Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

A rare Victorian sex toy once gifted from a man to his wife is going up for auction

Victorian couple.JPG

The modern sex toy industry is worth a staggering £11.7 billion. And while we’re well aware that devices to bring us to climax have come a long way, they’re definitely nothing new. 

An ornate Victorian sex toy, carved from ivory, has gone up for auction at Matthews auctioneers in County Meath, Ireland, giving us a glimpse at what ‘ladies’ companions’ looked like in the 19th century.

It also comes with a fascinating backstory, which reveals a surprisingly liberated side to Victorian relationships.

Read more: Why are women still bearing the brunt of responsibility for contraception?

According to the Irish Times, the piece comes from a well-known Anglo-Irish family. It is made from an elephant tusk obtained by a member of the family from India, and dates back to the 1840s. While fighting in the Boxer Rebellion in China from 1899 to 1901, the man is believed to have had it shaped into a gift for his wife to enjoy in his absence.

Victorian Irish sex toy

The Victorian sex toy features an etched heart at the tip and is housed in an Irish-made case

The phallus is extremely ornate, with detail down to the folds of skin, a heart at the tip and a receptacle for a lock of his hair.

“He would not have known that he was coming home, and would have wanted his wife to have this,” said auctioneer Damien Matthews.

“This was a very enlightened family, and this would have been a very loving gift from a husband to wife,” he added.

Read more: Letters penned 100 years ago show attitudes to abortion haven’t changed

Sex toys weren’t unheard of in the Victorian era – some historians date the first vibrators back to the late 1800s, claiming they were invented to treat female patients via “hysterical paroxysm” (i.e. bringing them to orgasm).

Muscular massage devices are also known to have been used by a doctor named Mortimer Granville to stimulate female patients, as seen in the 2011 film Hysteria.

However, Matthews says a ladies companion this detailed “is a great rarity”.

“I’ve been at this 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” he adds. “You do get the Victorian era massagers every so often that come up for auction, but nothing like this.

“It’s not just a piece of erotica – it’s a work of art, and a fascinating piece of social history.”

The ladies companion and its carved box will go up for auction this weekend. It has a guide price of £425 to £670.

Photo: iStock [this is not a true likeness of the Victorian couple]



The disturbing rise of sex assault ‘stealthing’


Contraception is an emotional and mental burden for women, study finds


Shocking number of landlords offering sex for rent uncovered in the UK


These 3 simple techniques will allow you to control your dreams

Research highlights how to increase your chances of lucid dreaming

by Moya Crockett
23 Oct 2017

Blake Lively on how women in Hollywood are limited by “likeability”

The actor points out men can be "assholes" and still seen as charming

by Megan Murray
23 Oct 2017

This London cheese restaurant is offering halloumi ice cream

Cheese fans and bored veggies, rejoice

by Susan Devaney
23 Oct 2017

20 soothing, beautiful songs guaranteed to help you fall asleep

An expert picks the ultimate classical music playlist

by Sarah Biddlecombe
20 Oct 2017

Puppy dog eyes are a thing and your dog makes them just for you

A study says dogs change their facial expressions when humans are looking

by Amy Swales
20 Oct 2017

Here’s how to buy a house or a flat for the princely sum of £1

It's time to enter the real-estate raffle

by Megan Murray
20 Oct 2017

Oxford University under fire for shocking lack of racial diversity

One MP called the revelations an example of “social apartheid”

by Moya Crockett
20 Oct 2017

This prosecco festival is the best way to start feeling Christmassy

Bubbles, bubbles everywhere

by Susan Devaney
20 Oct 2017

Missing your 16-25 railcard? We have good news for you

Rail bosses have taken pity on cash-strapped millennials

20 Oct 2017

This man’s response to his friend’s period while hiking is everything

“I had NOTHING on me and I was wearing shorts”

by Susan Devaney
20 Oct 2017