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Great Scott! – Doing it right

Shawna Scott
Shawna Scott

If you are in the market for a sex toy, there are a few ways to shop savvy. Be sure to only buy toys made from bodysafe materials like silicone, hard plastic, tempered glass, properly treated ceramic, medical grade metals, properly coated wood, or properly polished stone.

I am a sex shop owner, or rather someone who sells sex toys on the internet. I love my job. It’s something I’m passionate about. It affords me the opportunity to says things I never thought I’d be able to say like “I’m going to an economics festival to talk about the sex industry,” or “This butt plug is tax-deductible.” I also get to help people everyday find new ways to make their sex lives more enjoyable and fulfilling, and to me that is the ultimate privilege of my job.

However there is one aspect of working as an adult toy retailer that I find unrelentingly challenging and that is the fact that my industry is a bit like the Wild West when it comes to regulation. There is none! Zero! Sex toys and accessories can be made out of just about anything and it is perfectly legal to do so.For example – one of the most notorious chemicals found in cheap sex toys are called Phthalates (pronounced “thay-lates”). They are a family of plastic softeners that are found in everything from shower curtains and  cosmetics, to food packaging. Because research done over the past 15 years is revealing just how harmful Phthalates are – they are linked to certain cancers, asthma, and are possibly endocrine disruptors, which affect hormone levels – governments have started restricting their use in many consumer products… except for sex toys.

In 2008 the Bush administration signed into law the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act which effectively banned the use of Phthalates in children’s toys. Only 0.1% of a toy’s entire make-up can consist of Phthalates. In 2006 the Danish EPA had a several sex toys and some BDSM gear broken down using gas chromatography to see what was in them. Many of the items had toxic chemicals in them. There was one vibrator in particular that consisted of 70% DEHP, one of the Phthalates banned in both American and EU children’s toys.

Smitten Kitten, a sex shop in the U.S. also sent a number of popular toys off for consumer testing in 2006. The results they got back were equally as horrifying. The report that they published showed the Vibratex Rabbit Habbit, the vibrator made famous by Sex and the City, had a make-up of 60% Phthalates.

Sadly the lack of regulation extends to the labeling as well. Manufacturers aren’t obliged to tell consumers exactly what’s in their toys, and often times use what many would regard as misleading language. Doc Johnson, for example, have a range of products that contain Sil-a-gel. Sil-a-gel is a trademarked additive, and when you read the small print, it is not pure silicon – which is a popular bodysafe material.

This issue with materials and labeling is starting to become a serious problem as more and more manufacturers & retailers are becoming aware of the fact that their customers want good quality, bodysafe toys. “Bodysafe” and “skin safe” are now being thrown around as buzzwords for absolutely everything and put in product descriptions for toys whose materials are questionable at best. A couple months ago, I stumbled across an Irish site who had actually screen-grabbed the Smitten Kitten’s homepage banner that proudly proclaimed their 100% bodysafe ethos, and tried to pass it off as their own.ss logo

If you are in the market for a sex toy, there are a few ways to shop savvy. Be sure to only buy toys made from bodysafe materials like silicone, hard plastic, tempered glass, properly treated ceramic, medical grade metals, properly coated wood, or properly polished stone. Stick with brands who are known for their good design and being bodysafe like Tantus, Lelo, Jimmy Jane, Fun Factory or BS Atelier. Stay away from toys made from PVC or Jelly. An easy way to tell if a toy has toxic chemicals in it is to smell it. A bodysafe toy shouldn’t have any strong smell, but a dodgy toy will smell quite plasticy.  That smell is actually chemicals leaching from porous material.

If you have a large jar and some money to spare, you can actually see this in action! Buy a few jelly toys of your choosing, and seal them in the jar. As the months go by, you’ll notice the toys start to melt and fuse into each other. The reason this happens is because Phthalates don’t bond to the PVC that it’s softening, so it leaks out and makes the PVC unstable, thus causing it to become a gross, gelatinous mass. So why would we ever put these things in our bodies? I’ve been asking myself the same question.

I think a lot of it has to do with shame. The shame of sex, of buying a sex toy, of not wanting to return a faulty one, of not wanting to be seen legislating for stricter rules on adult toy manufacturing. I do my part by researching toys before I stock them and educating the public on the lack of regulation in my beloved industry, but to have anything done properly, it is going to take a lot more people to lobby politicians as well as  government and other regulatory agencies and say “Consumer product safety is important, and that includes sex toys.” Plus with a general election coming up, how much fun would it be to quiz your local candidates about their sex toy knowledge? I know I will be!

Words by Shawna Scott, Owner of Sex Siopa

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