Sex Toys: Much Ado About Something
I hope everybody enjoyed last week’s marathon blog on sex toys and learned something new. I know I definitely learned a few things in researching it. So now that we know all about the categories of sex toys and their illustrious histories, today we’ll move on to who’s using sex toys and why, and go over some important things you should take into consideration if you’re thinking of joining them. So once again, open your minds, set aside your preconceived notions and biases, and read more about sex toys, people…
Part deux sur trois!
Out of the Closet… and the Nightstand
Sex toys are so much more mainstream and accepted- appreciated, even- more now than in previous generations, and the proof of that is in studies being published in notable medical journals. These studies on sex toy use are important for the contributions they make to an understanding of the sexual health and sexual behaviors of adults in today’s society.
Indiana University conducted survey studies on the use of sex toys among nationally representative samples of adult American men and women. I looked at surveys on vibrator use where they sought responses specifically from 2,056 women and 1,047 men, ages 18 – 60, and the results were published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, a leading peer-reviewed journal in the area of urology and sexual health. These are the first studies to document many insights into sexual health, including: how and why people use vibrators, the side effects of use, and how use is associated with sexual health behaviors, sexual enjoyment, and quality of life. The results showed that vibrator use is in fact fairly common, with approximately 53% of women and 45% of men responding positively, indicating vibrator use. Among the men included in the survey, there was no statistical difference between the rates of vibrator use among men who identified as heterosexual and those who identified as homosexual or bisexual.
Of the 53% of women that reported using vibrators, 70% of those indicated that they never experienced any side effects associated with use. Those side effects that were reported were typically rare and of a short duration, and included mild genital numbness, irritation, or inflammation.
Vibrator users were significantly more likely to perform genital self-examination and have regular gynecological exams as well. In addition, the 53% that reported using vibrators also reported better sex- including increased sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm- though there was no significant difference in general sexual satisfaction between the female vibrator users and the non-users.
The 45% of men (which included heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual men) that reported using vibrators were more likely to record participation in sexual health promoting behaviors like testicular self-exam, and also scored themselves higher on four of the five factors used to measure sexual function, including erectile function, intercourse satisfaction, orgasmic function, and sexual desire. Of the 45% of men that reported using vibrators, approximately 17% said they did so for solo masturbation. Of the heterosexual constituent of the 45% of men that reported using vibrators, 91% of those reported most commonly doing so during foreplay or intercourse with a female partner.
Though often thought to be covered in dust and dog/ cat hair, hidden under beds, or buried deep in sock drawers, these studies demonstrate that vibrator use is actually more common than most think. In addition, these groundbreaking results demonstrate that the use of vibrators is associated with a fulfilling sex life, positive sexual function, and being more proactive in caring for one’s sexual health. This affirms what many doctors and therapists have known for decades- that using sex toys is common, linked to positive sexual functions of desire and ease of orgasm, and rarely associated with any side effects of note.
Who’s Using Sex Toys and Why?
I hope you’re getting the point that sex toys aren’t just for sluts and freaks and ridiculous shades o’ grey. All kinds of people may choose to use sex toys, and for any of many different reasons. For some people, using sex toys is the easiest- or only- way they can have an orgasm, especially in vulva owning (female) people. Sometimes people use sex toys to help them masturbate Han Solo, or during sex with their partner(s).
For transgender, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming people, using certain sex toys may help positively affirm their gender identity or help relieve gender dysphoria.
Some people with disabilities or limited mobility use sex toys to make it easier to masturbate, have sex, or perform certain sexual activities using positions that would otherwise be difficult- or impossible- for them.
Sex toys can also help treat the symptoms of certain disorders, like erectile dysfunction, genital arousal disorder, hypoactive sexual disorder, and orgasm disorder/ anorgasmia. And some people find that sex toys help them deal with the sexual side effects of certain medications, health conditions, or menopause, ie low sex drive or decreased genital sensation.
