anal sex Tag Archive

The Birth of the Butt Plug

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Humans have been carving and using many different devices for pleasure since the beginning of time. We not only learned how to use tools to create shelter, clothing, works of art, and weapons as we evolved but used those tools to make sex toys. The dildo is as old as, well, dirt but I was surprised to find that other sex toys weren’t fully fleshed out until the 19th century. One such item is the butt plug.

I was hard pressed to find much evidence of butt plugs before the 1800s. I’m surprised because I can’t imagine the concept of toys for anal play just sprung into someone’s mind a little over a century ago. Anal pleasure seems to have been limited to manual, genital, and dildo penetration. A flanged base was nowhere to be seen as far as I could tell. The only prehistory I could find was the practice of “Figging” which is the practice of peeling ginger into a butt plug shape then inserted vaginally or anally. Figging was a form of punishment or torture. Today it is used in consensual BDSM play.

Just to be clear, a butt plug is a device that has a cone shaped or anatomically correct shaped end that is inserted into the anus. It has a flanged base to keep it from slipping further inside thus rendering it irretrievable by any means not requiring a trip to the emergency room. The area between the flanged base and the central part of the plug curves in sharply to prevent the butt plug from slipping out. A butt plug is different than an anal plug for medical use. A medical anal plug does not have a cone shape but a disc or plug shape to prevent fecal incontinence. A butt plug can be worn for added pleasure during sex, during masturbation or even worn during the course of the day for continual sexual stimulation. Modern butt plugs vary in width, length, and shape. They also come in a rainbow of colors and a variety of materials. But where are the butt plugs of the past?

The earliest example of a butt plug I could find were rectal dilators used to help with constipation and hemorrhoids, also known as piles. The most famous dilators were a set sold as Dr. Young’s Ideal Rectal Dilators from 1893 to 1940. Dr. Frank E. Young of Canton, Ohio patented his rectal dilators in 1892. Advertisement for Dr. Young’s patented rectal dilators can be seen by 1893. The package includes several dilators of increasing sizes in a somewhat familiar butt plug shape of today; olive-shaped tip with a straight shaft and flanged end. They were originally made of rubber, and the instructions suggested they be used with either Dr. Young’s Piloment lubrication or vaseline. One would gradually insert the dilator then as one adjusted to the size, would move up to the bigger size. The dilator relaxed and stretched the rectum to either relieve constipation or to allow hemorrhoids to heal. This treatment is still used today. One surprising recommendation for use back in the late 19th century was to prevent or treat insanity. Thankfully something the dilators are not used for today.

Dr. Young was not the only person to recommend the use of rectal dilators. There were others who came up with their own versions.

George Starr White used a method he called The Finer Forces of Nature to “… diagnose and treat all manner of unhealth.” He started his research on his particular form of medical treatments as early as 1881. One of the devices he sold was the Valens Bio-Dynamo Prostatic and Rectal Normalizer around 1928. White wrote many books about his cures and methods of diagnosis, many of which rely on natural remedies. 1931. His theories about chromotherapy and “The Golden Planet” of his true origin, remind me of an early L. Ron Hubbard. The Federal Trade Commission forced him to discontinue advertising his prostate treatment in 1931.

The Recto Rotor looks longer than most of the rectal dilators I’ve seen but was marketed for the same conditions; piles, constipation, and prostate trouble. Its extended length gave it access to the prostate, and it bills itself as “… the only device that reaches the Vital Spot effectively.” This product may be trying to do too many things at once since it also has vent holes to apply lubrication, or as the ad description says, “… through which the undulant inserted in the chamber below may be forced out by turning the knurled cap.” Everything about the Recto Rotor makes Young’s dilators look tame. The “knurled cap” doesn’t look like it’s flanged in any way so I can’t tell if this is supposed to be left in or just held by the user.

Some products were variations on Dr. Young’s rectal dilators such as Whitehead’s Dilator from the 1870’s and Thebaud’s sphincter-ani dilator from the 1880’s. Curvlite made glass rectal dilators and were around until about 1950’s. These look a bit more like the spawn of a standard butt plug and a chandelier light bulb than the straight-sided bulb tipped Dr. Young version. The bulbous main body of the plug has an extension at the tip that makes it look a bit gentler than Young’s. Just like Young’s dilators, these come in various widths so you can “gradually” increase the girth. I saw a set similar to the Curvilite glass set but made out of bakelite. It was on an online auction site, so there wasn’t much info but they seemed to have many early 20th to mid-century dilators mostly culled from eBay. I even found a company called Klystra (an enema supply company) that had a self-proclaimed takeoff on Young’s dilators complete with replica packaging. Unfortunately, Klystra has gone out of business so you can’t actually order one.

I found only one device that had a unique shape. The box is labeled The Talisman and has an entirely different shape that the ones I previously mentioned. It has a curved shape before ending at the olive-shaped tip. The auction house that was advertising it labeled it as a 19th-century medical vulcanite rectal dilator but the narrow shaft and curved angle looks more like it’s intent is to put pressure on the prostate. It looks more built for pleasure than for medical purposes, but since companies couldn’t advertise their products as pleasurable until relatively recently, we may never know the creators intent. It’s difficult to determine when these dilators turned from medicinal to pleasurable. While I’m sure someone had to look at them and think “oooh, that looks like fun,” no one was going to put that publicly in a catalog or advertisement for quite some time.

