Tag Archives: safe sex toys

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

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.

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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! 🙂