Aug 202017
 

A selection of toxic sex toys. They smell like beach balls.

There’s a glimmer of recognition that crosses someone’s face when I ask, “have you ever encountered a sex toy that smelled like a new shower curtain?” The widening of the eyes, the slight nod. This is how I introduce the concept of toxic sex toys, and it is almost always met with understanding. That smell, I explain, is off-gassing from chemicals called phthalates, which are used to soften plastics. “Phthalates have been banned in childrens’ toys,” I tell them, “but the sex toy industry is completely unregulated.”

It’s been nearly 10 years since I started in this industry, and yet — sadly — this teaching moment remains as effective as ever. It’s usually the point at which the person shares their personal experience with a toxic sex toy: perhaps it melted into a goo, smelled so rancid it gave them a headache, or, worst of all, caused a painful burning sensation in one of their orifices. Horror stories abound. All I have to do is give someone permission — and validation.

My biggest anguish as a sex toy educator is knowing that for every person who shares their toxic toy experience with me, there are dozens more who have suffered alone, frantically rinsing off their genitals to quell the burning, ashamed and confused, wondering why nobody warned them, figuring all sex toys are like this, blaming themselves, thinking something must be wrong with their bodies.

Nothing is wrong with your body. Your body is having a perfectly reasonable reaction to toxic chemicals. Your body is rejecting that toy, and rightfully so. Sex toys should bring pleasure, not harm. Your genitals deserve better than sex toys that hurt you — and there are many body-safe options out there. You just have to know how to find them.

A couple weeks ago, I was at Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit attending a session called “The Truth About Body-Safe: A Frank, Evidence-Based Discussion of What Body-Safe Really Means.” I went in eager to learn some nuance around toxicity and language, but instead I got contradictory information, condescension, and a semantics lesson. I spent most of the session keyboard-mashing my thoughts onto Twitter. The session started with the panelists arguing that the word “toxic” is too alarmist, because “everything is toxic; water is toxic” — and that by avoiding a potentially toxic toy, a consumer might “miss out on something that could be very beneficial to them and their sexual wellness.”

I wanted to scream. In what universe is the potential for a chemical burn beneficial? Why risk it? Why willingly expose mucous membranes to a material that could hurt us — and dear god, why ask our readers, friends, and customers to do so?

Also, what the fuck kind of good are you doing?

What we mean when we say “toxic”

Let me remind you about all the verbs that can be used to describe what toxic sex toys do: sweat, degrade, melt, off-gas, leach oils, bleed colorgrow mold. They stink up your house with a rank smell that has been described as akin to rotting onions, motor oil, cherry cough syrup, wet asphalt, ammonia, skunks. The stench is so off-putting that some manufacturers cover it up with a sickly-sweet fake fruit scent. (“Pleasantly-scented,” the packaging will lie.) Set a toxic sex toy on a newspaper and it will absorb the newsprint. Receive a large shipment of them and you’ll encounter moist packing peanuts and boxes stained with grease.

Let me remind you that these sex toys come in direct contact with mucous membranes, like vaginas and anuses, where their toxic byproducts can be absorbed.

Toxic sex toy jar of horrors, 3 years in. Lots of melting.

Because phthalate-softened PVC is not chemically stable, it’s constantly looking for other electrons to complete it — and this causes degradation. It’s become a bit of a grotesque pastime for sex toy safety crusaders to make a “jar of horrors,” piling suspect sex toys into a container to stew, where they inevitably ooze and meld together. This jar was made by my friend Lorax in summer of 2014 and kept in a cool dark place, and you can see most of the toys have decomposed into a sludge. It’s a nasty scene, and it stinks to high heaven — a mixture of pungent, sweet plastic and the aroma of a greasy car repair shop.

If the toys are doing this while sitting undisturbed in a jar, what are they doing to the human body?

We don’t have to wonder, because we know. I’ve heard an immeasurable number of stories of toxic toy exposure. A double-ended dildo that felt like fire in someone’s ass. A ball gag that numbed someone’s mouth for days after mere minutes of use. A butt plug that leached chemicals through a condom. Blistering on the labiaPain so severe that the person could barely speak. Swelling of the lips and tongue from a toy that was only ever used vaginally. Recurring UTIs and other infections. Lists of symptoms that seem like they’re from a drug commercial: headaches, nausea, lower back pain, and severe discomfort when urinating. Nostrils burning. Skin peeling. Vulvas throbbing. People emailing me in a panic, mid-reaction, not knowing how to make the burning stop.

