Non-Monogamy encompasses a whole host of various situations: Swingers, couples in open relationships, people who identify as polyamorous or even just those who are not in committed relationships and are dating numerous people. Most of these non-monogamous people are (hopefully) well aware of safe sex practices and use them every time.
While I doubt that the majority of people bring their vibes to sex parties & clubs and pass em around like a drinking game, there are other situations outside of the realm of monogamy where sharing may come into play. Even 1-on-1 or threesomes should be treated with care if you aren’t fluid-bonded.
More than half of you out there still probably own sex toys made from materials that would cause me premature grey hair, try as I might to dissuade you. But many people, even if they’ve switched to silicone vibrators and glass dildos, pull out a cock ring from their arsenal now and then and I’m betting it’s not silicone. Or at least, not 100% pure silicone because they’re not the norm. Most cock rings are inexpensive and made from various soft and stretchy materials: Jelly/Rubber, Elastomer/TPR or silicone blends (which are not the same as pure silicone and are not non-porous). You’ll see silicone blends show up in sneaky ways; they’ll be labeled “SEBS” which stands for silicone-elastomer blend, or they’ll just merely be labeled a quiet, solitary “silicone”. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the government only says that a sex toy needs to contain a mere 10% silicone to be labeled as nothing other than “silicone”. So it can be 90% TPR and they’re not going to tell you that. Of course, you can whip out your trusty sex-geek-detective lighter and perform a flame test. Remember those Bedroom Kandi kegel balls? Yeah, they were labeled as “silicone” and I was told that they were silicone, but they went up in sticky, destructive flames. Ahem.
So, what’s the big deal, you ask? Unless you’re buying the truly disposable one-and-done vibrating cock rings1, then your little gummy, (possibly) buzzy ring of fun is quite porous – and can’t be sanitized nor therefore shared. Yes, this also means the ones that you purchase in the condom aisle. Unlike most vibrators and dildos, a vibrating cock ring can’t be covered by a condom for barrier protection so the cock ring could be exposed to vaginal and/or seminal fluids. If you are using a simple non-vibrating cock ring, one that goes around just the base of the cock, you may be able to get away with covering it with a condom, but keep an eye on it. Since I’ve never tried to do that I can’t say if the condom would keep it covered or not. There are also some silicone cock rings but again the norm seems to be jelly or TPR.
Also, don’t let a luxury price tag on the vibrating versions fool you into submission.The Lelo Bo, Tor 1, and the Bedroom Kandi Rise and Shine are all higher-end cock rings that are rechargeable but they are made from Elastomer or TPR. Soft, stretchy and free from phthalates and latex, they’re certainly better for your body than the cheap jelly versions but they’re still porous and should never be shared beyond fluid-bonded partners. The Lelo Tor II, the Tantus C-Ring, Je Joue Mio, some BMS brand rings and various Jopen branded rings are all made from true silicone. However, even though many of these are waterproof they’re still vibrators and should never be boiled or tossed in the dishwasher. You’ll be able to get a safe clean by a simple handwash.
Penis Extenders and Sleeves
The vast majority of these are not silicone. Vixen makes a few, like the Ride On, but the price is so high that it will deter most buyers. I see a lot that have “silicone” in the name, but these are all going to be a silicone blend – therefore, porous. Many extenders/sleeves and cuffs are designed to be really stretchy and soft – that’s not a common attribute in pure silicone items. The closest I’ve seen would be the dual density outer layer of something like the Tantus 02 Cush but I don’t know if creating an item entirely from that type of silicone is even possible. I suppose that if you’re fucking more than one person in a sitting and they both really dig the artificially extended / textured penis sleeve you’re sporting, you could put a condom *over* it but that just doesn’t seem very practical to me given that there will still be a portion of the extender that isn’t covered by a condom. From what I’ve seen, a company called Oxballs makes a couple extenders that seem to be pure silicone but most are TPR blends. So please keep these porous models limited to a single partner, and keep in mind the fact that these are all porous – this means it will never get truly clean and sanitized, the softer ones could mildew if stored while still wet from cleaning, and they may retain stains and/or odors after an extended time of use.
Harnesses and Dildos
Moving on from cock-centric toys, I want to talk about dildos. Especially harness-compatible dildos. The guidelines are pretty damn simple: Cover it with a condom or stick to silicone and don’t share between non-fluid-bonded partners without a wash in between. However, even if you’re using a high grade silicone cock like Tantus, you should still keep anal-play dildos to themselves. While they can be sanitized in boiling water or the dishwasher, sometimes they can retain a bit of an odor over time if it’s used a lot for anal play. That’s not going to be a fun discovery for your partner if they decide to perform a blowjob on your silicone cock! It takes quite a bit of use to get to that point, though and sometimes it’ll never happen.
Most harnesses are made from leather or a fabric (even just strap webbing is fabric). These are porous, and should be considered a one-partner item unless they are washable, in which case please wash in between partners.
Metal, Wood and Glass Toys
Provided that the toys are free from defects2, these should be safe to share between partners and anal-to-vaginal if they are washed thoroughly in between partners and uses. Take careful note if the toy is highly textured – really make sure to scrub all around the nubs, ridges, etc to be sure you’ve removed any traces of fluids. A non-textured seamless item made from any of these materials though will be super easy to clean in between partners; you could even just keep a pack of Afterglow Wipes on hand if you’re in situations (like at a swinger’s club) where departing to a sink in the middle of multi-person fun would kill your mood. They do have anti-bacterial properties and are body safe to all but the extremely sensitive folks – I don’t know though if I’d recommend using them on a toy, using the toy on a woman, and then after that move to oral sex, I can’t imagine that Bergomot oil tastes very good with all the other chemicals but I’m ultra sensitive to that sort of thing, your mileage may vary.
