Using toys during cam shows is a great way to add an extra dimension to your performance. It can bring in elements of fetish and keep shows fresh and dynamic. But do you know what is in your dildo, vibrator or butt plug?
A study by Australian consumer watchdog Choice Australia backs up what the sex-toy-reviewing community has been saying for a long time: Your sex toys may be damaging your health. Poor materials in sex toys could be directly linked to a host of worrying issues.
The problems stem from the use of low-grade components like plastics. These can act as endocrine disruptors, mimicking the body’s hormones. Your body senses a hormone imbalance caused by the impostor and produces additional hormones to restore order. Or, it reduces the amount of the mimicked hormone it’s producing. This leaves your body out of whack.
Hormone disruption may lead to a multitude of problems including:
- Sleep disorders.
- Developmental problems.
- Weakened immunity.
- Reproduction problems.
- Heart disease.
- Neurological problems.
The chemicals of most concern are Bisphenol A, PVC, BPA and phthalates. Adding the substances makes plastics softer and more flexible. Sex toy manufacturers often use the substances to make “real-feel” dildos and vibrators.
Phthalates are fast becoming a dirty word in sex toy production. Classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “probable human carcinogens,” they’re already banned from use in children’s toys. Because phthalates aren’t bound to the plastics they soften, sex toys containing the chemicals often weep and leak an oily discharge over time. The chemical degradation can lead to toys fusing together in storage. Over time, inevitably, phthalates may be absorbed through the skin.
Toys labelled non-toxic also can be problematic as they, too, may be unstable and break down. Jelly toys are a particular problem in terms of phthalates, out-gassing and porosity. They can introduce toxic solvents into the mucus membranes, leading to headaches and cramping.
But potential trouble doesn’t end there. The texture of the toys themselves are cause for concern. Even phthalate-free products may be porous, allowing bacteria and moisture to absorb into the toy’s surface. Because porous toys cannot be cleaned effectively, it’s impossible to ensure all bacteria on the toy’s surface has been eradicated. This can lead to possible infections and mold problems, particularly with toys used for both vaginal and anal penetration.
Non-toxic materials such as thermoplastic rubber (TPR) and elastomers (TPE) are softened with mineral oil, which makes the materials unstable. Over time, mineral oil can leach out, potentially causing an allergic reaction.
Porous, unsafe sex toys can lead to repeated UTIs, allergic reactions, internal pain and irritation and even chemical burns.
You may think using a condom over toys will protect you, but there is no conclusive proof that is true. Latex — a common condom component — breaks down in the presence of oil, which means your latex condom will break down when it’s put over your TPR-based toy.
Let’s break it down. For body-safe play, it’s best to avoid:
- Jelly, latex and rubber. They’re porous and may contain phthalates and other toxins.
- CyberSkin and NeoSkin are porous.
- Vinyl and PVC are porous and may contain phthalates and other toxins.
- TPE, TPR, elastomers and silicone blends are porous.
So, how can you be safe? Labeling is a good indicator but not always conclusive. An item manufactured in China, for instance, may claim on the label to be made of silicone but that may be far from the truth. Equally, there is no regulation to ensure claims of phthalate-free toys are accurate.
A good indicator of unsafe materials is “off-gassing.” The strong chemical odor when you open a new jelly dildo? That’s a massive red flag. If a toy smells strongly of chemicals, it’s best to be cautious and avoid it.
Buying from reputable sources is a great way to make sure you know what you’re getting. Sex toys from Amazon and other such sites may seem a steal price-wise, but there usually is a reason they’re such a bargain. Good materials are rarely cheap; however, the industry is realizing the problem and bringing safer materials’ costs down.
Sticking to safe materials is the easiest way to make sure you won’t suffer any adverse effects from your toys. Safe materials include:
- 100-percent pure silicone, sometimes called medical-grade silicone or food-grade silicone.
- Medical-grade stainless steel.
- Glazed ceramic.
- ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic.
Using toys during shows and for personal enjoyment is a great way to expand your sexual horizons and engage your audience. The potential risks involved, however, mean we all should be shopping smart when buying sex toys.
Katy Seymour is a super-sex-positive writer in the U.K. who believes kink is life. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sex toy toxicity — Erika Lynae breaks it down.