Put simply, it’s not only totally normal and acceptable for any/ every consenting adult to use sex toys, but it’s also often a component of a fulfilling sex life and a sign of positive sexual health. Having said that, it’s also totally normal to not want to use sex toys. It’s a personal decision… everyone’s different and therefore entitled to their own opinion. As long as you’re using sex toys safely, there’s nothing harmful in it and no big down side. How do do you use sex toys safely? I’m glad you asked. I’ll tell you…
Safe Sex (Toys) People
Sex toys are big business- serious business- and big money. Yes, they should be for fun; and yes, they can be fun, but if you’re a newbie considering exploring the great sex toy universe, you need to seriously consider some things. Let me ask, would you eat something poisonous? What about something that smelled wrong- like chemicals- or looked off- like maybe it had little black dots on it or was discolored? How about something you’re allergic to- would you eat it? You probably answered ‘no, no, and no.’ We’ll assume you did. But why? Why no? ‘Well, Dr. Agresti, because those things are bad for the body… if it smells bad or it’s growing stuff, I don’t want to eat it. I don’t put bad things in my body.’ Okay, great. Does that apply to sex toys? Because in some situations, those go in the body too, right?
Sharing sex toys with other people can spread STD’s- Sexually Transmitted Diseases. If someone with an STD uses a sex toy, the bodily fluids on that toy can spread the infection to the next person who uses it. So if you’re using a sex toy with a partner, unless and until you exchange clean test reports, it’s important to take steps to help prevent STD’s, essentially by behaving as if they have one. How? Read on.
Wash sex toys thoroughly with antibacterial soap and hot water after you use them if it’s a single user situation. It’s always better to sanitize toys, and you must sanitize toys that are shared, before you share them. Always sanitize before they touch another person’s genitals. In addition, if you put a condom on the sex toy, that will help keep them clean and prevent the spread of STD’s, but just make sure you change condoms before the toy touches another person’s genitals. It’s best to sterilize your sex toys whenever possible, and washing doesn’t equal sterilization. If your toy is heat stable, you can wash it in the top rack of your automatic dishwasher on the sterilize setting. It’s an important feature, so consider putting the ability to sterilize on your sex toy wish list.
Throwing back to last week again, remember that if you enjoy “backyard” play, make sure you use lots of lube. That area doesn’t lubricate itself the way other areas do, so putting something in your butt without adding lube can be painful and medically unsafe. And never put a sex toy that’s been in the anus directly into the vagina without sanitizing it and changing the condom first. If germs from the anus get into the vagina, it will most likely lead to a serious case of vaginitis. Basically, when referring to single person orifice swapping, the rule of thumb is this: toys are fine to go from vagina to anus, but never the reverse- never anus to vagina- that’s a no go people. And if you’re dealing with a multiple player situation, the toy should always be sanitized and the condom changed when toys pass from one person’s parts to another’s.
Another throw back, remember that if you are a penis owner into the back door, it’s important to make sure that any sex toy you use in your anus has a wide base to keep it from going all the way up and in the backside. If a sex toy goes so far into your anus that you can’t reach it to pull it out, you’ll need to see a doc to get it out. By the way, if you’re wondering… a sex toy cannot be lost in the vagina because the cervix stands in the way, blocking the end. So vulva owners are off the hook for that bit.
Don’t use silicone lube with silicone sex toys- unless you put condoms on them- because silicone lube can react with the solid silicone of your toy and damage it. Some people disagree- it seems to be a grey area- but the safe play is usually the best one. Water-based lube is a safe bet to use with any sex toy, and any condom for that matter. So just make it a point to keep only water based lube around so that if you’re a little too deep in the heat of the moment, you don’t accidentally reach and grab for the wrong tube.
Toxic Toy = No Joy
It wasn’t all that long ago that most people didn’t care about what their sex toy was made of, or even ever thought it could pose an issue. It’s only been in the last 15-ish years or so that people have realized the toxicity issues and the market has offered more access to all-silicone sex toys.
I hate to be a killjoy, but knowledge is power people, so let’s get down to brass- more accurately, plastic- tacks.
There are body safe toys and “non-toxic but not body-safe” toys…. There are shades of tres grey when it comes to the dangers of sex toys. Some people seem to experience no obvious side effects, no problemo. Some people break out and get very sick, and it’s a nightmare. For those people, there can be very specific materials that they cannot be exposed to, but it’s not like sex toys come with a list of ingredients. So if you’re one of those people that are prone to sensitivities, how do you make sure you’re not using something that can make you sick? Read on.
