The History of Solo Sex: 30 Whack-y Masturbation Facts That Will Make You Go “O!”
coauthored by Tristan Taormino and Good Vibrations Staff
In honor of International Masturbation Month, we’ve put together a timeline of important events and some of the most bizarre, useful, and whacky facts and statistics about one of our favorite pastimes: masturbating!
The first known dildo dates back to the Paleolithic Era. The Greeks produced some of the earliest dildos for self-pleasure called “olisbos” in the 5th century BCE.
Onania, attributed to Anonymous (later revealed to be John Marten), is the first book ever published about masturbation. Its alternative title, The Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution and All Its Frightful Consequences in Both Sexes, gives you some idea about its tone.
Masturbation is widespread in the animal kingdom. Primates and lions use their front paws, vampire bats use their feet, walruses use their flippers, baboons use their tails, many animals (including deer, horses, birds, and dolphins) rub their genitals against something, and female elephants have been observed in captivity using their trunks to masturbate each other.
The graham cracker is invented by Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham as part of the “Graham Diet” to suppress “unhealthy carnal urges.” One of his many theories was that one could curb one’s sexual appetite by eating bland foods.
The first vibrator (steam-powered!!) is invented by American physician George Taylor to help treat and cure “hysteria” in women.
Corn Flakes are invented by John Harvey Kellogg as part of a diet that he believes will decrease people’s sex drives and their practice of masturbation. It eventually became a popular breakfast cereal. In 1907, one of the ad campaigns for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (then the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company) offers a free box of cereal to every woman who would wink at her grocer.
Electric vibrators become available to consumers.
Good Vibrations has its very own Antique Vibrator Museum.
Good Vibrations founder Joani Blank collected old vibes and displayed a few at her very first store. Today’s museum is curated by Staff Sexologist Carol Queen and features vibrators from the 1800s to the 1970s.
Rachel Maines, author of The Technology of Orgasm, writes that by 1917, there are more vibrators in American homes than electric toasters.
One of the first known appearances of a vibrator in film is in an early stag film called “Widow’s Delight.” Think of this as the precursor to later classics like A Woman’s Orgasm, Behind the Red Door, and Belladonna’s Toy Box.
Advertisements for electric massagers, called “Spot Reducers,” “Glorifier Massagers,” and “Massage Pillows” begin to appear in women’s magazines. (source: Technology of Orgasm)
Betty Dodson self-publishes her book Liberating Masturbation: A Meditation on Self Love. It includes original drawings of vulvas by Dodson. The same year, Helen Singer Kaplan declares “The vibrator provides the strongest, most intense stimulation known. Indeed it has been said that the electric vibrator represents the only significant advance in sexual technique since the days of Pompeii.” (source: Technology of Orgasm)
Esquire reports that vibrator sales in the previous year totaled $13 million. (source: At Home with Pornography)
Study finds that 53% of men and 25% of women masturbate for the first time by ages 11 to 13. (Janus & Janus, 1993).
Dr. Joycelyn Elders makes public comments about how masturbation is one of the safest forms of sex and it “perhaps should be taught” as part of sex education. She is forced to resign as U.S. Surgeon General under President Bill Clinton.
The 1st National Masturbation Month is celebrated by Good Vibrations. In response to the Elders scandal, Good Vibrations creates National Masturbation Month (now International Masturbation Month) to raise awareness and to highlight the importance of masturbation for nearly everyone: it’s safe, it’s healthy, it’s free, it’s pleasurable and it helps people get to know their bodies and their sexual responses.
The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction by Rachel Maines is published. The book is the first to explore the story of the development of the vibrator.
Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence host the first live Masturbate-a-Thon at San Francisco’s Campus Theater to raise awareness and money for sex-positive organization The Center for Sex & Culture. (Good Vibrations has been celebrating the Masturbate-a-Thon since 1999, but not as a public event.)
Australian study finds that men who ejaculate more than five times a week are a third less likely to develop prostate cancer.
Masturbating releases a slew of feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine and oxytocin that lift your spirits, boost your satisfaction, and activate the reward circuits in your brain. It can improve sleep, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, relieve muscle tension, and improve your overall health.
Passion and Power, a documentary about vibrators and female sexuality based on Rachel Maines’ book, is released.
Masanobu Sato from sex toy company, TENGA, sets the record for the longest masturbation session ever, at 9 hours and 58 minutes, at the Masturbate-a-Thon.
An OKCupid study finds that if someone tweets every day they are twice as likely to also masturbate every day.
The number of Fleshlights sold worldwide exceeds 5 million.
The Hitachi Magic Wand, arguably the most popular vibrator on the planet, is redesigned and re-named The Original Magic Wand.
Aneros, makers of award-winning prostate massagers and kegel toys, announces it has sold more than 1 million products.
A study from the University of Sydney finds that masturbation can prevent cystitis, diabetes, and cancer. The study also states that 94% men admit to masturbating, as do 85% of women.
Despite carrying a range of sex apps on sex positions, erotica, and remedies for premature ejaculation, the Apple iTunes store rejects HappyPlayTime, a sex-education app whose aim is to eliminate the stigma around female masturbation. The concept lives on as a web-based game.
Good Vibrations celebrates nearly twenty years of International Masturbation Month. Since 1995, many people around the world have jumped on the International Masturbation Month bandwagon, putting their own spin on pro-masturbation activism.