Is the word “toxic” too strong in these instances? You fucking tell me.

Of course, the Woodhull panelists parroted the myth that people can protect themselves from toxic toys simply by covering the toy with a condom. But it isn’t that simple, since toxic toys sweat oils, and oils degrade latex and polyisoprene. It’s better than nothing, but the chemicals can still permeate through.

Rather than avoid suspicious materials in the first place, the panelists contended that folks affected by a toxic toy go to their doctors, get an allergy test, or tell the manufacturer what happened — all things which a) don’t work, and b) can be avoided by simply buying better sex toys. ALSO C) HAVING A REACTION TO A TOXIC CHEMICAL IS NOT AN ALLERGY, and we really need to stop using that word to describe it.

Consumers have expectations for things we buy. We expect them to work, ideally, but at the very least we expect them not to poison or maim us. If a product doesn’t work properly, we complain. If it poisons or hurts us, we do a lot worse than complain — as we should. But this self-advocacy doesn’t extend to sex toys, because we live in a sex-negative society. Sexual shame runs deep. It silences people. It makes them, and their sexual problems, feel insignificant. Most aren’t even willing to tell a friend what happened, let alone go to court over a harmful dildo.

The wild west of dildos

False and misleading sex toy packaging lists toxic sex toys as "phthalate-free," "body-safe," and "non-toxic"

To make matters worse, manufacturers can’t really be trusted — they can label a sex toy any way they’d like. Companies smack “high grade silicone” and “phthalate-free” on their packaging without ever having to prove the veracity of such claims. They confuse consumers with fabricated material names such as “Sil-a-Gel,” “CyberSkin,” and “jelly.” They prey on consumers’ ignorance, luring them with bottom-barrel prices and reassuring buzzphrases such as “safe and pure,” “hypoallergenic,” “body-safe,” “hygienically superior,” “medical grade material,” “antibacterial,” and to my great disgust, “non-toxic.”

All of this causes confusion. Toxic sex toys have given body-safe toys a bad name, because people don’t know the difference. I’ve had a customer who (falsely) equated silicone with toxicity; they didn’t want a silicone dildo “because those have gross chemicals in them.” On Tumblr, if I dare post a photo showing silicone toys touching, I’ll be bombarded with people yelling at me that they’re all going to melt. (They aren’t. Silicone is inert.)

The battle feels insurmountable at times. No governing body is ensuring that sex toys are safe for internal use. In my dreams, there’d be some sort of federal regulation with regards to labeling sex toys — anything that could hold manufacturers accountable, force them to scientifically verify the composition of their products, and signal to consumers that not all toys are created equal. But no politician on earth will touch this issue with a 10-foot pole. Can you imagine the headlines? They’d be crucified for championing such a minor and “salacious” cause when there are bigger issues at stake. It’s a public health problem, if you ask me, but that’s not how it’d be spun.

We can’t wait for systemic change, because we’ll be waiting forever.

Instead, consumer education is happening in the comments sections of sex toy blogs, on the floors of feminist sex shops, on social media, in private emails, and in daily conversation (like anytime my mom wants me to warn one of her friends). Bloggers are helping consumers become more savvy and self-aware while putting pressure on manufacturers to reconsider their rampant usage of toxic additives. It is up to us to do all the material-sniffing and toy-burning ourselves, to teach others how to do the same. It’s a torch I’m happy to carry, and one I have never questioned the importance of.

Our sex toys should not poison us. This should not be a radical stance.

Why “body-safe” is the correct term, porous vs. non-porous, and the affordability factor

Body-safe sex toys may be more spendy in general, but toxic toys add up too.

Call me an extremist, but “body-safe” should be the goddamn bare minimum for sex toys.

This phrase doesn’t mean the toy’s well-designed, or that it will give you an orgasm, or even that it’s going to function properly. It implies nothing beyond the fact that using the toy will not harm a human being.

In an infuriating bout of linguistic nitpicking, the Woodhull panelists argued that “body-safe” is relative based on dosage, exposure, and individual sensitivities. OK, but why can’t we just actively limit our exposure to known problematic chemicals? We have the power to do this!

I use the phrase “body-safe” because it perfectly encapsulates the issue, and the issue goes far beyond just phthalates. It’s PVC toys that contain chlorine, porous toys that harbor bacteria, metallic paint chipping off inside my vagina, other harmful sex toy additives such as cadmium, lube that promotes yeast infections, Anal-Eaze and shrink creams, butt plugs without proper flared bases. “Body-safe” is a battle cry for manufacturers to do better, and “body-safe” makes people think. It makes them realize some sex toys actually aren’t safe.

