A Good Hard Look At The History Of The Dildo

It was more than just a sex toy throughout the ages.

The dildo is not a recent invention by any stretch of the imagination. Dildo, just to be clear, comes from two Italian words: dilleto, or delight; and dilatare, or open wide—two words that aptly describe how it’s been used over the ages.

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Photo – LiveScience

The earliest example we have, if you’re counting, is a prehistoric dildo dating from 4,000-6,000 BC found in Sweden carved out of antler bone. Needless to say, dildos have been around for a very long time.

While early humans were still living in caves, crafting amateurish tools to sustain themselves, they were also carving, grinding, polishing and incising—yes, you guessed it—dildos. Some were made out of wood, others ivory, but the bulk of the ones that still exist today were hewn from stone, varying in size and shape. Some of these interesting artifacts even have piercings! These Stone Age toys were rock hard, literally.

Not all archeologists have been keen to call a dildo a dildo. Some speculate that these “Paleolithic phallic objects” were used in religious ceremonies, for decoration, or as tools (no, not tools for pleasure, the other kind). It seems kind of naïve to assume that our Stone Age predecessors weren’t as kinky as we are today and that they hadn’t intended on using their “Paleolithic phallic objects” on themselves.

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Photo – use of an oblisbos found in Greek art (deantiquahistoriam.wordpress)

The dildo, or oblisbos as the Greeks would say, experienced a kind of renaissance in ancient times. Mime VI, a short comic play by the Greek playwright Herodas is all about a girl named Metro who’s trying to find out where her close friend got her fabulous red leather oblisbos. The Greeks wrote frankly and often about all kinds of sex toys and were even convinced that their oblisbos offered a “cure” for hysteria in women, a sentiment that would carry on until the mid-twentieth century. In addition to being the first to wrap their toys in animal intestines for a more natural sensation, the Greeks were big fans of lube, and they used olive oil to get the job done.

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Photo – sickchirpse

Dildos have been used wherever people have lived, from Ancient China to Persia. If fancy stone, wood, bone, or leather implements weren’t on hand, then people made do with whatever was available to them, like gourds, unripe bananas, cucumbers—or breadsticks, in some cases.

Even during the Victorian Era, a time period that was notorious for being repressed, people were using dildos, and pretty regularly. In the Greek tradition, early-modern Westerners saw sex toys as a solution to hysteria, then a catchall medical term for symptoms as varied as anxiety, headaches, and sleeplessness in women.

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Photo – Avengers-inspired dildo and vibrator concept art (Balazs Sarmai)

In the twentieth century, the dildo has undergone countless innovations. The advent of electricity in the early days of the century was industriously applied to the sex toy category, culminating in the invention of vibrators. Gone are the wooden sex toys of old, only to be replaced by rubber, silicon, and glass models. Nowadays, they come in every shape and size, and newer models even replicate the look and feel of the real thing—a huge improvement on the sheep intestine covered leather oblisbos of ancient Greece.

There might be no better symbol of human industriousness and sexual curiosity than the dildo. It was there at the beginning of human history, and it’ll definitely be there at the end.

Written by Hugh Jasse

An eloquent soul, a lover of women, fine wine, and travel. I can often be spotted aboard a skiff in Santorini, catching rays and artfully plucking at my lute.