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How safe is your sex toy?

The popularity of sex toys just keeps on growing and sex toy activists (yes, there really is such a thing) are on a mission to educate people about what is body-safe and what isn’t.

There is more and more information appearing in the public domain about avoiding toys which are made of jelly-like materials and which can contain toxic chemicals. They are also virtually impossible to sanitise fully so can transmit germs and bacteria creating anything from yeast infections to urinary tract infections, STDs and HIV.

So, people are kinda getting to understand that picking the brightly coloured cheap toys is not always the way to go but are there are other safety issues that consumers should be aware of? This is, after all, an area wholly unregulated by the FDA and legislation so anything can go in the sex toy market and usually does.
Cheap toys made from toxic materials may also be unsafe for other reasons; they can lack basic safety features. For instance, butt muscles naturally clench so it is easy for anything in there to just get sucked inside if it has not been properly designed. But how the hell would you know that if you were a beginner and hadn’t used a toy before? And anal toys are not alone when it comes to design flaws.

An anal toy should have a wide handle or flared base to reflect the fact that it could disappear without trace, not usually a problem for toys which are inserted into the vagina. Words are cheap (or free) so look closely at the toy and consider its exact design. Some toys which rather worryingly are marketed as beginners’ toys might feature a ring as a securing point but the ring is often no wider than the toy itself and would do nothing to stop the toy getting lost in reality.

How about some cheap plastic love balls? Not long before that string might snap and you will be finishing the wrong sort of balls out of your vagina. It does happen. Sarah Brynn Holliday, a sex activist and queer sex educator plus a whole heap of other things including sex toy consultant, from Salem, Massachusetts, lobbies for change and for sex toy companies to work to some sort of ethical agenda within the industry. A lot of her work revolves around the use of body-safe products and consumer education.

Holliday is a zealot in her mission to inform and educate and holds workshops at Universities and colleges and sex toys are always on the curriculum. Her sessions will include what’s safe and what’s not and information on ethical and unethical companies. The rise of social media makes it easy to shame the worst offenders and also simply find out who are the good guys when it comes to buying a sex toy.

How to buy safe sex toys

  • If you take care to buy a safe toy then also take care of the toy you have bought.
  • Keep toys for anal play and sex separate from those for use in the vagina including distinct storage
  • Clean your toys after you have used them and especially if you have multiple partners – hot water and mild soap works perfectly well or you can buy branded wipes from your online sex toy retail store. Don’t submerge your toys in water as this can damage then, just lightly wash and wipe clean
  • Make sure that you take care of your choice of lube as some lubricants can damage and debride the surface of silicone sex toys.
  • Always opt for a water-based lube unless you are using toys made of glass or metal – many sex toys are made of silicone themselves so take good care

Here is some other guidance about safe sex toy purchasing

  • Pay close attention to the price – if the toy is super cheap then it has probably been made from toxic or porous materials and not conformed with safe usage in mind – you do get what you pay for
  • Opt for toys made from hard products – glass, metal and hard plastic – you know what you are buying and they are easy to clean and sanitise
  • Only use toys designed for anal play for, anal play – these should feature a base or stopper so you don’t end up facing an embarrassing trip to the Emergency Room
  • Look carefully at the design of vibrators and anal toys – just because they are marketed and sold for those body locations doesn’t always mean they are safe to use particularly if you are shopping via a retail platform or using an unverified website
  • Use authentic and genuine websites and don’t be frightened to ask questions about the composition and origin of their toys; reputable sex toy retailers pride themselves on being open about their products and selling ethical toys. You may end up paying a bit more
  • Follow sexperts or sex toy consultants and bloggers are read their reviews about safe and valid toys; these also act as great purchase guides if you are not sure what to buy
  • Try not to be in the habit of mixing toys for anal and vaginal sex – you could be sharing bacteria from your butt which doesn’t belong elsewhere and this can cause yeast infections or UTIs
  • Make sure the product is as described when you open it and that the packaging is intact and not damaged in any way
  • Look out for spelling mistakes or odd language in either the packaging or the instruction manual if there is one – this can be an indicator that the product is a fake
  • The toy should appear new and unused but you should always clean and disinfect before you use it just in case and to get rid of factory dust and particles. Beware any overly strong plastic smell from a vibrator as this could indicate the presence of phthalates which are toxic plastics
  • If in doubt about any toy always throw it away

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