Was Cleopatra the Inventor of the World’s First Vibrator?

Image Credit OpenClipart-Vectors / Pixabay

Some say that Queen Cleopatra was the inventor of the world’s very first vibrator. The legend goes that she took a gourd, or in some retellings a papyrus box, and hollowed it out. She then filled the container with live honey bees to create her very own pleasure machine. But how accurate is this tale? Can we believe that no one had used sex toys until 54 BCE?

Historians describe Cleopatra as a powerfully, even dangerously sexual woman. The Greeks called her “Meriochane,” which means “she who gapes wide for 10,000 men.” This Egyptian seductress was known to have multi-day orgies regularly, and it was no secret that she and Julius Caesar were unfaithful to one another.

Cleopatra does appear to have had her fair share of carnal needs. Such needs could indeed have led her to try to create a method for pleasuring herself. Thanks to modern scientific advances, we know that honeybees flap their wings at rates as high as 230 times per second. Could that have created enough vibration? After much research, it seems highly unlikely, and this story is now widely understood to be a myth.

A Short History of Sex Toys

In reality, humans have been using sexual aids for more than 30,000 years. Evidence has shown there were even prehistoric sex toys! Women as early as 3100 BCE constructed multipurpose phallic tools that both helped with flint chipping and more personal needs. They were made of polished siltstone, a chalk-like rock.

Well after Cleopatra’s time, between 500 and 1500 BCE, medieval societies used a plant called the “Cantonese groin,” a phallic plant that grew and hardened when placed in hot water or….  (you guessed it). In the 1400s CE, during the Renaissance, Italians made “dilettos” out of leather, stone, ivory, or wood. Eighteenth and nineteenth century French and Spanish sailors created “ladies of the journey;” rubber sleeves they could use to masturbate while on long journeys.

The 1800s ushered in an era where medicine and sex toys crossed paths. Orgasms were used to treat women for hysteria, especially in England and the United States. Based on the Greek word “hysterika,” meaning uterus, women were diagnosed as hysterical due to symptoms of physical and mental illness. Treatments included all sorts of contraptions designed to bring  females to orgasm, in order to spare physicians the time needed to manually stimulate patients. This even included steam-powered vibrators, most notably “The Manipulator” in 1891.

By 1890, sex toy use shifted from the doctors office to the home. This brought about new toys, like the first battery-powered bullet-style vibrator, made and sold by Sears. In the early 1900s, sex toys were often marketed as solutions for beauty and weight loss. In 1906, one of the craziest ideas came to market; the Pneumatic Detwiller, a gas-powered vibrator. It was quickly taken out of circulation, due to its propensity for exploding.

In World War II, American soldiers stationed in Japan learned of many toys, including the still well-known Hitachi Magic Wand (now known as the Magic Wand Original). In Europe, Nazi medical staff allegedly designed the first inflatable sex doll. It is said to have been designed to protect soldiers from disease, but there is a theory the whole sex doll story is a hoax that was designed to make the Nazis look bad.

In the 1970s, a man with a disability, G.I. Duncan, created the first silicone dildo as a gift for his wife, whom he could noo longer please, intimately.  The 1980s and 1990s saw an influx of new toys. Rabbits began appearing during the 1990s, as an answer to Japan’s indecency laws. In Japan, no toy could realistically resemble human parts and be legally sold, so faces were put on the heads to look like rabbits and remain legal.

All kinds of sex toys are available now. There are obscure ones like the $19,000 Courtesan whip made of real human hair, the Vajankle for foot fetishists, and even a dildo urn to keep your deceased lover with you, always. Don’t forget the Lelo LUXE line of toys, made of 24 karat gold. There is even a prototype for a $1 million dildo by Australian jeweler, Colin Burn, that is pure platinum with 70 karats of white and rare pink diamonds, blue sapphire, and freshwater and South Sea pearls. It is called the Pearl Royale and is stunning.

While Cleopatra may not be the “Inventor of the Vibrator,” she still holds an important place in the history of sexuality and was foundational in a movement towards sexual freedom for all.

Sources: