Jan 162015
 

Since 2005, The Screaming O has been telling us that their products like Ringo, The Big O, The Screaming O Plus (the clear material products) were “SEBS Silicone”. After I delved into my material research, discussions with industry professionals, and flame testing, I felt pretty damn certain that there was never any silicone in these products. When an AVN article came out on January 14th talking about how The Screaming O decided to run lab tests AND quoted Anne Hodder of Hodder Media Inc, their Public Relations Spokesperson, as saying “I think we can finally put to rest the critics with our data that shows our products are what we say they are,” I got kinda angry at first 1 because well….no. The tests revealed that the SEBS products are just SEBS….not the SEBS Silicone they’ve been called all along. And because there was no talk in the article about The Screaming O recognizing the material disparity publicly and stating that changes will be made to reflect that, something felt off. It felt like “they still don’t get it”. But as soon as I was told that actually, yeah, they DO get it, I wanted to see if I could get more information. Yes, I think a few have doubted that even their silicone was truly silicone, and those tests DO prove that they are. But the biggest problem is that continuing to have these listed as silicone has caused confusion to people who are trying to seek out only non-porous materials, and it damages trust in the industry as a whole. 

I think this might be the first time that a sex toy company has both tested AND publicly admitted that their material hasn’t been what they advertised it to be. I was able to snag an interview with Anne Hodder and get some answers. I do now feel better about TSO overall as a company. I still don’t love the porous cock rings 2 but now that I know they weren’t purposely lying and now that I know the material is absolutely non-toxic, I think the rings are fine for a first-timer to try out the world of cock rings. I’d rather you choose from their pure silicone line, but hey, budgets n’ all that.

I’m printing Anne’s answers as she gave them to me. So this will be long, but you can skip around if you wish. 

1. When a company goes on for so many years saying that it’s a blend (and recently I was told by an expert that blends aren’t possible) we lose complete trust in them. What can be said to help us regain our trust in your brand about the “SEBS Silicone” issue? Is TSO also admitting that these products are porous (and that for true body-safe products that will last, go for the premium silicone versions)? Is TSO officially saying that yes, the SEBS products were all mislabeled in the past?

Labeling our products as SEBS Silicone was not an intentional manipulation or plan to deceive the public; it was an error that dates possibly back to the company’s 2005 inception and was carried throughout our marketing until we made the official decision to have our materials tested. And with the lab results in hand, we are now in the process of revising our marketing, packaging, websites and more to reflect the correct information: our stretchy products are made of pure non-toxic, body-safe SEBS.

SEBS, as is any material that is not platinum silicone, stainless steel, or coated wood or stone, is slightly porous – but “porous” does not mean “unsafe” or “toxic” when it comes to external-use toys. As with any sex toy, keeping Screaming O products in tip top shape simply requires cleaning after every use and safe storage: keep in a cool, dry place away from dust/dirt and any other outside contaminants.

We choose to manufacture much of our product line out of pure SEBS in order to provide quality alternatives for men, women and couples who cannot afford (or do not want) to drop $60+ on a rechargeable cock ring or $90+ clitoral vibe. And that demographic deserves body-safe materials and quality construction, which is why we are committed to confirming the composition of our materials with independent lab testing.

Also, it’s important to note that our SEBS is NOT to be confused with jelly, the material commonly found in floppy dildos that often smell like melted shower curtains – and not something you’d want anywhere near your body.

2. What can you tell us about the Twitter conversations back in November, most of which are referenced here? That exchange really soured a lot of bloggers on the company in general.

That exchange was unfortunate. To put it simply, we had an outside contractor handling basic social media duties (daily posting, mostly) who responded to the online argument without conferring with the marketing team first. Her responses were argumentative, uninformed and unprofessional and did not accurately represent the thoughts and feelings of The Screaming O.

We immediately went into damage control as soon as we were made aware of the situation. We reached out to all involved and offered “offline” discussion to try to set the record straight, and The Screaming O is no longer using this contractor’s services.

Customer service is our No. 1 priority – whether it’s with our retailers or our fans – and we work hard to establish and maintain candid communication with anyone who reaches out to us, regardless of whether it’s with a compliment or criticism.

