The History of Sex Toys

What's the first feeling you have in your body when you think of purchasing a sex toy?

For some it’s a tightness in the chest of fear and shame for others it’s butterflies of excitement and possibilities in the belly.

It’s a very personal experience for everyone and I’m thrilled by the societal shift we have seen and are continuing to experience as we move through breaking stigmas and bring sex positivity into the light. Whilst many of us are reaping the benefits of this progressive way of interacting with sex toys it’s important to reflect that it hasn’t always been the way. Humans have a pretty wild relationship to sex and pleasure.

It’s interesting to note that sex toys are not new.

They have been around for over 2000 years. In China they had butt plugs and dildos made out of metal. In  Greece they made phallic shaped bread to resemble a penis, this was used by both men and women as a sexual aid… a biodegradable sexual aid.. Greta Thunberg would have been proud.

What I love about folks back then is in those days they didn't identify as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual — they just indulged whatever pleasure they fancied. A lesson we could weave into our modern day life. 

Unfortunately as we wound our way into the fifties and through to the eighties sex toys were very taboo and people who indulged in them were judged. It was so taboo infact that sex toys have been marketed and sold as other names instead of exactly what it is. The classic is a “ massager” and look they're not wrong it's definitely massaging something…

The Hitachi Magic Wand was a “gadget” from Japan that became known as the "Cadillac of Vibrators." It was marketed as a massager, but with its long handle and powerful vibrating head, it didn't take long for American sex educator Betty Dodson to claim it as a sex toy. Betty was a pioneer in the pleasure field and would hold group masturbation classes with magic wands to teach women how to orgasm.

The issue is when we don’t name things as what they really are we perpetuate a cycle of shame and secrecy. This applies to genitals, emotions and sex toys. Yes Buying sex toys can feel uncomfortable but we have to question why, is it because of our social conditioning?, Is it because we have been taught to think they're for the lonely or sexually desperate? Television has told us that vibrators are only for single women. Loving couples shouldn’t need anything but eachother, and men who explore with sex toys are a bit strange. There's been brightly lit stores with mannequins wearing fluffy bikinis in the windows and if you are brave enough to go in there is an overwhelming amount of products to wade through. For first time buyers this is daunting to say the least, especially once you find yourself face to face with a 15 inch veiny dildo. Now I don’t want to yuck someones yum but there has to be a better way for newbies to dip their toe into the sexual playground.


It is time to normalise sex toys and sexual enhancers in a healthy way.


We need education about what makes our own bodies tick and then knowledge around what products can meet those needs. I guess this is why I get super excited when something like Hello Lover comes along with a flirty, classy, non apologetic way to make shopping for products to heighten your sex life that much more enjoyable… some may even say, pleasurable. 

Morgan Penn | Somatic Sexologist

Morgan is a certified Somatic Sexologist, Pleasure Advocate, Sex Educator and co-host of the award winning podcast The Trainee Sexologist.

Instagram @morganthesexologist
Podcast The Trainee Sexologist