Sex Toys and Safety

by Rayhana Ahmed, Sara Billings, and Alyssa DiDio, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Sexual stimulation, whether socially mediated or individually engaged in, frequently involves the use of sexual tools or toys, especially for women. In a 2009 study, approximately 40% of women reported use of a vibrator either alone or with a partner within the past month, and about 30% reported using a vibrator within the past year (Herbenick et al., 2009). Other research has determined that 48% of women used a vibrator ‘‘always’’ or ‘‘often’’ for solo masturbation and 25% used it ‘‘always’’ or ‘‘often’’ with a female partner (Schick et al., 2011). In spite of this data, there is little education around sex toy health and safety.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates an average of 2,100 sex toy-related emergency room visits a year. According to Stabile (2013), “The authors concluded that injuries from sex toys increased sharply after 1999, possibly because more Americans began using them. The authors warned that the actual number of injuries was greater than reported in the study, because embarrassment about sexual injuries likely prevents many people from seeking treatment. Shame about sexual injuries also lengthened the average time that it took for patients to seek treatment, which could “result in the use of more invasive procedures to remove the foreign body . . . and [could] even lead to death due to complications.”

In addition to lack of information about safe toy insertion, a leading cause of emergency room visits, there is also little education around material safety in sex toy production. Because of cultural contingencies and cultural climate, to this day sex toys are viewed as a novelty item by the Food and Drug Administration. Because of a lack of FDA regulations on toy materials, many toys contain known carcinogens, or are made from porous materials which can easily harbor bacteria and transmit disease, (BadVibes, 2018).

Because of this, it is important for helping professionals to remain educated on sexual tool and toy use safety and best practices for health, and to have the capacity to disseminate this information to clients.




•Body friendly; Sex toys should be made of a medical or food grade material that is hypoallergenic and safe forintimate contact•The smell test; The easiest way to discern if a sex toy is made form a safe material is through smell. Unsafesex toys frequently have an obvious chemical or plastic smell.•Non-porous; Porous materials can harbor micro-organisms, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, which can causeinfections despite even the most diligent cleaning efforts.•Form and function; Sex toys should be made by reputable companies that design and manufacture their toys tobe used sexually, rather than as gag gifts or “novelties.”
References and Resources
Biesanz, Z. (2007). Dildos, artificial vaginas, and phthalates: How toxic sex toys illustrate a broader problem for consumer protection. Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, 25, 203-226.
Lee, S. (2016). Toxic toys, bad vibrations. CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, 1, 1-13. Quilliam,S. (2007). Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex Toys But Were Too Afraid to Ask. Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive,33, 129-130.
Stabile, E. (2013). Getting the Government in Bed: Regulating the Sex Toy Industry. Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice, 28.

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