturbation time.

Oddly enough, Hitachi removed its name from the product a couple of years ago, producing it now under the name Original Magic Wand, citing their “very traditional” values as the reason for the rebranding.

People can be very self-conscious about what they attach their names to, but if there’s one thing that puzzles me it’s why someone would not want their name linked to the most successful sex toy in history. We’re talking several generations of women who swear by the Wand and quickly smile at the mere mention of the word “Hitachi.” I don’t care how traditional you are; rejecting that kind of honor is just a slap in the face of God.

The Rabbit — highly popularized by its big role on a Sex and the City episode — came up in the 90s, and it was essentially two vibrators in one. Its name comes from the resemblance to a rabbit’s ears — and perhaps a reference to sexual stamina? — though it was anything but innocent. Aside from the phallic vibrating dildo, the Rabbit also had a clitoral stimulator that allowed both, the G-spot and the clit, to receive the lovely vibrations, opening the door for many other two-pronged toys that attended both spots.

A special mention should be made for another popular vibrating sex toy that may not have the portable advantages that the Wand or Rabbit have, but undoubtedly still has the staying power to remain relevant after almost 30 years: The Sybian.

The Sybian, developed in the 80s by inventor Dave Lampert, is essentially a seat with an electric motor designed for women. The saddle-like principle can trace its origins to many mechanical rides. Its varying speeds, ability to vibrate and rotate, the direct clitoral stimulation, and the available options to attach stuff on top of it, made it quite effective. Many Sybians are being ridden all around the world as you read this, and while traveling with it must be a pain in the ass (figuratively, and not in the good way), it’s a testament to the principle that what works well on the clit, will sell for generations.

Sex Toys for Men

While men’s pleasure has historically been prioritized over women’s in thousands of patriarchal years, the use of sex toys to please themselves was never all that popular.

Something interesting happened as sex toys became more normal in society: Probably for the first time, the freedom to use a sex toy for pleasure was more normal and accepted among women than men. Even to this day, there’s a strong taboo on dudes using sex toys, either for “gay” or “pervy” connotations.

Luckily, this has been changing in the last couple of decades, and especially in the most recent one.

The Venus 2000 (now known as Venus for Men) gained some attention in the 90s, with a dedicated stroking action that allowed for a much different hand-free jerking experience. The only inconvenience was the machine that was attached to it; while not difficult to set up, it was nowhere near as portable as the female toys were.

The Fleshlight took care of this problem. As the new leading sex toy for men, the Fleshlight was introduced in 1998 and promoted as a “device for discreet sperm collection”. Named after its external similarities to a big flashlight, the Fleshlight’s insides were significantly more fun. It consisted of a plastic case housing a rather accommodating sleeve that imitated the feel of a vagina.

The practicality and versatility of the system allowed for a lot of different Fleshlights to see the light of day. Porn starlets (Fleshlight girls) began to have signature Fleshlights molded from their own vaginas. There are asshole-based ones, vibrating ones and they can also be custom-made according to each customer’s preferences. They also developed the Fleshjack, designed to appeal to the gay market, and they have their own stable of male gay porn stars (Fleshjack boys) with signature models.

Sex Dolls

Perhaps the consensus ‘creepy’ family member of sex toys, I’ve never heard anyone admit they own/use a blow-up doll habitually, and there’s a strongly judgmental reason for that!

But everyone gets a little lonely at times, man. I get it. You want to recreate that feeling of touching someone, of feeling accompanied, even in long stretches when a lot of human contact isn’t possible. In fact, this was the oldest use known for sex dolls. Dubbed back in the seventeenth century as a dame de voyage (in French) or a dama de viaje (in Spanish), these dolls were made of sewn cloth and were intended to keep French and Spanish sailors company on those lonely nights at sea.

With the twentieth century, vulcanized rubber proved to be a very user-friendly material and the blow-up doll as we know it came to life (well, not literally, though there might be a terrible Pauly Shore movie about that, if you’re game.)

The “travel” element was key in the development of sex dolls. A human-sized doll that couldn’t be pieced apart or deflated for easy transportation — not to mention it wouldn’t be so easy to explain to others at the time — was simply too much hassle. Inflatable dolls became the most common type, both for practicality and budgetary reasons. By the time the 1970s rolled around, the materials used (silicone, vinyl, latex) were more akin to real skin, although still years away from the real thing.

What “real” means in this context can be very subjective, by the way.

The History of Sex Toys: Part 2

Leave it to the Japanese to step the whole thing up and make it way more believable. The manufacture of high-end silicone dolls became a big deal in Asia, and soon spread globally (to those who could afford it). In the last 20 years the “love doll” market has grown exponentially, based on much more accurate body parts and the possibility for users to select carefully custom-made dolls that can look eerily similar to real women.

Creepy and/or lonely and/or disgustingly rich people with a very specific kink are avid fans of sex dolls and some have even developed strong — mostly one-sided — relationships with them. High-end sex dolls can sell for up to dozens of thousands of dollars, proving that even if they have to pay for it, many people will opt for familiarity over prostitution. But hey, to each their own!

Anal Pleasure Sex Toys

Ah, finally, the asshole. So much judgment and yet so much pleasure.

Butt plugs were actually invented a lot earlier than a lot of people might assume. They date back to 1892, when a true American pioneer named Frank E. Young came up with the Rectal Dilator, a device very similar to butt plugs that you can still find today. A very underrated part of the simple yet revolutionary design on these was the use of a flat base that prevented the butt plug from staying inside the person’s ass — a lesson many emergency room regulars still haven’t learned today! Rectal dilators were supposedly used to treat piles and constipation, and also advertised openly on medical journals. It even came in a set of four rectal dilators, so “patients” could work their way in through all sizes. Sadly, the FDA just had to poop on the party in 1938 and banned the Rectal Dilator, citing “false advertisement”, and ruining a pretty good four-decade run on the market.

Anal toys for men have historically been stigmatized a bit – mainly by society’s old homophobic tendencies – and for many years they were just “prostate massagers”, with the actual medical use of treating chronic prostatitis. After more recent trials, though, it was discovered the massagers were not that useful, and it was the antibiotics doing the trick all along. Having said that, the consensus was that it still felt awesome.

While the prostate dildos are similar to the vaginal ones, they tend to be a little softer and slimmer, because that shit is delicate, man!

Vibrators were incorporated to specific anal sex toys, and obviously became a leading toy when it comes to asshole-inspired masturbation gadgets. With that in mind, though, anal pleasures are plentiful. Probes, beads and a wide range of materials are tried on many rectums every single day, and the world is better for it, guys. Much better.

But all of these are just the beginning of the story. New sex toys come out everyday, and while some of the principles are similar, tons of different shapes, colors and materials bring novelty to a wonderful world of gratification. They will vibrate, rotate, swirl or expand for everyone’s pleasure. Many are truly waterproof nowadays. Many come with remote controls for couple use. We’ve luckily entered an era in which self-indulgence and the open need to satisfy our sexual desires is not only all that frowned upon anymore in many circles, but it’s begun to be encouraged and celebrated.

Woody Allen once wrote, “Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.” And I’m sure even Alvy Singer would agree that a little extra help can only enhance the love. Bring out the toys!

Comments are closed.