Category Archives: Sex Toy Info

Making sure my sex toy collection is vegan friendly

pennysblog_vegansextoysI went vegan a few months ago, so in addition to changing what I eat and going through my clothes, makeup, and toiletries, I also went through my sex toy collection to get rid of anything that’s not vegan friendly1**.

Some things were obvious–leather and fur are definitely not vegan so I gave away the few leather paddles I had as well as my tail butt plug.

But what about everything else? Are dildos and vibrators vegan? What about lube, condoms, and other safer sex barriers?

Sex Toys: Dildo, Vibes, Plugs, Etc.

When I first went vegan, I read a book called Vegan Freak and was glad that it included a short section about sex things. It mentioned that silicone is a vegan friendly sex toy material (yay!) and to avoid jelly rubber because it can contain mystery ingredients, and there’s no way of knowing if it’s vegan unless the manufacturer explicitly says it is. But y’all probably already know that jelly toys are a bad idea anyways since they’re porous and often contain toxic ingredients, so that’s no surprise.

Since silicone, stainless steel, and glass are all great options (and that’s what almost all of my toys are made of), most of my collection was safe–hooray! I wasn’t sure about our Fleshlight though since they don’t list the ingredients in their Superskin material, but I contacted them, and they said it’s fine, also yay!2

Kink Items

Unfortunately a lot of restraints and impact toys are made of leather, but there are also faux leather and other vegan options. As I mentioned earlier, I got rid of a couple of leather paddles I had, but most of what I had is vegan friendly, like my Bettie Page paddle, Tantus Plunge, and Twisted Monk rope. My fave harness is also fine, thank goddess! If you’re looking for vegan kink things, check out my friend Artemisia’s epic list.

Lube

Many drugstore lubes contain glycerin or other animal derived ingredients and are not vegan3. Luckily my favorite brand of lube is Sliquid, which is 100% vegan friendly! My faves are the classic H2O water based and thicker Sassy for anal, but they also carry silicone and flavored varieties. Überlube silicone lube is also a great option (just don’t use it with silicone toys.)4

Condoms & Safer Sex Barriers

Most mainstream latex condom brands are produced with casein (milk protein), but luckily there are some companies that don’t test on animals or use any animal ingredients like Sir Richards and Sustain condoms. Check out my list of vegan safer sex barriers for more info.!

*Pictured: Tantus Adam, Sliquid Sassy, Sir Richards/Sustain condoms

**I did my best to make sure this post is accurate but if you’re not sure if something is vegan and are concerned about it, check out the company’s website or contact them. Some products don’t contain animal ingredients but may be owned by a company that does make products with animal derived ingredients or that does test on animals, so unless the company is certified/advertises as vegan, make your best judgement.


  1. anything that contains animal derived ingredients 

  2. They said Fleshlube water is fine as well but Fire Lubricant isn’t because it contains honey extract. 

  3. and could also be potentially irritating 

  4. They don’t advertise as vegan but I contacted them & they confirmed. 

Tips for using sex toys & avoiding (vaginal) infections

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and I don’t have any medical training. I am someone with a vagina who uses lots of sex toys and used to have a problem with yeast infections, speaking from my own experience as well as things I’ve learned over the years from reading about sex toys and vaginal health and talking to others about it. The tips I’ve laid out are for prevention, not treatment, so go to the doctor if you need to!

There are what seems like about a million factors than can contribute to getting a vaginal infection. The vagina has a delicate pH balance, and anything that upsets that can cause an overgrowth of yeast or bad bacteria. You’re more likely to get yeast infections around menstruation, if you use hormonal birth control, if you wear tight clothing/non-cotton underwear, among other things. Add sex toys to the mix, and you can potentially open yourself to the possibility of infection. Don’t worry though–you can use sex toys safely if you take some precautions. Most of these tips are focused around the vagina, but #1 & 2 apply to butts/mouths as well.

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Safe sex toy materials/natural lubes

1. Avoid using porous sex toys (especially in orifices.)

There are a lot of unsafe sex toys on the market that are incredibly porous, meaning they have tiny holes in their material that can harbor harmful bacteria and potentially spread infections and STIs. These sex toys will never be truly clean, even after what seems like a thorough washing. In addition to potentially harboring bacteria or mold, porous toys often leach out phthalates and other harmful chemicals over time, which can cause itching, burning, and other bad reactions that you don’t want to subject your genitals to.

