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Toying Around: A History of Adult Play

Adult sex toys, they come in all shapes and sizes: ‘Neck’ massagers, Love Beads, Love Bullets, Vibrating Eggs, Dildos, Wands, and, of course, the Rampant Rabbit.

For women, the list is as long and as varied as your imagination can stretch. Whereas men get sexual gratification alone from anything close to hand, or if they’re feeling adventurous, their left hand.

An advertisement from 1910

Sex toys are as old as sex itself. The first vibrator in Britain was used to treat women of their ‘hysteria’, but more likely to help the qualified physicians that originally gave the treatments, who complained of wrist ache and boredom. The very first stone dildos are on display in museums, and are older than most countries. As soon as homosapien men learned to use tools from stone, homosapien women were using stone tools of their own.


Nowadays the anal retentiveness of Victorian society regarding sex is slowly being forgotten, and the carefree libertarian view of sex is being remembered. The Earl of Rochester, a nobleman and courtier of King Charles the Second (Johnny Depp plays the Earl in the 2004 film The Libertine), wrote a poem titled Signior Dildo:


You’ll take him at first for no Person of Note

Because he appears in a plain Leather Coat:

But when you his virtuous Abilities know

You’ll fall down and Worship Signior Dildo.

Toyboy Warehouse history of vibrators

Despite being written in the 1600’s, the poem can still make an Ann Summers catalog owner today blush. Dildos have, are, and will be used by women, and thanks to catalogs like Ann Summers, sexual liberty for women is becoming more of a reality. Though perhaps the Earl of Rochester enjoyed too much sexual liberty, dying of venereal disease by the time he was thirty three. It’s important to have sexual freedom, but more important to have sexual restraint.


As a general rule, sex toys for women are phallic shaped and can mostly fit in any hand luggage. Sex toys for men however are less discreet, some being dolls that require inflating, perhaps the only blow job in foreplay that can cause asphyxiation. Though when an infallible doll goes down on you, you need a puncture repair kit to get it back up again.


¬†“There are¬†people who engage in relationships, even marriages, with their sex toys.”


For those men who take their toys seriously, there are full sized replicas of the female body made with fully mobile joints and silicone skin, a sexual doll six times the size of Barbie and six hundred times the price. There are some people have given up with dating and are self-confessed iDollators, people who engage in relationships, even marriages, with their sex toys. There are different strokes for different folks I guess, but I imagine the conversations of their dinner parties get rather wooden. Playing with dolls is all very well, but it makes the saying of seeing ‘women as sex objects’ rather apt, and more than uncanny.


It is entirely possible to enjoy a sex toy without putting a ring on it. Variety is the spice of life, and adding a sprinkle of chilli powder in the bedroom is sure to spice things up, but adding an entire jar can bring tears to the eyes, metaphorically. The idea that a partner is finding sexual gratification elsewhere, even by themselves, can be a blow to anyone’s ego. So be gentle when sharing your favourite toys with your partners, they may get jealous that a lump of plastic made in China is more sexually gratifying than their own lump.


“…enjoy sex properly instead of just toying around…”


Sexual gratification with sex toys can feel better than with a human partner because we know our own bodies better than anyone else. If our partners don’t know or aren’t told what our bodies desire, then we’ll go wanting in terms of gratification and go back to playing with toys instead. As long as we are honest with our sexual partners about what we want, then we can begin to enjoy sex properly instead of just toying around.

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