"Rectal Dilators" Were Once Considered A Medical Miracle

The health fads of the past don't really hold up 120 years later.
"Rectal Dilators" Were Once Considered A Medical Miracle

Hey you! Do you suffer from constipation, acne, fatigue, anemia, anorexia and uncontrollable flatulence? Are you regularly ravaged by bouts of insanity? Does your breath smell like Death Valley’s only budget fishmonger? Do you suffer from such painful hemorrhoids that the last time you sat down you woke up in the morgue? Is your diarrhea so bad that the Ninja Turtles are suing you? Are you learning Sanskrit, Arabic, and Hebrew so you can curse God in every language? (No? Well, do you sometimes feel nervous? Okay, you’re a real piece of work.)

Sadly, modern science has no cure for any of these problems. But back in the 1890s, a Chicago doctor came up with a wonderful treatment that could solve all the maladies we listed above and more! Even better, the treatment could be self-administered, meaning that the public just had to send off for a small case of equipment and an instruction booklet on how to use it. But it seems the good doctor’s breakthrough was just too advanced for the timid, sheeplike minds of his day, and he would eventually find himself in court with the FDA, who were determined to shut him down once and for all. So just what was this miracle cure? Allow us to introduce you to Dr. Young’s Ideal Rectal Dilators.

Dr Young's Rectal Dilators

Glore Psychiatric Facility/CometStarMoon

Every doctor’s office should have a set of these and nothing else.

Now unless you’re a fan of medical history, you’ll never have seen objects like these, so we’ll explain. Basically, Dr. Young’s Rectal Dilators were made of hard rubber and took the form of a “flanged torpedo” with a large bulb at one end. They were designed to be inserted into the anus, like a sort of plug for your butt, if such a thing could be imagined. These “butt plugs,” as we’ll term them in the interests of brevity, were mainly marketed as constipation cures, but Dr. Young’s advertisements insisted that they could also treat everything from bad breath to insanity. 

According to Dr. Young, the dilators should be lubricated with soap or “Dr. Young’s Pile Ointment” and inserted for about an hour at a time, although he suggested "the patient should go to sleep if possible and not time himself." Acknowledging that the sight of the largest dilator might cause some momentary feelings of panic, he advised that his customers should "use the size best suited to his condition, commencing with the smaller sizes and using the larger sizes...only when dilation is sufficient to allow their use with comfort.” He added that “often several persons in the same family may use the different sizes of the same set.” Which is good, because nothing tears a family apart faster than squabbling over who gets to use the rectal dilator first in the morning. 

Dr Young's Rectal Dilators

Detroit Medical Journal/Wikimedia Commons

$2.50 per set is an insane deal. Not that we’d know.

Now you might be skeptical, but Dr Young’s butt plugs seem to have been a big hit. Not only were they sold for over 40 years, but ads are full of glowing testimonials from clients like Reverend Hezekiah Cook. At first, the Reverend Cook "could hardly stand to insert the small one," but by a simple process of "inserting and withdrawing" each dilator several times, he was soon able to work his way up to the largest. Then there was a certain Mr. Loughborough, who wrote that inserting a dilator for an hour each day left him “healthy as a government buck…ten thousand dollars would not tempt me to sell my set.” In fact, Dr. Young was so confident in his product that he offered a 100 percent money back guarantee on any returned dilators, which we’re just not going to think about too much.

Dr. Young’s miracle plugs were sold from the 1890s all the way up to 1940, when he was shut down by the close-minded prudes at the FDA, who insisted that the product was mislabelled and would “not be efficacious” in treating “coated tongue, foul breath, bad taste in the mouth, sallow skin, acne, lassitude, mental hebetude, headache, spurious diarrhea, colicky pains, hemorrhoids, occasional prolapse, nervous irritability and cold extremities” as the packaging promised. They also felt that the plugs “would be dangerous to health if used with the frequency and duration prescribed.” Dr. Young failed to make a defense and the product was duly banned, finally ending that glorious era when your doctor could just listen to your litany of awful diseases and just go, “Wow that sucks, have you tried doing butt stuff about it?” 

Dr Young's Rectal Dilators

Wikimedia Commons

Jesus, you could sink a submarine with that big one.


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