Although it’s best to avoid these materials completely, it’s especially important for internal use toys. While they still can’t be sterilized and could present issues, using porous toys for external use, such as penis masturbators, cock rings, or clitoral vibes might not be as big a deal for some people. Still, proceed with caution. You can use condoms or other barriers to prevent spreading bacteria, but it’s unclear whether barriers will really protect you from phthalates and harmful chemicals. Porous toys should not be shared with partners who aren’t fluid bonded, as they can spread infections. Avoid jelly sex toys like the plague, and also stay away from PVC, rubber, TPR, TPE, elastomer, or basically anything that isn’t listed in the following paragraph whenever possible, especially for internal use.

Are you starting to fear for your safety now? Don’t worry, there are lots of safe, non-porous sex toy options: glass, stainless steel, 100% silicone, sealed wood, ceramic, and hard plastic. When these toy are cleaned thoroughly, they are truly clean. Just be sure to wash them properly (see #2.) If you want to learn more about toxic/unsafe toys, there’s tons of info on this page.

2. Wash Your Toys Properly

If you’re using a non-porous toy, then once you give it a good cleaning, it’s truly clean and safe to use again and potentially even share. There are a few different options for toy cleaning. You can wipe down/wash your toy with soap and warm water or use a 10% bleach/90%water solution. If you’re washing a toy with a lot of texture or a vibrator with buttons etc., use an old toothbrush to get in all of the crevices of the toy. If your toy doesn’t have an attached motor and is made of silicone, you can also boil it it or run it through your dishwasher cycle (no detergent.) You can potentially boil/dish-wash glass or metal too, but take care as both retain temperature and can also scratch or chip if not handled carefully.

Wash your toys before you use them, and make sure you rinse them thoroughly. You should also wash your toys after you use them when possible, and it’s a good idea to do it as soon as you can, so that lube and body fluids don’t get crusted to your toys.Sliquid Sunset

3. Use the Right Lube

Even if you’re using safe, non-porous toy materials, you can still potentially get yeast infections if you’re using the wrong lube. A lot of drugstore, “mainstream” lubricants contain glycerin, which is irritating to a lot of people.  Look for lubes that say glycerin free, and check the ingredients. There are also other ingredients in a lot of lubes than can be irritating, so if you’re sensitive, I recommend using a natural, hypoallergenic lube with few ingredients–my favorite brand is Sliquid.

4. Keep Butt Germs Away from Your Vagina

Anal play is awesome, but anuses have bacteria that can be harmful to the vulva/vagina and can cause vaginal or urinary tract infections. If you’re using a toy and want to switch from butt to vulva or vaginal stimulation, put a condom over it. Or, have a condom on the toy when you’re using it anally, and then take it off when you switch to vaginal. This goes for fingers/hands/tongues/pensises as well (use gloves, condoms, or dental damns, etc.)

5. Practice Good Vaginal Health

While using the wrong sex toys/lube can cause yeast infections, they may be caused by many other factors as well. There are a lot of other things you can do for good general vaginal health.Wearing cotton panties and loose clothing is a good idea, especially if you tend to have problems with yeast infections. I’ve also personally found probiotics to be helpful. Other things you can do for vaginal health: stay hydrated, eat healthy foods, make sure your/other people’s hands are clean before they go near your vagina, pee after sex, practice safer sex, and go in for check-ups and STI tests. Also, don’t douche or use feminine sprays or deodorants. Douching is not only unnecessary, it’s very harsh and can throw off the vagina’s natural bacterial balance and pH level. An external rinse is really all you need, and you can use a hypoallergenic, low pH soap externally if you want. In addition to avoiding lubricants and other products with glycerin, anything with sugar should not be introduced to the vagina–as Molly mentioned in her comment, lollipops shaped like cocks can be fun for photos etc. but should never be inserted, and this goes for other candy/syrups etc.

As I said before, I’m not a doctor or health professional. All of these tips are for prevention, not treatment, and this isn’t all encompassing. Did you know you that semen can actually through off your vaginal pH balance as well? So can certain medications and underlying health problems. If you already have an infection or reoccurring infections, go see to a doctor.

*Products pictured: Mona 2, Atomic Rose Plug/Crystal Twist, Buck, Tango, Juice, Pure Wand, Comet Wand, Sliquid Oceanics & Sassy

wickedwed

CatalystCon Part 1: Dildos, Dildos, Dildos

I think we all know that dildos (and other sex toys) are generally pretty kick-ass. They can provide amazing, squirty orgasms and aid in fantasies, they come in all different shapes, colors, and sizes, and they’re super fun to photograph. But dildos can also do a lot of other things, like potentially make you money (reviews!) or poison your orifices, both of which I learned more about at CatalystCon West.

