Facts & Info

The Surprising History of Dildos

Three Dildos

The unfortunately named dildo has a long history. While we don’t know exactly why it is called “dildo,” we do know our dildo friend has been around for a long time—thousands of years!

The word may derive from bawdy nonsense rhymes like “hey diddle diddle.” Oxford Dictionary concluded this after a long quest for the origin. There was a folk song in the 1600s called “The Maids Complaint for want of a Dil Doul,” referring to a penis. There is the possibility that the word came from the Italian “diletto” meaning “delight.” And then there is an island in Canada, Dildo Island, and speculation that a phallus-shaped oar peg on rowboats was the culprit.

However it happened, perhaps the earliest use of the word “dildo” was in 1593 in the song “Merie Ballad of Nash his Dildo.” The ballad refers to a penis that works but cannot sire children.

Whatever we call it, the dildo has been a mainstay through millennia, across cultures. The dildo appears in art, in ancient Egypt and on Greek vases. And Ivory, jade, tar, bone, teeth, limestone, wood, leather, and stone dildos have been unearthed far and wide. They come from China, Germany, Japan, India, and Zanzibar.

And what were they used for? Well, d’uh.

It might seem obvious, but the question still plagues archeologists and anthropologists. The oldest dildo cache we have found goes back at least thirty thousand years, to the Upper Paleolithic times. These bâtons de commandement were elaborately carved artworks found in a cave in Germany, and go back as far as known cave paintings go.

Experts conclude these unusual objects were for straightening spears and arrows. But as they say, if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck… Prehistorian Timothy Taylor said, “Looking at the size, shape, and—some cases—explicit symbolism of the ice age batons, it seems disingenuous to avoid the most obvious and straightforward interpretation. But it has been avoided.”

Even if we discount these batons, however, the dildo is ancient history.

They were used in what is now Pakistan in 4000 B.C. for sex rituals worshipping the god Shiva. They turn up in 3000 B.C. in the art of ancient Egypt. Literature reveals the use of dildos for sexual pleasure among Chinese women in medieval times, and they are mentioned around 400 B.C. in Arisophanes’ plays. “At least they’d serve as a sort of flesh-replacement for our poor cunts…” A comedy play by Herodas is about a woman trying to find out where her girlfriend acquired a dildo.

If dildos were obviously used by women masturbating, there were also double-headed dildos in ancient lore, the world over. Two women fucking with a double feature is not new to the modern world!

Although they are universal and ancient sex toys, in many places dildos are illegal! These include the Maldives, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Vietnam, Malaysia and India. It is in fact illegal right at home, in Texas, too—but only if you own more than six.

What’s YOUR history with dildos? Please share in the comments!

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