3. The article that came out on Jan 14th talked about the test results without acknowledging that TSO recognizes the disparity between the results (SEBS vs SEBS silicone) and plans to take action on that. What can you tell us about this action?

We are now in the process of revising all copy on our websites, packaging and marketing materials to correctly represent our SEBS products, now that we have hard lab data to clear up the confusion. We also encourage retailers and customers to adjust their own marketing copy to ensure that their descriptions accurately represent our products to the shopping public, something that we’re communicating through internal newsletter and email communication.

What This Means

Something that I learned a few years ago from Metis Black of Tantus is that basically you have the material supplier and (for most companies) the manufacturing plant (usually in China) acquires the material. The creating company can SAY they want XYZ and the supplier can say “yeah sure…it’s XYZ *winkwink* and the creating company who is putting their name on the product is truly none the wiser (unless they went the extra mile and randomly had toys sent off to a third-party lab to be tested). So the company (in this case, The Screaming O) geniunely believes that their product is this “silicone elastomer blend” and sticks to that. I do believe that we’ve seen other, larger companies in the past who may have known that their “TPR Silicone” product had no silicone, but they labeled it that way for sales because they could. Companies like that simply quietly changed the wording on their site and product packaging, but never did so out of concern for their customers. 

Some might be skeptical about a company really not knowing that their material isn’t what they’re told it to be; but it rings true to the infamous (in industry circles) story of Metis challenging a vendor friend at a trade show some years back who insisted his product was silicone, and she used the flame test to show that it wasn’t. 

I’m hoping that TSO is able to reach most retailers and have them change the wording on their sites, and begin to lift this confusion of “blends” being a thing and myths that “silicone melts when it touches other silicone“. 

I’ve been told that the lab test results and information will be available online and I’ll update with a link here when they are. 

What are your thoughts? Does this change how you view The Screaming O and their products? 

  1. That may be a bit of an understatement
  2. While these are external-only items, the porous material can still come into contact with mucus membranes of the vulva and the chance for STI transmission can still occur; this is my opinion and perhaps not the opinion of TSO
 Posted by at 4:45 pm
  • SextoyFiend

    But WHY did they run the test now after all these years? When they refer to “critics” are they talking about bloggers like you? And I can understand and accept the reasoning behind the Twitter snafu, I guess, but the explanation seems a little underdeveloped or overly political. I’d be curious to know specifics like which tweets do they not agree with? And why didn’t they remove them? Usually companies remove the offending tweets. I’m not sure if keeping them is a sign of transparency or what.

  • These are valid questions! I’ve asked Anne to come back and answer/comment.

  • I’m not happy that their products were mislabeled for years, but I’m glad that they’re admitting the mistake and are working to fix their marketing!

  • In re: SEBS and porosity/safety- yep, SEBS is porous and they fully acknowledge that. Most of the ScreamingO products are sold as disposable however, many of them don’t even have replaceable batteries. Those that do have replaceable batteries are still typically in a pricepoint of <$35 and most typically purchased (in my experience working on the retail floor) by either folks looking for a gag gift, folks looking for something to take on a trip and ditch afterwards, and/or folks looking for a try-it before investing in something longer lasting. Some people do prefer the feel/fit of these and repeatedly re-purchase them as they do wear out, and fairly quickly at that, due to the nature of the materials.

    Can they transmit STIs because they are porous? Sure- if you're sharing them with multiple partners whose status you don't know, etc. This isn't most people. Really the biggest concern with porous things such as these are potential for re-infection of a UTI or yeast infection. I'd say they're spot on with their saying that porous does not inherently mean unsafe or toxic, and to wash it, dry it, and store it safely. I think for the market that they are selling to, the pricepoint range they occupy, and the general longevity of their product? I'm cool with it being a porous material.

  • Yeah I don’t think these would ever last long enough to harbour mildew. I think it’s at least worth mentioning though about the porosity even if the nature of use lowers the chance, but I do tend to be possibly too cautious…

  • This is quite interesting. I had no idea that SEBS was harmful in comparison to non-porous silicone. Does this make someone using the products more susceptible to STIs? I’d like to know more about the differences in material.

