Author’s Note: Yes this is an older post, but I update it with new information when I can. The information contained here is only the start and if you are curious, if you have problem toys, if you’re unsure about the material or safety, etc PLEASE READ FURTHER posts on this site. Start with the Toxic Toys Page which links to many related articles I’ve written. Every single post there is relevant, informative and covers nearly all questions you might have. Also: yes, comments are still open and I still answer all questions.
Given the name of my site, a recurring theme in search words that led people to my blog are variants on “Is XYZ dangerous”. Cock sucking, sex toys, vibrators, etc.
Usually, if asked, my answer would be “no”. Unless of course the sex toy is made from jelly rubber. I have been accused numerous times by other reviewers of being a snob, because I won’t review a jelly/rubber/PVC sex toy. I won’t recommend them, I won’t promote them directly. The dangers of phthalates, and other chemicals found in the cheap toys, are not fully known in the sex toy context (i.e. how much will it affect our bodies from an occasional use item). Some say you can still use them, but cover it with a condom – this may help, but again, no test has proven or disproven so proceed with caution. The risks ARE there, and you never know when you might have an allergic reaction to a jelly sex toy.
I realize how prevalent the bad toys are. I know that they are the most affordable and make up something like 80% of the sex toy industry. But that doesn’t mean you should buy them. There’s a lot of reasons why I think a lot of sex toys are utter crap – they’re either made so cheap that they won’t last past a couple uses or their material is one that shouldn’t ever be put inside the body. They still thrive on the market though because a lot of people just don’t have a clue. Many sex toy retailers, both brick and online, do not warn customers about the dangers of phthalates or possibly-unsafe highly porous materials like jelly, rubber, PVC, cyberskin/realskin/UR3.
I’ve told you before about phthalates – what they are, why they’re bad, and how to buy a sex toy that does not contain them. Let’s forget that fact that the amount of phthalates varies per sex toy manufacturer, even per toy, and is not regulated. Your toy could have a small number or a number high enough to kill a rat. You’ll have no clue. You could read the package and see “Phthalates-free!!” but still not have a clue, because there is nothing to prevent the manufacturer from lying.
But phthalates are not your only reason to stay away from the inferior materials.
Toxic toys can leak/”outgas” phthalates and other questionable chemicals. Straight from the packaging, a jelly rubber toy often has a bad smell. It’s really offensive to me personally, and the smell varies from toy to toy. Some companies try to cover up this bad smell by adding even more chemicals with scents. Oily-feeling fake taste/smell chemicals. Yum.
When you buy a sex toy made of unsafe materials, there’s more than just phthalates to be concerned about. Sure, they’re the worst. But it doesn’t mean they’re the only thing in it that can cause a reaction. The delicate tissue of the vulva/vagina/anus/rectum/penis is even more susceptible to having a reaction. These chemicals were found in the jelly sex toys, according to this article: (hover the links for a quick-n-dirty summary)
I asked on Twitter to see if anybody who follows me ever had a bad reaction to a jelly toy, and the responses scare me. I know that these reactions are not common, but they can happen. They can even happen to you when you use a new toy and you’ve been using jelly toys for years with no reaction. (I haven’t linked these to the people who said it, just in case they wouldn’t want it made “public” for any reason, but will change it if the person doesn’t mind)
“Years ago I was a manager for a sex shop and my hands peeled constantly from handling jelly toys 60 hrs a week. I actually never had it from a toy, but from masturbating with my hands after coming home from work on a shipment day.”
“I’ve had bad reactions to toys. Pussy swells up and agony for days.”
“I had a reaction akin to an extremely mild chemical burn. Itching and burning that lasted days and a very fun doctors trip (Yes I know what caused it, Yes Im sure I dont need an STI Test YES IM REALLY REALLY REALLY SURE!!!!)”
ETA: See Polly’s story below in comments: “…..I went to the doctor and he couldn’t figure out what it was. He took a bunch of tests, but his best guess was CHEMICAL POISONING OF MY VAGINA!!! I had to take antibiotics orally and vaginally and I STILL suffered for weeks….” (read all of it in her comment.)
“But I don’t use my dildo/vibrator for very long time periods, it won’t affect me!” Ok then what about “wearable” sex toys? Bullet vibes, remote-control vibes, butt-plugs?? These types of toys are intended to be worn for hours at a time. I would especially suggest that any butt plugs / anal toys that you purchase be made from a non-porous material because of the higher risk of bacteria from fecal matter sticking around on a jelly toy. Even if you follow the rules of keeping anal toys as anal-only, and not sharing, you could be re-introducing a harmful bacteria to your body.
Highly porous toys can: Pick up dyes/colors from other materials (like storage bags, leather harnesses); pick up colors from other sex toys they touch; leach out an oily residue that stains fabrics; melt into a puddle of goo if two really bad toys touch for awhile in storage; stink up anything else that holds onto odors, in its vicinity.
Even if a jelly/rubber/PVC/realistic toy says “phthalate-free”, it still can contain toxic chemicals that can cause skin reactions in some people. These toys are still porous and can harbor dirt and bacteria because they cannot be sanitized. Even if the toy is not toxic, the porosity issue is still a potential problem, as it can harbor bacteria and mold. TPR/TPE/Soft Elastomers are softened with mineral oil, making the material unstable; mineral oil will begin to leach out over time, and you can have a reaction to it either from the mineral oil alone, or other chemicals piggybacking on the mineral oil.
So what can you do?
