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History of Sex Toys

By Arush Emmanuel Michael

If you are to open up your smartphone and pull up the Amazon app, you are presented with a number of categories of products to choose from. Now if you end up looking for a vibrator you shall find results for massagers. These “massagers” are essential ‘vibrators’ to be used for sexual pleasure however are marketed as the former name. The reason why they are marketed as massagers is nothing but stigma. This stigma and shame are associated so much with sex toys that the product can’t be publicized as what it is. Even with companies like Durex taking a step forward with their modern and progressive advertisement, the community still lags behind by associating these products with everything except a genuine and natural need of an individual.

A large number of myths have always signaled that sex toys were in fact invented by Cleopatra who made an instrument with a bottle gourd and bees and then used it to derive sexual pleasure. This statement has hence been disregarded but it does make for a great story. There are no particular proofs for the existence of sex toys and vibrators till the 18th century. But it can be proved that at least in India the needs and desires of women were particularly dug and buried deep underground. The clitoris has been referred to as ‘haraam ki boti’ in certain cultures in India necessitating the removal of the same through the grievous procedure of female genital mutilation.

In the 19th century, the industrial revolution took place and led to the invention of a number of devices like the steam engine and what not. The lesser-known inventions include the ‘Manipulator’ table massager which ran on steam power and was in use in France and the United States of America as a device to derive sexual pleasure. Another invention, an electrical vibrator was invented by Dr. Granville and was used to treat headaches, constipation and pain in men. The controversy around this electrical vibrator was that it was being used for clitoral massage in order to give orgasm to hysterical women as a form of treatment; however, this was absolutely a myth. Another device referred to as ‘The Pulsocon’ was advertised as a blood circulator for medical treatment of pain but not as a device to achieve sexual stimulation. The Pulsocon became popular as it could be hand-cranked and didn’t require a power source. Therefore, it can be stated that in the 19th-century devices were present that could be used as sex toys but never were as they were strictly for medical use.

Starting from the 1900s, the development of sex toys went from nothing to the mainstream. Early in this century, vibrators and others sex toys were being advertised as for medical uses for treatment of only male impotence. Women were subdued and additional attachments resembling dildos were provided but they were to treat digestive problems. Men’s sexuality was a problem of the masses and needed to be addressed but the other sex was sidelined. On top of this inequality, numerous scams revolving around the use of these massagers and vibrators for treating each and every disease you can think of. There is no proof whatsoever that these devices were not being used by men and women to derive sexual pleasure, the only catch was that it wasn’t intended by society to be used for that purpose. Various government organizations in the developed world started cracking down on misinformation surrounding these devices and their advertisement as a cure for everything. With the prevalence of women rights’ movements and research on women’s sexuality, the world started taking steps to a more liberal society where pleasure was for both the sexes.

Late in the 20th century, the Japanese sex toy industry boomed. The various vibrators and dildos found references and advertisements in the form of pop culture references. The female orgasm was something that wasn’t to be neglected and these sex toys gave many of these women the pertinent source of sexual pleasure. Male sex toys also developed and were sold on internet platforms where one could buy sex toys in the privacy of their own home without being judged by any outside entity. Today, the sex toy industry is booming with them being sold on every major online platform. They still might not be advertised as what they actually are but still are available to each and every person.

This history of sex toys has largely been told from the point of view of the developed world. In India, women’s sexual needs take second place till today. No teenager or adult with sexual needs can actually buy a sex toy without receiving denial or a dirty gaze from their peers. The fact of the matter is vibrators can provide orgasms to many women who can’t experience orgasms with just penetration sex. With the lack of sexual education female stimulation remains hidden for many households and they remain sexually deprived. It is essential to remove the stigma and myths around sex toys so that every person in society can experience what it means to be sexually liberated.


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Mar 08, 2022


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