The first sex toy tests after people started becoming aware (at least publicly) of important issues, reactions, and infections from the use of sex toys were run by the Danish EPA in 2006. Do you understand the implications of that, people? The EPA monitors threats to the environment first and foremost, not people’s health. Evidently, after people became aware of reactions and infections and such, I can only speculate that some concerned Danish person (environmentalist?) must’ve looked into what might be in these toys to cause these illnesses, and that they were possibly so alarmed by the components- more accurately, the making of said components- they ultimately made enough noise and garnered enough backing that the Danish EPA ran material safety testing. That’s a big deal. And the results weren’t good… By September 2014, figuring the sex toy industry had come a long way in eight years, Smitten Kitten and Badvibes.org did another round of testing, and the results were better, but there was still some room for improvement. I imagine that will always be the case, and not just for the sex toy industry. But why does this industry seem so fraught with problems? The biggest reason is the total lack of oversight and regulation. Nobody’s minding the store, and it’s all about the bottom line… pun intended. I believe I read that up to 80% of toys are manufactured in China, and we know there’s not much tlc involved. Hey, we run out of component xyz, we’ll add more of abc, of course. No time to halt production. Besides, who’s gonna know?
So I want to make sure you have information on toxic toys and “non-toxic but not body-safe” (say whaaaat?) toys. There are so many shades of grey when it comes to the issues here, and admittedly of course, some people will experience no obvious side effects. But others surely will, and that’s an important issue that I’d like to attempt to change. A sex blogger and toy reviewer named Dangerous Lilly is all about DIY home sex toy “tests” that aim to ferret out toxic toys, expose blatant material lies, and dispel some myths about silicone sex toys. She’s even done these jar tests to prove that toys made of compromised garbage materials are dangerous. You’ll have to check it out at http://dangerouslilly.com/ and go near the top, under the header where it says in little letters “New? Start Here!” and then click on Toxic Toys. There’s also a search site option and it’s very easy to navigate. It seems that she hasn’t posted in maybe a year, but her very extensive blog is still available, and it’s an excellent resource. These details are also in the references at the end of this blog.
Anyway, she did these jar tests where she took two giant glass jars; one was filled with a bunch of toys of questionable materials, and the other was filled with a bunch of 100% silicone toys. She sealed both and documented what happened over the course of a couple of years. Suffice it to say that it absolutely demonstrated that cheap garbage toys off-gas, leaking chemicals and softeners and all the crap they’re made from, they get tons of little black dots which are spores, and these lead to fuzzyold/ mildew growth and yuck and all the pieces deform and glop up (technical term) onto each other, all swimming in five inches of toxic goo and chemicals- and almost all of it actually happens in the first three months. In jar two, with the 100% silicone toys touching each other, there was nothing doing. No oozing, no melting, no spores, nada. And that does demonstrate that silicone can be stored safely with silicone, although experts still say that after use, proper care dictates that toys must be sterilized and thoroughly dry before being placed in individual baggies. And you should always inspect your toys before using them: look for little black spots and examine any ‘things that make you go hmm.’ Better safe than sorry people.
There are still sex toys on the market that contain gnarly stuff, like phthalates (pronounced phay-lates) Have you heard of phthalates? A tidal wave of research has documented the wide-ranging negative health impacts of phthalates on pets and people, so they’ve been demonized and (theoretically) excluded from children’s toys, then dog toys, and now sex toys, among many other things: cosmetics, personal care products, hair combs, even earring backs. Basically manufacturers use them to make anything that’s made of plastic less breakable, really. For this reason, they’re referred to as plasticizers, ie, substances added to various plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity. And they’re often used primarily to soften PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and other plastics to make them less brittle and less likely to break with use… sounds like it would be great to use in sex toys, right? Maybe in theory. But manufacturer’s want ’em to be tough, so bring on the phthalates! Not.
Clearly, it’s a good idea to limit your exposure to phthalates, as studies are demonstrating that exposure can lead to organ failure and possibly cause cancer. Phthalates are present in lots of sex toy materials, but they’re not found in pure silicone toys, which is why it’s ideal to buy 100% silicone toys.
But phthalates aren’t the only harmful chemical being used; other chemicals have been found, stuff like latex- helll-ooo- so many people find they’re allergic to latex… how’d you like to learn that way, with itchy fire orifices? No thank you. Another issue is that companies can (and do) lie about their material claims. Often, “phthalates-free” is more like a wishful tagline that doesn’t mean jack. So ultimately, we’re left totally in the dark about the safety of a sex toy unless you buy only from a company that’s demonstrated a history of honesty. Like many sex bloggers and toy reviewers, Dangerous Lilly still has a list of approved manufacturers and retailers, and it’s worth going over. To help you out, I’ve included it in the references section at the end of this blog. I’m a giver.
