This is the first in a series of articles on sex toy materials. I hope they explain why I am an activist for safe and ethical production of products you use for pleasure in the most intimate of areas. Whether or not something is toxic or harmful shouldn’t be part of the equation of self-discovery and indulgence. You deserve worry-free pleasure.
Click here for Part 2, Toxic Sex Toys.
Click here for Part 3, Porous Sex Toys.
Click here for last Part 4, Body Safe Sex Toys.
Click here for Part 5, Counterfeit Sex Toys.
Note: links herein may be NSFW, long investigative journalism pieces, or scientific papers, so click with caution at work.
We will boycott GMO’s due to health concerns and corporate greed. We will eat raw and vegan for the same reason. We’ll ban lead in paint and jewelry. We’ll ban phthalates and BPA from children’s products and baby bottles. Why is it, then, we don’t give a second thought to what our sex toys are made of? Is it because we see sex and pleasure as shameful? While that’s still up for debate, sex toys are still a multi-billion dollar industry.
Sex toy materials and their construction aren’t the first thing that come to mind when you shop for a new one. You might think that, because it’s being sold, that it’s safe. Unfortunately, if you live in the USA (or Canada, with a few exceptions), that’s not always true. It’s one of the reasons I chose to work with My Secret Soiree.
A few years ago, I started researching sex toys and studying the industry. I had experienced the tragedy of two sex toys “melting” when they were stored in the same drawer. I had questions. Why? What are sex toys made out of? Where are they made? The answers shocked me.
It’s said that no matter what earbuds under $50 you buy, they’re all the same. Overseas manufacturers offer snap-in-place options and slap your logo on the side. About a dozen other companies can do the same thing.
The same is true of many sex toys. There are only so many big sex toy manufacturers out there, mainly because US banks don’t like to do business with adult-oriented businesses. Small companies exist, but can only produce so many toys at a time. That scarcity, ethical labor wages, and higher quality materials mean those products tend to cost a little more. Mostly, the market is flooded with toys by a few very large companies, which are really large distribution corporations that have put their brands on sex toys manufactured overseas. Even domestic sex toy manufacturers admit China has the infrastructure for vibration components, and all of those components are made there. They know that in the USA, we don’t value sexual health or pleasure very much. They know that if a lower-cost option is available, it will sell better. However, in order to maximize profit, they must cut corners on labor and material. Knock-offs are common. Where my main concern lies is with what’s on the outside of a toy – the parts that touch your genitals.
The US does not prohibit toxic material components in sex toys, and it is 100% legal to lie on the box about what the product is made from.
Some of these materials contain potential carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) and teratogens (birth defect-causing agents), and it’s legal. Other sex toys are made with industrial-grade mineral oils, bisphenols (such as BPA, an estrogen-mimicker) or porous materials that harbor bacteria and are chemically unstable.
If you live in California, you may think you’re safe, since CA requires disclosure on carcinogens on packaging. However, sex toys are an exception. Further, the “plausible deniability” of outsourcing sex toy manufacture means that overseas factories can offer to put a body-safe material on the outside of the box, even if it’s made with something else.
Much like supplements, the industry is unregulated. The FDA only cares when products make health claims, are lubricants, or when sex toys are prescribed to a patient with sexual dysfunction. Otherwise, the CPSC steps in when there are a lot of complaints. The industry self-polices when there are lawsuits.
Luckily, some of Europe does regulate what’s in sex toys, which helps the whole industry self-regulate. In 2005, the Dutch studied several random sex toys and analyzed them for their material content. Not only did they discover some products made out of substances now banned in Europe and in children’s toys in the USA, but one of them contained a heavy metal paint. Many European manufacturers (and a few in the US) now make body-safe toys, using medical-grade materials. Crowdfunding has changed the sex toy landscape, too. The world of sex toys is getting safer, but toxic products are still out there.
In this series, we’ll cover what dangers lurk in your sex toy drawer, how to spot knock-offs and counterfeit toys, which materials and ingredients to avoid, and how to shop for ethically-produced, body safe products. I am building on the work of some fantastic writers and investigative journalists. In particular, Dangerous Lilly has by far done the most investigative journalism of anyone, interviewing those involved in this movement and making a few manufacturers squirm. I also want to give a special shout out to Tantus, whose products I am very proud to carry. The company was founded specifically to create a body-safe option and has opened the doors to many other ethical manufacturers. There are many others I owe a debt for their foot work, and I hope to link them all.
The purpose of this series isn’t to scare you. It’s simply to inform you, since knowing all the information did affect how I shop and conduct sex toy parties. There are some who don’t think this is an issue at all. This is here so you can make the right decisions for your sexual health, pleasure, & well-being.
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