Sex Toys and Safety

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Words || Jasmine Phillips

Newly eighteen-year-olds everywhere are flashing shiny photo i.d. cards at the door to a brand new world. No, friend, not just the club – something even better!

The adult store.

But few people are aware of the hidden dangers of these naughty nooks and crannies can hide. 

And I’m not just talking about the shady dude side-eyeing you and hiding his moustache behind his fedora. 

With the reputation that adult stores have, it’s no wonder that the legislation and regulation of “adult items” is pretty murky.

Contemporary Westernised society suffers from a duality of sex repulsion and sex obsession. While our advertising and marketing rely on the infamous concept of “sex sells,” our reliance on victim-blaming and slut-shaming demonstrates a strong sense of sex negativity. Further evidence of sex negativity can be found in the general public aversion to sex work, sexual health, and sex education.

Most politicians are reticent to discuss sex in any capacity when it comes to campaigning. It’s not exactly a “safe” bet to try and enforce better sexual health education or to advocate for better sex worker rights. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?

The total lack of regulation on sex toy safety might not be the worst that could happen, but boy is it a mess.

With and across Australia and the United States, there is not a single authoritative body that manages and regulates the safety and standards of sex toys. Every other sensitive object is regulated within an inch of its life – we have hospital-grade standards, food-safe materials, and child-safe materials – but the toys we use for the most intimate areas?

They are not regulated.

Let me make it clear how dire this can be:    

  • Manufacturers do not have to create body-safe sex toys.
  • Manufacturers are legally permitted to lie about the body safety of their products.
  • Sellers and manufacturers are legally permitted to advertise their product as “100% silicone” when their product is not, in fact, made of silicone.

Okay, sure… But how bad could that be, really?

Unsafe sex toys can and do cause significant injuries in the general population. The design and manufacture of an unsafe toy can cause anything from minor bacterial infections (which, in your intimate area? Ouch!) to literal cancer.

That’s right, ladies. Your little jelly dildo from Toys-R-Lust? That’s an infection WAITING to happen.

So, how do we figure out which toys are safe? If manufacturers are legally permitted to lie about their product’s safety… How do we figure out what to buy and where from?

Calm down, Karen. I’m not suggesting we throw the butt plug out with the bathwater.

There are a few things to look out for when you’re purchasing a toy.

  1. Materials: I know, I know, they can lie about what they are. But let’s start by getting clear on the materials that we should be looking for. We want: silicone, stainless steel, ABS plastic, glass or 100% body-safe rubber. That is it. No soft, squishy plastics – and especially no jelly plastic. These soft plastics are porous, meaning they’re full of tiny holes. This means they actually cannot physically be properly cleaned. You will get a bacterial or yeast infection from the bacterial build up in these toys – so let’s keep it safe and make sure our softies are silicone.
  2. Anal Toys: Look, buddy, I don’t care what you put up your butt. But for the love of god, and the sake of nurses everywhere: make sure it has a flared base. I don’t care how hot that porno with the lady shoving a cucumber up her ass was – unless it has a flared section that cannot go fit your butthole, do not put it there
  3. Phthalates: these chemicals were banned from children’s toys over a decade ago, after their carcinogenic properties were proven. Yet they’re still routinely used in sex toys, to make them softer and more fun. You know what’s not fun? Cancer. Read the label.
  4. Price: this isn’t always a marker for quality, but it’s pretty safe to say that a $10 dildo is probably not made of market-leading high-quality material. Body-safe materials are more expensive, so you can expect to pay upwards of $50 for a decent dildo.
  5. Reputable Company: the best way to avoid dodgy sex toys with false labels is to go for a trustworthy, reputable company. A good retailer will not sell unsafe toys – period. Retailers such as Lovehoney and manufacturers like Lelo have excellent reputations in the space – check out other options by researching online.

The moral of the story is: no matter where you’re sticking it, stay safe kids!