Ask Lilly: “My sex toy stinks – what should I do?”

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Oct 012011

A few weeks ago I got this question in my Formspring inbox and only now got around to answering it. All I know is what the person asked me, which was:

My vibrator has a lingering rubbery smell to it, how can I get rid of that? What should I wash it with?

Here’s my plain and simple answer:


The smell is coming from any number of things, and any one of those things has the potential to act like a toxic substance to the delicate mucus membranes of your genitalia. It could be that the toy is jelly and even if the packaging says “no phthalates” that doesn’t mean there aren’t a number of other irritating chemicals that are leaching out. True Pleasures once wrote about her worrisome time as a CalExotics Sexpert and the dodgy toys (and responses) she’d receive from them1. She received items that were claimed to be TPR (CalExotics actually claims on their Product Information sheet on their site that their TPR & TPE is non-porous. I call bullshit and do not believe them one bit. Most TPR’s are porous; after all they’re the cheaper version of the material and CalExotics isn’t famed for their expensive toys) but smelled so badly they gave her a headache. Response? Oops, we think you managed to get a rare manufacturing error and it’s actually PVC. Oh we’re so distressed about this, we’re as upset as you, we paid for TPR! (I’m paraphrasing here). Again she received other TPR material toys that had funny, lingering odors. The ole “oh let it air out a day” response didn’t fly, as the smell was still there. She got one email that said the smell might be from an accelerant that helps release the toy from it’s production mold; then he say no, it was the glue, it didn’t cure long enough2. But all the while she is assured that these culprits are all non-toxic, phthalates-free, etc.

Every time True Pleasures would get a dodgy toy, her respondents (even Al Bloom) claimed to have gone out to the warehouse, opened up other toys like the one she had (even cutting them open, as she did) to see if others of the same toy had the same problem as hers. Of course, they were all ok. She just happened to get the one oddball. Also, they went out and ruined a case of toys? I’m sure their profit margin is high enough that it’s a drop in the bucket butt again I call bullshit.

Back to the issue at hand. We don’t even know what brand the toy is that the person is asking about.

A well-made toy shouldn’t have any lingering odors. A slight odor when you first open up the packaging – ok, I’ll consent to that. But it should not linger on the toy for very long if it is truly just part of the cleaning process or something to do with the packaging. Your supposed TPR toy could actually be PVC, or jelly/rubber. Who the hell knows. It’s not like there’s any real regulations out there. They can say what they want. Or it could be TPR, but what you’re smelling is indeed another chemical or glue or whatever. They say it’s non-toxic. Really? Show me the MSDS sheet then on all the materials and I’ll decide for myself.


Or you could attempt to contact the manufacturer and tell them your problem, be told it’s a one-off and maybe they’ll send you a new one that doesn’t stink. Maybe. Small chance the reseller will let you return it, depends on who you bought it from. But the bottom line is that you don’t actually know what’s causing the smell (unless of course it IS a jelly toy and I wasn’t told that the rubber-like smell is actually coming from a fucking rubber toy) and you don’t know what it might do to your body. You could use it once with no immediate repercussions and sometime down the line after a few more uses have this strange thing goin on down there and not know what’s up.

Buy from reputable manufacturers.
Buy hard plastic, pure silicone, glass, ceramic, metal, wood, and TPR only from trust-worthy manufacturers3.
If your sex toy stinks, there’s a decent chance that the stink is a warning: HEED THAT WARNING. THROW IT OUT.

If you actually do insist on using the damn thing, please use a toy cover or a condom on it. (use larger condoms for girthier toys, and if you have latex allergies shell out for the newer non-latex condoms).

Here’s another “test”: Would you put it in your mouth with that smell? Would you gag from the smell and taste? If yes, then why the hell put it in your vagina or ass?? There’s a million other sex toys out there that are not unsafe. Go buy one of those.

  1. Yes I’ve linked to it before, but I’m going to link to it again, because in my eyes it really shows that you just can’t trust CalExotics and the more of their shitty stuff I see, the more I want to steer people away from the company as a whole
  2. Dodgy overseas manufacturing that they just blindly trust to be doing things the right way
  3. Trust-worthy manufacturers are not synonymous with well-known manufacturers. I would consider many small companies trust worthy and would consider many big name untrustworthy like CalExotics, definitely Doc Johnson and Pipedreams, Topco is iffy, Hustler ehh
Jul 242011

Recently on OkCupid a very unlikely candidate messaged me and he eventually started questioning me on topics surrounding open marriage; apparently I was the first he’d run into on OKC who admitted to being in an open relationship. I suspect he wasn’t looking very hard.

I’m very interested in trying open relationships for a change. In the past I would fall in love quickly, spend too much money, make too many compromises, and then watch things fall apart for reasons that were beyond my control. I always thought that the open relationship lifestyle (if you want to call it that) was more natural and more honest than the sort of till-death-do-us-part mentality I had. I haven’t meet many people who are living this way, what can you tell me about it? How do you handle being married and seeing other people? Why be married at all?

