A definitive history of the sex toy, from the Roman era to the Hitachi Magic Wand

Sex toys have been around for thousands of years, actually (Picture: Amazon/Getty/The Vindolanda Trust)

Sex toys have been around for thousands of years, actually (Picture: Amazon/Getty/The Vindolanda Trust)

Rabbits; bullets; G-spot stimulators; air-based clitoral devices. In 2024, the sex toy industry is booming – so much so that by 2026, it’s expected to reach a global value of $52.7 billion, and a further $80.7 billion by 2030.

When it comes to appearance, sex toys can start to look dated incredibly quickly. Take, for example, the ‘Turtle and the Hare’ episode in series one of Sex And The City, where Miranda introduces her innocent friend, Charlotte, to the ways of the Rabbit vibrator.

She quickly becomes addicted and has to have it prized away from her, as she increasingly chooses self-pleasure over dating and socialising. Honestly? Mood.

But, watching the episode back now, it’s striking how different this style of sex toy looks compared to the updated models of the 2020s. And so, I couldn’t help but wonder… when did sex toys first become a thing? And how have they changed with history?

When was the first sex toy made?

As sexologist and expert at, Gigi Engle, tells, sex toys have been around pretty much ‘as long as humans have existed,’ noting that the oldest sex toy in existence is 28,000 years old, and was found in a cave in Germany.

‘While there is some debate over whether it was in fact a sex toy, it was ground down in certain areas from use and it’s not congruent with the idea of it being a pestle and mortar,’ Gigi explains. ‘People have been using sex toys of various calibre in various ways – [made of] stone, of glass, of wood, of leather – since these materials have been invented.’

In a similar vein, in 2023, historians deciphered that a wooden object uncovered at a Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall likely wasn’t a darning tool, but a 16cm phallus-shaped toy likely used for sexual pleasure.

The Hitachi Magic Wand is a timeless classic (Picture: Amazon)

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‘We know that the ancient Romans and Greeks used sexual implements – this object from Vindolanda could be an example of one,’ Dr Rob Collins, a senior lecturer in archaeology at Newcastle University, told the BBC. Notably, both ends of the object were smoother, indicating regular use.

Elsewhere, there’s the unproven rumour (which could likely be a myth, but it’s fun nonetheless) that Cleopatra used to fill a glass jar with bees for pleasure. Sex-enhancing aids are also referenced in the Kama Sutra; Ben Wa Balls (kegel balls) have historically been used in Japan, and, as explored, there have been multiple archaeological findings that suggest the Romans were just as …read more

Source:: Metro


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