Another issue is that there are sex toy materials that have not been proven toxic yet, but they’re still softened with mystery oils (grades and types unknown), the materials are very unstable, they break down quickly, and are so porous that they harbor a lot of bacteria and mold. So even if (and that’s a big if) the material is ‘non-toxic’ when you first buy it, that changes as you expose it to air and lube chemicals and… other stuff. As you use it over time, even if you take exemplary care of it, it breaks down. That’s a simple fact people. Chemical changes will occur and oils will release, along with new volatile compounds VOCs, and who knows what else. Yet another issue revolves around the colorants and paints that tint and/ or paint these toys. Materials are especially questionable when derived from other countries… like China. Where maybe 80% of these toys come from. Ya think they care about what’s going into them? That there’s any oversight or quality control? Ah haeelll no! Especially to be sent to us! It’s about producing the cheapest possible junk they can possibly squeak by with… and if they can use garbage that shaves off an eighth of a cent per piece- even way less than that- that translates to more money for them, and that’s the name of the game.
One particular group of offenders are the Jelly toys. Sometimes spelled jelly, or gelle, or gels. Whatever it’s called and however they spell it, it’s cheap garbage. Dangerous cheap garbage. Using Jelly products for oral, vaginal, or anal stimulation is going to introduce phthalates and other toxic solvents to be absorbed into the mucous membranes of the body. That bit happens quickly, but you may or may not know immediately. But you will know. Headaches, cramping, and nausea are just some of the proven side effects that result from exposure at the levels found in the study… normal levels from normal use. Regardless of whether you sheath the thing in condoms every time you take it out of its box, it’s still going to off-gas, degrade, begin to dissolve, release a greasy oil stain, fuse to its packaging, and stink like old tires. Is any part of that sexy? Doesn’t do it for me people.
Again, I can’t stress enough that a company can and will have the Chinese manufacturing plants put anything on the box and/ or label- any tagline or buzzword you might be looking for when buying a toy. “Phthalates Free!” “All Silicone!” More like All Crap. Nothing and no one can stop them. Nothing dictating that their packaging has to hold a grain of truth. No regulation, people.
A Magic Word
Now I think we’ve established that you can’t always trust the manufacturers. So only buy from a reputable source, and if you have any doubts about it- any smells, strange changes in the finish, development of little black dots- do not use it. Note that manufacturer’s name and you can research their reputation, maybe consider asking someone in the know about it, and don’t buy from them again.
But how do these manufacturers get away with it? Aside from everything I mentioned before about how it’s a penny pinching free for all in China, even if you could complain, they’ve got you beat anyway… First, you really can’t complain because there’s the ‘lost in translation’ feature. They no speaky de englees don’tcha know. But regardless, the magic word comes into play: for Novelty use only. Yep. That 9 inch flesh toned realistic dildo that’s falsely stamped ‘All Silicone!’ that you bought from us is a novelty (betchur bippy they know that word…) we didn’t think you were going to use it there! Yeah. Riiighhht. So there’s that.
We’ve discussed some sex toy lab tests over the years and things have changed for the better. In the mid-2000’s the Danish EPA tested many sex toys, and found very poor toxicity results. And while the sex toy industry has come a long way since then, and more recent tests were actually found to be improved, the big issue remains: better results still fail to explain why so many people still get chemical burns, allergic reactions, and/ or chronic infections and related issues from using certain sex toys, lubes, and accoutrements. Here’s a for instance that I want to serve as a word of warning, people…
Doc Johnson ‘Sil-a-Gel’ Products:
Burn, Baby, Burn!
One brand to avoid that I’ve read about in several places with multiple references is Doc Johnson ‘Sil-a-Gel’ products. Don’t know what Doc Johnson is doing with these specific products made with this specific stuff, but I don’t want to find out the way some people have had to. Sil-a-Gel isn’t actually a material, it’s an additive. They claim it is an antibacterial agent that is mixed in with very porous PVC to inhibit bacterial growth in the pores of the material. Sounds pretty harmless… but note that they’re using PVC in these toys, and that’s not all silicone. The extreme reactions people have reported are cause for great concern, and many folks in the know recommend a complete boycott of any Doc Johnson products containing this ‘Sil-a-Gel’ additive. It’s worth noting that I’ve seen plenty of good reviews on other Doc Johnson’s toys, so if you just buy 100% silicone you should be safe. But ‘Sil-a-Gel’ boycott… That’s what’s up Doc!
