19th Century Anal Dilators – They Promised to Cure Insanity

by Robyn Robyn

Want to lose weight? Be more active and eat better. Want to avoid cavities? Brush your teeth.

Want to cure anemia, insomnia, diarrhea, gas, indigestion, hemorrhoids, sallow skin, piles, cold extremities, and nervousness?

Stick something up your bum.

Wait… What?


Yep, in the late nineteenth century to until at least the 1940s, “Dr. Young’s Ideal Rectal Dilators” were the thing to buy if you wanted to cure … everything.

Aside from the list above, these rubber/plastic torpedoes promised to fix constipation, promote a more refreshing sleep, relieve foul breath, take away any bad taste in the mouth, help with a backed-up prostate, and even cure insanity.

Yeah, insanity.

All this for the low, low price of $2.50 (with a professional discount to doctors to resell them to patients). Now (2018), that would be around 70 bucks.

It might sound as crazy as the ailment, but this is from the same historical stretch that promised smoking was healthy, booze was good to shut up your kids, masturbation made you blind, and Jello was classy.

There was also no need for research or proving your findings.

All it took was “Young” to claim that at least “three-fourths of all the howling maniacs of the world were curable ‘in a few weeks’ time by the application of orificial methods” for an 1893 Medical News editorial to jump on board with their support…

“Why, then, in the name of pity and kindness, do these men not apply the dilators each to himself or to each other? We very much fear all this imbecility may rest upon a semi-pathologic basis, and that Krafft-Ebing may have a new chapter to write concerning sodomic perversion in his work upon sexual psychopathy.”


The funny thing is, whether Dr. Young was a real person or not, “he” got a few things right…

The belief was the body had an intricate connection of “roads” that allowed the body’s organs to function together – which is correct (even if they didn’t have the evidence or language to explain it fully).  And, the claim that you can fix constipation and other bum-related issues, is partially also true.

Doctors today use anal dilators as a “device similar to a Speculum designed to open and relax the internal/external anal sphincter and rectum in order to facilitate medical inspection or relieve constipation.

Even in BDSM/Kink circles, people will use anal trainers to help make anal sex more comfortable.


Young believed that the key to these “roads” (and, therefore all your problems) was in your southern starfish – which is obviously wrong. I mean, it shouldn’t be surprising since there were also people who thought if you blew smoke up someone’s ass (literally) they could avoid drowning.  

So, while these people were getting help with pooping easier, they weren’t going to cure the voices in their heads that told them to put on a French maid outfit and kick puppies while covered in baked beans.


Anal dilators were NOT the first butt plugs. In ancient times, a craved piece of ginger was stuck up someone’s bum for torture (figging). There have also been rumors of ancient royalty having custom sex toy items made for who-knows-what (bronze penis sheaths and such).

You KNOW you’re curious about figging! Read on. I won’t judge!

Figging – Learn About BDSM and This Botanical Butt Plug

It wasn’t until Young’s devices did we actually see something that resembles the modern-day butt plug.  They have the tapered tip, “thin” neck, and wider base.

We also can’t forget that there were machines made for women to “cure their hysteria” – which were just glorified vibrators that sat in the corner of the doctor’s office, and the hysteria was just a randy lady. And how about the concepts of “insanity” that were linked with “sodomitic perversion”. 

It was pretty much a time that screamed, “If you’re a woman that wants sex, you must be crazy” or “If you’re a man that likes it up the bum, you must be confused. It must be a medical need.” 


In 1940, these butt plugs finally got their due. 

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York got a hold of once shipment and destroyed them after they decided the products were mislabelled and were “dangerous to health when used with the frequency and duration prescribed, recommended or suggested in the labeling”.

Whether it was based on an actual medical precaution or the need for a prudish society to kill anything remotely sexual (you KNOW people used these for something other than “health”) is irrelevant.

The Young’s rectal dilators wouldn’t find a home until years later (in museum’s medical collections).

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