My answer to him was:

You might want to do some reading research on the differences between polyamorous relationships and open relationships.

You can still have that “til-death-do-us-part” mentality and to a big degree my husband and I do. What we DID remove from our vows though was “forsaking all others” (it was a tiny ceremony and I re-wrote the traditional wedding vows in a way that subtly reflected our lifestyle and lack of religion whilst being showy and emotional enough that the parents never noticed what was missing). Many people DO want what’s called a “primary partner”. Someone to share your home and potential children with (if children is something you might want), a rock to always have around……but with the ability to explore other relationships. People in the non-monogamy camp firmly believe that no one person can be one other person’s “everything”. After all, your platonic friends to a degree provide something that your primary partner might not, so why not a lover?

It’s not easy. Unless you are mostly devoid of jealousy and have perfected (or are trying really, really hard to perfect) the ability to maintain compersion for your other partners’ joy in their other loves, as well as all parties having the self-control not to completely drown in their “new relationship energy” at the expense of their primary relationship. 99% of people are not that perfect. So that’s why I say it’s not easy. It has perks and benefits, yes.

Why be married at all? As I said before, just because I want to have the ability to lust and love others doesn’t mean I don’t still want a primary partner to lean on and raise a home with. As for the institution of marriage itself – it’s more the legal and common necessity than anything else. At one point yes, the romantic side of us wanted to be married for the sake of marriage, to wear the rings and say “husband” and “wife” but this was when we were younger. Currently I personally don’t feel the need for legal marriage to fortify our relationship, I don’t worry that if we weren’t married we’d be any less committed to each other. My husband and I have been serious since 1998, but only got married a couple years ago (we had been waiting until we were able to afford a decent wedding, the wedding I’d planned and dreamed about, not to mention a proper length honeymoon) solely because he really needed to be put on my health insurance as I was the one working and had really good insurance. So it was a tiny ceremony with just our parents and felt more like a “green card wedding” than what I’d always dreamed of. But, oh well. Beyond the health insurance issue is all other sorts of legal benefits, very adult and boring matters such as taxes and wills and etc.

Aug 092010

I received a Formspring question that really made me think. I’m going to do my best to give my opinions, my advice, and then open the floor to my readers for their input.

Lilly, how do I go about telling my husband that I would like a lesbian experience? He already has issues trusting me. How can I explain to him that I just find women sexy but don’t want an actual relationship with one?

My initial response: Oy vey.

She really could have inserted anything at all after “telling my husband that….” because the biggest issue here is TRUST. Now, I don’t know why he has issuing trusting her. He could be jealous, insecure; she could have cheated in the past. The why isn’t important. It’s that the lack of trust even exists.

To the asker:

The first issue to be addressed here is just the need to talk to the husband. Get to the root of the trust issues. If you can’t, if he can’t trust you…..then you have way bigger problems in the marriage than I am qualified to advise on. Make an appointment to see a marriage counselor.

If his trust issues have no basis, if he is merely insecure about outside sex, my gut response is to direct you to Tristan Taormino’s famous book: Opening Up. It isn’t just for polyamorous relationships, it’s for all levels of opening up, even just “monogamy with benefits”. Both of you need to read this book.

Talk. Talk and talk and more talks. Tell him why you want these experiences. The base line for all of this talk is honesty. Lie about nothing, omit nothing. And if the two of you talking alone is not helping I need to refer back to a counselor. Specifically, a relationship counselor that is knowledgeable and open-minded about open relationships of all types. Tristan has a list on the site, The Open List, where licensed professionals submitted their contact info.

Readers: Have you been in this, or similar, situations? Do you just have some (helpful, non-combative) advice? Speak up in comments!

Jul 122010

Another Formspring question here!

When looking for a new toy how do you know if it does or does not have pthalates? asked by mydnitebyte

First, a definition from Wikipedia: Phthalates, or phthalate esters, are esters of phthalic acid and are mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity).1

The sex toy review community and sex-positive toy shops are all buzzing about phthalates and how bad they are for you. Phthalates are found in many plastic items that have been chemically softened. The studies going around are saying that phthalate exposure can damage all sorts of organs, and can possibly cause cancer. There are a lot of harmful things in our world these days that we can’t avoid – so when we CAN avoid something like toxins in our sex toys, we should. Not to mention, toys that contain phthalates are also porous and can harbor bacteria if not cleaned properly; they also cannot be sterilized for 100% safety against transmission of STD’s.

 So how DO you know if a sex toy has phthalates in it?

