Everyday ObjectsSex Toys and Still Lifes
16 April 2018
Humans have been wanking off and getting off since as early as the 4th millennium BC.
Yes, attitudes about masturbation and sexual stimulation have varied throughout civilisation’s 6,000 years of of existence: it goes without saying that various societies throughout the ages have had differing attitudes towards sexual activity (with oneself, with another, or with others) and sex toys due to varying social norms – folkways, mores, taboos and laws. But if this 8-inch siltstone dildo from 28,000 BC is any indication, it’s a pretty safe bet that we humans have always loved a good orgasm and the tools that have often helped us get there.
The ancient Greeks, whose society was largely free of stigmas surrounding sexual pleasure, were personally partial to “dildo-like breadsticks” lubricated with olive oil. (Ancient Greeks did however, have strict rules concerning dildos and their usage, which reinforced traditional gender roles and their understanding of masculinity. Check out Paul Chrystal’s book, In Bed With The Ancient Greeks: Sex and Sexuality in Ancient Greece for more.) A glass dildo also makes an appearance in Thomas Nashe’s poem The Choice of Valentines (1952/3). Act IV, scene iv of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale also refers to the phallic object.
While a quick search online shows that dildos made of traditional materials (like glass) are still in popular demand (breadsticks, not so much), it is also no question that modern inventions have helped pave the way for new modes of sexual stimulation and innovation, with electricity (for vibrators) and the invention of silicone being game changers in the sex toys industry.
In a very general sense, while sex toys have gained more mainstream acceptance in modern contemporary history – in 1976 there were half a dozen pleasure product companies globally compared to 2016’s 15 billion dollar industry boasting thousands of retailers and hundreds of distributors and manufacturers – they aren’t exactly considered benign across the board.
Selling sex toys in Texas was still considered a crime punishable by as many as two years in jail as recently as 2008. (This ban was overturned in February of 2008.) And just because there are more sex toy companies on the market, it doesn’t mean attitudes about sex and gender have necessarily improved. Adult toy manufacture Adam & Eve, for example, are still promoting tired myths about women and sex.
So in 2018, is the sex toy the neutral everyday object devoid of stigma other useful household items such as staplers, kitchen flippers, and watering cans (when not used in a sexual context) tend to be? Not quite yet, but what a glorious day that will be.
Concept & Direction : Yuliya Maltseva (@mltsva)
Photography : Johannes Erb (@johannes_erb_)
Set Design : Leo Cube (@leeloocu)
Hair & Make-Up : Hendrik Gebhardt (@henk369)
Styling : Dominik Nguyen (@nephyh)
Special thanks to Amorelie
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