Porous toys are not inherently toxic, but toxic toys are inherently porous. This distinction matters because porous materials can trap micro-organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and mildew on their surfaces, even after cleaning. They can never be fully sterilized, and in fact can re-introduce bacteria back into the body, causing infections. Technically, “non-porous” sex toys do have tiny pores, but the pores are not big enough to retain microbes. This is why non-porous toys are recommended for anyone wishing to share their toys. They’re also just so much easier to clean, especially if you’re lazy or if you’re a bleeder, and oh yeah, one other little thing: they LAST.

There is a greater upfront cost with body-safe, non-porous toys; that is true, in general. However, it is no longer fair to argue, as the panelists did, that non-toxic toys are financially inaccessible. If you need a cheap vibrator, you can get a hard plastic one. If you need a cheap dildo or butt plug, you can shop in Tantus’ grab bag section. SheVibe has 277 non-porous vibrators under $30, and 93 non-porous dildos under $30. Sales crop up all the time.

This is 2017, not 1997. Inexpensive body-safe toys exist, and they’re only going to become more common — as long as we don’t relent.

The irony was almost unbearable when the panelists then recommended treating shitty sex toys like our toothbrushes. “We toss our toothbrushes after awhile, right?” they said. “So it doesn’t mean that we can’t use some of these lower quality materials… it just means we need to treat them differently and replace them more often.”

NOPE NOPE NOPE. Get an inexpensive non-porous toy that won’t degrade, or save the money and put it toward a better toy. Nobody should settle for a toxic toy, no matter how little money they have. Especially when that $20 dildo could land them in the emergency room, out way more cash.

A scientific interlude, if you’re into that: about phthalates

Oils dripping down a toxic dildo. Photo courtesy of CATT.Phthalates are everywhere, so why worry about them? That’s how the panelists tried to downplay it. “It’s important to think of scale,” one argued. “Like my arm resting on the airplane seat on the way here, that plastic on that armrest that I have direct skin exposure to probably has far more phthalates in it than something that people are actually paying attention to.”

This is where audience member and everyday hero Ruby piped up to say what we were all thinking: “I’m sorry, but the armrest doesn’t go in your vagina.”

Do we know, scientifically and definitively, that phthalates and other chemicals in sex toys cause harm? No, because we’ve barely studied it. We know that phthalates themselves are bad news: studies (mostly on rodents) have indicated that phthalates may cause respiratory disorders, hormonal disruption, and reproductive issues.

But studies on sex toys specifically are sparse, and determining a sex toy’s composition is a costly endeavor. In 2000, a chemist named Hans Ulrich Krieg noted ten dangerous chemicals gassing out of sex toys in concentrations that shocked him: “I have been doing this analysis of consumer goods for more than 10 years,” he said, “and I’ve never seen such high results.” In 2006, Greenpeace Netherlands and The Coalition Against Toxic Toys sent sex toys to labs and both found phthalate concentrations ranging from 24 to over 50 percent.

For perspective, Congress has banned childrens’ toys containing over 0.1% phthalates.

We simply don’t know what the long-term effects of continued exposure to phthalates and other toxic sex toy additives may be, and we can’t afford to wait and find out. For me, the vast anecdotal evidence is enough. I don’t need a scientist to confirm that my ejaculate is not pee, and I don’t need one to tell me these sex toys are toxic when they’re burning folks’ genitals on the regular.

More importantly, there’s little reason to opt for a toxic sex toy when so many affordable body-safe options exist.

How to determine if a sex toy is body-safe

Body-safe sex toy materials: silicone, wood, glass, plastic, and stainless steel

Clockwise, from bottom left: We-Vibe Rave (silicone), Tantus Cush (silicone), Vixen Creations Buck (silicone), NobEssence Seduction (wood), Crystal Delights Star Delight (glass), Turbo Glider (plastic), We-Vibe Tango (plastic), njoy Pure Wand (stainless steel), LELO Ella (silicone).

Look for sex toys made of the same materials as kitchen tools: pure silicone, stainless steel, glass, sealed wood, aluminum, ceramic, stone, acrylic, and hard plastic.

