A Brief History of Masturbation

Masturbation, it's one of the most primal desires of the human race. Is it any surprise that so many interesting anecdotes, peculiar tales, and shocking scandals have been associated with the act over the years?

While the ancient Greeks took a liberal approach to masturbation, the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra was said to have enjoyed orgasms from a hollow gourd filled with live bees, the Victorians have gone down in history as a generation too prudish to withstand an exposed piano leg and let alone a solo romp under the sheets.

Having such a colorful past, the history of masturbation makes for an exciting read and one that is well worth indulging in. So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite masturbation stories across the ages.

Pre-History Was No Barrier to Pleasure

Although masturbation, as we know it, is a relatively modern invention (more on that latter) the act of masturbating actually goes back many years, into the pre-history of mankind.

One of the earliest sculptures showing masturbation is one of a woman from the temple Hagar Qim, Malta, touching her genitals. Nothing too special, until you find out that this particular sculpture was from the 4th millennia B.C.!

Archaeologists have also uncovered multiple dildos originating from the Ice Age, including one that is over 28,000 years old. It seems Cleopatra was a bit late to the party with her own makeshift sex toy.

In Ancient Egypt, Masturbation Was Seen as a Pharaoh’s Divine Duty

For most of us, masturbation is a rather private affair, but for the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, it was expected of them.

According to Jonathan Margolis, in O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm, the Egyptians believed that Atum/Ra created the world and the gods that resided within it through the mystical act of primordial masturbation.

As the Pharaoh was seen as the representative of the gods, it was, therefore, his ancient duty to continue the cycle of rebirth by masturbating into the Nile as part of a ceremony to ensure a bountiful harvest. After the Pharaoh had deposited his seed in the river other men would then begin to do the same, creating a communal masturbation session.

Masturbation First Touched a Soft Spot in the 1700s

Though stories relating to masturbation come from all time periods and locations, Historian Thomas W. Laqueur tracks the link between masturbation and shame to the 1700’s, specifically a tract published anonymously in 1712 and titled Onania; or, The Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution, and all its Frightful Consequences.

Making a link between masturbation and immorality, the track stole its title from the story of Onan in Genesis 38. In this story, Onan is told to “raise up seed to thy brother” but instead “spilled his seed upon the ground” and was struck dead for his wickedness.

From this singular tract, a growing school of thought developed that began to strongly oppose masturbation in all forms. Negative associations with masturbation in the west persist to this day because of this 1700’s version of an anon starting a flame war.

Special K’s Were Created to Suppress the Big-O

While many of us enjoy a nice bowl of cereal in the morning in order to get our day off to a powerful start, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg originally created his cereal to deter a strong finish. An avid anti-masturbation campaigner Dr. Kellogg believed that those who masturbated would “literally die by [their] own hand” and asserted that “The sin of self-pollution [i.e. Masturbation] is one of the vilest and the most degrading that a human being can commit”.

Dr. Kellogg believed that a lot of questionable sexual desires were linked to an over-stimulating diet, and so his cereals were created as a deliberately bland meal alternative which would, in turn, decrease unwanted libido. (And yet the Kellogg’s logo is a giant cock).

Vibrators Were Originally Administered by Doctor’s Rather Than Used for Solo Masturbation

And, finally, perhaps the most well-known of all masturbation stories is that of vibrators and their unlikely origins.

With the anti-masturbation movement in full swing throughout the Victorian period, many devices were employed to try and discourage men from indulging in their desires. These devices included metal chastity belts, ties that would restrain a man while in bed, and even a cock ring that clamped down on men should they try to indulge in the night. Perhaps arousing for a select few, the majority of users would no doubt find these devices to be a rather noticeable deterrent.

Yet, during the same time period, a device was invented that claimed to treat the ‘female hysteria’ that seemed to grip so many women. And by that, I mean that doctors would literally use vibrators to bring their sexually frustrated female patients to orgasm.

Lacking its erotic implications, these early vibrators were large, cumbersome, and would sometimes even require more than one doctor to be present. Yet, slowly but surely, over the years these devices were refined and their uses were made more explicit.

The result of these early vibrators is something known to all. Nowadays vibrators are fully embraced as pleasure devices for all genders, and cutting-edge versions such as the Kiiroo Pearl2 are even pushing the boundaries of mutual masturbation over the net.

Final Thoughts

The trail of masturbation throughout history paints a rich and deeply interesting story of human sexuality. Uninhibited, worshiped, and then suppressed before eventually being celebrated again in our modern age.

Masturbation may still hold a stigma among some circles, but at least men aren’t waking up to find their shafts in a vice grip anymore (at least not involuntarily).

In short, let us all be grateful for the progress that we’ve made so far and the positive steps that we continue to foster with every single act of self-lovin’.

Written by

Emmeline Peaches

Emmeline Peaches is a queer female who loves to write about sex and review adult products.
Her early sexual experiences led to the discovery that she was suffering from Vaginismus.
Undeterred, Emmeline took to her local sex store and started informing herself about the wonderful world of adult products. With time, determination, and a bullet vibe, Emmeline eventually managed to overcome her condition and gained an unyielding love for sex toys in the process.

As a result, Emmeline founded Emmeline Peaches Reviews—an informative adult review site where people can go to read honest and extensive reviews. You can check her out here:



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