Will Write for Dildos: How and Why Companies and Reviewers Should Work Together (#cconreview)

(EpiphoraLorax Of Sex, Jenna Clark, Krista Arendsen)

I suspected that Will Write for Dildos would not only be informative but also entertaining, and I was right. In the panel, Epiphora and Lorax dished out some expert advice, complete with their signature sarcasm and wit, and they even did an impromtu rock, paper, scissors over who would answer my question!

youcansmellthem-piphquote

During the panel, Epiphora explained that reviews should be entertaining, well-written, informative, honest, and not sound like an ad or a boring list of specs. Some other pro-tips Piph and Lorax shared: never agree to someone who asks to “proofread” or pre-screen your review, don’t review for companies without an affiliate program, and be clear, concise, and professional in emails with partners. They also discussed what they’re looking for from manufacturers and retailers, such as trust, availability, communication, patience, and mutual support.

From the manufacturer perspective, Jenna shared what Tantus looks for from reviewers, like diversity, honest feedback, and commitment to sexual health values. Though respected bloggers often champion the importance of honesty in reviews, it was refreshing to hear that manufacturers like Tantus value sincere opinions as well, so that they know which products are working and which could use improvement, etc. Krista from Lovehoney also spoke about the importance of professionalism during communication and honesty in reviews, but also fairness, for example thinking about who a product might or might not work for, not just whether it’s your new favorite.

Are you sad you missed this panel or want to learn more about it? You can listen to and/or read the whole thing here! Also, check out Epiphora’s #cconreview panel resource page.

Toxic Toys: Beyond Phthalates with Metis Black (#ccontoxic)

TOXIC TOY PANEL BANNER 4

Another panel I found particularly important for my blog was Toxic Toys: Beyond Phthalates (#ccontoxic) with Metis Black from Tantus. I’ve known for quite a while now that phthalates (plasticizers added to PVC to soften it) are dangerous, and that since there is absolutely no regulation of sex toy materials, often toys are misleading labeled as silicone when they actually contain other materials. I was worried before, but after this panel I am all out horrified. Apparently there are lots of other dangerous chemicals, chemicals that could strip off paint or that should be labeled as radioactive, in sex toys as well, and not just jelly toys, but also others that we normally consider safe, such as hard plastic or glass.  Some glass toys that are made in China contain mercury and lead and can have tiny fissures that we can’t see.

ccontoxicquote

Some other important things I learned in the #ccontoxic panel were that the novelty label on toys doesn’t mean anything if it’s implied for sexual use in a store, that raw silicone costs 3x as much as TPR (hence the steeper prices), Triclosan (the ingredient in most anti-bacterial soaps) is questionable as well, and that there is no proof that using condoms over jelly/other toxic toys will protect you (many have found it only delays reactions.)

Getting depressed just reading this? Luckily there is hope in Cali. Prop 65, which calls for clear and reasonable warning for reproductive toxicity and could mean a big WARNING label on toxic toys, as well as in organizations such as Dildology and informed manufacturers, retailers, bloggers, and consumers. We need to continue to learn more, spread the word, and only buy quality toys from manufacturers that actually oversee production.

Stay tuned for CatalystCon Part 2, which will be up soon!

Learn more:

Buying a Sex Toy: What You Need to Know

Dangers of Jelly Sex Toys

Dildology & Safe Sex Toys

Glass Sex Toy Facts

Metis Black on Toxic Toys: Beyond Phthalates

Phthalates in Sex Toys

Silicone Sex Toy Facts

 

The “Dildo Wars”- Dildology, Doc Johnson, and Sex Toy Testing

A week ago, Dildology posted the results of lab testing of the composition of the James Deen Realistic Cock, which found that the dildo was composed of 39% PVC and 61% Bis(2-ethylhexylhexahydrophthalate.) This is problematic, considering that Doc Johnson claims the James Deen Realistic Cock is made of “Non-Phthalate PVC with Antibacterial Sil-A-Gel” and Dildology’s test results seem to show that it is actually made of 61% phthalates.

So what is the big deal? The big deal is that phthalates, chemicals used to soften plastics, have been linked to negative health effects that range from burning and irritation upon contact to more serious problems like organ damage and cancer. While the true extent to which phthalates are harmful is unknown, the concerns have been enough to have them banned in children’s toys in the US since 2009 and restricted in children’s toys by the European Union since 1999.

Since more people have become educated about the negative effects of phthalates, which have been commonly used in jelly sex toys, some sex toy companies have responded to consumer demands by phasing them out of their product lines, or even better, by only producing toys made of safe, non-porous materials like 100% silicone, glass, and metal. But the problem is that there is absolutely no regulation of sex toys. So just because a toy package says a toy is phthalate-free or silicone doesn’t mean it really is.

This has been a known fact to people in the sex toy community, but up until recently no one had a solution for tackling the issue. This is where Dildology came in. The organization formed with the mission of verifying sex toy materials by sending sex toys that they get from retailers to accredited labs to be tested and then posting the results to their Wiki page.

