Become a Self-Love Scholar With Our Brief History of Masturbation
Whether you’re a bean-flicker or a bishop-basher, we can pretty much all agree that masturbation is great.
But have you ever wondered how solo play slots into the history of humankind?
From kinky cave paintings to steam-powered sybians, the history of self-love is deep, intricate, and inherently fascinating.
For example, did you know that cornflakes were invented to lower your desire to yank the crank? Or that the first dildo is almost 30,000 years old, and made of polished siltstone?
So hop on your hand-cranked time machine and come with us (pun intended) on a trip along a torrid timeline of touching yourself.
The rock-hard Stone Age
From frolicking phalluses on the walls of French caves to amorous Aboriginal couples down under, rock and cave paintings depicting sex acts of all kinds have been cropping up all across the world for almost 40 millennia.
It's up for debate among the anthropologists about whether this ancestral erotica was designed to titillate, or to celebrate fertility, but we like to think this was the earliest version of a foil-wrapped top shelf magazine.
It wasn't just the artwork, either. A 7-inch stone phallus, thought to be the world's oldest dildo, was found in a cave in Germany in 2005, and, at 28,000 years old, it could well have belonged to a young Carol Vorderman. Ahem.
Though those famous orgies may have been somewhat overplayed, there's no denying that the Classical world loved a bit of chicken-choking. According to graffiti found on the walls of Pompeii, Roman men would use their left hand to masturbate.
It wasn't just the Romans, though. The Greek philosopher, Diogenes, was once caught masturbating in the marketplace, and responded (quite brilliantly): "If only one could satisfy one's hunger by rubbing one's stomach."
On the other side of the Mediterranean, Egyptian mythology stated that the world was created when the god Atum knocked one out. Must be why the sea is salty.
Medieval menage a mois
In a time period where lectures came in Latin from a pulpit, rather than via a poorly-spelled YouTube argument, masturbation wasn't exactly encouraged. In fact, a church 'penitential' (book of punishments for sins to you and me) of the time stated that women who used dildos (or "devices or implements in the shape of the male member") would need to do penance for five years on certain holy days.
Though the Church wasn't big on male or female masturbation, some medical authorities of the time believed it was actually essential for balancing out the "seminal humours" of the body. Mind you, these were the same people who recommended a course of blood-sucking leeches every time you caught a cold.
The raunchy Renaissance
During the cultural explosion that was the Renaissance, human sexuality (and, of course, masturbation) became more and more prominent in the arts.
In the seventeenth century, following the hardships of the English Civil War and Cromwell's Interregnum, Britain let loose like an office worker at the Christmas party.
The Libertine movement celebrated all things pleasurable, particularly sex, and what resulted was perhaps the most famous poem about a sex toy: John Rochester's Signior Dildo.
It wasn't just poetry that became a vehicle for self-love, either. Tons of Renaissance paintings and sculptures, including Giorgione's The Sleeping Venus and Titian's Venus of Urhino, are commonly thought to show women masturbating.
Though the Catholic Church's stance on masturbation remained that it was a sin, artists often used it as a motif to emphasise fertility, particularly through the use of Greek and Roman myths.
For thousands of years, women who showed signs of faintness, anxiety, insomnia, sexual desire, and basically any kind of behaviour considered 'abnormal' could be diagnosed with hysteria, or 'the wandering womb'.
Starting with the Greeks, who believed that a woman's womb often went wandering around her body whenever it felt like it (and could be attracted to pleasant odours), this supposed condition was supposedly treated through regular orgasms.
Of course, because it was a 'medical condition', sometimes this 'treatment' came from the doctors themselves. They would often manually stimulate women to the point of climax as a form of relief, but in the nineteenth century, GPs with aching arms developed the first vibrators to help them out.
These early creations weren't the sleek silicone numbers we know and love today, however; they were often steam-powered, chunky bits of apparatus that wouldn't have looked out of place in Victor Frankenstein's laboratory.
By the end of the century, these massagers were appearing in advertisements alongside common household appliances such as irons and mangles.
The World Wide Wank - er, Web
During the latter part of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, attitudes to masturbation became much more relaxed and open than they had been in the previous millennium.
Arguably the biggest development in the world of wanking was, of course, the Internet. Although pornography had existed for thousands of years in the form of paintings, risqué books, and saucy lithographs, the Internet suddenly made a shed load of the stuff available to everyone longing for some alone-time inspiration.
The first pornographic website, sex.com, was founded in 1995. Now, over twenty years later, it's estimated that around 15% of content on the internet is related to pornography. Which may seem like less than you think, but when you consider that the other 85% contains everything else in the world - cat videos, tips on whittling, the life story of Isambard Kingdom Brunel - it's actually huge.
But it's not just our 'in-flight entertainment' that's become bigger and better. Over the last few decades, sex toys have become more than just rubber dildos and blow-up dolls (though there's nothing wrong with those, of course).
Now, you can use apps to control your vibrator, recreate the sheet-clenching sensations of oral sex, and even share a solo session with your favourite porn star thanks to the mammoth selection of sex toys available at Lovehoney.
Masturbation has been a vital part of human society and relationships ever since evolution gave us arms that reach our genitals - and it shows no signs of slowing. Why not check out some of our latest sex toys to see just how far things have come?
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