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.
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! 🙂