The method in which Dildology tests sex toys is essential because it allows an unbiased sample of the product to be tested. If manufacturers sent Dildology toys directly to be tested, they could essentially make sure the product will pass ahead of time, and testing random toys from retailers prevents this. For the past few months, many bloggers (including myself), sex educators like Violet Blue, and some sex toy retailers have been helping raise awareness and funds for Dildology so they can begin testing products.

The James Deen Realistic Cock wasn’t the first toy tested (the Jimmy Jane Hello Touch was found to be 100% silicone as claimed), but since it was the first to fail, it’s caught wider attention. On Tuesday Lux Alptraum, CEO and Editor of Fleshbot, published “Sex, Lies, and Phthalates,” which discusses the results, phthalates in sex toys, and calls for petitioning government regulation of sex toys. Yesterday, Doc Johnson published their response to Dildology’s claims on their blog, in which they claim that Dildology’s findings are false and that they “deliberately incited public outcry by posting erroneous information without further research or attempting any contact with the manufacturer (Doc Johnson) beforehand.”

Now a lot of us don’t know what to think. Upon reading Doc Johnson’s response, Epiphora, one of the most respected sex bloggers in the US, tweeted,I dunno what to think. I do not know science.” Dildology has since updated the James Deen results page to also show Doc Johnson’s full response, and Lux Alptraum has added a link to it in her original article.

Doc Johnson claims that the Dildology lab test “lacks depth and sophistication.” Specifically they say that:

“The Dildology website is in error.  It is a common mistake made by non-scientists who do not have a working knowledge of polymer chemistry. The ECA testing lab used by the website found bis(2-ethylhexylhexahydrophthalate) which could, to the layman, appear to be DEHP. This misinterpretation and lack of deeper analysis speaks to the competency of the laboratory used.”

But what does this really mean? Hell if I know. I can’t even tell if they are claiming their product doesn’t have any bis(2-ethylhexylhexahydrophthalate, or if they’re claiming bis(2-ethylhexylhexahydrophthalate is in fact not DEHP (phthalate.) Either way, the plasticizers they claim they use in their toys earlier in the article (1,4-benzenedicarboxylic acid, di(2-ethylhexyl) ester and/or 1,2-Cyclohexane dicarboxlic acid, diisononyl ester) don’t match, so I’m confused to say the least. If I were a chemist myself, I feel like I would be able to interpret Dildology’s findings as well as Doc Johnson’s response more accurately. But since I’m not, I don’t know what they’re talking about.

Doc Johnson also says that they use three different third party labs to test their products and that they passed as phthalate free. But can we really trust results of a company’s products that are done by the company itself? I know that I for one don’t want material verification to take place solely at a company’s lab or on their terms, I want a non-affiliated organization to do testing on random products actually sold at retail stores. I want unbiased results. I want the truth.

By accepting a company’s (unregulated) product claims, we are assuming that they are having testing done on the products that we buy in retail stores, but how do we know that we’re getting the same products that were tested? Whether the testing is done in their own lab or the product is sent to be tested, it’s obviously in their interest to use a product that will pass the tests, regardless of whether or not it’s the same thing they actually use in their product line.

So who is right, and where do we go from here? In discussion about these “dildo wars” as Tristan Toarmino put it on Twitter, Lux Alptraum calls for government regulation of sex toys so it’s not a “he said, she said” issue. While I’m not opposed to government regulation of sex toys, it doesn’t seem like that will happen anytime soon. In the meantime, what do we do? Who do we believe?

For one, we can try to educate the public more about sex toys and advocate safer products made of silicone, glass, and metal, so that plasticizers/phthalates and whether or not they are included in toys won’t be so much of any issue. Many bloggers such as Violet Blue, Dangerous Lilly, Epiphora (and myself) are working towards this already. But even that can be problematic since there isn’t regulation and companies can essentially label toys as silicone even if they aren’t, though from experience handling many different products bloggers trust certain companies (like Tantus and Lelo) more than others.

Another thing we must do is think critically. I may not be a chemist or know much about the specifics of material testing, but I do know that I don’t automatically trust product claims from testing done by the company itself such as those done by Doc Johnson.

If Dildology’s findings are false, I can understand why Doc Johnson is angry, although I don’t think Dildology purposefully posted misinformation or tried to harm Doc Johnson’s reputation since they simply posted the test results they received from a lab without any commentary. And it doesn’t mean that we need third party testing of sex toy materials any less. If anything, it means we need more funding and support for third party testing in multiple labs to ensure accurate results.

And if Dildology’s findings are accurate, Doc Johnson obviously has a lot to gain from trying to discredit and stop Dildology’s mission.

