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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Sexuality: a history

Think back to your early years of sexual awakening, your awkward time of misguided preconceptions and actions. Think of how you have (hopefully) matured!

The world has changed, too. The understanding and practice of sex has evolved throughout the years.

Birth control

The first attempted condoms date back to 3000 B.C. and are speculated to have been made of animal hide, according to

In 1850 B.C., the pessary was introduced. Pessaries were inserted into the vagina in an attempt to either block or kill sperm. Ingredients included crocodile dung, honey and sodium carbonate.

The first oral contraceptive was discovered in 600 B.C. in North Africa. The herb silphion became as valuable as silver, but was harvested to extinction after a few centuries.

In 1640 A.D., condoms were made of the ever-appetizing fish bladders and animal intestines. Their purpose was more to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted disease rather than preventing pregnancy.

In the year 1844, we moved away from covering our outward parts with animal innards to the mass production of rubber condoms. At this time, these were used, washed, and reused.

In the years after, the condom improved and contraception got creative. Diaphragms, also known as female condoms, and male caps, aka “just the tip,” became popular.

“The Pill” was FDA approved in 1960 with 100 percent effectiveness, but with drastic side effects, according to It was later discovered that the dosage was dangerously high.

It took a few more decades to tweak the pill. It was not until 2003 that the first continuous birth control pill was approved.

“Certainly birth control has informed sexual choices for women ever since it become more available, but the responsibility is still pretty much on women,” Anna Marti, an intimacy coach and educator from Portland, Oregon, said.

Sex Toys and Mastrubation

“Masturbation is hugely important,” Barbara Carrellas, a New York City-based author and sex coach, said. “It’s where you get to discover what turns you on. You are and always will be your best lover. Always.”

The oldest known sex toys, siltstone rock dildos, date back to around 1200 B.C. and are believed to have also been used to make fire, according to the Huffington Post.

There is evidence to suggest Cleopatra used the vibrations of live bees in a box to get off in 51 B.C..

In the 1700s, sailors would take rubber sleeves, or “ladies of the journey,” with them for their long voyages.

The steam-powered vibrator was invented in the 1860s and was marketed as medical treatment for hysteria. It was used at the doctor’s office.

Thirty years later, the battery-powered vibrator was mass-produced and began appearing in pornography. Doctors promptly stopped using them in the office.

During World War II, the U.S. military was stationed in Japan and brought the Hitachi Magic Wand to popularity back in America.

In the 1970s, a man who was disabled invented the silicon dildo to please his wife.

In 2011, the company LELO came out with INEZ, a 24-karat  gold vibrator sold for $15,000 each.

Today, with the rise of fan-fiction and the popularity of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” sex toys are more popular than ever. Masturbation is more widely embraced and less frequently shunned.

“Your erotic relationship with yourself is the single most erotic relationship you will have,” Carrellas said.


It was once believed that the female orgasm was needed to create a baby, according to Roman physician Claudius Galenus wrote that both women and men had “seed” or “sperm” that required orgasm from both parties in order to create life.

Also according to our friend Galenus, food that makes people fart is arousing. He believed that eating these foods would create wind in the body to “inflate” sexual organs and increase arousal.

In ancient Egypt it was widely believed that a person could have sex in the afterlife. The culture of ancient Egypt held sexuality to high importance. In religion, they believed the creation of their gods came from the sperm of Atum, a masturbating god, according to

In ancient China, foot binding was a popular sign of beauty, but it was also seen as a sexual practice, according to a study in Medical Hypotheses. It was believed that making the feet smaller would also tighten the vaginal muscles. The reasoning behind this was that with the crippled feet, a woman would have to seriously exercise her vagina to maintain balance while walking.

Different times, different settings, different beliefs.

“There are so many factors that inform every individual’s perceptions of sex,” Marti said. “There’s family, there’s gender, there’s religion which is a huge one, there’s culture … I think it’s really important that individuals feel how those factors are informing them.”

Although none of these beliefs are widely accepted today, there are certainly still some existing misconceptions.

“The biggest misconception is, ‘whatever it is I’m experiencing isn’t normal’, ” Carrellas said. “In reality, an enormous range of sexual variation is what’s normal. There is not one normal. And most people aren’t ‘broken’ or ‘weird’ for whatever it is they think or feel or desire, but they think they are.”

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