Sex Toys; History and Medicine

Before sex toys were used for sex, some had a medical purpose. Here are 5 sex toys created for medicine, with the less sexy histories you might not know.

The Vibrator

Let’s start with a classic sex toy: the vibrator. Until the early 20th century, women were routinely diagnosed with “hysteria,” a vaguely defined condition resembling what we today would be more likely to call “sexual frustration.” The treatment for hysteria, which doctors performed regularly for their patients, was manual genital stimulation. This treatment brought patients relief from their symptoms through “paroxysms” (we’d call those orgasms!), but it was a lot of work for the doctors. So one enterprising doctor invented the vibrator. As the device become more common, women were able to “treat”, and educate themselves, without their doctors’ help using sex toys. And now we have a nearly endless variety of vibrators and pleasure devices to choose from. The Tulip team recommends classics like the Hitachi Magic Wand for women who have difficulty achieving the “WOW!” moment of those “paroxysms.”

Medical Sex Toy Vibrator

One of the first vibrators created to treat “hysteria”

A New Wave of Prostate Massagers

Here’s a similar story. Until the 1990′s, doctors believed that massaging the prostate was beneficial for prostatitis, an inflammatory disease of the prostate. Patients suffering from this condition would visit their doctors for massage, or instruction on how to perform the massage for themselves. Of course, someone had the idea of creating a device to help. New prostate sex toys like the Aneros Eupho were designed to pivot hands-free, simply by clenching and relaxing the anal muscles. In the meantime, people were figuring two things out. The first, unfortunately, is that prostate massage doesn’t do any good for prostatitis (though it is useful for detecting prostate cancer). But the second is that these prostate massager sex toys can provide a whole lot of sexual pleasure.

Sex Toys; History and Medicine


Medical-Style Restraints

There are all sorts of things you can tie someone up with. Handcuffs are obviously borrowed from law enforcement, and rope has all kinds of other uses, but some of the restraints used in kink are based on the ones designed for medical settings. Medical restraints are used to keep patients recovering from seizures from hurting themselves, stop disoriented patients from interfering with medical apparatuses, and make sure belligerent patients can’t harm their caregivers. In kink, restraints can be used to attach someone’s limbs to a wall, a bed, or to each other. They can also just be worn as a sign of who’s in control.

Sex Toys; History and Medicine

Vintage Medical Restraint

The Original Lube

“Personal lubricants” and “surgical lubricants” are considered two different things today, but the distinction wasn’t always so clear. K-Y Jelly, for example, was introduced in 1904 as a surgical lubricant. And Johnson & Johnson continued producing both a non-sterile K-Y Jelly and a sterile version (suitable for medical use) until 2004. Even now, the difference between the two kinds of lubricants isn’t huge. A lot of it’s just different packaging and marketing. And now we have a ton of “personal lubricants” to pick from: water-based, silicone-based, hybrids, warming, all-organic, botanically-infused, vegan, flavored, silkier, sticker, clearer, thicker. Some lube combined with your favorite sex toy, can intensify pleasure quite a bit.


Slippery Stuff Lube

Robert Wartenberg’s Pinwheel

The Wartenberg pinwheel was invented as a neurological testing device. By rolling the wheel of evenly-spaced pins across a person’s skin, the neurologist can test sensitivity and nerve reactions. Because of hygienic concerns, and the creation of better tools, the Wartenberg pinwheel is only rarely used as a medical device today. But it has found a second life as a sex toy. Used gently, this toy provides an interesting, teasing sensation. With more pressure, though, this little device can really hurt. Those pointy tips can sometimes even draw blood.

Medicine & Sex & Fetish

Wartenberg Pinwheel

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