Like many others, I’m confused by the “dildo wars” and the claimed results from Dildology and Doc Johnson. I plan to stay updated with the issue until further information comes to light. In the meantime, I still support the promotion of safe, non-porous sex toy materials as well as believe that we need sex toy material verification from third party organizations like Dildology that are unaffiliated with sex toy manufacturers.

Dildology and Safe Sex Toys

During the three years I worked at a sex toy store, I did my best to help customers pick out body safe products, but it wasn’t easy. Some customers stared at the rows and rows of toys and asked me, “Why are there so many choices? How many styles of vibrators could you possibly need?” I told them that it’s not just the design that’s important in a sex toy, it’s the material(s). I explained the difference between porous and non-porous toys, stressing the importance of choosing something like silicone or glass for safe, hygienic use. Often they would nod at me attentively (although some could care less), and then inquire, “Well which ones are good then?”

This question was harder for me to answer. I usually emphasized Lelos, since they were some of the few toys we sold that I felt confident were actually pure silicone. But not everyone can afford a Lelo, and so I showed them the alternatives, which I was less sure about. I pointed out the ones that I had handled before that felt like silicone and didn’t have a rubbery smell. But we had so many toys, and whether or not they actually seemed to be pure silicone didn’t only vary by manufacturer or brand, they varied within manufacturers and brands as well.

One day I helped a woman who wanted a rabbit, and after I explained the importance of silicone, she said of course she wanted a silicone rabbit then because who wants a toy you can’t properly clean and sterilize? The nicer Lelo and Jopen options seemed a bit expensive to her at first, so I pulled the only other “silicone” rabbit off of the wall, some Cal Exotics one with beads, and when I opened the box, it smelled like chemicals. I didn’t work on commission and would never lie about a product, so I told her that I doubted it was actually silicone.

“But the box says it is, right?” She looked horrified when I told her that sex toys aren’t regulated, so there’s no way of knowing for sure, and that silicone shouldn’t have a funky smell.

To make things worse, the smelly Cal Exotics “silicone” rabbit wasn’t cheap either. Eventually she decided on the Lelo Ina, after admitting she’d been considering splurging on it anyways.

Unfortunately, this story didn’t always have such a happy ending. Although I was always honest and open about sex toy materials, I sold lots of questionable toys, and to my own disgust jelly toys that were even labeled as such. While I honestly don’t understand why someone would buy one even after I warned them that it could leak phthalates and chemicals into their body, ultimately it was their choice. They knew what they were buying, they were warned, and they still bought it.

While obviously the fact that companies even sell dangerous products is a huge problem, the problem gets even stickier when toys that are made of unsafe or porous materials are labeled as safe or pure silicone. Do you know what your sex toys are made of?  You may think you own a silicone toy, but you can’t really be sure, since there is absolutely no regulation on the listing of materials on sex toy packaging. Some companies like Tantus and Lelo have strong reputations for being trustworthy when it comes to materials and business practices, but the industry is still unregulated.

This dilemma is dangerous for many reasons.

The first and perhaps the most severe is in the case of people who are allergic to latex, rubber, or some of the chemicals that could possibly be in a sex toy. It’s like this: say you’re allergic to dairy, and you buy a muffin mix labeled as dairy free, when it actually isn’t. You could become horribly sick. The same goes for sex toys. If you’re highly allergic to latex and you buy a toy labeled as a silicone that actually contains latex, you could have a serious allergic reaction.

But I don’t have a latex allergy, you may think, so why should I care? Because anyone who uses  jelly or other unsafe sex toy materials can experience headaches, pain, burning, swelling, and even possibly chemical poisoning from phthalates as well as other irritating chemicals. Even if you aren’t very sensitive and show no signs of irritation, studies still show that exposure to phthalates can damage organs and possibly even cause cancer.

It is also vital to know if your toy is truly non-porous silicone if you want to safely share a toy with multiple partners. If you purchase a toy labeled as silicone that actually isn’t, you may think you can sterilize it, but you really can’t, and you could in fact spread bodily fluids or infections to partners.

Lastly, mislabeling toys isn’t only unethical because it could be hazardous to your health, it’s false advertisement. Would you want to pay gold prices for something that’s really copper? There is a huge difference in quality between silicone and rubber or silicone rubber mixes. Not only is silicone safer and more hygienic, it is also more durable and can last a very long time if taken care of properly. Rubber toys, on the other hand, can easily bend, break, change colors, and even melt into something resembling a blob from outer space.

Sex bloggers and educators have long known about safe materials and the misleading labels on sex toys, and many have tried using flame tests on toys to determine their actual composition. But it has recently come to light that flame tests aren’t always accurate. So the only way to know for sure what a toy is made of it to send it off to a lab to be scientifically tested. But this is expensive, and if we want an accurate database of verified safe sex toys and brands, we have to rally together.