You don’t. The better question would be: How do I make sure I don’t buy a sex toy with phthalates in it? I previously had a list up of various major sex toy retailers and what it looks like on their site if a sex toy is phthalates free. But, since the industry is not at all regulated and sex toy manufacturers can lie, we can’t really trust them. Avoid materials such as:

  • Jelly
  • Rubber (even “Skin safe” rubber)
  • PVC
  • Vinyl
  • Cyberskin
  • UR3
  • “Mystery Meat” – the retailer or manufacturer uses a weird trademarked name for their ultra-realistic sex toy – there are some exceptions for this one, but you won’t know til you see the material in person.

Stick with materials that are known to be safe. This includes:

a. 100% pure medical-grade silicone
b. Hard plastic/acrylic
c. Glass, metal, wood, ceramic, and other natural materials
Grey area: Elastomer, TPE, TPR – these are phthalates free, but are still porous.

Can condoms keep you safe from phthalates?

Researchers/scientists haven’t come to a conclusive yes/no result yet, but they say it depends on numerous condom factors such as:

a. The thickness of the latex.
b. The integrity of the condom.
c. Additives in latex condoms could also influence whether phthalates pass through. For example Nonoxynol-9, which used to be used as a spermicide in condoms, could actually increase the risk of phthalate exposure (Nonoxynol-9 is no longer commonly used on condoms or personal lubricants though).
d. The personal lubricant in pre-lubricated condoms could (but doesn’t necessarily) facilitate the leaching phthalates out of a sex toy.2

There is also a chance that the oils used to soften these toys could cause a condom to break down, making it utterly useless to protect you.



1 – Definition of phthalates from Wikipedia
2 – Phthalates and condoms fom

Jan 292010

I’d say about once a week I am asked by my readers to recommend sex toys. Men, women, couples…..specific queries or newbie general “I just want a sex toy” questions, I get them all.

And you know what? I genuinely like doing it. Unless of course the asker gets too personal and creepy – I’m basically your sales associate….not your sex surrogate. Overall though most are nice and respectful requests. I don’t just rattle off a few typical suggestions, though. I gather the data about the person/couple using the items and I  go digging. I love doing this for people, because I like helping and sharing what I’ve learned, but it’s not a quick process so it’s really nice when they go buy the products I recommended via my affiliate links.

Today’s Ask Lilly segment is a recommendation list for a couple who have never used toys before. This particular couple is a cis man and cis woman.

The Details:

She: doesn’t orgasm clitorally very well from fingers or tongue and (much like I used to be) tends to have her hubby go for g-spot play during sex. Is probably curious about vibrators for both areas

He: is also looking for a toy to initiate himself with. What good is finding your prostate if you don’t have the right tools to make it happy?

They: are looking for items that can be used together, or for just her on her own. Willing to try a few things out in the first go and spend a little more for better products, but without buying only luxury items. They are trying to increase her pleasure level overall and get away from the frustration they both feel when she doesn’t orgasm.


G-Spot Recommendations:

  1.  Doc Johnson Tru Curve – This is from Doc’s line of dual-density silicone – firm core, squishy outer layer. The angled head will hit the g-spot but won’t be too firm.
  2.  Prism V – Amazing g-spot curve, firm pressure, phenomenal vibrations and a good price point. I LOVE the Prism V. 
  3.   Njoy Pure Wand  is my holy grail, and works for a lot of people.


Clitoral Recommendations:

It’s hard to tell if her preference for g-spot play and inability to have a clit orgasm is because she needs a level of clit stim that fingers and tongues can’t provide, or she’s so overly-sensitive that their attempts are sensory-overload for her. Either way, I’m going for the lower-pitched vibrators because they’re more universally liked. It’s also hard to know if someone prefers pinpoint or broad stimulation. This list will give a little something for everything, and stay right around or under $50.

  1.  Fun Factory Layaspot – This is in case she can’t handle the more powerful vibrations. It has the right pitch and many levels of vibration intensity. It can be intense enough, it’s gotten *me* off, but it’s a diffused sort of vibration, rather than the pinpoint that a bullet can be.
  2.  Doc Johnson Black Magic Bullet – I think that this bullet has the right mixture of being nice to look at, fairly well made, and powerful at the right vibration pitch level. 
  3.  Vibratex Mystic Wand – This provides rumbly power that isn’t as overwhelming or itchy as the Magic Wand, but works for those who like broad stimulation. Don’t bother with the rechargeable version, though.


Prostate Recommendations:

Prostate toys can be used solo or in couple play. Masturbation, blow jobs, even sex – having something in your butt pressing on your prostate will make your toes curl and your whole body sing.

  1. Jopen Lust L13 – Fairly powerful vibrations in the blobby-shaped design that seems to hug the prostate.
  2. The Mood Naughty set – This is an affordable introduction to the blobby-shaped prostate design; it doesn’t vibrate, and instead you need to really clench your butt PC muscles to get it to work, but that clenching happens naturally during sex.
  3. Tantus Prostate Play – This can vibrate, or not, it’s up to you. It’s a good size and a little bigger for more intermediate players.