Buy from a trusted retailernot Amazon. Patronize shops with a commitment to stocking body-safe products, and they’ll do most of the legwork for you! Smitten Kitten and Tantus have been the most vocal opponents of toxic toys, and other feminist sex shops such as Early to BedShe Bop, and Babeland stock body-safe toys almost exclusively. SheVibe has an extensive selection of inexpensive body-safe toys and a filtering tickbox in the sidebar for non-porous toys specifically.

Be wary of the packaging. Even the worst of the worst toys are now falsely labeled “phthalate-free” and “non-toxic,” so unless you trust the manufacturer (see next tip), don’t believe it. There is one word that should send you screaming in the other direction, though: “jelly.”

Educate yourself on which companies can be trusted and which cannot. Blogs are a wealth of information on this. I review almost exclusively body-safe toys, with a few exceptions. Below, I’ve compiled a list of companies that have proven themselves trustworthy — and those which have not.

Click here for a list of sketchy companies and trustworthy ones

The companies you should be skeptical of are the big ones: California Exotic NoveltiesNasstoysTopcoPipedream (whose CEO has actually said “most of our customers don’t give a shit what their toy is made of” — nice!), and Doc Johnson. These companies tend to make some body-safe products, but they are old school and still churn out tons of crap.

Fantastic companies that deal in specialty materials include njoy and Haka (stainless steel), Crystal Delights and Standard Glass (glass), NobEssence and Lumberjill (wood), and Crowned Jewels (aluminum).

These manufacturers use 100% silicone exclusively and produce products without motors: TantusVixen Creations, New York Toy CollectiveFuzeHole Punch ToysDownunder Toys, Funkit ToysBS AtelierVamp, Split Peaches, Godemiche (ugh).

These toy-makers have committed to body-safe materials only: AnerosCrave, Bswish, Dame, DoxyFun Factory, IrohaJe JoueJimmyjaneJopen, LaidLeaf, L’AmouroseLELOMinna, NexusOhMiBodPicoBong, Pleasure Works, Rocks OffSola, SwanTickler, We-Vibe, and Wet for Her.

Give it a squeeze, a look, a sniff, a lick. Soft, translucent materials are often porous at the very least. Stinky toys are suspect, because true silicone has no lingering odor. (Body-safe toys can sometimes have a light scent straight from the packaging, something akin to the smell of a foam flip-flop, but it should dissipate quickly.) If you’re up to it, apply your lips or tongue to the toy. If you experience any numbing or tingling, chuck that toy in the trash.

If it seems too cheap, it probably is. A big ol’ hunk of dildo costs a mere $20? Yeah, that’s most likely not body-safe. On the other hand, a high price does not guarantee body-safety. I’ve seen toxic-as-fuck rabbit vibes for $85.

Light it on fire. True silicone can withstand very high temperatures. If you want to determine whether a toy you own is silicone or not, you can strike a match and hold the yellow part of the flame to the material for 5-8 seconds. If it melts, it’s not silicone. If it leaves only a soot mark, it’s probably silicone. More here about deciphering results of the flame test.

In a world where nobody gets a chemical burn from a sex toy…

Education is the answer. We know that for sure. My blogger friends and I have been fighting this war for years. That day in the Woodhull session, we fought it in real time. Whenever the panelists issued a misleading statement, I looked down at my laptop and watched as my friends dismantled it on Twitter. The energy in the room was palpable — of skepticism, but also unity. I left the session angry but energized, reminded of how passionate I am about this. How I refuse to shut up about it.

Change is happening, slowly. The big sex toy companies have realized the marketing potential of silicone, and many are utilizing it to various degrees. Cheaper body-safe toys are being released constantly. We’ve come a long way in just the time I’ve been in the industry, from a time when one new silicone line was worth writing about to the current day, where I can’t possibly keep up with it all. Hell, most new shower curtains these days are phthalate-free.

Still, I expect to go to my grave in a reality where toxic sex toys are still being manufactured. Is that too pessimistic? I believe capitalism will win out over safety — especially with no governmental intervention. But, in the meantime, I do what I can. I’ll be damn sure that more people are aware of this issue than they were before. That companies think twice before pumping their toys full of bullshit. That sex shops realize the power of eschewing toxic products. That the end consumer, you, does not have to ever even know what a chemical burn feels like. A modest goal, perhaps, but that is my wish.

Your health matters. Your pleasure matters. Spread the word. Be your own advocate. Throw away your toxic sex toys.

Have you experienced any toxic sex toys? Share your story in
the comments — we can never have enough evidence.

[For more info on toxic sex toys, check out Lilly’s master page.]

