ancient sex toy collection

Sex toys: A Brief History

If you think sex toys were invented in the 20th century then think again! Below you will find a brief history of how sex toys have played a major roll in the world for centuries.


The oldest sex toy known to men is dated around 29000BC. It is a paleolithic stone phallus discovered at Hohle Fels Cave, southwestern Germany by  the archeologist Petra Kieselbach. It is speculated if it was actually used as a dildo or was more of a idol sculpture.

oldest prehistoric dildo
A paleolithic stone phallus, dated to 29,000 B.C., found in Germany.Museum Of Prehistory Blaubeuren

However its shape of a real size penis, the way it is polished and the material that it is made of(siltstone) lead the scientists to believe it was used as a sex toy. (source)


Around 500BC the now famous Ben Wall Balls came into existence in Japan. They were known as Rin no tama. In the original form there was only one ball, and it was designed to enhance a guys pleasure during intercourse.

Eventually they evolved into the familiar toy that we know today, two balls that were designed to help a women improve the strength of her pelvic floor muscles.

First appeared in the West at the end of the 16th century where they were used primarily by men, while in Thailand were being used to promote penis enlargement.(sources 1 & 2)


The first documented use of a dildo comes from Ancient Greece, where merchants sold something called an olisbos. Fashioned from stone, leather, or in some cases wood, the olisbos became a tool bought primarily by single women – or so the cultural evidence would have us believe.

Miletus, in what is now Balat, Turkey, was known as the production and distribution center of the olisbos (from the word meaning to slip or glide).

A third-century-BC text by Herodas documents a conversation between two women, Metro and Coritto.

But the things he makes, all of them, are worthy of Athena; you would believe that you could see her hand, instead of Kerdo’s. He came here with two, Metro! When I saw them, my eyes nearly popped out with desire. The men certainly have no rams like those… And that’s not all: their smoothness – a dream; and the stitches, of down, not of thread! Hunt as you might, you could not find another cobbler so kindly disposed towards women.

The olisbos is also mentioned in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, but to stop for a moment on Coritto’s comment that “The men certainly have no rams like those” reveals one of the things that would follow dildos from ancient to early modern and even modern times—male anxiety over dildos being used to replace them. This remains a near-constant anxiety until even to modern-day Texas, where it is still illegal to possess or promote the use of (six or more) dildos.


To dip even further east for a moment, there are suggestions that the first double-headed dildo for use between two women was developed in China in the 12th and 13th century, as the below was excavated—but I remain skeptical for reasons already explained above.

double headed ancient dildo


We next turn to Renaissance Italy, where olisbos became diletto, from the Italian word for delight. The first reference to the modern-day dildo originates in Pietro Aretino’s Dialogues, which is very often considered the first literary pornography and Aretino the “father” of pornography. The Dialogues revolve around the life of Nanna, who is an older courtesan agonizing over what to do with her daughter.

Even with a liberal amount of olive oil as lubricant (no joke!), the diletto was not as comfortable as today’s models. But as evidenced by today’s booming adult toy industry, dildos continued to evolve and grow in popularity.


The dildo avalanche is nearly unstoppable. In English it is first introduced by Thomas Nashe in 1592 Merrie Ballad of Nash, His Dildo also known as Choice of Valentines. The narrator of this poem is a young man who courts a prostitute on valentine’s day and finds that he is, well, not up to the task, and after a number of attempts she gets frustrated and gives up and reaches for her little glass friend.


The clockwork vibrator, or tremoussoir (Exhibit A), was invented in France in 1734 and was available from medical instrument suppliers in the American colonies by the 1750s.

The devices were expensive and thus were purchased mainly by physicians, but there was no obstacle in custom or law to their purchase by any person who could afford them.


1791 saw the publication of “Justine” by the Marquis De Sade, probably the most infamous writer in the history of French literature, who occasionally has been hailed as “the freest spirit who has ever existed.” Marquis de Sade published erotic writings that gave rise to the term sadism – enjoyment of cruelty, which first made it into a dictionary in 1834. His writing not only gave birth to the BDSM movement but popularized many of the bondage toys, such as whips, handcuffs, etc, that are familiar to use today.


When Charles Goodyear discovered by accident how to vulcanize rubber he not only revolutionized the car world but also the sex toy industry. The process of vulcanization made rubber stronger and more durable and eventually led to it being used in the production of condoms, dildos and other sex toys.