There are so many sex toys out there… I mean, I know they say variety is the spice of life, but that’s a spicy meataballa! Navigating the sex toy universe to choose the right toy is a potential minefield, especially the first time! It’s not like you can google “world’s best sex toy” and come up with a reasonable list of safe quality toys to look at. So, what to do? Thankfully, there are plenty of people in the know, so I’ll pass along their advice.
Choosing Sex Toys: It’s a Material World
Clearly the first thing you should consider when choosing a sex toy is material. The material the toy is made of dictates everything about how you can safely use it and how you care for and clean it.
When you’re talking about the best sex toy materials, you want to consider material safety, durability, and hygienic properties. The best sex toys are nonporous and phthalates free. You want a toy to be nonporous because that means you can sanitize it. Nonporous materials literally have no pores, meaning no microscopic holes in them for bacteria to get into- or, at the very least, the pores are so small that nothing can get in there. To repeat: porous material= bad, invite bacteria to accumulate, reproduce, and spread. Nonporous material= good, no pores or pores too small for bugaboos to get in and colonize.
This means that toys made of nonporous materials can be safely shared, only after being sanitized between users. It also means the toy can be used vaginally and anally, but only in a specific order if not sanitized between orifices. Going from vagina to butt in the same person is okay without sanitizing, but the opposite direction, from butt to vagina is a no go people. If you go from butt to vagina, you’re ass-king for an infection if you don’t sanitize the toy. You can also use a condom on the toy in lieu of sanitizing, but if you’re in a multi-player scenario, you must change the condom and/ or sanitize the toy whenever it goes from the first person’s genitals to the other person’s. Remember, vagina to butt is OK in a solo situation. Butt to vagina is not- ever. Also, no matter the material, a new sex toy needs to be thoroughly washed with antibacterial soap and warm water prior to its first use. If it were me, sanitize sanitize sanitize people!
That said, I’ll start with the best choices for sex toy materials first, based on everything:
Silicone: All Silicone.
If you want a more pliable toy, then 100% silicone (not a blend) would be the best choice. Silicone actually comes in a wide range of firmness and finishes. For high quality silicone sex toys, I understand from lots of sex bloggers that you can’t go wrong with the company Tantus. As mentioned before, silicone is phthalates free and nonporous.
Being nonporous and heat resistant, you can sterilize silicone toys in a number of ways, including: boiling for a few minutes (making sure that the toy never touches the sides or bottom of the pot), washing in a 10% bleach solution, or washing in the top rack of your dishwasher set on sanitize cycle. I saw where some said you could simply lather it up really well in antibacterial soap and rinse it clean, but I’m not totally sold on that, especially if you share it. That’s not sterilizing it. And Captain Obvious says if your silicone toy has an electronic vibrator inside then don’t boil it or put it in the dishwasher.
Usually manufacturers and most sex toy reviewers will tell you to only use water-based lube with silicone toys. This is because some silicone lubes can damage some silicone toys. As I mentioned before, there are some differences in opinion on this, but better safe than sorry. So it’s best that if you’re going to keep lube around, make sure it’s water-based, especially if you’re sort of in the heat of the moment, you don’t want to worry about grabbing the wrong lube.
Many people believe that you can’t store silicone toys where they are touching each other, but again, this is another grey area. Some people say you can and some say you can’t. From what I’ve read, many sex toy reviewers have stored their high quality silicone toys piled together in drawers without any issues, but a good rule of thumb is to have some kind of individual ziplock storage bag for each of your silicone toys. Then you can put all of them in some sort of storage box and put that by your bed or wherever. A lot of toys evidently come with their own pouches and it seems fine to store them in there. Just make sure that after using your toys that you thoroughly wash and sanitize them and make sure they’re totally dry before you seal them up in plastic bags. Any moisture left in there can lead to mold growth.
If ever there was a durable sex toy material, stainless steel would definitely be it. Seems like it would be bullet-proof. The polished finish on these toys makes it so you can use any type of lube you like, and you can also disinfect steel toys really easily by boiling or on the top rack of the dishwasher on the sanitize cycle. For routine cleaning, an antibacterial soap is good to use. About the only way you can harm steel toys is if you use something abrasive to clean them that will mar the polished finish.