1. Buy toys from reputable manufacturers
2. Buy your toys from reputable sex toy retailers that list the toy material on their site and the manufacturer
3. To stay safe, choose materials that are 100% pure silicone, glass, ceramic, Nobessence wood sex toys, medical-grade stainless steel, aluminum, or hard / ABS plastic. Potentially toxic or porous materials include: Jelly; rubber; “skin safe” rubber; elastomer; TPE; TPR; cyberskin; UR3; anything with a weird trademarked name; PVC; vinyl. Most male masturbators are made from a porous material, some are safer than others. Fleshlight and Tenga brands are the safest.
4. You may have read that you can cover toxic/porous sex toys with a condom for safety. This has not been proven. Some people still experienced chemical burns despite using a condom. You may be able to use polyurethane condoms – latex and others that break down in the presence of oil will not protect you.
Reputable manufacturers of non-toxic toys include:
Tantus | Vamp | Lelo | Vixen Creations | Fun Factory | Je Joue | Nexus | Tenga* | JimmyJane | Vixen Creations | Whipspider Rubberworks | BSwish | Jollies LLC (now Chavez Dezignz) | Njoy | Nobessence | Papaya Toys | Vibratex* | Crystal Delights | Evolved Novelties* | Swan1 | Toyfriend | Minna Life | Laid | Incoqnito | Happy Valley | Bad Dragon | Alien Dildos | Goldfrau | Fuze | Fucking Sculptures | Babes-n-Horny | BS is Nice | PleasureWorks | Standard Innovations/We-Vibe | Fleshlight* | Penetralia | Aneros | Fucking Sculptures | Hot Octopuss | Joyful Pleasure | Luxotiq | Marc Dorcel | New York Toy Collective | Nomi Tang | Rianne S | Picobong
The above list doesn’t necessarily mean that I 100% support their products, it just means that I trust them to accurately label their product. For example I would rarely recommend a JimmyJane product but I believe them when they say it’s silicone. There are some manufacturers that make both jelly and silicone, but I haven’t listed them because I don’t really support these manufacturers overall due to the high quantity of shoddy toys in their line: California Exotics / CalExotics (this includes lines such as Berman Center and Dr Joel Kaplan, as all they are is just more CE crap marketed under a “famous person” name); Doc Johnson; Pipedream; Topco; Nasstoys. Manufacturers listed with a * next to the name means that they also make items that are porous yet non-toxic (like TPR/TPE/Elastomer), as well as silicone items.
Some may think that if a toy has the term “for novelty use only” that that means the sex toy is of low quality, that the manufacturer is putting that term on there to dodge lawsuits, etc. In fact, the use of “novelty” can be for a variety of reasons, but dodging health and safety isn’t one of them. People may blame toys made in China, and while I would cast a suspect eye on them, it’s not necessarily a deciding factor. The fact is, Chinese plants offer the most affordable options for labor and parts, especially when it comes to moving parts. You’d be hard-pressed to find a sex toy that vibrates and the motor wasn’t made in China. The quality of the products coming from the Chinese plants can be crap, and sometimes the manufacturer may not even know that the plant has cut corners. The onus is on the manufacturer to keep tabs on the plant and to have their material checked at a verified lab. A few of the luxury companies do this, and some do not. Some just want to make sex toys, and are not familiar with the ins-and-outs of pure silicone vs a TPE/TPR.
I’ll close with this that really sums it up well:
Stay clear of jellys, nonoxynol-9, and “lotions and potions”. Using Jelly products for oral, vaginal, or anal stimulation is going to introduce Phthalate and other toxic solvent absorption into the mucous membranes of the body. These chemicals provoke eye, respiratory, skin, and mucous membrane irritation. Headaches, cramps, and nausea are some of the side effects that result from exposure at the levels found in the study. Even if you don’t give a crap about consequences, the Jelly’s are just plain gross. Regardless of whether you sheath the thing in condoms every time you take it out of its box, it’s still going to degrade and fragment, off-gas so that it leaves an oily stain behind, fuse to its packaging and stink like an old car tire. Is any part of that sexy?
References (and other good links on the subject)
- Ever thought about the toxins in your sex toys?
- Bad Vibrations: A look at sex toys
- Unsafe sex products and toys
- Not all butt plugs should glow in the dark
- Video: Toxins in your sex toys (good info on what phthalates can potentially do to your body)
- The ethics of sex toys
PLEASE feel free to comment here – ask questions, tell us about any reactions you’ve had (you can remain anon if you want, bloggers), give more links. And please share this info with others. If you absolutely must review sex toys that are made of these questionable materials, please warn your readers about the possible dangers/reactions. Feel free to share what I’ve written and link to it.
If you are shopping for sex toys and want buying advice for safe sex toys, please don’t hesitate to contact me. The icons/links over there in the sidebar give you multiple methods: email, Yahoo IM, Formspring, or just comment.
Disclaimer 2: I don’t want to imply at all that every jelly toy will gas out harmful chemicals, that they all will harm you. You could use jelly toys for a long time and suffer no obvious ill effects. But the risk is still there. If you do not have a skin reaction there are still other slow-developing reactions that could, possibly, be happening because of the chemicals. Or you could be fine. My point is….. there are never any guarantees either way. There are many “cons” to jelly toys, and very few “pros”. When you have better options to choose from, options that are safer and will last you a lot longer…..why choose jelly?
- Parent company of Jopen and Leaf, related to PowerBullet ↩