George Taylor, M.D., is credited with being the first American to create a steam and foot/hand crank device, in 1880. Taylor’s “Manipulator” simply turned a wheel, which pushed a rod that created a movement on a handle or padded surface. The patient would either hold on to the handle and receive the vibration or oscillations, or sit or stand against the padded surface to receive the movement from the machine.


Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville patented the first electromechanical vibrator; there were at least two- dozen models available to the medical profession. There were musical vibrators, counterweighted vibrators, vibratory forks, undulating wire coils called vibratiles, vibrators that hung from the ceiling, vibrators attached to tables, floor models on rollers and portable devices that fit in the palm of the hand. And you thought there were a lot of variations in today’s toys -)) In fact by the turn of the century there were complete operating theaters devoted to managing the scourge of hysteria.


Saw the advent of the motion picture and it wasn’t long before early filmmakers began producing the very first porno flicks. Some of the early films included shots of women masturbating with various sexual aids of the time, and included strap on dildos and massagers.

1900 – 1920

By the turn of the century there were more than 20 vibrator models available, running on electricity, batteries, foot-power or water-power. The prices could vary from a mere $15 to $200 for the Cadillac of the vibrators, the Chattanooga. The vibrator was the fifth household appliance to be electrified, a full 10 years before the vacuum cleaner and the iron. Most of these devices were advertised in respectable women’s magazines of the time such as Modern Priscilla, Women’s Home Companion, McClure’s, and Good Housekeeping.


1917 saw the introduction of KY Jelly. At the time it was designed to aid physicians who were performing pelvic examinations, a function it still serves to this day. However it wasn’t until 1980 that you could buy KY Jelly over the counter. Nowadays there is a veritable smorgasbord of personal lubricants on the market.


As vibrators began to appear in more and more pornographic movies of the time, it became harder and harder for manufacturers to advertise these devices as though they were simply massagers, and slowly but surely they began to disappear from the reputable magazines and mail order catalogs of the day.

With the 1930’s came the discovery of rubber latex, which is tapped from the Hevea tree. This type of rubber has the advantages of being softer, lighter, and more pliable than vulcanized rubber and eventually revolutionized condoms and diaphragms. It also led the way for the development of the still popular latex sex toys.


In 1952 the American Medical Association finally declared that hysteria was not really an ailment after all. The downside of this was, as the vibrator would no longer be seen as a medical device it could no longer hide it’s true purpose.


In 1971 Betty Dodson began to teach masturbation workshops, focusing on how to use a vibrator. Her weapons of choice back then were two electric vibes, the Prelude and the Panabrator. Nowadays Betty Dodson’s reputation and her love of the Magic Wand vibe are near legendary in the sex toy world.


In 1977, sexual therapist Joanie Blank opened the first store dedicated to vending vibrators in a women-centered, sex-positive environment, which she called “Good Vibrations.”

Late 1990s

Alabama follows Georgia’s lead and implements a law outlawing sex toys, punishable by heavy fines and even jail time. Within a few years the law was overturned, despite the state’s argument that women do not have a “fundamental or constitutional right” to items used for sexual pleasure.


Sex toys became almost acceptable or at least many of them became household names with the introduction of HBO’s™ hit series “Sex And The City”. As Carrie, Samantha, and Charlotte became the hottest property in town, so did the products they used. The Rabbit Pearl, Pyrex Glass Dildos, the magic wand vibrator and the love swing suddenly came into vogue.


In the United States it took until the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision for the ban on sex toys to be fully lifted, and in England and most European countries there was never a full legal ban on the books like there was with other items like condoms or birth control.


With the technology advance, mobile phones and apps sex toys could be controlled remotely. First via bluetooth later over the internet. The remote controlled vibrators become a norm and with the boost of the camming industry the tip controlled vibrators became popular.


Today, sex toys are a multi-billion dollar market that is accessible from nearly any place, online or off. And this market is growing from $15 billion in 2015 to $52 billion estimated in 2026.

Amie Dawson PhD

Amie is webmistress and head honcho at TheToy. She’s been married for seven years and has two kids.

For the past 10years Amie has lived the swinging lifestyle and gets to practice what she preaches at TheToy.

Sometimes technically challenged but always willing to try something new is the best way to describe Amie. Her motto in life is: “There is no such word as Can’t, take off the T and make it can.”