  • A couple of thoughts:

    I also had a ball gag that was “pleasantly scented” and “raspberry flavored” that burned my mouth and made my tongue tingle for hours.

    When I did sex toy parties, early on (before I knew better) we were told certain translucent squishy toys were silicone that were not, and not to let “silicone” toys touch because they’d melt. I’ve met customer after customer that did not react to a porous toy but didn’t want to throw it out after YEARS of use. I also met quite a few that contacted me within months of buying a porous toy complaining about mold spots, even though they’d bought toy cleaner. We were often told later on to only show and sell the “high end silicone” toys if we wanted to make more money.

    I was really shocked the panel focused on semantics and trying to excuse porous toys rather than discussing wood sealants, ceramic glazing, flangeless anal toys, or actual records of toy injuries (there’s a famous lawsuit involving Pipedream). They didn’t talk about what’s used as sex toys in prison populations, yet clamored about social justice with regards to encouraging consumers to buy silicone over thermoplastics they later said should be thrown away regularly like that’s not more expensive in the long run or worse for the environment. They said UV light furthers decomposition but didn’t talk about the fact that there’s a UV light “toy cleaner” device on the market. They missed so many opportunities to say anything of substance and instead focused on making excuses for TPR, TPE, SEBS, and PVC.

  • Dylan Doran

    This sounds so similar to the kind of stuff you hear about in the body piercing industry: “surgical steel” “antibacterial” “316L Steel” “Gold Plated” “Genuine Sterling Silver” “Hypoallergenic” etc are terms that people get won over by all the time. Safe internally threaded/mirror polished/implant grade jewellery is not cheap.

    Thanks to this blog I’ve started taking the same attitude to my sex toys too! I know for sure I’ve got some dubious pieces, but just don’t have the cash to replace them yet.

  • AceDenise

    I’m really surprised that such a panel was brought in to speak at Woodhull, of all places. I thought they were more committed to body-safe toys and sex positivity. Were the organizers aware of what the content of the presentation would be before they agreed to bring these “panelists” in? If so, then I’m hugely disappointed in them. I would love to be able to go to Woodhull one day, but not if they are hosting presentations like this one. I really hope it was just a blip, a mistake on the part of the Woodhull organizers.

  • Jane Blow

    The livetweets are a fucking train wreck, wow. Just wow. All of us with facts and counterpoints – it is amazing that the panel even tried – AT WOODHULL no less. I’ve seen one of the Big 5 during a B2B show say “It is from China, yes its jelly, don’t buy it if you don’t like it”. At least THAT was honest, sorta? Idk. Still crazy.

    What a shit show. They should be working from the inside to IMPROVE toys, not defend and minimize the dangers. Wow. They sound like they drank the punch.

    It was a Roast, much carnage, served well done.

    I almost hope there is always a panel like this – turn it into a sporting event. War paint, and battle cries, etc. Makes me sick.

    Working in a shop, listening to the news of stores going bankrupt and ancient chains closing for one reason or another; I’m glad that these dinosaurs are closing partly because they just don’t update their merch from toxic toys.

  • dstar3k

    Three things popped into my mind as I was reading this (well, two, and a third when I read the comments):

    1) While sex toys aren’t regulated, surely they still have to abide by false advertising rules? At least that would keep them from claiming things that aren’t true, right?
    2) Should I win one of these insanely large lotteries, I’ll earmark a large sum of money for a trust that pays legal expenses for anyone suing as a result of damage from one of these toys. I’m male, and _I’ve_ suffered from one. At the time, I thought it had been contaminated with something, but I never figured out what or how; it was only after learning that jelly toys can do that that I realized what really happened.
    3) I hope the organizers of Woodstock are desperately looking for burn cream as a result of the reactions to this panel? If not, they should be.

  • Salina Drachen

    I bought the only rabbit that ever brought me to orgasm before I knew any better, so it was of porous material. One warm summer month I had not been using a particular lube for maybe a month and the bottle was nearing empty, so I decided to use it to get rid of it. It of course had suspect ingredients — yup, I REALLY did not know any better then.

    I did not notice anything unusual that evening, but the next morning I felt a bit off and did not smell normal. Thankfully I had had one bacterial vaginosis in my teens (a long story for another time) so I realized what was about to happen, rushed to the pharmacy and got two different lactic acid vaginal products + a similar creme for the labia. It took about a week for the symptoms to completely vanish, but luckily disappear they did, this time around without antibiotics (most of which my body does not handle too well).

