Here are just some of the reasons why women have turned to making condoms and sex toys both of which might historically have been seen as something of a male domain :
- Women are generally far more focused than men on what something is made from
- They want to know where the ingredients to make it were sourced from
- What it feels like?
- How ethical is the provenance?
- What does the packaging look like? It is recycled and recyclable?
- Is the product body-safe?
- Is the product vegan?
The fact is, it can matter what your sex toy or condom is made from and where it has originated. Hideous stories exist of researchers finding used sex toys being sold as brand new with some signature residues to prove their pre-usage and there are also areas of the sex toy market flooded with products made from materials which are neither safe nor regulated.
What is the legal regulation of sex toys in the US?
Hardly any apart from a couple of odd exceptions where the toy is classified as a therapeutic or medical device; this is a status shared with other countries like the UK. There is no actual legislation aimed at sex toys which fall between the cracks as neither a legitimate toy like a child’s toy nor a medical device neatly avoiding both sets of regulations.
The fact is that the US does not have a general, non-electrical product safety regulation. The FDA (Food and Drink Administration) does regulate devices that are used for treating sexual dysfunction but anything else which is aimed at the ‘pleasure’ market is unregulated. There is a catch-all to recall unsafe products but the powers are so general as to be almost useless and many people unwittingly buy something that is either not as described or unsafe just because they don’t know any better. Some manufacturers and retailers simply rely on the lack of challenge and continue to trade these products until they are named and shamed. It is easy with an online retail shop to close and pop up elsewhere with a different identity and the same toxic products.
Fortunately for the consumer, there are sex toy activities (yes really) who are lobbying the companies to only sell body-safe toys and calling out those who fall foul of this. But as a consumer or a new user of sex toys, how can you really know if what you are buying is safe and unused? Here are some top tips.
Avoid cheap jelly products and PVC
The cheaper end of the sex toy market so single-use bullet vibrators and cock rings are often marketed as novelty items and most are made from Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC. The actual composition of these toys is not revealed by manufacturers and they are not obliged to tell the purchaser but it doesn’t really matter as nearly all of these types of products when tested by researchers, were made of products harmful to the human body.
Some jelly and PVC toys contain a toxic chemical called phthalates; these are added to all manner of products to make them flexible but they can leach out of the sex toy and impact on the hormonal levels within the body of the user and some studies have adversely linked them to the reproductive system. A Norwegian research team have connected them to asthma and some cancer charities also have evidence of a link between phthalates and breast cancer. If these are banned in the US for children’s toys then why the hell are they not banned for use in sex toys? The US Environmental Protection Agency has listed them as a toxic chemical after all. But these toys are cheap and brightly coloured and it is so easy to be lured in if you don’t know what you are really looking at and just assume they are safe. Remember, these toys can sweat oils, melt and give off the most foul-smelling odours – avoid them. But toxicity isn’t the only problem, read on to find out how to purchase safely.
How to buy safe sex toys
Just follow some simple rules and you can have your fun without having to pay a toxic price for it by endangering your health.
Find a retailer that you know and trust and buy direct from them. A genuine retailer will always be happy to answer your questions about the provenance of a toy and be totally open about either their manufacturing processes or purchasing protocols.
- Check out carefully what your proposed purchase is made from – if you are using well-known buying platforms like eBay and Amazon then it can be hard to really bottom out the seller. Porous materials can be penetrated by viruses, fungi and bacteria and are impossible to clean and sanitise properly. So it is pretty easy for them to harbour germs which can cause yeast infections and UTIs and also the bacteria responsible for STDs. Jelly is particularly porous as well as being potentially toxic
- Buy from a reputable retailer and use their site directly rather than a trading platform, that way you can verify their authenticity. Researchers found used sex toys being marketed as brand new and porous dirty toys can pass on herpes, hepatitis, syphilis and HIV
- If you can’t tell what a toy is made from then don’t buy it. A good, ethical retailer will always be clear on this issue and use it as a selling point for customer safety
- Look for toys made from hard plastics, silicone, glass metal, wood and ceramic
- There is a gray area surrounding sex toys made from TPE or TPR or elastomer – these are phthalate-free but still porous. Some websites sell them but disclose the material and it is recommended that these toys are for sole use only
- Check other basic safety features – if a toy is made from an unsafe material then it often fails other basic safety tests like it could disappear inside you never to be seen again