Nov 142002
Authors: Ryan Owens

When most people hear “sex toy,” they typically think of something pornographic or taboo.

But let’s face it – people have been having sex for thousands of years, otherwise none of us would be here. It should come as no surprise, then, that sex toys have been around for just about as long.

“O” my

It’s no secret that for women, that it takes more than a great-smelling shampoo to achieve female orgasm. While foreplay and intercourse can be highly stimulating and pleasurable for most women, it doesn’t always lead to an orgasm.

Erotic toys, such as dildos and vibrators, can be a healthy, sexy way to add a little spice to you and your partner’s life, and are a great way to learn how to help your partner achieve the big “O.”

Those Crafty Greeks

While historians can’t say who exactly invented the dildo, the phony phallus earned its popularity in the ancient Greek city Miletus (on the west coast of what is now Turkey).

Traders of the day sold what they called olisbos throughout the land.

Fashioned from wood or leather and requiring “liberal” lubrication of olive oil (functional and flavorful), these early-day pleasure sticks were hardly female-friendly.

Modern dildos, molded from rubber or latex, did not begin appearing in the market until the mid-19th century.

While women, men and couples alike partake in the use of dildos in modern times for intimate pleasures, they were often the play friends of lovelorn women in the early ages of their existence.

The term “dildo” is thought to have come from the Italian diletto – to delight.

It’s all paroxysmal to me

While the evidence for the original intent of dildos is pretty “firm,” vibrators occupy their own little place in erotic history.

The first vibrators, dating back to around 130 years ago, were used by doctors to treat what they called “female hysteria” (hysteria – Greek for “suffering uterus”).

The symptoms of this interesting condition included anxiety, irritability, sexual fantasies, pelvic heaviness and excessive vaginal lubrication.

Fortunately for these suffering women, doctors rushed to their rescue, relieving symptoms by massaging their patient’s vaginal lips to the point of “paroxysm” (otherwise known as orgasm).

As far back as the 1860s, health spas offered other “stimulating” relief such as water-jet massage and steam-powered vibrators (four D batteries seems a bit weak in comparison now, doesn’t it?).

Vibrators, for a great period of history, remained cloaked as a medical tool used only by doctors.

By 1918, however, even Sears Roebuck was selling vibrators through their catalogs: “a very satisfactory … aid every woman appreciates,” the catalog boasted.

A magazine ad, published in 1921, even encouraged men to buy vibrators for presents, to keep women “free from the scourge of hysteria.”

Why all the buzz?

With so much history behind dildos and vibrators, why have they become so taboo and underground in recent decades?

The answer likely lies in early pornography. As dildos and vibrators began to appear in erotic films in the 1920s, their social veil of secrecy ended.

As a result of this, advertisers discontinued magazine advertisement of vibrators by the 1930s.

Ryan Owens is a junior technical journalism major, and welcomes your questions, comments, requests for dates, and hate mail to:

Questions or comments may be reprinted anonymously unless otherwise requested.

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