There had to be someone to who sold butt plugs for pleasure, but I have yet to find who that is. The first official brick and mortar sex shop, Beate Uhse’s Specialty Store for Marital Hygiene, was opened up in Germany in the 1960’s. Before that, Beate sold her products along with contraception advice through a catalog. I’m hoping to find some surviving examples of early catalogs like Beate Uhse’s to the first distributor. I look forward to having more info for the next Anal August

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Greeks Bearing Gifts: Anal Sex in Ancient Greece

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When I was a teenager, I remember going to my dance teacher’s house to pick up some items we needed for an upcoming recital. While we were gabbing and getting things ready, she made a joke about her soon to be husband being Greek. She alluded that the Greek were into “that stuff” but she hoped that didn’t suddenly become a thing for him after they were married. I laughed and nodded but inside my head I was trying to figure out what she was talking about. I was a somewhat worldly teenager. Well, worldly in knowledge, not deeds. I may not have done everything I knew about, but I knew far more about sex than most of my friends did. Thankfully another girl with us just came out and said, “What stuff?” prompting a “doin’ it in the butt” whispered explanation.

Ah, “That stuff” was “Butt stuff.” My teenage brain wondered, “Were the Greeks really known for that?”

Over the years the idea of “Greek Love” or “Greek Style” has been mostly a punchline, and in truth, something that is rarely ever mentioned much less joked about. I forgot about it until I was doing research on anal sex and it popped up in a few places. It’s not entirely an urban myth but it’s also not a proven fact. It seems to stem from the oft-confused knowledge we have about Grecian attitudes about sex. Did they prefer anal sex as much as people think they did? Were the ancient Greeks more accepting of male on male sex? Yes, and no, and maybe. When you delve deeper into the history of Ancient Greece you get a less than clear picture. There is little substantial written evidence of a proclivity towards anal sex, but there is a fair bit of it in the art. Vase paintings make it seem as though it was as common as vaginal sex but it may not be representing exactly what was preferred or even acceptable.

Things we do know about the ancient Greeks are that women had no rights, were not allowed to be educated, and their only purpose was to procreate. Men had all the rights and power in their society. Men also had very close relationships with other men. Some writings even suggest that men preferred the company of other men rather than with women. Wives were poorly educated and considered property, only limited time was spent with them. Well, unless the woman was a prostitute. Apparently, prostitutes were a short step higher in society than a wife and had considerably more influence and power. Girls were married off early in exchange for a dowry. They spent their lives taking care of the household and having children. Men only had other men as their intellectual equals so I can see why they preferred same sex company. Some Greek men had very close and loving relationships with other men, but the more common occurrence was a close relationship with a young man or boy. And here the waters get murky again.

Here’s the thing. Sex between grown men was not acceptable mainly because it “feminized” the recipient. It was shameful to be feminized in a society that thought of women as lowly property. Most likely for that reason it was considered acceptable to have a relationship with a young man between the age of consent, about 14-16, the age girls were expected to marry. Once you were fully matured and could grow a full beard, you were expected to get married and start a family of your own. Pedastery, a sexual relationship between older (erastes) and younger males (eromenos) or more accurately the Greek term Paiderastia, is thought to have been common in Greek society. Relationships with adolescent boys seemed to be the thing with Grecian wives often playing second fiddle to their husband’s young male lover. While it’s safe to say that anal sex was probably happening somewhere in these same-sex relationships, it is thought that most of these were sexual but not in a penetrative way. Intercrural sex, where the penis to put between the receiver’s thighs, may have been more popular as anal sex was considered to be demeaning to the receiver. Some relationships may not have been sexual at all but more of an intimate friendship or mentoring a young man as he grows to adulthood.

Greek Love really isn’t shorthand for being into anal sex since even the Greeks were either not very interested in it or where secretive about it due to the ancient populace’s worry that it might turn a young man into a woman. Although the concept of sexuality being separated into hetero and homosexuality was not prevalent, one did not need to have a preference for a single sex. The lowly state of the female in Greek society meant the penetrative anal sex was more likely in heterosexual relationships or only with someone equally low rank like a slave. It may have even been an effective form of birth control. With aristocratic young Grecian men leaving home for military or athletic training at the same age as women were going off with their much older husbands in arranged marriages, the relationship between the young man and his older mentor had a less sordid connotation.

This practice was also found in ancient Crete and Sparta, often associated with military training and the bond of comrades in arms. It existed in ancient Rome but usually limited to a nonsexual mentorship with Roman youth since sex with them was not permitted, that was only appropriate with slaves or those who were not Roman citizens. The depiction of same-sex older men and youths in various ranges of intimacy can be found in ancient art. It also exists in Greek myths with stories like Ganymede who was abducted by Zeus to be the cupbearer of the gods. It’s thought that Zeus could not resist Ganymede’s beauty so he made him immortal and placed him by his side on Mt. Olympus. Hera may have been none too pleased by this competition for Zeus’ affection. There is even mention in Greek literature by writers such as Plato and Socrates.

We have been making assumptions when referring to “Greek Love” as a term for anal sex. It is more akin to a bromance than butt stuff when you look further into the culture and practices of ancient Greek society.

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