This is where Dildology comes in. Started by Crista Anne, XVO, and Dangerous Lilly, Dildology is a new non-profit organization that will purchase sex toys at random from retailers, send them to a lab to be tested, and share and promote the results on their page and Wiki.

dildology-logo

 

You may wonder why Dildology has decided to take things into their own hands, instead of pushing for government regulation. Here’s why, in Dangerous Lilly’s words:

“We can cry out for the industry to be regulated by our government, but really what will that get us? A higher priced dildo. A “luxury sex toy” that costs double what they do now, and their current costs are already prohibitive to many. Sex toys that take twice as long in development resulting in fewer, quality new sex toys being introduced to the market every year. When you bring the FDA to the party, you get mountains of paperwork, costly fees and annual 3-4 week-long audits to retain your FDA classifications. The better solution just might be to let the industry self-regulate, but with a little help from a neutral party.”

So, now that you’re all riled up, as I hope you are, here’s what you can do to help start a revolutionary change in the sex toy industry:

~Please donate to Dildology. (If you’re wondering if I’ve donated, yes, my broke ass has somehow shelled out $50, and I can’t wait to proudly wear my Dildology t-shirt when they reach their goal.) In addition to the warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing you helped changed the word one sex toy verification at a time, there are also various incentives for donating such as coupon codes and Dildology merchandise.

~Read the other blog carnival posts for more information about the necessity and potential of the organization.

~Spread the word about them on Twitter and Facebook, and vote for them on Offbeatr.

Dildology stands on their own, unaffiliated and unbiased. Dilgology won’t accept advertising money or toys straight from manufacturers to prevent conflicts of interests and to ensure accurate results. The majority of donations will go towards product testing, with the rest going to fundraising merchandise and incentives, and equipment for experiments and the development of educational resources.

I hope that someday soon, the sex toy industry will undergo a huge positive change,  and people will be able to confidently purchase safe sex toys, thanks to Dildology and quality demanding consumers. Let’s do this people! 🙂

 

Buying a Sex Toy: What You Need to Know

The Story of my 1st “Sex Toy”

I shudder in horror when I remember my first real sex toy. Now that I know more about toys, I realize the first one I used internally possibly leaked phthalates and poisonous chemicals into my body. I was 18, I knew nothing about sex toys, and my boyfriend said he wanted to buy me a toy that was less than $50. I honestly can’t remember why we chose the ugly blue Ultimate Beaver.  I didn’t see or smell the toy before I purchased it, and the girl at the register gave me no opinion on my choice. Even if she knew it was gross, I don’t think she was allowed to say anything to me about the quality of the toy since this was way before the Sex Toy Ban in Texas was lifted (meaning sex toys were still only sold for “educational” purposes and were not acknowledged as actual sex toys.)

Luckily, I only used the toy once since I didn’t like how it felt and was grossed out by the material, and I ended up throwing it away. Afterwards, I stuck with my trusty plug-in “back massager” and was turned off of internal sex toys for a very long time. I eventually got a job at a lingerie/sex toy store, and for the past 3 years I’ve done my best to help people choose sex toys that will work for them and are safe to use, hoping to help others avoid my negative experience.  Fortunately there are many more safe toys on the market today than when I bought my first sex toy, but the Ultimate Beaver, as well as countless other potentially unsafe jelly toys, are still sold on the internet and in some adult shops.

Since there are various types of sex toy materials (glass, silicone, rubber, etc.) as well as numerous sub-types within each category (jelly rubber, thermoplastic rubber, “realistic” rubber etc.) learning about toy materials can be confusing at first. To simplify, I’ll begin by explaining the best options for safe, hygienic sex toy materials.

Non-porous Toys

I strongly recommend choosing a sex toy material that is non-porous, such as pure silicone, glass, metal, ceramic, or hard plastic, especially if it is for internal use or for use with multiple partners. If a toy material is non-porous, that means it is easy to clean and sterilize, and it doesn’t have tiny pores in the material that can retain bacteria and possibly cause or transfer infections. Non-porous toys can be cleaned with unscented antibacterial soap and water or a 10% bleach 90% water solution. After cleaning the toy, rinse it well with water or a wet cloth to remove all cleaning solution. Some non-porous toys such as pure silicone can also be sterilized by boiling for 2-3 minutes or by running them in the dishwasher (on the top shelf, with no soap.) For more specifics on sex toy care and maintenance, check out this article.

