For thousands of years, phallic objects have been used symbolically as a means to boost fertility and ward off evil spirits, but their use as sexual aids also has a long history. A 28,000-year-old phallus found in Germany recently, for example, is known as being the oldest 'sex toy' ever found. Phalluses made from stone, wood, leather and even camel dung have all been found during archeological excavations, or referenced throughout historical text and images.
A 7.8" long, 1.1" wide stone object was found in the Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm in the Swabian Jura. The prehistoric tool is made from 14 fragments of siltstone and dates back 28,000 years. Due to its size, experts believe it may be the earliest example of a sex aid ever found.
The term dildo was first coined around 1400 AD and originated from the Latin dilatare, which means open wide, and the Italian dileto, which translates as delight.
During excavations at a Neolithic site, Membury Rings in Dorset, England, archaeologists found various deposits of artifacts and other material, including antler, animal and human bone, flints and carved chalk.
Historical reports reference Egyptians and the Greeks using unripe bananas, gourds and even camel dung coated in resin as sexual aids. As far back as 500 BC, phalluses carved out of stone, leather, wood or even tar have been found. It was rumored that Cleopatra used a gourd filled with live bees, ostensibly, the first vibrator.
In ancient Greece, in particular, reports claim traders in the city of Miletus made and sold objects called olisbos, intended to help wives achieve sexual penetration while their husbands were away.
The Greeks and Romans were polytheists who worshiped Dionysus, god of wine and fertility, also called Bacchus or Liber. Worship of the sex god included parades through the streets, where giant phalluses were raised up. At the end of a marital fertility parade, a maiden would come forth and crown the religious phallus with a wreath of flowers.
The Greeks and Romans, both women and men, used dildos for pleasure. In Aristophanes' anti-war comedy Lysistrata, women discuss using and sharing dildos while withholding sex from their partners in an effort to stop the war. Romans are also thought to have invented double dildos for use in ceremony, or with a friend. The Greeks are responsible for the first use of leather or animal intestine to cover a carved penis, adding a more natural feel and a complexity of texture.
The Chinese were also considered great innovators in female masturbation. Back in the day, wealthy Chinese men were apt to have too many wives for them to service regularly. It was thought that providing penis substitutes would keep their wives faithful. Ancient Chinese dildos have been discovered that were cast of bronze and other metals. Some of these were hollow and allowed liquid to be released at the appropriate time.
In India and Persia, virgins were sought after, however blood from the hymen was thought to be unclean and best avoided by new husbands. Therefore, the local holy man would show up on the wedding night and use a large stone dildo to break the hymen. Sometimes this was done in the center of town, either in celebration or to confirm the virginity of the bride.
Sexual aids were also used in Renaissance Italy and were typically made of leather and used with olive oil for lubrication. High class members of society would even display their sex toys, often made from silver, gold and ivory. However, they were said to be painful to use and their popularity waned. The first dildos didn’t arrive in the UK until the 1500s.
During the Renaissance, dildos were ornate, inspired and appreciated for their artistic merit. Even as Christianity entered the scene and puritanical values gained a foothold, substitute penises were still an active industry. It was believed that "female troubles," which ranged from headaches and fatigue to irritability and depression, could be solved through inducement of hysterical paroxysm or an orgasm. Hysteria was considered a "womb problem" due to lack of sperm. Hippocrates described it as "anything that made the woman troublesome to those around her."
In the late 19th century and technology advanced, new materials were incorporated into the manufacture of dildos. Rubber was used for the first time. As engineers developed practical applications of electricity, the first vibrators came onto the scene. Purist, however, will argue that there is a big divide between a dildo and a vibrator, especially the early vibrators.
To cure "feminine hysteria" during medical appointments, doctors began helping women have orgasms in a very hands-on way. When the task became too time consuming, General Electric stepped in by making its fifth electrical home appliance. Yes, the vibrator was actually the fifth commercially available electric appliance, after the tea kettle, bread toaster, sewing machine and fan.
Electricity is not the only modern innovation in dildo technology. The introduction of silicone was a great leap forward in the functionality of dildos used for sexual stimulation. Silicone is hypoallergenic, feels more like real skin than other non-porous materials, and does not degrade when used with water-based lubricant. glass dildos are another way that form and function meet artistry. Modern tempering techniques result in blown glass that is thick and strong. Glass dildos are available in lots of different sizes in nearly infinite designs, and are also non-porous.
Physical representations of the phallus have been around for almost as long as there have been penises. Dildos are a part of human history, whether for worship, medical treatment, fun or as a sexual aid.
Bite the Fruit promotes healthy sexual and sensual exploration in all its complexities and contradictions. We bring together a diverse collection of sexual aids, adult toys and literature to entertain, educate and even challenge preconceived ideas about sex. When we can, we discover the human stories behind the charting of sexual experience. We've learned that our understanding of sexual identity is an ever evolving story throughout different cultures and time. Gathering and analyzing historical information as well as contemporary and modern toys have a profound effect in changing attitudes about the human sexual condition.