A 250-Year-Old Leather Sex Toy Was Discovered, Plus 4 More Ancient Sex Customs You Need To Know About

Last week, archaeologists discovered a 250-year-old sex toy in the Polish city of Gdansk after digging in an ancient latrine. The 18th century dildo, in surprisingly "excellent condition," is made of leather with a wooden tip and stuffed with bristles. After discovering several sword remnants near the phallus, archaeologists believe it was dropped in the toilet at a fencing school. Maybe it was how students chose to unwind after an especially tense fencing battle? I'm no archaeologist, just brainstorming!As one of our writers discussed, it is drastically more well-made than any modern factory-produced sex toy available at your local sex shop today. Could you imagine anything that is mass produced surviving 250 years? Perhaps this find will inspire an artisanal revolution in the industry. It will definitely inspire more sexology research about the culture that existed in Poland 250 years ago.These types of archaeological discoveries add to our growing knowledge of the historical origins of sex. It's important to remember that while some of the past consisted of frigid Victorians and oppressive Puritans, practices of sexual fluidity, openness, and exploration also existed within these societies and in other cultures and regions. In honor of this latest archaeological unearthing, let's take a look at some sexual customs from days gone by (some demonstrating open attitudes, some... not so much) :

1. Victorians thought masturbation killed.

The prudish customs of the Victorian era are no secret. The most prevalent scientific ideologies of the 19th century revolved around the deathly fear of masturbation and the dangers of sexual urges. During this time period, it was widely assumed, especially for men, that physical illnesses, mental disorders, and syphilis were all results of excessive masturbation. Even when it was obvious that there were other health factors at play, physicians were like “nah” and still placed the blame on masturbation. While doctors believed men to be dangerously and habitually “troubled by sexual feelings,” they believed the opposite to be true for women: “ ...the majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled by sexual feeling of any kind.” LOL K. Following from this, when women became sick, doctors didn't trace it to masturbation. Instead, they decided it was caused by a woman's “sexual excitation,” as a feminine constitution just wasn't equipped for such intense feelings. In other words, the thirst was too real.

Doctors sometimes treated illnesses with horrifying and inhumane punitive surgeries on the patients' genitalia, clitorodectomy and penile cauterization, to be exact. If men were lucky enough to avoid the surgery, they would be fitted with an anti-masturbation device (imagine a chastity belt for a penis) to help “cure” them of their ailments.

While the overwhelming sexual culture of the Victorian era was extremely, sometimes violently, oppressive, Deborah Lutz's book Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism explores the lesser known progressive figures of the Victorian era who enjoyed pornography and promoted open, subversive, and feminist sexuality/sexual health.

2. In Hawai'i, genitals were addressed by name with unique songs called "genital chants."

Unlike the happenings in Europe during the shameful climate of the Victorian era, in 1700s Hawai'i (also referred to as “pre-contact Hawai'i”), genitals were considered holy. When Hawai'ians covered their genitals, it was not for moralistic reasons, but for bodily protection. Nudity didn't automatically equal sexuality; the body was not inherently a sexual object. Genitals were considered to be good and worthy of respect because of their fertility and power to create life, among other things. Specifically, the sexual organs were described as being endowed with mana, or “a spiritual power.” Traditional art from the time period that depicts important gods often focuses on the holy figures' genitalia, further proving how revered the body parts were in their society. Oh, to live in a culture that doesn't teach little girls/women that their bodies are disgusting, distracting, or inherently sexual, but powerful and praiseworthy!!!In fact, genitals were so praised that they had unique names allowing them to be “addressed in song and story.” All members of Hawai'ian society, regardless of class, had a chant or mele ma'i (gifted to them during their first birthday celebration) that described their sex organs and was proudly used in public discourse. Queen Lili‘uokulani's genital chant was ‘Anapau, or Frisky, in reference to “her frolicking genitals.” YAAASS QUEEN Lili'uokulani!!!!

3. Garden salads were a hot-button issue in ancient cultures.

In ancient cultures, vegetables were believed to strongly affect sexual ability, either positively or negatively depending on the region. In ancient Greece, lettuce was believed to cause impotence (was Ron Swanson secretly Duke Silver and an ancient Greek??). But in Egypt, lettuce was thought of as a powerful aphrodisiac. When ancient Egyptians celebrated Min, the god of fertility, with festivals aka orgies, you best believe they passed out romaine for stamina like it was Gatorade. While Greeks and Romans considered lettuce harmful for the bedroom, tubers, carrots, and olive oil were the ultimate ~love potion~.

4. There were lots of vanilla h8rs in the Middle Ages.

Having sex in any position besides missionary during the Middle Ages meant that 1) you were challenging “the natural order” of male-female power dynamics and/or 2) engaging in sexual acts to achieve pleasure, and not to reproduce. GASPPP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So if you were caught being kinky, you were looking at three years' penance. Does that really surprise any of us, though?


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