If you decide to invest in a high quality nonporous sex toy, you’ll want to make sure that you are in fact buying what you really want—a high quality nonporous toy. Often sex toy companies label toys as silicone when they aren’t pure silicone and are actually something else, such as a silicone-elastomer (porous) blend. To avoid purchasing a misleadingly labeled “silicone” toy, buy a silicone toy from a trustworthy manufacturer and keep in mind that pure silicone toys should always be opaque and odor-free.  If you aren’t sure if your toy is pure silicone, you can find out by performing a flame test. To view some examples of mislabeled silicone toys and to learn how to do a flame test, check out this article.

Stay Away from Phthalates

If you purchase a toy material that is porous (anything besides pure silicone, glass, metal, wood, ceramic, or hard plastic), the most important factor to consider is whether or not it contains harmful chemicals and or phthalates. Phthalates are esters of phthalic acid used to soften plastics and are commonly found in jelly, PVC, rubber, and latex sex toys. Toy materials that contain phthalates have a horrible odor, are often oily, and can potentially damage organs and cause cancer. To learn specifics about the harmful chemicals and phthalates in toys, read Dangerous Lilly’s Dangers of Jelly Sex Toys and Phthalates in Sex Toys. I strongly recommend avoiding these types of toys, but if you do use one, put a condom over it.

Porous Toys: Phthalate Free Materials

While non-porous toys are the most hygienic option, there are also some porous materials that are more durable than jelly/rubber toys and usually have little or no gross chemical smell. TPR, TPE, Elastomer, and silicone/TPR/TPE blends are porous but usually phthalate free. There are also some versions of TPR and TPE that are “medical grade” and non-porous, but if you aren’t sure, assume they’re porous. While these toys are safer than jelly toys, they can’t be sterilized and shouldn’t be shared with multiple partners. If you want to use a toy with one of these materials but are concerned about the porous aspect, use a condom or toy cover to help prevent bacteria build-up and infection.

Note: This is meant to be a general guide when considering what material to choose for your sex toy purchase; it is not an all inclusive detailed description of every possible material on the market. Within each material category (silicone, glass, rubber, realistic etc.), there are many different types of varying quality, and I recommend looking into/asking questions about your specific toy if you have any doubts about its safety or quality.

Roundup of Helpful Sex Toy Materials Links:

Dangerous Lilly:

Sex Toy Care and Maintenance
Dangers of Jelly Sex Toys
Phthalates in Sex Toys
Silicone Sex Toy Facts
Glass Sex Toy Facts
Flame Testing Silicone Sex Toys

Violet Blue:

Unsafe Sex Products and Toys – Consumer Beware

Jo Class

Do you leave work meetings with a bag full of bottles of lube? I do.

In my latest training class, Jennifer from System Jo told us about the company and its products, answered our questions, and had us feel and sometimes taste various lubricants.  For anyone who is curious about Jo products (and for my coworker who couldn’t make it to the meeting), I would like to share what I learned in Jo class. Please note that this post is not meant to be my personal endorsement of all of the following products, if you want to know more about what I think about them, check back on my blog for individual product reviews that I will post as I try all of the products.

Jo’s beginning
The Jo product line began when a group of doctors asked United Consortium (a nutra-ceutical company) to create a pharmaceutical grade silicone lubricant for women with extreme vaginal dryness.
Jo Premium Silicone Lubricants
-Silicone lubricant is made from sand.
-Not all silicone lubes are created equal; it is important to choose a high quality silicone lubricant.
-Jo Premium is a high quality pharmaceutical grade silicone lubricant
-Evolved Novelties did studies on silicone lube and silicone toy compatibility, and Jo silicone lubes were the only lubricants that did not damage their silicone toys. People who want to use silicone toys and lubes together can use Jo silicone lubes and Evolved (or Tantus) silicone toys (I can vouch for this as well; read my blog about it for more information). There have not been tests on the compatibility of Jo silicone lube with other brands of silicone toys (so don’t mix them unless you want to take the risk of ruining your silicone toy.)
-Other possible uses for silicone lubes: hair smoother, shave cream, skin conditioner, WD 40 replacement
Jo H20 Water Based Lubricants
-Jo H20 water based lubes are designed to be long lasting and feel like silicone
-Jo H20 does contain glycerin but only vegetable based glycerin, which is less likely to be irritating to women than animal based glycerin. If you have a glycerin sensitivity, try Jo’s Agape mentioned below.
Jo Agape Lubricant
-“Agape” means unconditional love in Greek.
-Jo Agape water based lube was created without glycerin, silicone, or oil for sensitive women.
Jo Hybrid Lubricant
-Jo Hybrid Lubricant was designed to combine the best qualities of both silicone and water based lubes so that it is smooth and long lasting like silicone but easy to wash off like water based.
-Jennifer said Hybrid is ok to use with silicone toys.  I am still a little weary of that, to be safe you could try a patch test on the silicone toy you want to use it with.
Jo Lubes’ various viscosities
-The difference between Jo regular lubes, Jo Anal lubes, and Jo Women lubes are their viscosities.
-Jo Women has the thinnest viscosity and is meant to mimic a women’s natural lubricant.
-Classic Jo Premium and H20 lubes have a thicker viscosity than Jo Women.
– Jo Anal Lubes have the thickest viscosity since the anal area doesn’t self lubricate.
Jo Warming and Cooling
-All of the Jo water based and silicone lubes come in both warming and cooling as well.
-The cooling agent in Jo cooling lubes is French Menthol.
-The warming agent in Jo warming lubes is capsaicin (from chili peppers.)
Jo Clitoral and G Spot Gels

