Hello Possums and Welcome to
Sex Toy Materials 101.
After my previous sex toy basics post – Let’s Chat- Sex Toys 101, I thought it’s time we delve crotch deep, into the controversial world of sex toy materials. ‘Controversial?‘ You say. An enormous ‘YES!‘ I say. But before I go down that path, let’s begin with the basics, and look at what sex toys can be made from.
Sex Toys are made of anything.
That’s right. Anything. Anything and everything to be precise. As we read in the Let’s Chat- Sex Toys 101, they’ve been made from an assortment of materials. Let’s face it, people are curious. Part of our curiosity is inserting strange things into our bodies. And at that moment, I bet they’re not thinking ‘Hmm, is this a safe material to use?‘ No. They’re most likely thinking ‘Hello big bumpy, zucchini, come to Mama!’ or ‘I wonder what if this will fit?’ Pleasure and experimentation, hospitals arch nemesis, but that’s for another post.
Just for fun, here are some ‘around the house’ objects often inserted material. Vegetables (carrots, cucumber, corn on the cob, sweet potato), Bananas, Chocolate, Spoons (plastic or wooden), and Mobile to name a few. These are not safe, SO DON’T DO IT!
As for sex toys, they tend to fall into only a few material types: Rubber (silicone, jelly), Plastic (hard plastics, thermoplastics, PVC, latex*, vinyl), Glass, Wood, Ceramics/Porcelain, Metal and Leather.
*While latex is rubber, it tends to be placed into the plastics category because they behave similarly.
Where’s the controversy you speak of?
Ok. So here’s the deal. There is a bevvy of materials which a sex toy can be made from. ‘Awesome! So much choice!’ You might be thinking. But here’s the thing.
Sex toys are not regulated!
I’ll just repeat that. Sex. Toys. Are. Not. Regulated.
Why? Who the fuck knows. Probably because it’s dealing with sex, and what government official wants to go there? Of course, it’s a different story for pornography – I hear Helen Lovejoy crying in the background ‘Won’t somebody, please think of the children’ – being said by all government officials. It must be stamped out, moderated furiously, stop it all! Yet it’s fine to be putting anything in your wahoo, even if it’s known to cause infections, and then potentially leading to infertility. Oh yay.
So without regulation, you can probably imagine, as well as the good, there’s a whole heap of – wait for the scientific term – crap, which a sex toy can be made from.
But how do you know the good from the bad?
What separates a ‘good’ toy from ‘bad’ mostly comes down to 2 things.
- Is it Phthalate free?
- Is it non-porous?
1. Phthalates are worthy of a dedicated blog post of its own. But for a quick synopsis, phthalates a group of chemicals (esters or phthalic acid) and used as a plasticiser. When added to plastics, they increase flexibility, durability, longevity, and transparency. So what’s the problem then?
Phthalates are part of extensive debate, as many people believe it to be carcinogenic (cancer causing – breast cancer mainly), and an endocrine disruptor (messing with your hormones). In a plastic society, they’re hard to avoid, they’ve snuck in all over the place: flooring, fatty foods, and even hospital equipment. And some phthalates are worse than others. More testing is needed and is being done by different governments, and scientists to determine how safe phthalates are.
The controversy lies with the lack of consensus. For as many are against phthalates, there is the equal number saying they’re not to fear. Which makes it incredibly confusing for consumers. I suggest you research this for yourself, and find where you stand in the debate. My next suggestion is to use reputable sources to help you along the Phthalate journey.
2. Non-porous sex toys are the creme de la creme of sex toys and ones all good sex educators and sex shops will advise you to buy. Non-porous toys are free from tiny little holes which can allow bacteria, and other such nasties like mildew or fungus to gather and breed. Non-porous sex toys are the safest to use and as luck would have it, are also phthalate free! So if you’re unsure of your personal stance in the phthalate debate, stick to these sex toys because it’ll be phthalate free anyway.
Why is non-porous the best?
Simply they can be cleaned thoroughly! Sterilised in fact. Giving you a sex toy to enjoy without it being a danger to your health. Each toy will have its own specific care instruction, which I highly recommend you read, but generally, with the non-porous toys, they can be bleached, boiled, washed in the top rack of your dishwasher, or cleaned with a quality toy cleaner. Naturally, if you don’t clean your toy after use, bacteria can develop, but other than that, non-porous toys can be bacteria free. You can also use a condom to help further prevent bacteria entrapment.
I recommend you invest in these sex toys. Bacteria can do all sorts of harm once on and inside your body. Various vaginal infections, to UTI’s, they’re all preventable by using high-quality toys and being on top of the cleaning. Yes they can be on in the higher price bracket, but you’ll be investing in a product which isn’t going to hurt your body, and many are handmade, and ethically produced, so you’ll be supporting the arts too. Bonus!
The brief sex toy material rundown
- 100% Silicone (Platinum, Medical or Food grade)
- Wood (covered with polyurethane or lacquer)
- Metal (Stainless steel, Aluminium or Titanium alloys – Thanks Dangerous Lilly)
- Hard Plastics (ABS – Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)
These are Phalate free, non-porous, super easy to clean and keep clean, tend to have a higher price point, and often handmade. Just to reiterate, please source these materials from sex shops who support body safety, and reputable brands. Some of these may not be the quality material you want, expect and deserve. So please keep to buying from reputable brands and sex shops, and don;t be afraid to ask them ‘Is this body-safe?‘ – If they don’t know, go elsewhere.
- Thermoplastics (TPE/TPR)
- Silicone (ones that are not 100%)
These are a group of products which are harder to clean, often porous, can contain phthalates, and if plastic, may not be what’s advertised. Some silicone sex toys are not 100% body safe, and unfortunately, there is no way of finding out, unless you contact the manufacturer or distributor of that product.
Thermoplastics include many of the ‘flesh’ like products, many soft cock rings, and other penis stimulators. These can also be falsely advertised as body safe when they might not be. Please note here, just because a toy is porous does not make it toxic. Reputable brands using the flesh silicones are porous, but they’re not toxic. You still need to be vigilant with cleaning these, but it’s not going to leak chemicals all over you.
I also include leather here, because it’s hard to sterilise, if at all. Generally, a leather product is used with people who’re are fluid bonded (partners engaging in unprotected sex), or have a particular leather product just for that partner.
Stone while it is body safe, even if highly polished, can still have a few pores here and there. To keep its body-safe status, just sterilise as you would your other toys.
The Don’t Go Anywhere Near:
These tend to be desired because they’re incredibly cheap. However, they cannot be sterilised, can cause a multitude of health issues, and contain phthalates. So just avoid these at all costs, they’re not worth the bother.
What can you do to become sex toy material savvy?
- Research! Research! Research! From the toy you want to the brand, to the shop selling it. Be curious and ask questions, even to online outlets, and the brands.
- Talk to informed, sex-positive sex educators – this includes sex toy bloggers.
- Buy from reputable sex toy shops.
- Smell the toy when you first get it. If it smells awful, return it!
- If you place a flame on it, does it melt/burn/smell? If yes, return it!
- Avoid the super cheap sex toys.
- Is the toy translucent? If yes, return it! It’s probably drowning in phthalates
In short, just do your best to buy a 100% body safe toys, shop from reputable sex shops who have a vested interest in your health, use condoms with them, and be daring and research! There’s an immense amount of information out there, and it’s worth sorting through if it means you end up with a sex toy that will last and most importantly treat your body well.
Narelle Minx x x x
Want more information?
Below are just a few websites with information regarding sex toy materials, phthalates, and cleaning. Some are from food based sites because plastics are regulated there, but they’ll provide interesting information to sift through.