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Butt plugs were the 1800s’ ‘asspirin’ originally invented to cure headaches and insomnia

By Malavika Pradeep

Feb 18, 2021

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Repurposing has been a trend since time immemorial. But what if the purpose of an object was entirely redefined by our ancestors in the process? Bubble wraps, for starters, were originally meant to be used as textured wallpaper. Lysol, on the other hand, was advertised as a ‘vaginal douche’ in times when birth control was expensive and difficult to come by. And intentionally or not, butt plugs seem to be the latest addition to the list.

Invented under the name ‘Doctor Young’s Ideal Rectal Dilators’, the existence of butt plugs can be traced back to the late 1800s. They were sold in sets of four and included ‘torpedo-like’ dilators made with hard rubber varying between 1 to 4 inches in length.

 

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An instruction card sold with the set informed users to begin with the smallest dilator and work their way up, further guiding them through the process: “First warm dilator in warm water. Then lubricate outside of dilator with Doctor Young’s Piloment (or if it is not available, with vaseline) and while in a squatting positionor while lying on the side with knees drawn upgently insert into the rectum as far as the flange or rim.”

“Hold in place a minute and the anal muscles will close and retain it. Sit or lie down and allow it to remain for half an hour or an hour to get the best results,” the instructions continued, with further advice along the lines of: “When ready to go to the next size, it is best to use the same size you have been using for a few minutes first, inserting and withdrawing it several times.” Highlighting the need for ‘supervision’ only if the user was under the ripe age of…8, Doctor Young encouraged all of his patients to self-prescribe and self-administer the instrument.

Butt why? How exactly did all of this help back then? Initially marketed as a tool for constipation by “strengthening and toning the muscles controlling defecation,” Doctor Young’s dilators claimed to be a ‘miracle cure’ for every ailment under the sun. Headaches, insomnia, bad breath, acne, anemia, anorexia, hemorrhoids, nervousness, irritability, cold extremities—you name it, they cured it. In fact, the doctor also recommended rectal dilation as a cure for insanity, claiming that at least “three-fourths of all the howling maniacs of the world” were curable “in a few weeks” time.

So what happened to these claims? Why do doctors recommend pills instead of 4-inch butt plugs if you approach them with these ailments now? Well, this can be credited to a certain court case with an extremely pleasing nameUS v. 67 Sets of Doctor Young’s Rectal Dilators and 83 Packages of Doctor Young’s Piloment.

Even though the packaging of the dilators advised to “have no fear of using them too much,” the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that the claims were not backed up by evidence, instead declaring the device “dangerous to health when used with the frequency and duration prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling.” All consignments of Doctor Young’s Ideal Rectal Dilators and their lubricant, Piloment were ordered to be seized and destroyed, putting an end to all of the quackery in 1940.

No longer used for its intended purpose, and no longer just self-prescribed or self-administered, it is safe to say that butt plugs have come a long way. The invention now adds to an increasing list of sex tech defying its original intent. Curious to know what else is on this list? Well, vibrators! Don’t be bummed out, we promise to cover their evolution soon too.

Butt plugs were the 1800s’ ‘asspirin’ originally invented to cure headaches and insomnia


By Malavika Pradeep

Feb 18, 2021

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Finally, a gender-neutral sex toy that does the job

By Louis Shankar

Jul 23, 2019

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This month sees the launch of Enby, a new, gender-neutral sex toy. Wild Flower, an independent sex shop based in Brooklyn, has designed the toy in-house. Founded by Amy and Nick Boyajian, both of whom identify as non-binary, Enby is their first own-brand toy, named after the common shorthand for non-binary people, NB, pronounced ‘enby’.

As a retailer, Wild Flower is committed to inclusive and sensitive attitudes toward sex. The shop’s website has a blog with sections dedicated to “mindfulness & sex” and “non-monogamous relationships”, for example. On its Instagram, it features a gorgeous range of individuals—people of all ages, genders and sizes—as well as some hilarious memes. Wild Flower’s merchandise reads: “Trust Yourself, Feel Yourself, Touch Yourself, Please Yourself, Hear Yourself, Know Yourself, Fuck Yourself, Love Yourself”.

Much of the sex industry is still surprisingly gendered, often unnecessarily. Identical toys might be packaged and marketed entirely differently in order to appeal to women and men. Online, toys are generally categorised into ‘for him’ and ‘for her’, even though, to be blunt, a dildo is a dildo, regardless of the user’s gender.

Slowly but surely, however, more options are becoming available for trans and non-binary people, designed with diverse bodies and queer pleasure in mind. Amy and Nick consulted various members of the LGBTQ community while developing their toy. One trans friend of theirs complained about how she had thrown away all of her sex toys after her surgery, because they were no longer compatible with her body. Other trans people have explained how they often resort to toys not marketed at their gender identity, which can worsen existing gender dysphoria.

Enby looks somewhat unusual, unlike any other toy on the market, but this just demonstrates its innovation. It is something different and new. It’s available in black and deep purple, colours chosen for being gender-neutral, especially compared to the pinks and reds that dominate the market. The Enby can be humped, used to masturbate, tucked into a harness. “Hump it, stroke it, tuck it, share it”, reads the product page—it’s like a dirty Bop It.

Enby might not be the first toy to claim the title of being gender-neutral. PicoBong launched the Transformer in 2014, offering “millions of sex toys in one” with its product description listing the sex toy’s possibilities, “It’s a rabbit vibe, a clitoral massager, a cock-ring, a G-spot stimulator, a prostate massager, a double-ended vibe, and much more”. However, its success was debatable. One review summarised, “In trying to create a sex toy that can be used by everyone, PicoBong made a sex toy that is useful to no one”.

The Enby, meanwhile, has received stellar reviews so far, with an average of 4.89 stars out of 5 and comments such as “A game changer” and “Super validating”. Enby is available to pre-order and ships from the U.S. at the end of July. I discovered it myself last month at a community market in Manhattan. I now regret not investigating further at the time.

An online review at Allure recommended the Enby to a transgender man, concluding with: “Overall, I’d recommend Enby for anyone, regardless of gender or genitalia. As with any other sex toy, you’ll have to play around with it to determine how it best works for your body, but it’s absolutely worth it once you find that sweet spot”.

Enby represents a new direction for the sex toy industry, one that is more open, diverse and inclusive. Just like in the porn industry, small, independent brands are inevitably leading the way, but with such positive results, hopefully bigger brands will follow suit. After all, everybody—and every body—deserves pleasure.

Finally, a gender-neutral sex toy that does the job


By Louis Shankar

Jul 23, 2019

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