The origins of many adult sex toys are lost in the mists of time. Was the first ever dildo a conveniently shaped rock from a river bank, or perhaps a piece of carved wood?
Was the first ever blindfold intended for what we would now call fetish play, or was it for something else entirely? And if the latter, when was it first used as the adult sex toy that remains its most popular use today? For that matter, when did humans first discover that slings could be used for sex? And surely the artificial vagina, in its earliest forms, must be one of the very oldest of all adult sex toys?
Although not strictly speaking an adult sex toy, the condom is one of the oldest inventions of this kind, dating back at least 400 years, and possibly much further, although the materials they are made from have changed greatly over the centuries.
A surprising number of adult sex toys have their origins in medical equipment. Cock rings, for example, most likely began their history in this fashion, while personal lubricants of the type now used for sex play are still in use today in assorted medical applications. Rather more startling is the fact that so did vibrators.
The first ever electric vibrators date from the nineteenth century. They were invented by one Kelsey Stinner in the 1880s, and prescribed as a treatments for 'female hysteria' or 'congestion of the genitalia.' In a sense, they were little more than aids to what was not recognised at the time as a form of masturbation to orgasm (or 'hysterical paroxysm' as it was then known – the female orgasm was not yet believed to exist by any doctor of the day. Coincidentally, all these doctors were men.)
The electrical vibrator was first patented in 1902 by an American company, Hamilton Beach (which means that it comes fifth after the sewing machine, fan, kettle and toaster in being electrified), who began selling them retail.
They were also sold in many magazines over the next twenty years – by which time their sexual function had become too well known to permit them to be sold so publicly.
While it's obvious that a lot of BDSM sex toys and accessories have their origins in the application of rather less friendly tortures – whips in particular, but also nipple clamps and handcuffs – it's an open question just where certain other toys got their start. Where did Ben Wa Balls come from, for example? And when did humans first start making sex dolls?
Even more interesting than the past of adult sex toys is their future – advances in nearly any science could lead to breakthroughs in the technology of the adult sex toy, from chemists discovering new substances to advances in virtual reality to the inevitably invention of robotic sex dolls. The future of the adult sex toy looks bright!