As anal play goes mainstream, butt plugs, anal beads, prostate massagers, and all other types of anal toys are also becoming staples in many people's toy chests. But the history of butt plugs, and anal play, in general, is more nuanced than folks finding the toy that fits their anatomy and desire. Anal toys have evolved from medical devices to taboo kink items, to much more socially accepted enhancements to our couples and solo play. They continue to evolve into high-end pleasure objects as people find new ways to incorporate design and technology into their anal play.
People have explored anal pleasure throughout the ages as part of their sexual journeys, but the first recorded anal plugs can be traced back to 1893. The first set of anal plugs, know as Dr. Young's Rectal Dilators, were originally sold as medical devices. This set of dilators was sold by prescription only and was said to cure constipation, acne, and insomnia, among other ailments. Similar to the original marketing of vibrators as medical devices to treat "hysteria", these plugs were sold for medical purposes, and not for pleasure. Dr. Young's Rectal Dilators remained on the market until the 1940s, when they were seized by the FDA for false advertising. Similarly to Dr. Young's, another entrepreneur called George Starr White also advertised a rectal dilator that included a lubricating chamber that was designed to treat constipation, hemorrhoids, and prostate inflammation.
Though the function and acceptance of butt plugs have evolved from medical to pleasure-based, the original shape of Young and White's rectal dilators remains intact.
Tapered Tips & Bulbous Heads
Despite having significantly longer necks than the modern butt plug, the old & new plugs maintained the tapered tips that make them easier to insert. Both plugs also feature a bulbous head for massaging the prostate, and narrow necks that make them comfortable to wear.
Flared Bases Are A Must
The biggest, and most important evolution, is that the old dilators has somewhat of a flared base- to prevent them from being pulled into the rectum, which would make them difficult to retrieve. This basic feature reminds anal pleasure seekers of the butt plug of the golden rule, "without a base, without a trace". To this day, it's best practice to ensure that all items that go into the butt have a flared base to ensure that they won't disappear into the body.
The butt plug has come a long way from its beginnings as a medical device and has become a whole category of toys designed for pleasure. Classic spade-shaped plugs are still among popular shapes for anal toys, and they are shaped for smooth entry past the external and internal sphincters. Some plugs still have vents for lubrication to pass through, though most don't and should be used with plenty of lube since the rectum does not self-lubricate. As the sex toy market has evolved, butt plugs have gained new features, they have comprised of new materials, and come in a range of shapes and sizes to suit a wide range of butt needs. Many original butt plugs were made of rubber and vinyl- they are now being developed from body-safe and easy to clean materials, such as silicone, stainless steel, and pyrex. b-Vibe has been manufacturing body-friendly butt plugs since 2016, producing the original Rimming Plug out of 100% body-safe premium silicone. Silicone, unlike other rubbers, is hypoallergenic and non-porous, so it won't cause irritation or harbor bacteria. It's also very easy to clean and durable.
The Rimming Plug was a major innovation in anal play because it elevated the experience of using a butt plug, even a vibrating butt plug, by adding a few features to take the traditional plug and creating a multi-faceted and luxury experience. This first toy in the b-Vibe line combines high-grade materials with vibration, and to this day, is the first and only anal toy to have rotating beads in the neck to replicate the sensation of analingus (aka rimming). Beyond being packed with different modes of stimulation, this plug is also waterproof, rechargeable, and has a remote control so it can be used in many imaginative ways for couples play, or for easier access to different settings during solo play. The Rimming Plug was a major game-changer in the world of anal toys because it took a simple object, the butt plug, and imagined a multiplicity of ways to enjoy anal pleasure. It really launched the butt plug consumer into imagining a full and indulgent experience from their butt plug, which other butt plugs had yet to offer. The Rimming Plug and all of the b-Vibe items that have followed since inception have made the experience of shopping for an anal toy similar to shopping for the newest hot piece of tech. From its informative packaging, its inclusion of an anal pleasure guide, and a carrying case that rivals all of the extra accessories you get with your Beats headphones, it's clear that is not your old school, medically prescribed mail order butt plug.
In addition to great updates on the classic spade-shape of butt plugs, there are many other types of anal toys to diversify your anal pleasure experience. Beaded toys, like b-Vibe's Cinco Anal Beads are designed to be inserted anally one beads at a time, then removed at orgasm to promote muscle contractions that amplify the muscle contractions most people experience when they have an orgasm.
The prostate play category of anal toys has also seen a lot of improvements. Many medical companies have continued the tradition of creating prostate massagers for treating prostatitis, as is the case with High Island Health, which in 2003 developed what has now branched off into the Aneros line of prostate toys as medical devices to support people with a host of prostate ailments. Aneros realized quickly that like their predecessors, these medical devices were bringing sexual pleasure to their patients, and branched off into creating anatomy minded anal plugs with a pronounced curve for p-spot stimulation. Prostate toys help many people reach intense prostate orgasms, in addition to supporting better circulation, combating erectile dysfunction, helping release toxins from the body.
Though the butt plug has taken on many modern iterations — and we can now read all about anal sex from Cosmo to Teen Vogue — anal play still carries a sense of taboo in many places. The truth is that people have probably been having anal sex since the dawn of time. Artistic depictions of anal sex can be found in many ancient civilizations, from Rome to Peru. Anal Sex is apart of the great diversity of human sexuality, and still we exist in a somewhat puritanical society in which anal play is taboo, frowned upon, or in some cases, outlawed. In the U.S., where sodomy laws are a matter of State jurisdiction rather than Federal jurisdiction, sodomy laws disproportionately target gay men, and make consensual anal sex punishable by law. Even though sodomy laws have formally been repealed federally since 2003, there are still many states that criminalize anal sex. According to one study by Mother Jones, 14 different states have strongly resisted repealing their state sodomy laws, which consider consensual anal sex as "crimes against nature". Though these archaic laws are not enforceable, the stigma around anal sex remains loud and clear as the laws remain on the books.
But it's not all bad news and bad legislature when it comes to social acceptance of anal sex. A 2017 study by SKYN Condoms that focused on Millennials and sex showed that 36% of respondents had female anal sex and 15% had male anal sex at least some of the time. Anal sex isn't just about the numbers, either. People like having butt sex, they love butt plugs, and they're not afraid to show it. Pop culture is filled with references to anal toys. Jennifer Lawrence shared a hilarious story about her collection of butt plugs on prime time TV in an interview with Conan O'Brien. Katie Price shared details of her crystal butt plug on Loose Women, on an episode that focused on sex toy collections Even the superhero flick, Deadpool, featured a pegging scene, while the Broad City show has launched a whole line of sex toys, including butt plugs and a pegging kit. There's no doubt that butt plugs have come a long way since their early inception as medical devices. The conversation about butt plugs has been made more mainstream by their broader representation in pop culture and plugs themselves have gotten sexier and more sophisticated as more poeple embrace the orifice, and innovative companies incorporate new levels of luxury and give us more ideas on ways to play!