Last week I received a sex toys catalogue through the post and after having not seen one in years, found the contents somewhat mind-boggling. There were things being sold that looked like they came directly from the Marvel Universe with many needing IKEA-like instructions.

What is this world coming to when something that should be relatively simple now comes with a manual? On page 5, I saw a toy for ‘the man in your life’, that struck fear in my heart. This object that was created for sexual gratification had 3 sticky out things that I couldn’t, for the life of me, work out where they were supposed to go.

I saw a toy for ‘the man in your life’, that struck fear in my heart

Technology, by the looks of things, is taking over the sex toy industry, and feeling a little out of touch, decided a catch-up was due. However, it is said that to understand where we are and where we’re heading, we must first understand where we came from. So on that note let’s take a step back in time.

The first sex toys appeared around 500 BC and were called Olisbos. The Greeks, surprise surprise, win the accolades for inventing the penis substitute that to this day is still considered an item of art.

They were made out of materials including wood, leather and stone, and hopefully came with instructions to apply lube liberally!

Wooden olisbos

Now, this isn’t to say that people were not sticking things inside themselves well before this time, but for the sake of avoiding an encyclopedic timeline, we are going to fast-forward our journey to 300AD.

Here, we find that old faithful Indian sex manual, the Kama Sutra, and an invention called a penis extender. As the name suggests, these were hollowed out pieces of leather or wood with a hole in one end to drain the man’s love juice. Looking at paintings of these instruments, I don’t know who would have suffered more, the phallically challenged male or his lover.

500 AD saw the arrival of the Ben Wa Ball, and if you don’t know what these look like, think of oversized marbles. Interestingly, they were first introduced for male pleasure during intercourse, but today are marketed primarily at women.

A few hundred years later and we had the introduction of the cock ring. They were made out of sheep eyelashes and designed to tickle the clitoris as the man did his thing.

Add another 200 years or so and we had that defining moment when following years of experimentation and adaptation, the dildo made its triumphant return.

Dildo Mk 2 could ‘comfortably’ boast of being better than its predecessor. The vulcanisation of rubber in 1844 ended the reliance on coarse natural materials such as wood and stone – much to the relief of the pleasure seekers of the day one would imagine.

The first vibrator came about shortly afterwards and was a scary looking mechanical marvel that wouldn’t have been out of place in an H.G. Wells novel. Funnily enough, it was developed by men to cure ‘hysteria’ in women. Hysteria, as then defined by a man, was actually ‘horniness’. It was believed that women were not naturally given to eroticism and therefore needed a little help.

This machine was steam driven. (Imagine a miniature locomotive with a dildo stuck to the front going in and out of your love tunnel!) Scary, but not half as scary as what was to follow with the invention of electricity.

The first electro-mechanical vibrators hit the streets in 1884 and thankfully didn’t last too long. You had to be extremely brave, extremely horny and perhaps extremely stupid to willingly try these things out!

Steam powered vibrator

It was believed that women were not naturally given to eroticism and therefore needed a little help

From 1900 modern electricity led to the popularity of the electric dildo. They were actually one of the first electrified home appliances.

The arrival of these inventions caused a degree of amazement, fear and also curiosity in the public – not too dissimilar to how I felt when I saw what was on page 5 of my sex toy catalogue.

One thing we do know for sure is that these toys will continue to evolve and to hold a special and sometimes strange place in our lives.
A wise man once said ‘As long as we have holes we will endeavour to invent contraptions that can fill them’, and it would seem that never has this saying been truer than it is today.

Once again, we find ourselves in unchartered waters with the rise of high-tech toys including sex robots powered by artificial intelligence, next-gen remote controlled toys, camera vibrators that allow you to record and share everything your vibrator sees and robotic oral sex simulators.

The mind can only wonder at what tomorrows’ sex toys will look like or be capable of. But what is clear is that as long as human beings are in existence, there will always be a host of sexual adventurers willing to go where no toy has taken them before. Any volunteers?