Understandably, many people are skeptical of using glass sex toys, but evidently it’s considered a great material to make toys out of. Glass toys are nonporous, phthalates free, and are compatible with any type of lube, so no worries there. It’s cleaned in all the same ways you would clean steel or silicone, but if you decide to boil a glass toy, you might want to put a hand towel in the pot to cushion it and keep it from hitting against the sides and possibly chipping. But if it does get chipped, you must stop using it. Be sure to thoroughly inspect the glass toy for chips or cracks prior to every use. I did read about annealed glass toys vs not, and annealed seems to be better, as it’s evidently stronger. There is a DIY test to suss that out. The only other issue may lie with any tinting in the glass or painting on the glass, so awareness is key. If it’s painted here in the US, say by an artist, chances are good it’s safe, but everywhere says to use a condom over it anyway.
Wood sex toys are sealed with a finish that is nonporous and body safe, and wood itself is a nonporous and phthalates free material. A company called Nobessence is a reputable manufacturer of wood toys. You should not put wood toys in the dishwasher or boil them, but antibacterial soap and a 10% bleach solution can be used to sterilize. Solvents of any kind should not be used on wood sex toys, as they will damage the finish, but all types of lube are compatible with wood toys.
Aluminum is nonporous, body safe, and phthalates free. It can be cared for just like stainless steel, and any lube can be used with it. An advantage it has over steel is its lighter weight.
If you choose a sex toy made of quality materials from a reputable retailer, take proper care of it, and observe safe sex toy practices, toys should be expected to last a long time. I would emphasize staying away from cheap novelty stuff of questionable origin and dubious materials- we don’t often consider the non-monetary cost of things we purchase, even though those are usually the highest priced items in life. I’m reminded of a fitting saying I heard ages ago, don’t even remember where; but a variation on it just popped into my head. It’s a little crude, but it says “a hard prick has no conscience.” I would argue “neither do the toy companies that make ’em that way.”
Some toys might be okay if the labeling on the box is honest and accurate and if you adhere to proper hygiene. But there’s just too much uncertainty with these materials- too many cases of reactions and infections. It’s so insidious, because the people most affected with these things almost never even consider that the root of the issue could lie in their sex life, so when they finally go to a physician and begin the long road to eatablishing cause, they don’t think ‘oh yeah, I introduced a new toy’ and the doctor doesn’t think to ask them ‘have you used a new lube or introduced a new toy?’ Definitely keep that in mind if you should ever have a reaction or issue. But fingers crossed, you won’t.
If you know you have sensitivities or allergies in your life, just don’t mess around with cheap mystery toys- or lube- same thing. Remember the potential non-monetary costs, so research, research, research… and go with quality 100% silicone.
Perusing the Great Sex Toy Universe
There’s a lot of information out there on how to choose a first toy- be it a dildo, vibrator, butt plug, cock ring- you name it. Clearly I don’t have the time to go over all of it for every single thing, but I’ve included a list of resources at the end of this blog, and all or most are fully searchable. If you’re interested in entering the great universe of sex toys, I really encourage you to do a lot of research and ask questions; a lot of bloggers seem happy to help people with it if you send a question. Dangerous Lilly is one; even though she hasn’t posted recently, you might still want to ask since that was kind of one of her specialties and she is super detailed. But there are many sex bloggers out there… Google ‘sex toy reviewer’ or ‘blogger’ and see what I mean. Again, I’ll list some in the resources section at the end of the blog. If you’re a newbie interested in a toy, research, research, research. Absolutely ask a blogger- one of the people I’ll list at the end. Don’t be embarrassed, they’re into this stuff and are in the know. But once you’ve done some serious due diligence, I’d say take a field trip or a research expedition: go, see, and touch things; you’ll be more able to compare what’s what and make a better decision. If you’re planning on using it in a couple situation, make it a good time!
