Pretty Penetrations: How the Styles of Sex Toys Have Changed

Sex toys have come a long way—and that’s an understatement. Can you believe that once upon a time, sex toys were made with men in mind? As you’ll see, they weren’t marketed to women until the late 1900s. Let’s take a look at where we started to gauge how far we’ve come.

Treating Hysteria

Rumors persist that, in the late 1800s, Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville came up with an electric-powered vibrator that was used to treat women for hysteria. While it’s true that Dr. Granville invented a vibrator, and while it’s also true that doctors in the United States and in France made use of the “Manipulator” — a vibrating device powered by steam — no evidence exists to suggest that any doctors ever used these tools to masturbate hysterical women. Pop culture still clings to the idea. See the movie “Hysteria” for proof, or read “The Road to Wellville.” What we do know, however, is that electric or steam-powered, these inventions forged the way for modern adult toys.

What’s odd is that Granville’s invention was used primarily for men. It was used to treat issues such as constipation, headaches, indigestion, irritability, and general pain. Over time, it was even used to help men with sexual dysfunction.

A Penetrative Panacea

By the 1900s, vibrators had undergone a bit of rebranding. That is to say, after the American Medical Association decried early vibrators as delusional, basically calling them scams, inventors, manufacturers, and makers of vibrators flipped the switch. They advertised their products publicly but claimed that they were “home appliances” that could be enjoyed by women and men. Their ads were somewhat cheeky. In addition to claiming that vibrators were capable of curing malaria, wrinkles, and a host of other problems, they slyly touted their ability to please buyers, especially women, sexually. That was a bold choice since, at the time, masturbation was seen as evil and shameful.

Great to Be Alive

Around the 1920s, vibe makers changed the game again. Where before, men were primarily targeted, now women were the marketable audience. The Polar Cub was considered a beauty product that could restore youthful beauty and vitality to a woman’s face … and beyond. The toy resembled a beauty buffer that could polish the face. It was a hand-held device that looked a bit like a small hairdryer. It led other companies, such as Sears, to come up with a vibrator of their own.

The Magic Wand

With the sexual liberation of the 1960s and 1970s came a whole new world of vibrators. Around that time, Oster and Panasonic came up with massaging wands and “back massagers” that plugged into the wall. These powerful wands soon made way for the Hitachi Magic Wand, which is still a firm favorite.

Rabbit Rabbit

That brings us to the 1980s. During that decade, the famed rabbit vibes finally emerged. These toys were designed specifically for women, something you can easily see from the shape of the toy. A clitoral stimulator, shaped like bunny ears, worked in tandem with the vibrating shaft. Rabbit-style vibes are still popular. What do you think about the history of sex toys? Do any of these facts surprise you?

Published by Katrina Russell

Love, relationship, and sex blogger at and

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