    I did connect my symptoms with the almost finished lube and tossed it. I did not realize, though, that the routine scrubbing I gave the rabbit vibe (soap -> alcohol -> Lactacyd) could not get the porous toy truly clean. A couple of weeks later I used the rabbit again — and my symptoms reoccurred. That’s when I started to google specifically about how to keep soft-surface rabbit vibes Actually Clean. And learned that the answer is a big Nope. If memory serves, I found Dangerous Lilly first, somewhat later Epiphora, and the rest is history.

    Thank you for saving my genitals by destroying (some parts of) my ignorance!

  • AceDenise

    No, the sex toy industry does not have to follow false advertising laws. They are not regulated at all by the US government. At all, and this includes false advertising standards.

  • AceDenise

    Were those people sponsored by Doc Johnson or Pipedream to come speak at Woodhull? Because now I am suspicious…

  • montgomery

    I watched that disastrous woodhull panel be live-tweeted by all the sex bloggers I follow and what an absolute disgrace that panel must’ve been. Thank you so much for this article because now I have yet another resource to point people to when they don’t believe me about toxic toys.

    I’ll never forget that time a dildo labelled ‘tpr’ gave me welts. It was real pretty but you know where it sucks to get welts? Alllll over your vulva. One of my first dildos also stank so bad that I had to throw out everything that shared the drawer with it because no amount of laundry detergent would get that smell out. Nearly 10 years later I STILL come across an undershirt or something from time to time that still smells like that rank mystery plastic. Meanwhile I have my first glass dildo, also a decade later, and it has never done me wrong.

    I did my time with toxic toys, but that doesn’t mean anyone else should have to.

  • dstar3k

    I was under the impression that the false advertising laws applied to everything, no matter what it was?

  • Carley Scott

    I’m not as well educated on the topic as some, but it seems to me that since they don’t have to scientifically confirm what’s in their toys, they can say almost anything about it. I don’t think it would fall under false advertising if the company has plausible deniability about knowing it’s false. Alternately, I don’t know that packaging is considered an advertisement. The wording on the FTC’s page about it seems to imply that it does not — so long as they don’t put ads that make false claims anywhere other than packaging or an item listing, it seems like they’re sliding between the lines.

    Also, even if it does apply, honestly, who is going to enforce it? Like the post says, no politician and nearly no lawyer is ever going to touch this.

  • Maddy

    Thank goodness I fell into an internet hole one day and found first you and then other great reviewers, because shortly beforehand I had bought my first vibrator and it was a cheap jelly thing I got online. Now I make sure that all my toys are way more awesome and safe. As I didn’t have the crappy one for long I thankfully was saved from experiencing anything gross and dangerous. High fives for you and all you other awesome reviewers.

  • Tiffany Rutledge

    My lady and I were using a double headed dildo, and I ran to the tub trying to shove cold water into my vagina to stop the agonizing burn. I thought it was hust my latex allergy, but after 2 minutes after me, SHE came running for cold water for her vagina too. It was horrid and showed me it wasn’t latex allergy, it was something else. We chucked the toy.

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  • Mia More

    Great piece. Well said.

    The topic of toxic sex toys used to be a circular conversation at Cliterati which quickly became an office campaign. So, just like you I find it genuinely shocking that many moons later the manufacture of sex toys with harmful chemicals is ongoing and the issue is STILL not resolved. The mind boggles!

    Frankly, you shouldn’t HAVE to be writing this piece today, as by now the industry should be regulated and toxic ingredients irrelevant. It pains me that we still need to have this conversation, but I’m thankful you’re still being vocal about it all. I’m reminded that when I write my magazine reviews I should probably dig further into manufacturers’ phthalate-free promises instead of taking their claims at face value. I’m already choosy and may need to become choosier still (and nothing wrong with that).

    Cheers for the mental nudge, and keep up the good work!

  • sayitwithsarcophilus

    The livetweet thread is a trip. Seriously “just because some people have had bad reactions to this thing doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad for you, and pre-emptively cutting it out of your life could deprive you of a good experience” is decent advice when you’re talking about gluten. But jelly dildos aren’t bread.

  • siobhan21

    I must say, I am super curious to know who these people work for. I mean do they have a incentive to give shitty toys a pass or were they independent? I understand the concept that we don’t have the research to truly draw certain conclusions. Without significant research that controls for confounders, we don’t know if the anecdotal evidence we hear is statically significant. However, I feel like suggesting that people err on the side of caution is the appropriate response. Especially since it was readily admitted by the panel that toys made from questionable materials that are not sterilizable. And then to turn around suggest that they simply put a condom on the toy when we also don’t have research to suggest that that would be effective against the potential chemical harms is suspect AF.