Buying for Others: Gift Trip
Now if you want to buy something for a lover, spouse, committed partner, or nebulous ‘I hope I get to use this with (insert name here)’ it makes the process of choosing sex toys even more complicated, especially if it’s the first one! Dangerous Lilly has a set of several questions that she says the buy-er must know about the buy-ee before buy-ing a toy, people. They entail accurately measuring members, maybe some comparisons to vegetables… and some deep introspection. One thing I definitely can say that’s frowned on is “Surprise!!” sex toys, especially if they’re a new introductory type deal to one or more partners. They’re fraught with potential pitfalls from the jump. So I’d suggest no “Surprise!!” sex toys. If you want to introduce the topic, or you’ve talked about it but nothing further, try a “Surprise, this is a gift certificate for us to go to (wherever) to do some shopping, baby/ honey/ sweetie pie, I thought it would be better to shop together” gift; it’ll be much better received. You can make the shopping excursion into an experience to bring you closer together and make some serious sparks fly, people.
What else have I learned? When you’re talking about dildos, size does matter. As patients, I have seen lots of men and penis owners feel threatened by the introduction and/ or use of dildos, where they feel absolutely in competition with them, especially if it’s “bigger” than they are. This is a very real and potentially serious issue that can undermine an otherwise amazing relationship, especially because people don’t find it easy to open up about it. Any problem is a problem as it is, but a problem wrapped in shiny shame is a monster. That said, it seems an unspoken agreement that a ‘mere’ ¼ inch increase in the width of a dildo is enough to make some ladies leave a room… and others to run screaming from it. Well, you must understand one big factor: it’s not living human flesh, so evidently it equals a lot more in the fullness aspect. Because they’re not living human flesh, toys don’t have any give at all. Whereas living human flesh can be compacted in certain areas, causing it to be more expanded in others, a dildo is going to be what it is, everywhere it is. And I can imagine how that could be uncomfortable when you’re dealing with a sensitive area in the center of a body. To give you an idea: I’ve even read accounts of dildo ‘aficionados’ (unclaimed by them, just my estimation only) that refuse to use anything wider in girth than 1.25 inches, which by the way is considered a size small. They do come smaller though… and larger… up to porn starlet size. I’m just saying that there’s no reason to remain insecure about allowing a partner to explore the use of any toy, whether a dildo or anything else. Note I said remain insecure. I said that because people are allowed to feel whatever they feel; but I have seen patients that have felt that way, and they tell their partner, get assurances, and let it go. Or, they internalize it, build resentment, get miserable, stay miserable, distance themselves, then end up in my office with some major issues. With all the patients I’ve seen, I’ve never come across a situation where the person asking for and/ or using the dildo is actually doing so to cause their partner to shape up or engender a sense of competition. And by the way, there is a size designation for dildos: length and girth. The easiest one to follow was on a blog called Betty’s Toy Box. The direct link to it is here:
Hopefully that will stay active after I post this, and I’ll include it in the references section at the end as well. If all else fails, just Google Betty’s Toy Box Dildo Size Guide.
Another note on a first dildo that I noted was on several sites… if you’re a vulva virgin and haven’t experienced any penetration; or if you have a vulva and maybe you’re built on the smaller side and have difficulty or pain on penetration; or you have medical issues that prevent penetration or make it too painful, all the cool kids say to ease into things, and get a silicone dilator set before you consider anything else. And get a lot of lube. As a physician, I definitely second that. You can actually do some damage, so medically speaking, lube and very gradual dilation would be the way to go. I saw two references to a Sinclair Institute dilator set on SheVibe I believe. Link is below in the references section. Gotta walk before you run, people.
Don’t Go Here… or There
I’ve never seen so many ridiculous material and product names in my life! So many -skins and -gels and -luxes, -future this and that. It’s ridiculous! And they do it on purpose! They figure you won’t take the time to Google what it is if it sounds interesting enough. Also remember you usually get what you pay for, and that a bad decision may cost you more than money. So for the love of all that is holy, avoid some things like the plague people!
Just say ‘NO!’ to:
-Jelly, Gelle, Jels, Gelz or anything like that
-Rubber anything (helll-ooo latex!)
-Any ultra-realistic dildos, especially when painted, and if they smell funny. They’re guaranteed to have phthalates in them, and they’re porous so they can’t ever be fully sanitized, so they also can’t be shared.
-You get what you pay for…
-But if something is waaay crazy overpriced, it’s likely to be a rip off, because 100% silicone is 100% silicone. A toy can’t be siliconi-er people.
-If you stick with brands that reviewers trust, you’re much more likely to make the best purchase and be happy with whatever you bought. Some reviewers actually offer discount codes as well, so look for those while you’re researching.