Again, stick to only silicone (or condom-covered TPR) and make sure to thoroughly wash it in between partners. Be sure to get down in the cracks and crevices if the toy has, say, a hard plastic handle (Like Lelo vibes). For more immediate use, if you’re able, cover with a condom. If the only sex toys you own are made from porous materials, then you should always cover with a condom even if you’re the only user. For vibrators that are entirely made of hard ABS plastic, these can just be wiped down with a little soap and water, rinsed or again cover with a condom if there’s no immediate availability to get to a sink in between partners. ABS plastic is non-porous, but you do have to watch out for nubs and crevices. Pocket rockets are the worst offenders at keeping clean. The Hitachi Magic Wand (or a similar wand vibrator) has porous material on the head; not all wand vibrators are like this, but certainly the ones originally marketed for actual back massaging. Newer wand vibrators that are made by sex toy companies are sometimes made with a silicone head like the Mystic Wand or the Lelo Smart Wand, but also keep in mind that many wand makers like to add texture and ridges to the head – those spots are harder to clean on the fly so covering it with a condom if immediate sharing is likely is a safe bet. If you’re not 100% certain though, cover the head with a condom. It’s also a good idea to continue the condom down past the exposed metal portion and onto the plastic handle if you’re going to be in a group situation with people who are copious squirters.
Kink and Leather
I’m not talking about kink to those that frequently visit BDSM clubs; they are all pretty aware of safety precautions but those that just play casually in the bedroom won’t be aware about certain things. Any item that breaks/scratches the skin or causes welts that can bleed (if you get that rough) should be kept only to one person.
Gags that have leather straps would also need to be kept to one person. Cock rings can be leather. Paddles can be leather. The shiny side is water resistant but the rough parts aren’t, and none of it is non-porous.
Rope. If you tie anybody up and the rope comes into contact with saliva or other bodily fluids, wash the rope before using it on another person.
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At the end of the day, sex toys can and should be used to enhance any sexual encounter if it’s something that you and/or your partner(s) enjoys. But when you step outside the relative safety3 of a fluid-bonded monogamous couple, things can muddy up in ways that many people don’t think of. Why yes, actually, I have witnessed amateur porn where the sex toys were shared copiously with little regard to safety. It happens. The sex-positive bubble is small in comparison to the rest of the world; that much is obvious since jelly/rubber/icky toys are still such a hot commodity. The most conscientious person will always bring their own sex toy if they already own some great ones, that way there’s no worry about sharing if everyone has their own. The perfect kit would likely contain a few different types of lube (be sure to have an all-natural one like Sliquid for those who have sensitive skin issues), a few different types of condoms for both sex and sex toys, nitrile gloves, and toy cleansing wipes. If you only ever purchase your sex toys online, like me, finding affordable sample sizes of lube can be pretty damn difficult. I only have some because of my attendance over the years at places like the NYC Sex Bloggers Calendar parties, Momentum, etc. but they are perfect little things to have when you don’t want to worry about the lube bottle spilling out in your purse or you don’t have the room for a few bottles. The sex toy retailers used to all have lube samplers; I really liked the one GoodVibes used to offer, but for some reason nobody carries these anymore. You can find them on places like Amazon or at condom-centric online places, but many will not include the better brands like Sliquid or any all-natural lubes. They will, however, give you a full buffet of flavored samples if that happens to be your thing (it shouldn’t be though, the ingredients list on those is not palatable). You can also buy up a cube of Sliquid “pillows” of lube directly from the company, but they’re not exactly affordable for frequent use, it looks like they run around $1 each plus shipping.
But think about it: if you always had easy access to a little case containing an awesome little vibe (ahem: Salsa/Tango), 2 gloves, half a dozen condoms and lube samples plus a few single packets of Afterglow wipes4? Not only would you be the most awesome person at the sex party, but your individual random encounters would be safer and fun, always.
A note on choosing condoms for use as toy covers:
Don’t use old, expired condoms – while a broken condom on a sex toy won’t lead to pregnancy, it will negate the whole safety-from-funky-materials and sharing thing. Get an affordable pack of condoms and pay attention to the lubricant used (or get unlubed) – I’ve been told that most are silicone based and they don’t tell you this – they’ll only mention the lube if it’s water-based. While I’ve found that the higher quality silicone lubes are fairly compatible with higher quality silicone sex toys, you don’t know the quality of lube inside a condom. CalExotics makes a “toy cover” (as well they should, with all the jelly they sling) but it seems to be nothing more than a “feminine” colored non-lubricated latex condom. I’ve not tried this out with success because the nitrile gloves in my pantry are small (and the fingers are short!), but if you buy a box of large size nitrile gloves they could act as cheap toy covers on the fly – bonus is no latex, no worries about mystery lubes. Just snip off the middle finger. Smaller rabbit vibes could also be covered by using the thumb and index portion of a glove if you’re in need.
Thanks to Elspeth Demina for her help!
- And actually using it once, with one person, and then pitching it ↩
- And if they have defects, nobody should be using them – get them replaced!! ↩
- I say relative because there are no guarantees that someone won’t cheat; there’s also the chance that if you haven’t been together for years, an STD may have been dormant and didn’t show up on your pre-marriage STD panel ↩
- Also, why the hell don’t any online retailers offer such a thing? Lube samples are like the drug company logo pens of the sex toy industry. I’d certainly pay $19.99 for kit containing a dozen or so lube samples, 12 various condoms, a couple dental dams and half a dozen Afterglow wipes. Maybe I should make a company that sells those. That would be genius ↩
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