  • No, I don’t believe it to be “harmful”. Is it not as great as non-porous silicone? It’s not. But it isn’t toxic. I don’t think the porous nature would be a problem with these for things like mildew (like I’d worry about with long-term use things like masturbation sleeves, dildos, internal vibes, etc) and these low-price SEBS rings usually don’t see more than a couple uses. I think that, so long as you don’t use them during a yeast infection or UTI and don’t use/share with partners whose STI status you don’t know (because if they’re using a condom and the porous ring is over the condom, there is a chance for STI spread but I have no idea what the chances are), I think it’s fine.

    When it comes to the porosity and toxicity, SEBS is probably quiet similar to an elastomer or TPR product. Non-toxic, yet porous, so just be educated about the materials and dont’ keep them for too long.

  • Chaoticblu

    I agree, seems like they should have run tests sooner. Perhaps I’m an idealist, but I don’t think it’s “going the extra mile” for any company (adult or not) to test it’s own products to make sure they are what they are supposed to be (and to make sure they are working with honest suppliers and manufacturers). Quality control is just good business practice.

    It also doesn’t sit right with me that when TSO did think they’re products had some silicone, they didn’t disclose it was a supposed ‘blend’ * Just because they’re government allows them to label anything 10% as simply ‘silicone’ (implying that it is 100%) doesn’t mean that’s the ethical thing to do. It’s misleading to consumers as you (Dangerous Lilly) pointed out and TSO pointing fingers at it’s govt doesn’t show concern for their customers or make them seem honest.

    I do hope though they really are shaping up. I am just getting into buying more toys and learning about materials actually (I’m on Edenfantasy) so I may not have noticed what TSO’s old material descriptions were, but I will be looking for ones that are detailed now and mention SEBS. I may still give their products a try though as I’m not concerned with the porous nature, and I’d be trying them as beginner toys with the intent on purchasing something more high end.

    *As noted in your flame test blog http://dangerouslilly.com/2012/04/sex-toy-journalism-seeking-truths-silicone-flame-testing-confronting-manufacturers/

    Ps, very informative site, glad i found it!

  • Tmcaurinus

    Just a note — if you’re interested in supporting ethical businesses, I highly recommend against EdenFantasys.

  • Chaoticblu

    I appreciate the note of caution. I haven’t bough anything yet from there, so I’ll do some investigating. I like that they have the material list, which has helped me to start learning about toy materials. It’s disheartening to hear a complaint against them though as they seem like an informative site, but I know looks can be deceiving so I’ll check them out more.

  • taylor_serenil

    The product information (both sidebar and the paragraph of “buy THIS” body copy) at goodvibes just says this is silicone. The shorthand info has ABS plastic and SEBS (Silicone / Elastomer Blend) but I can easily see someone missing it (plus silicone and elastomers do not blend take 4535473).

    http://www.goodvibes.com/s/sex-toys/p/GV13083/screaming-o/my-secret-lipstick-vibrator

    dearlady (because it was on the first page of googling this and isn’t *quite* amazon iirc) has no mention of the SEBS composition either. Their page is entirely “silicone”.

    http://www.dearlady.us/Screaming-O-My-Secret-Vibrating-Lipstick-Pink/p/WM04508N/?vp=1

    So clearly, you and many other bloggers are doing a public service and should be showered with presents of your choosing for it. Because if two different sites have silicone in at least some of the description how is the average person going to know this isn’t silicone?

    (Also, because I am easily amused and really want a lipstick vibe that actually looks like lipstick not like Mia and am willing to pay up to maybe $25 USD pre-shipping, does such a creature exist? Further caveat: I’d *prefer* no watch/nonstandard batteries if possible. I already have multiple toys, so how well this performs is secondary to the appearance factor. Thanks so much :))

  • Except that this particular product does seem to be silicone: https://screamingo.com/shop/my-secret-screaming-o-vibrating-lipstick/

    At this point I believe SO when they label a product silicone now. when THEY label it silicone. when retailers do? Ehhhhhh.

    So yeah. It’s listed as silicone on the SO site. It also seems to be a slight change from their Studio Line which was referred to as SEBS, so it may be a replacement for that line? And lazy retailers never changed it?

    TBH this is one reason of about 47 why I love SheVibe – they take the time to make changes, to listed to people. I don’t really feel confident that if I approached GV about this discrepancy that they’d change their site.