This might be a bit of a tender subject, but good journalism goes where angels fear to tread. Including the rectum.
The 21st century has been pretty good to the ass. Celebrities like Nicki Minaj have made the glutes a big thing (no pun intended), and the spread of porn has encouraged more people to try anal sex.
But this isn’t new — our ancestors got down in the brown in numerous ways, both together and solo. Their perpetually inventive natures had them developing methods for butt play a long time ago.
Come with us as we explore the history of the butt plug.
Sexual stimulation of the anus works in a few ways. First, the opening of the rectum is host to numerous sensitive nerve endings. Biologically, we’re not quite sure why that is — maybe to help you realize when you’re done defecating? Whatever the reason, that sensitivity is what you’re feeling when somebody eats your ass.
Deeper down, multiple muscles on the pelvic floor can be massaged by anal stimulation. Those are the same muscles that kegel exercises work to strengthen, and when you’re stressed the pelvic floor tenses up. Butt stuff relaxes them and make the whole body more receptive to pleasure.
For men, the real magic happens deep inside. The prostate gland is a little nubbin that produces seminal fluid. It also plays host to some potent nerve endings that can produce orgasmic responses when stimulated.
And, of course, a portion of butt play’s sexual pleasure is all in the mind. The taboo nature of the excretory system makes going down there seem deliciously wrong. Put all of these factors together and you have a can’t-miss recipe for an erogenous zone.
While it’s more than possible to get the job done down there with a finger or two, having a custom-built device makes things significantly easier. Some use traditional penis-shaped dildos for anal stimulation, but those have some downsides. Unlike the vagina, which is stoppered at one end by the cervix, the butt just goes right on in to the sigmoid colon, and if you put something too far up there it gets stuck.
That’s why butt plugs are made with wide, flared bases — to prevent such mishaps. The iconic “lava lamp” look has been in use for quite some time, as we’ll soon see.
Those things in the photo above — Dr. Young’s Rectal Dilators from 1893 — are the first documented butt plugs we’ve been able to find. These obviously weren’t marketed as a sex toy — instead, they were meant to be prescribed by a doctor to cure a number of conditions.
An article in “Medical News” from that same year quotes the good doctor in saying that “three-fourths of all the howling maniacs of the world” could be cured by taking one of these babies up the butthole. Obviously that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the intense marketing made rectal dilators a hot commodity for almost half a century.
Dr. Young kept selling his medical butt plugs until the 1940s, when a shipment of them was seized by the Food & Drug Administration and destroyed for deceptive advertising. According to the report, the packaging claimed they could not only cure constipation but also acne and insomnia, among a host of other disorders.
Young wasn’t the only guy in the butt plug market. George Starr White sold a rectal dilator to treat prostate ailments until 1931, and the makers of the “Recto Rotor” advertised its efficiency in treating constipation and piles (inflamed hemorrhoids) as well. That one also came with an unguent chamber that would push lubricant through venting holes in the tip to aid its penetration.
So how did we make the leap from medical butt stuff to sexual butt stuff? It’s fair to say that at least some of Dr. Young’s customers were using them recreationally. But the birth of the sex toy industry was still a decade or so off. Dildos, vibrators and butt plugs would be sold by mail, advertised in the back pages of sleazy magazines but kept out of the public eye.
That all changed in 1962 when the first sex store in the world was opened in Germany by Beate Uhse, a former female pilot for the Luftwaffe. She sold a variety of items for “marital hygiene” that grew over the years to include dildos and butt plugs alongside lingerie and porno. As rubber and vinyl became cheaper to manufacture, sex toys began to take on new and different shapes.
The commercial plug industry took off in the 1990s with the introduction of silicone as a manufacturing material. It was durable, easy to clean and eventually low in cost, and soon butt plugs came in a flabbergasting variety of styles and sizes, from hollow models that squirt liquid when squeezed to ones with horse tails attached to the base so you can canter around your bedroom like a pony.
What’s next for the humble butt plug? Probably teledildonic models that let people control their thrusts and vibrations over the internet, or custom-designed models that come out of a 3D printer. Whatever shape they take, they’ll be making the journey down to brown town in style.