-Your best bet is all silicone, but it is more expensive, so it may be out of your range. If you decide you absolutely can’t get silicone right now, go for glass, but not cheap, un-annealed glass; and/ or cover it with a polyurethane condom. Other cheaper options that are (usually) non-toxic include TPR / TPE / Elastomer, but it’s porous so it’s hard to sanitize, and it’s softened with mineral oil-based ingredients most of the time. Oil isn’t compatible with latex, as in latex condoms, so you can’t use that type of condom with it. So that’s a minor little detail to keep in the forefront of your mind.
-If you do choose a porous material, please examine it very carefully before each use; look for any discoloration, odd odors, and black dots anywhere on it. And it is recommended that you toss it after six months to be safe, even if it’s not growing crap like a petri dish… yet.
It seems sex bloggers generally advise avoiding buying sex toys from Amazon and Ebay. Counterfeit sex toys are definitely a major problem as bullshit seems to reign in this industry. You can easily get ripped off and pay for something that you think is silicone but actually isn’t. Some people have reported good experiences buying from Amazon, but the risk of getting a fake sex toy is high enough that people in the know advise against it. Stick with well-known sex toy retailers like Shevibe, Early to Bed, and Smitten Kitten. They say in Canada, use Come As You Are, but I’m sure they’re online and these days they must ship. I also saw the name Tantus mentioned several times on different sites when talking about good quality all-silicone stuff, but then they specify that they’re a manufacturer. I still think you could find a way to buy directly from them. I haven’t tried personally, but I’m betting you can…
Unsure that links will remain active people!
-Hasn’t posted since 2019, but all previous posts available with excellent information
-Very interested in toy safety and materials
-Former sex toy retailer
-Very good with instructing in “Surprise!!” sex toy gifts. But just don’t do it- a certificate if you must, but no “Surprise!!” sex toys. Take your partner shopping and make it fun people!
Betty’s Toy Box
-This is the direct link to the Dildo Size Guide on Betty’s blog, which is another great resource.
Toy Meets Girl
-A no bull middle-aged woman started a blog due to problems with hyposexual drive secondary to medical/ medication issues
-Lots of great info on everything, including toxic toys, tells it like it is.
The Smitten Kitten
-Blog and a trusted retailer
-If you do a Google search, be aware there are crazy cat lady blogs and cat retail stores and boarding services as well, very different!
-Also interested in toxic toys- talks the talk
-This is an organization est in 2005
“Creating radical change in sex toy manufacturing and consumer awareness around sex toy material and usage.”
-Tons of resources
-Worked with Smitten Kitten to do second round of sex toy material safety testing
-Any semi sex-related topic you can imagine
-They describe it best
-As their home sign-in page says:
It’s “Whatever I feel like, once a week–and at least one breast.”
Then: “GET ON IT” and “I’m not kidding about the breast.”
“The most competitive prices for the highest quality products available.”
Early to Bed
“Chicago’s feminist sex shop. Helping all kinds of folks have great sex since 2001. We ship discreetly and quickly!”
“Non-Toxic and Body-Safe Sex Toys”
Also have guides to sex with disabilities
Come As You Are Co-op (Oh Canada)
“World’s only worker-owned co-operative sex shop … a fundamentally anti-capitalist and feminist approach to sexual pleasure, health, and education.”
I’m not absolutely positive if they ship outside of Canada, eh?
“Founded on the belief that each person has the right to a healthy sex life. We believe that our products should be driven by passion and integrity, and inclusive to everybody.”
-They highlight their “Ultra-Premium Silicone”
-And yes, you can definitely buy direct!
Next week… Last of Sex Toy Blog Series
Smart and App’d Couple Toys- For long distance love… or love in the time of Covid!
Sex Toys of the Future
The last sex/ toy blog- for now- so stay tuned!
I hope you enjoyed this blog and found it to be interesting and educational. If you did, let me know. If you didn’t, let me know that too!
Please feel free to share the love! Share blogs and YouTube videos with family and friends.
Be sure to check out my YouTube channel with all of my videos, and I’d appreciate it if you would like, subscribe, and share those vids too!
And if you like what you see and want more of it, or if you want a specific topic, leave it in the comments- I love reading them!
As always, my book Tales from the Couch has more educational topics and patient stories, and is available in the office and on Amazon.
Thank you and be well people!