The Weird And Wonderful History Of Sex Toys - From The Stone Age To Modern Day

Sex toys have come along way. PAVEL L PHOTO AND VIDEO/Shutterstock

Hanky Panky In The Han Dynasty

China's Han dynasty, around 206 BCE to 220 CE, enjoyed a particularly rich relationship with their sex toys. Tomb excavations revealed that the dynasty's wealthy elites were particularly into their bespoke bronze dildos and jade butt plugs. The bronze dildo was used similarly to the dildos of today, but the jade butt plug served a much stranger function

Jade was a rare material, revered for its ability to ward off spiritual and bodily decay. Embalmers would use the butt plugs to prevent “the loss of vital essences” from the body.

© Yizheng Museum/Asian Art Museum in San Francisco

Goat Eye Cock Ring

If you wanted to spice things up 800 years ago in China, then your best bet was a goat eyelid cock ring (with the eyelashes still attached for her pleasure). The elastic ring would grip the base of the penis, thereby keeping blood trapped inside the tissue and maintaining an erection.

They are reportedly still popular in certain corners of the world. So if you’re into that kind of stuff, you can still buy them online for the low price of $21, while stocks last.

The Legend Of Cleopatra’s Vibrator

The story goes that Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, was behind the world’s first vibrator by filling a papyrus box or hollowed out vegetable with angry bees and then capping it.

There’s little evidence to back this up, however. Most references to the bee box trail back to a 1992 book by sexologist Brenda Love, with no indication of the story’s origin. 

Japanese Erotica

Shunga was a genre of sex-obsessed Japanese woodblock prints popular from the 17th century to the 20th century. Hokusai, the artist behind the prolific Great Wave off Kanagawa print, was a proud proprietor of the genre. Frequently bizarre and humorous, they feature pretty much every sexual act you can imagine, from graphic orgies to octopus beastiality.

One scene, featured in the Eiri's series Models of Calligraphy, shows two naked women applying lubricant to a massive black strap-on dildo, or what they called a harigata. If artwork is anything to go by, harigata were regularly used by couples.

There are also examples of carved ivory or wooden harigata (image below) that slid on top of the penis, effectively giving the impression that the penis is bigger and harder than it actually is.

Wellcome Collection



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