Victorian-era sex toy ‘returned to Ireland’ after crowdfunding bid

Antique dildo - believed to be the same sold in 2017 for €3,200 - is purchased for a fifth of the price

In 2017 an international collector purchased a 19th century ivory dildo from a Co Meath auctioneer, leaving Shawna Scott dejected.

“It made my heart sink when it was sold. It just seemed like such an important part of Irish sexual history,” said Ms Scott who owns Sex Siopa, an online sex shop.

“Sometimes I think with Irish history, unless something is tied to the famine or 1916 it gets a little forgotten or re-prioritised.”

So she could scarcely believe her luck when she learned that what looked like the same dildo was up for auction again on Monday evening.


The dildo, which is at least 130 years old, and is believed to have been owned by a wealthy Anglo-Irish household, received more than 100 bids from nearly 40 different countries when it was auctioned in April 2017.

The winning bid, €3,200, came from a wealthy private collector from the United States who outbid a Los Angeles erotica museum.

Last weekend, a customer emailed Ms Scott that the same item was up for auction again. This caused her to have what she calls an "Indiana Jones moment. I said to myself, that belongs in a museum."

But there was a problem; she didn’t have enough money to buy the antique marital aid, especially if it went for anything close to the amount it fetched two years ago.

So at 3.30pm on Monday Ms Scott took to Twitter to solicit donations with a view to purchasing it for relocation to a museum in Ireland. By the time the auction started at 6pm she had raised over €1,000 but in the end she only had to spend €620 to win the bidding.

Ms Scott said her first job was to confirm it was the same dildo which left Irish shores in 2017. A comparison of the scuff marks on the box suggests it is the same item.

“I’m 99 per cent sure but I need confirmation from the auction house.”

Then Ms Scott will begin trying to find a home for the item. Her preference is for the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle or the Decorative Arts Museum in Collins Barracks.

The dildo, which is described on the auction site as an "ivory companion", is believed to have originated in China and to have been brought back to Ireland as a gift from husband to wife. The ivory dates from the 1840s.

“There was so much going in that time period. People were literally starving to death and meanwhile someone was bringing this home for their spouse,” says Ms Scott.

As an historical artefact, it challenges myths about Irish people being repressed, she says.

“I always get asked about how repressed we are in Ireland. I think we’re much more liberal than we think we are.”

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times