Sex toys: a 30,000-year-old key to confidence in the bedroom

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Photo: Lovehoney

Have you ever had someone find your little vibrating friend and been absolutely mortified? It’s about time we stop worrying about our battery-operated buds because newsflash, just about everyone jerks off.

While we are certainly living in a progressive time and becoming more enlightened every decade, it’s not uncommon for people to still live with shame around their feelings about or interests in sex. We, along with the Sexual Happiness People at Lovehoney, are here to change that and normalise these conversations.

Every other celebrity or Instagram influencer would have you believe that we are all confident and enthusiastic about the topic, but in reality, so many of us are still learning to be comfortable with what has been deemed a taboo subject for so long.

For many adults, expressing their sexuality and communicating about sex effectively can be difficult. People who are lucky enough to have had highly supportive and emotionally evolved early environments may not find it so tough.

As it turns out, leaving your vibrator out for the kids to see may actually foster a better relationship around sex without shame.

Orgasms truly are a beautiful and beneficial part of life. They can increase circulation, improve your heart health, and even alleviate anxiety and pain. Sexologist, scientist, and ambassador to sexual happiness brand Lovehoney, Chantelle Otten has the hookup on just how important orgasms are:

“Orgasm releases a bunch of feel-good endorphins that help us sleep better, which in turn strengthens our immune system, sharpen our cognition and lower our stress levels”

Sex toys have been a part of the sex zeitgeist for decades and have helped so many become more open about their sex life. Who can forget when Sex and the City famously featured the Rabbit vibrator, creating a buzz among women everywhere who, all of a sudden, felt the confidence to strut into a sex shop and take control of their self-pleasure.

Otten, who is the director of the largest psycho-sexology practice in Australia, describes sex toys as “extension of your sexual self” that can be used to spice up your solo or partnered play.

“Sex toys are magical, they are a gift from the sex gods. Apart from giving you pleasure whenever you want without asking for anything in return, they also have other benefits. They are great for your self-confidence as you start to learn more about your body and the areas that feel amazing. They can help you explore different sensations that you haven’t explored before.”

“They can improve intimacy with your partner by bringing back the spark and can also help with communication, as you have to tell each other what feels good, and where to place the toy.”

Even though many are blessed with this kind of care-free attitude, there is still a strong stigma around the purchase and use of sex toys. Cam Faser is a certified professional sex coach, sexologist, councillor, and tantric yoga teacher. But even with that resumé, Cam acknowledges there’s a particular stigma around sex toys developed for men, especially masturbation sleeves and penis strokers.

“I think this stems from the way these toys have historically been marketed, with lewd packaging and messaging that perpetuates oversimplified stereotypes about male sexuality.” 

 

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Bryony Cole, a world-leading expert on sex tech, agrees.

“So much of the socialisation of men reinforces that exploring your body outside your genitals makes you strange, or that using a toy makes you a creep”, she shared.

“We should be aiming to examine the male pleasure conversation with the same thoughtfulness as women. Where do you feel pleasure? How can you explore more sensation when you touch yourself in other areas? Instead of shutting down the conversation we need to be opening it up.”

While we may not yet have the male equivalent of Carrie Bradshaw to tell the world that it’s cool to wear a cock ring, having companies like Lovehoney creating approachable sex toys for men is helping to reduce the stigma.

As a part of Fraser’s work, he helps men enjoy sexual experiences free of anxiety or shame. So, we asked him what some of the best ways to push through those barriers were.

“A common shame that men speak to me about is the feeling that they’re somehow less of a man if they use sex toys. For example, they may feel shame if they use a toy when masturbating because of the perception that they cannot find a real partner.”

“One strategy to push through this is to invest in a toy and use it intentionally to bring up those feelings of shame with full awareness so that you can work through them, using pleasure to shift those feelings.”

Sex has arguably run the world since the dawn of time, so it’s hardly surprising that sex toys have been around helping humans ‘get there’ for at least 30,000 years. The first-ever sex toy was made of solid stone, found in southwest Germany. And if that doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, you’re certainly not the only ones who are glad the industry has come a long way since then!

“I wouldn’t want to be using a stone dildo. Or wood for that matter… what if there is a splinter in your coochie?”, Otten said with a laugh.

Who knows what other contraptions our ancestors were putting inside themselves, or putting themselves inside, for a little bit of fun? It wasn’t until the famously tantalising times of ancient Greece that the use of dildos was formally documented in art and literature.

