When Sex Toys Go Wrong!
A Tale of Toxic Sex Toys
I was nineteen when I bought my first real sex toy, and that’s when I discovered that sex toys can go wrong.
Here’s what happened . . . .
Never one to shy away from new experiences and tired of my drug store massager, I walked into a local ’ladies sex shop’ one Tuesday night and went straight up to the counter.
“I’m ready to buy my first real vibrator, can you recommend something?” I smiled.
The young woman behind the counter, however was not having it. She looked up from her dog-eared copy of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty and sniffed.
“Vibrators are over there.” She nodded to the front corner of the shop.
I smiled blankly, waiting for something else, I didn’t know what. The sex shop girl went back to reading.
I didn’t know much about sex toys at all back then, having just recently discovered the bliss of masturbating with a massager the length of a baguette. I was out of my element and confused. I looked around, found the most realistic penis-looking vibe that I could find and checked out.
I stopped to buy a copy of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty on the way home.
The vibe I had chosen was simple and silver-toned. It was covered in a hyper realistic penis-like sleeve made of something called Cyberskin. I had spent $29.95 on it. It seemed like such an exorbitant sum for a sex toy at the time.
I let myself into my apartment and tossed the book on the coffee table. I got comfortable on the sofa and readied myself for the orgasmic experience of my life. I added batteries, reclined and turned on the vibe. The vibration was underwhelming at best.
I turned the knob at the base. The vibrations increased marginally.
I turned the knob again. Something snapped and it came off in my palm.
I won’t go into the details about how I learned about the lack of refund policy with most broken sex toys later that night.
That Cyberskin vibe may have seemed state of the art to me at the time, but I had a lot to learn about, particularly what makes a quality toy and what is a waste of time, money and lubricant.
Hint: It’s not just about a knob that breaks off.
When I became a sex educator in my early thirties, my fascination with sex toys went from ‘on a scale from 1 to 10 how great will this orgasm be?’ to ‘do you mean to tell me that my jelly rabbit vibe is completely toxic?’
Let’s take a look at what makes a great sex toy so great and what are the clues that a toy is horribly wrong.
First thing we need to know is that the sex toy industry is – as of this writing – completely unregulated. There is no organization that is testing our sex toys to assure our safety. Manufacturers can make toys out of anything they like and label them however they choose.
So what can we as consumers do when sex toys go wrong?
Let’s take a look at some scary sex toys facts and arm ourselves with knowledge.
Porous sex toys can harbor mildew, bacteria and fungus. These gather with normal use, even if you are careful to wash them afterward with antibacterial soap. Porous sex toys can never be safely shared – either from partner to partner or from vagina to anus – even if you wash them in the interim.
How do you know if your toy is porous? If your toy is made of jelly, PVC, rubber, vinyl or Cyberskin (like my first vibe) your toy is porous.
What can you do?
If you have a porous toy in your nightstand, covering it with a non-lubricated condom will keep you from re-introducing bacteria and mold into your mucous membranes.
If your toy is older than nine months to a year, TOSS IT — NOW!!! You wouldn’t continue using a kitchen sponge for ten months straight, would you?
What are phthalates and why should you care?
Phthalates are plasticizers – they’re chemicals added to plastic to keep it flexible, durable and sometimes transparent. Sounds like a good thing, right?
But here’s the bad news: Phthalates are linked to all sort of health problems. Breast cancer, autism spectrum disorders, type II diabetes, obesity, reproductive and fertility issues.
Phthalates are so pervasive in the sex toy industry that it’s difficult to tell which toys are phthalate-free.
(Remember, the sex toy industry is unregulated and manufacturers don’t have to disclose the chemicals present in their products.)
What can you do?
My research shows that there is no conclusive evidence that condoms will protect the body from phthalates and that in some instances can even increase the absorption of chemicals. The safest bet is to trash the toxic toys and invest in your sexual health. Here is a good place to start.
Toys can contain Cadmium, which is used in yellow pigment and also as a plastic softener. This is another chemical that, thanks to lack of regulation, doesn’t have to be disclosed.
OSHA states that Cadmium is “known to cause cancer and targets the body’s cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, neurological, reproductive, and respiratory systems”.
So how can you know if a toy is safe? Here are some guidelines to get us started.
A Partial List of Manufacturers Who Are Known for Body Safe Products:
- Je Joue
- Fun Factory
Materials To Look For:
- Grade Silicone
- Stainless Steel/Aluminum
- Wood that has been sealed with a medical grade sealant
We can hope that as the curtain is pulled back and we become more aware of the toxins lurking in our sex toys that we can push for regulation. But the fact is, that might be a long time coming.
Until that day, the answer is not to stop using sex toys. But what we can do is let manufacturers know by voting with our wallets that body-safe toys are what we want and we won’t pay for toys that are dangerous.
For the most comprehensive information I have found about toxic toys visit Dangerous Lilly.
To schedule a one-on-one consultation with a Concierge to help you choose the body-safe toy that’s right for you, click here.
Written by Laura Sweet, North East Region Director, My Secret Soiree. To book a sex toy party or sex ed workshop in the Philadelphia area, New Jersey, Delaware, or Maryland, please contact Laura here.