    Also, was one of those panelist a chemist? If not were any of them truly qualified to discuss the chemical composition of toys as an expert?

  • Rin

    It’s nothing short of shocking that folks would actually go out of their way to basically DEFEND unsafe toys at a panel. My brain just about capsized when I read “Everything is toxic; water is toxic”? Just… WHAT? In fairness, yes, too much of ANYTHING can be bad for you. The key being the amount, and if something can cause harm with minimal exposure, I’d say that’s a good reason to refer to a substance as “toxic.” And using something that has definite health benefits, like say, the vital-for-life-to-exist-at-all WATER as an example is just asinine.

    I really hope that nobody took those speakers seriously if they were spouting nonsense such as that. I’m glad I learned about material safety early on in my toying life, and it makes me sad and worried to know that so many people are still buying those gross abominations companies call toys and inadvertently harming themselves in the process.

    Hopefully one day messages about body-safe sex toys will reach enough people that companies pumping out gross, unsafe products will just go under because no one will buy their third-rate toys anymore.

  • dstar3k

    “Also, even if it does apply, honestly, who is going to enforce it? Like the post says, no politician and nearly no lawyer is ever going to touch this.”

    Actually, I’m fairly sure they would if it was put to them properly.

    “Here’s a chance to shut down one of these [insert epithet here].”

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  • Carley Scott

    Doubt it. Their anti-sex-toy constituents (which would certainly be a majority at least in public) would still say “well if they’re making unsafe toys maybe those sluts buying them deserve what they get! Let it stay open!”

  • I just wanted to take this time to thank you from the bottom of my heart because I have never purchased a toy that was not body-safe thanks to you. A friend turned me onto your blog shortly before I purchased my first toy and I can not thank either of you enough. Knowledge is power. XOXOXOX!

  • scatternerd

    I think one of the things I hate most about toxic toys – nearly everything in a less-conventional shape (I dig knot toys, ok?) is made using toxic materials. I’ve found one, and only one that was in a reasonable material (sealed wood). The Fluke comes close, but it’s not what I’m looking for.

  • starbit

    I know that bad dragon, primal hardwear, exotic erotics, and frisky beast have knotted toys. it might not be what you’re looking for, but primal hardwear at least is known to be responsible and trustworthy and all of them are silicone only.

  • scatternerd

    Bad dragon has melted on me before . . . I’m extremly iffy about them after that (I had a gryphon and a tentacle melt on touching for no more than a couple days). I’ll check out primal though.

  • sayitwithsarcophilus

    Damn Average (on etsy) is another good option for unusual shapes if your tastes run a bit smaller than Bad Dragon. They’re a small operation but I’ve ordered from them a few times and never had any complaints.

  • scatternerd

    ShouldaWooda suggested them too, after I bought a knotty wood dildo from them. I’ll definitely be checking on them

  • Felony

    I feel like if this was an industry that catered to predominantly male users that there would be such a mass outcry… but hey these things are used by females for the most part… so ya know… WHATEVER!

    I’m not trying to put anyone down, I know men use toys, but most sex toys are marketed for women or male partners to use on women.

  • sophia

    That’s extremely bizarre to me. I’ve had over a dozen BD toys stored together and touching for over a year with nothing happening, and my collection is pretty small compared to some people’s.

  • scatternerd

    I don’t know why it would be different, but that’s what happened to me. Maybe it was an old batch of bad toys, I couldn’t say, but it’s certainly made me a bit gun shy on them.

  • dstar3k

    ……Aaaargh.

    And once again I’m reminded that I don’t think like other people.

    Okay, in this case I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m a damned good programmer rather than anything else, but still.

    I mean, it would seem obvious to me that when creating a truth in advertising law it wouldn’t matter _what_ is being sold, if it claims to be made of something that it’s not (and a reasonable person would believe the claim, just to clear cans of e.g. ‘Unicorn Poop’), it would be a violation of the law.

    I keep forgetting that politicians aren’t human, they’re just morons made up of the most stupid parts of the stupidest humans that have _ever lived_.

    *sigh*

  • AceDenise

    In total agreement with everything you just said… Grrr!