A third century BC text by Herodas documents a conversation between two women about what was then known as the ‘olisbos’:

“The men certainly have no rams like those… And that’s not all: their smoothness – a dream; and the stitches, of down, not of thread! Hunt as you might, you could not find another cobbler so kindly disposed towards women.”

It seems that a sex toy rumour that still floats around to this day – that toys are seen as a replacement for a partner – started a long time ago. But Otten affirms “[this is] not true. They don’t kiss you and hold you at night.”

By the turn of the 20th century, there were more than 20 vibrator models available due to the high demand from medical professionals devoted to curing women of hysteria. You heard right, hysteria – which was once thought of as a womb disease to be treated with ‘pelvic massages’. The epidemic flooding of actual operating theatres caused the production of a huge variety of pleasure companions, running on electricity, batteries, foot-power, or water-power.

So if you ever feel overwhelmed with the vast variety of contemporary toys to choose from, or you are wondering who to thank for having something for everyone when you’re shopping, just remember those good doctors with sore arms trying to cure women of irritability in the 1900s.

 

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Photo: Lovehoney

Eventually in 1952, the American Medical Association finally declared that hysteria was, in fact, not an ailment. But there are still many countries that condemn sexuality and sex toys.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, Maldives and even Thailand, with its booming sex tourism industry, all prohibit sex toys from being brought into their countries.

Funnily enough, Texas has one of the most unusual laws where a person cannot possess or promote the use of six or more dildos. Five though? Go nuts. While the law was never formally repealed, in 2008 a US District Judge released a report declaring it to be “facially unconstitutional and unenforceable“.

In Alabama, the Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act prohibits the sale of sex toys, however residents can legally own sex toys and may buy them if they have a “bona fide medical purpose”. So if you’re living in the state, you might find yourself advocating that hysteria is actually a terrible sickness that must be dealt with. You know, to get your rocks off.

We are lucky in Australia to be able to buy and own as many pleasure pals as we please – even more than six, if you roll that way.

Experts say that using a toy for self-pleasure as a developing teen is an excellent way to explore one’s sexuality safely and reduce shame around the subject. And as the sexual conversation around us broadens, so too do the developments of sex toy engineering.

Since releasing her top-rated podcast Future of Sex, Lovehoney Ambassador Bryony Cole has toured stages around the world to discuss trends in the sex tech industry. When we think of sex tech and the sex toys of the future, VR and robotic sex dolls seem to be the first things that come to mind.

But Bryony thinks that what’s around the corner for sex toys is a little more simple than that.

“Expect to see quieter toys designed with more recycled materials such as ocean plastics, vegan leathers, soy-based inks, and aluminium. In terms of their technical capabilities the biggest barrier at the moment isn’t something as wild as incorporating VR or using artificial intelligence, it’s a much simpler development: charging capabilities.”

“In the near future we will be able to use charging pads, as we do for our smartphones, to charge our toys. This will be a welcome replacement of the current usb pins and cords.”

It’s probably for the best that the toys aren’t going to fly off in a drone just yet, as people are still getting comfortable with them. That said, as technically wonderful as toys are becoming, some users have found that using a sex toy is the only way they are able to have an orgasm, while others are still a little scared off even trying.

“There is no need to rush toward teledildonics or anything with too many technology bells and whistles. In fact, it’s much more exciting to work your way up incrementally to more sophisticated toys and savour the journey,” Cole stated before explaining how toys are designed to help you get to a place of pleasure – there’s no need to be intimidated by them.

Sex toys are also helping people feel more included in the sexual space. As toys are being developed to look less and less like human genitals, it seems in 20 year’s time they’ll be completely unrecognisable. Sex toys can also be helpful to people with different levels of ability. 

Lovehoney’s Cam Faser also outlined how sex toys can benefit someone living with a handicap.

“For people that experience pain, either chronic or acute, orgasms can help relieve some of this pain temporarily. For people with erectile dysfunction, perhaps due to prostatectomy, some toys can help with getting and maintaining an erection.”

Today, sex toys are a multi-billion-dollar market that’s continuing to grow and remains accessible from nearly anywhere thanks to online sex shops. Though it is still perfectly normal not to be as sex-savvy and self-assured as some of the faces we see promoting sex positivity, it’s exciting to know that the future is happy, healthy. and horny!

“The fact that fashion labels and beauty brands are developing sex toy ranges and partnering with big sexual wellness brands like Lovehoney gives me hope that these toys will just be included as part of our health and wellness regime”, Otten shared.

“I hope that this ‘shame’ is taken away around sexuality and I do believe that we will have a more sex-positive future ahead of us.”