How Sex Toys Kept Women From Cheating In Ancient China

The Chinese elite used sex toys and dildos just like we do today

It is often believed that the sexual revolution started in the sixties and expanded from there. But that’s not entirely true. The reality, as you probably know, is that progress isn’t linear. We certainly have many freedoms now, and at least in most countries you wouldn’t be punished for safely experimenting with your sexuality within the confines of your home. But even with those freedoms, we’re still afraid of our desires, specially if they’re a little kinky and they divert from the norm, which is the standard, boring, in-and-out way of having sex. We’re afraid to be considered freaks if we decide to enjoy our sex lives freely and playfully, while many people still shame and even humiliate others for doing exactly what they themselves would do if they weren’t restricted by their outdated morality. Before writing the word “outdated,” I felt the impulse to say “ancient” instead. Although that word can make allusion to different civilizations and mindsets, if we talk about ancient China, the morality of those times was unique.

In ancient China, people were even more open about their sexuality than we are now. For instance, when group sex and orgies are mentioned in any conversation, a lot of people still feel uncomfortable or a little bit shocked, and others just giggle because it’s so unusual that it might be considered a joke. In ancient China, they probably giggled too while being in the middle of it, because it was a common practice. We can see evidence of that through their many erotic paintings and the fact that they were one of the first civilizations to create pornographic images.

In the last few decades, archeological excavations near Shanghai have unveiled the contents of 2,000-year-old tombs, showing that the Chinese elite used sex toys and dildos just like we do today. Of course, things weren’t exactly perfect in ancient China. The big difference, aside from the fact that they were made of bronze, is that men used them to keep their multiple wives from cheating on them. Worried about being physically unable to satisfy so many concubines, they allowed women to continue to explore their sexuality on their own. At least they were aware of women’s sexual needs, right?

Among the sex toys and other relics that were found inside the tombs, archaeologists found bronze dildos that were used as strap-ons during the Han Dynasty. It isn’t clear how exactly they were worn, but they were possibly held by silk thongs or leather, according to Fan Zhang, curator at Yangzhou’s Yizheng Musem. Moreover, hollow dildos made of jade were found in those tombs. These artifacts were meant to release liquid to provide the illusion of climax, and to actually prevent climax from happening too soon or from happening at all, penis rings (which simultaneously enhanced female pleasure) were used during the Jin Dynasty too.

Now that I’ve mentioned the fun part of it, it’s also important to mention that the consequences of infidelity (which they were trying to prevent with sex toys) were completely horrifying. Women who dared to be unfaithful were stripped naked and publicly tortured and humiliated on a dildo saddle while people threw rocks at them. How could such contradictory philosophies exist at the same time? Perhaps we can learn something from that contradiction to explore our sexuality in a truly free way.

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