1lzTcKyPiQI2-wvYJ5laoUQ

Manly Man Things: The Cock Ring

For nearly a century, they’ve beefed up the boners of polygamists, gay men, bondage fans and everyone else

Cock rings are the ultimate fluffers of the sex-toy world, with a surprisingly virile history of use by gay and straight men who wanted a superhuman dick, if only for an little while, in the service of wild sexy times. If sex is, for instance, a New Year’s Eve party, then cock rings are the Red Bull and Vodka that keep the party going long and loud, and the cocaine bump that extends that midnight confetti-pop well past midnight. (Yes, that was the sex-drug-cock ring metaphor you didn’t know you needed.)

In other words, the story of the cock ring, which pokes its turgid boner into recorded history around the year 1200, isn’t a humble tale. Chinese men in the Jin Dynasty were allegedly in desperate need of longer-lasting, harder dicks that could service multiple brides and concubines over longer periods of time, and also reliably produce heirs. Someone got the idea of fashioning a ring from goat eyelids with the lashes still on, then tying it on in an effort to stiffen the member, boost pleasure and prolong the orgasm.

It worked.

In fact, all cock rings still work this way: Whether slipped over the penis only or the testicles, too, they constrict the blood flow to your member, leaving it engorged for an “extended duration” and better, harder orgasms. As long as they fit right and aren’t left on too long, like more than 20 to 30 minutes (which causes serious complications, like a painfully unstoppable erection or penile gangrene — shudder), they work like a charm.

By the 1600s, cock rings were fashioned out of new materials — jade and ivory, beads and stones, sometimes encrusted with jewels to up the pressure — as well as formed to address the clit directly as the first clitoral stimulator (i.e., they began featuring more elaborate carvings, including dragons or serpents that incorporated tongues that could press against the clit).

From there, culture after culture eventually fell like cock-ringed dominos to the sex toy’s hard-and-tight preservation properties.

“Early European travelers to the Far East such as Marco Polo and the Venetian, Nicola di Conti [sic], describe a form of penis ring which was used by men in Burma,” one Mr. Cox at the very NSFW Cumm UK writes of the ring’s history. Cox elaborates:

The rings were inserted under the skin along the length of the penis and would increase the pleasure of intercourse as well as lengthen the penis. This form of penis enhancement was supposedly very popular amongst Burmese men during the medieval period. Rings which lengthened the penis were also used by the ancient Egyptians, some African tribes, South American tribes as well as in South East Asia.

Unlike the dick it kept hard, the cock ring’s enthusiastic application wouldn’t last forever. By the Victorian era, cock rings had infiltrated Europe, only now they were issued by pearl-clutchers for the opposite purpose: To decrease pleasure and repress masturbation. Future versions would come lined with spikes. When the wearer became engorged, boom — wincing pain.

The ultimate boner killer.

But cock rings and the dicks that needed them couldn’t be restrained for long. In a history of the cock ring over at Handbook Men, Waiyde Palmer identifies two major forces that would slide the cock ring back onto dicks for the right reasons: The Marquis de Sade’s sex-positive BDSM attitude in his pen-named novel Justine (1791) would normalize kink, while the invention of vulcanized rubber (1844) would offer a durable material for not just tires, but sex toys as well. The two merged serendipitously to “promote the popularity of the littlest treasure of the sex tool trade.” The Industrial Revolution and the invention of latex rubber (1930) would continue to propel this circular enhancement onto the dicks of future generations.

It would, however, take the sexual revolution to bring cock rings fully out of the closet and into the mainstream. This is when they started to show up in porn videos and mags and became synonymous with both the free love era of expanded sexual pleasure and the expansion of publicly queer communities who loudly celebrate their right to sexual pleasure.

They were quickly added to the inventory of 1970s sex shops in Times Square, and they took on an aesthetic we’ve long associated with gay men. Per Palmer:

“Publicly, it’s proudly worn around the neck as a thin, leather strap of a dick lariat and snapped around the wrist like a cuff for quick and easy access by the sexual revolutionaries of the time, who believed that every act of sex — both overt and covert — is a slap in the face of the society that oppresses them.”

Similarly, according to the history of the cock ring at My Hardwear:

“The technology of the times aligned the cock ring with the leather movement. Just about every cock ring was some kind of little leather belt, and as the gay sexual revolution ushered in the popularity of the gay leather scene, so the simplistic cock rings of the day were a perfect style match for what was arguably the most popular gay fetish of the day (and indeed leather bars and the leather look remains a popular gay fetish to this day).”

Then there’s the fact that cock rings also enhance anal sex. My Hardwear continues:

Anal sex requires a very hard cock — it’s as simple as that. And in all reality this is probably the biggest reason the cock ring caught on with the gay community during the sexual revolution. As laws fell away and gay men were no longer being persecuted for engaging in the only type of penetrative sex available to them, the demands of that kind of sex made cock rings an ideal fix yet again. No other sexual variation is more demanding of a man’s erection than anal sex — anal sex insists that a penis be fully hard in order for the sex to fly.

Cock rings became political badges again during the heightened AIDS panic in the 1980s, when gay men wore them — now made of metal, rubber or rigid plastic — in marches to defend gay sex as not just healthy, but a political act in the face of demonization and discrimination.

It’s these milestones that laid the groundwork for the heterosexual embrace of cock rings.

Today, they’re not only made of a wider variety of materials like silicone, metal or leather, but come with value-adds like vibrators, beads, clitoral tongues and butt plugs. You can buy them in cheap plastic for $5, or intricately crafted in small batches from far-flung locales, with carved lions as adornment, all the way up to a solid gold, pearl-encrusted, ergonomic versions that’ll cost you $65,000.

All of which is to say that cock rings have traveled a great distance over centuries to become a standard, noncontroversial pleasure aid in your nightstand alongside condoms, vibrators and lube.

That’s definitely something worth thrusting to next time you put a ring on it.