– The Jo Clitoral gels are warming and the g spot gels are cooling, but you can use them interchangeably if desired.
-Neither contains L-Arginine, which can cause breakouts in people with Herpes.
Jo H20 Flavored Lubes
– Jo flavored lubes come in a variety of flavors and don’t contain any sugar which can cause yeast infections.
Jo All in One
-Jo All in One can be used as any or all of the following: a silicone lube, massage oil, skin conditioner.
-Comes in a variety of scents (my favorite was Cranberry.)
Jo Foaming Toy Cleanser

-A gentle, body safe foaming cleanser
Jo Pheromone Sprays and Deodorants
-Jo Pheromones are man made
-There are 3 ways to get natural pheromones: from humans (extremely expensive), from pigs (gross), or from coyote urine (grosser)
-Jo Pheromone sprays and deodorants do not have a scent because scents water down the effect of the pheromones when formulated together
-You can layer Jo Pheromones with your normal scents by putting on your normal deodorant or perfume after applying Jo Pheromone deodorant or spray
-Jo Pheromones for Men are the same as Jo Women+Women (but with different packaging)
-Jo Pheromones for Women are the same as Jo Men+Men
-If you want to attract both sexes, you can wear both Jo Women and Jo Men at the same time
Jo Natural Personal Feminine Spray
-For external use only, not a douche
-Meant to help control odor and moisture
-Formulated to help keep women’s pH balance at a normal level
Jo Body Shaving Cream
-Has alcohol to reduce hair growth
-Not a conditioner like many other shave gels (conditioners promote hair growth)
Jo 2 to Tango
-2 lubes that mix together
-The “men’s” lube is a warming, water based lube with some benzocaine for prolonging
-The “women’s” lube is a cooling, silicone based lube
Jo Prolonger Spray
-Contains benzocaine, a numbing agent for prolonging
-Since it is a spray it absorbs quickly so it doesn’t also numb your partner
-No need to rub it in like with a prolonging creamPhotos ©Penny

Meant for Each Other: For Silicone Lovers

evolvedlucky13Lots of people are die hard silicone fans and for good reason.

Silicone is an awesome material for toys because it is extremely hygienic because it’s non-porous (meaning germs etc. can’t build up inside the material), and it’s soft and smooth, yet firm and flexible. It can also endure extreme temperatures (so you can boil it to kill germs if it doesn’t have an attached motor,) and it warms quickly to your body.

Silicone lube has quite a following as well because it never loses its slick, slippery feel. It doesn’t get sticky and tacky like water based lube can, you only need a small amount, you don’t have to keep reapplying it, and it’s great for water or anal play, among other things.

So instinctively you’d think, well I’ll just use silicone lube with silicone toys then because of their super awesomeness, but unfortunately, if you use silicone lube with your favorite silicone toy, chances are the toy/lube will start to sort of melt and mesh together, creating a big mess and a ruined toy (and silicone toys are expensive!)

JO Premium Cool 2ozHowever, I recently learned a tip at a product knowledge seminar: you can use certain silicone toys with certain silicone lubes. In particular, you can use Evolved & Tantus silicone toys with System Jo silicone lubes (it has something to do with the quality of the silicone in the materials.)

I decided to test out this claim at home with some of the free sample products I received and was delighted to find it’s true. I used the Evolved Lucky 13 Roulette vibe with Jo Premium Cool, and they work well together. Both products are great for shower play because the Lucky 13 is waterproof (as are all Evolved toys), the silicone lube never lost the slippery feel even under water, and the cooling effect felt great in contrast to the warm water.

The only disadvantage to using these toys together was that the cleanup afterwards took a few minutes longer than normal. At first I tried just using soap and warm water like I usually do, but the silicone did not come off easily, so I squirted Jo foaming toy cleaner on a towel and wiped down the toy a few times and then used the soap and water as well, and that worked out fine.

So, for all you silicone lovers out there, I hope this little tip helps; it sure helped me!