  • Anna Banana

    The only time I have bought a porous toy since learning about toxic sex toy materials is when I bought the Blue Valentine Sexy Pill for my transmasculine partner who had been taking testosterone and wanted to try a masturbator. It has been a brilliant and empowering toy for them and they love it and are really glad they have it, but I must confess I feel a bit dodgy about the hygiene levels of it (they are also pretty lazy about washing it promptly…), however I feel really stuck as there are so few toys out there like this that are suitable for trans guys! I know we have the Buck Off now but I’ve seen multiple reviews that say that it’s basically no good unless you are pretty far along in your T journey and have quite a bit of growth (so typical of Buck Angel to produce something only for people who have bodies just like his in my opinion, but that’s probably another rant for another day!), so I would say that the only flaw in the ‘only use silicone/other body safe toys’ mantra is that it does mean that those who do not have toys made for their body types are extremely limited in what that leaves them. I would love to know if anyone has recommendations for any other body safe alternatives to the Sexy Pill for trans guys/people who have taken T, that aren’t the Buck Off!

  • Sara Testarossa

    I can’t personally vouch for the ones listed here but I’ve seen them recommended and two are silicone!
    http://www.thecsph.org/qa-masturbation-sleeves-for-transmen/

  • CyborgDicks

    Hi! I’m a transmasculine person, and I’ve used a few. I can vouch for the Eel from A Krow’s Nest, the small sized Snowbird from Frisky Beast (although I’ve had problems with their wait times), and the Shotpocket from FTM Pitstop

    The Eel is more suited to those who’ve had less T growth, while the Snowbird is more for those who’ve had more (but has two holes so can be used with varying anatomies).

  • rhestars

    I just want to say thank you for formally writing this out. I stumbled across your blogs when looking for information and reviews on Lelo vibes almost 2-3 years ago because I used to work at an adult store while going to school(my favorite job to DATE). Since then you have truly opened my eyes to toy safety and am QUITE picky about my toys.
    However, I came across a time when my SO and I wanted to just grab something quick -due to having a random very fun evening, but I didn’t happen to have anything like the toy we were soughting for, for that particular moment in time.
    We purchased something from an adult store I have never even been to(this was after I had left my adult store job). We purchased a California Exotics “realistic” vibrating dildo. I knew this was going to be something that wasn’t going to last thanks to my knowledge of toy/material safety and of course, working in a store I have pretty good cleaning habits as well.
    We only used this toy ONCE, AND ONLY ORALLY. I cleaned it immediately after use, but we didn’t pick it up again for a couple months.
    When I went back to it I noticed there was a small mark on it that could be described almost as a small tear.
    When touched it felt unBEARABLY sticky…this made me want to leave it alone just to do my own little experiment instead of discarding it.
    Two more months later the dildo completely stuck to it’s container(and as a side note was not touching any other toys)…I had to rip it out of the container. It was practically melting.
    Two MORE months later it started to grow little black spots on it(which I can only assume was some sort of mold) and I could hardly pull it from it’s container. At that point I decided to just toss it.
    I was so appalled – and so glad I had the previous knowledge when stepping into the toy spectrum.
    Even that dildo was at least 30 dollars…and I’ve spent less or more on silicone and glass dildos and have NEVER had an issue. EVER. It’s absolutely disgusting, and it’s horrible these materials aren’t regulated!
    If that had been my first sex toy it probably would have scared me away!
    Since then I have purchased my very first Vixskin(Goodfella Realistic Silicone Dildo), and so far am super impressed and will never go for a “quickie” again.
    Nothing is worth that, or saving a few bucks.
    It’s so much better to save up and get something better or wait til something dope goes on sale!

  • Alice

    I just want to say thank you,

  • Alice

    ‘*Blush* darn it, sorry I posted my comment before finishing writing. here’s what I wanted to say’

    I just wanted to say thank you for all the research and testing you have done over the years. At the time after I had turned 18 years old and started getting into sex toys, I did a google search for finding out what jelly toys were made and came across a post by you which pretty much turned me off to non-body-safe sex toys. I was thankfully spared the sex toy horror most people go through it seems.

    For my 18th birthday, my female friends (The 18+ plus ones anyways) took me to a local sex shop. Pretty much everything in the shop could be smelt through the packaging and I didn’t end up get anything because of this. When I asked my friends what this jelly sex toy stuff was, I was quite shocked to find out they didn’t know hence my google search.

    I grew up in lower-income mostly female community which wasn’t really squeamish about talking about sex/masturbation or menstruation. Its because of this environment that it wasn’t until I was 14 years old when I found out that breast feeding in public is taboo apparently after a woman on the public bus asked me if she could breast feed her crying newborn.

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