Butt plugs: The 'magical cure' for headaches and constipation in the 1800s

Medicine has definitely come a long way since butt plugs used to be hailed as a magical cure for headaches and constipation.

Contrary to popular belief, butt plugs are not a contemporary invention that was triggered by the sexual renaissance of modern times. As a matter of fact, these kinky little (and sometimes big) devices were actually around in the late 1800s—but back then it wasn’t really sold as an item of pleasure.

History

Butt plugs were actually tooted as a cure for a range of ailments, including headaches, constipation, and haemorrhoids. It came in a different sizes, and shapes, and was produced by a company called Dr. Young’s Ideal Rectal Dilators.

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Dr. Young’s Ideal Rectal Dilators' advertisement from 1904 Wikimedia Commons

In their 1905 advertisement for the product they wrote that the rectum dilators can be used by any ‘intelligent person’ above the age of 8. Their advertisements also had detailed instructions so their customers would know how to use it. They wrote, as quoted by World of Wonder Report:

When ready to go to the next larger size, it is best first to use for a few minutes the same size you have been using, inserting and with-drawing It several times. This is very beneficial and should not be overlooked
Do not neglect to use your Dilators. It is advisable to use them occasionally as a precautionary measure. You need have no fear of using them too much.

A complete set, which contained four dilators, was being sold for around $2.5 at the time.

Banning butt plugs

According to Pink News, the 1938 Federal Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act put an end to the sale of butt plugs after the court noted that these so-called medicinal products were ‘dangerous to health.’ They stated:

The rectal dilator would be dangerous to health when used with the frequency and duration prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling.
The labeling of both products bore false and misleading representations regarding their efficacy in the treatment of the conditions indicated below.

The conditions that the product promised to cure were all those associated with constipation, which included acne, bad taste in the mouth, foul breath, insomnia, anorexia, diarrhoea, flatulence, indigestion, and many many more.

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