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.
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.
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.
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]