Historians don't know who invented the dildo, but its popularity is due to the ancient Greek port city, Miletus. Miletan traders sold olisbos /dildos/ around the Mediterranean. Today's dildos are often enjoyed by couples, but in ancient Greece, they were sexual refuges for lonely ladies. In Renaissance Italy, olisbo became "dildo" probably from the Italian word "diletto", to delight. But compared with today's lifelike models, early dildos were hardly delightful. Made of wood or leather, they required liberal lubrication of olive oil for comfortable use. Modern rubber dildos did not appear until the mid-19th century.
Dildos have always had a frankly sexual purpose, but vibrators are another story. For most of their history, they have been camouflaged, their sexual purpose hidden behind "massage therapy." The first vibrators were developed 130 years ago to treat an illness called "female hysteria." Hysteria, from the Greek for "suffering uterus," involved anxiety, irritability, sexual fantasies, "pelvic heaviness" and "excessive" vaginal lubrication -- in other words, sexual arousal during the Victorian era, when women were not considered sexual beings. Physicians treated hysteria by massaging their patients' clitoris until they experienced relief through "paroxysm" (orgasm).
During the 1860s, health spas offered higher-tech alternatives to manual therapy, water jets and steam-powered vibrating devices.
The first electric vibrators appeared in the late 19th century, still camouflaged as therapy for hysteria and sold only to doctors. But as the years passed, magazine advertisements began offering vibrators to women for self-treatment of hysteria at home. In 1918, Sears Roebuck touted one vibrator as a "very satisfactory...aid every woman appreciates." And an advertisement in a 1921 issue of "Heart's" magazine urged men to buy the devices for their wives to keep them "young and pretty" and free from the scourge of hysteria.
But during the 1920s, early "blue" movies showed women using the devices for sexual stimulation. Early pornography stripped vibrators of their social camouflage and by 1930, they were no longer openly advertised. Today, of course, vibrators are popular sexual aides sold for sexual purposes. But many outlets continue to camouflage them as "massagers." One large catalog says its dual-speed massager is "perfect for those hard-to-reach places."
True...and a few places within easy reach as well.