Please regulate the sex toys
What I need to share about the sex toy industry
By Hannah Deeves, Sex Columnist
For those who don’t know, I work at a sex shop when I’m not at school. And I’ve learned a lot, including this little nugget that I’ve been fixated on since my first day in the store: the sex toy industry has no regulation!
Within the $15 billion sex toy industry (thanks 50 Shades Of Grey), there are no official material or safety regulations. What’s further, there is no substantial research that has gone into these fun things we stick in our bodies. That’s a little weird don’t you think?
We have all heard that sex and masturbation are good for us; they are said to help with stress relief, lower blood pressure and increase body confidence. Don’t forget that orgasms are also a pain reliever. So why have we not put the same consideration into the tools we can use to gain these benefits?
It is shocking to me that other people don’t seem to take into consideration all the factors that I do when I’m picking out a product for myself or a customer. This is largely due to the fact that most people just don’t realize there are unsafe products. Safety is simply assumed.
Customers and friends are always shocked when I tell them about the lack of regulation, so I ventured out to find if anyone else had similar experiences. I spoke with Chris Nelson and Don Wilheim, business partners, life partners, and sex shop owners, who have been in the game for 20 years. They said only about 10 per cent of customers come in asking about safe materials.
Camped out in the shoe section at the back of Little Shop of Pleasures, we talked about porous materials that can harbour bacteria and cause infections, as well as phthalates and BPA plastics: materials that are in some sex toys even though they have been proven to leach toxins into the body. These materials have even been banned from baby bottles, children’s toys and dog toys.
So if we can consider the implications of different materials that go in the mouths of children and pets, why not other intimate places?
“There was one toy, and it said it was 100 per cent silicone, and a customer came in and she said ‘I had an allergic reaction.’ So we brought out the toy and on the front cover it said 100 per cent silicone, and then I looked on the back and in the little fine print it had TPR [thermoplastic rubber], so I pulled it from my line just because it was misrepresented,” Nelson says. “Don’t say it’s silicone and then it’s not.”
We noticed at the shop I work at, that a brand of water-based lubricant we sell – Fuckwater (yes that’s its name) – actually contains some silicone. Yet, that information is only on the product’s website.
Little slip ups like this come from the lack of regulation. By simply calling a toy a “novelty item” a company can get away with being untruthful or using harmful materials. This is because “novelty items” by definition are not intended for actual use.
Nelson says that even though the industry is not regulated, consumers are controlling manufacturers with their buying power. Customers are willing to put their money where the quality products are, thus creating a sort of pseudo-regulation. While this is Nelson’s opinion, she makes a good point and shows that we have the power to make change.
Don’t let this scare you out of using sex toys. There are plenty of good quality, safe products out there, it is just a matter of being informed about what you’re purchasing and putting into your body. As long as you do your research, you will be fine.
My hope is to someday see a world where each and every one of us can walk into any sex shop and pick out any toy from any shelf knowing that it is good quality, safe and is going to last.