The bare minimum for a sex toy that doesn’t suck: materials and safety
Many consumers buy mystery material jelly dildos and vibrators because they’re cheap, without stopping to think about what jelly is, or its effects on delicate, internal mucus membranes.
You read food labels and make sure your ingestibles are safe. Why should you inspect your insertable sex toys any less carefully? Sex toys, unlike food, have no regulation in the market. As a result, they’re commonly made of cheap and toxic materials; manufacturers keep neither the environment, nor the consumer’s safety in mind.
UPDATE: If you want to raise awareness about toxic sex toys, consider buying some of my “No Toxic Toys” stickers!
WTF even is a “jelly” sex toy?
“Jelly” is an umbrella term for mixes of polyvinyl chloride plastic and rubber, with the addition of phthalates used to soften the PVC. According to Tantus Inc., a manufacturer of silicone toys, a PVC sex toy is typically composed of 35-75% phthalates. If there is no plasticizing/softening agent, the PVC is a very hard plastic.
Signs your toy is definitely jelly
If a sex toy has a vinyl “shower curtain” smell, it’s off-gassing and leeching the phthalates and other toxic chemicals into the environment. This can melt other jelly/PVC toys near it. Exhibit A: Smitten Kitten MN’s toxic toy jars. Body-safe toys, including silicone, don’t do that when you store them together because they’re chemically stable and inert.
What’s the problem with the chemical composition?
Phthalates are a suspected human carcinogen and endocrine disrupter, linked to infertility, cancer, kidney damage, and developmental abnormalities (for example, a pregnant woman masturbating, or a baby playing with a PVC teething ring). You don’t have to take just my word for it. The U.S. government recognizes phthalate-infused PVC as unsafe for use in children’s toys.
Other substances you might find in jelly toys include: cadmium, toluene, cyclohexanone, tetrahydrofuran, 1-methyl-2-pyrrolidinone, phenol, dimethylformamide, dimethyl phosphite, and other chemicals with documented detrimental health effects. Some of these compounds are commonly used in laboratories, but only with the usual safety precautions of wearing gloves, long sleeves, pants, and closed shoes. They are not compounds meant to be inserted in your orifices.
Jelly is such a vague term, and manufacturers are not legally obligated to state what the ingredients are. You really don’t know what you’re getting.
Toxic toys are porous, unhygienic, and impossible to sanitize
Bacteria and fungi can live in the pores of the material. Even if you’re the only one using the toy. Even if you’re using it only in one hole. It is a cesspool of microbes that can multiply and can disrupt your natural balance. Even if you, say, soak them in bleach, all that really does is house bleach that can’t get totally be removed from the pores, but is gradually released as the material degrades, making the toy even more toxic.
What do I do now?
If you feel you absolutely must buy a jelly toy, whether because of the price tag, or the feel of it, at least use a condom with it. But even that isn’t guaranteed to do much in terms of shielding you from these chemicals. Nobody is saying you WILL get infected or that you WILL get cancer if you use jelly on your genitals, but that you’re increasing your risk the more you expose yourself to it. Do your research when it comes to your health.
Materials you can trust
There are many body-safe materials to use, like glass, properly finished wood, ABS plastic, and steel. However, if you’re looking for a non-rigid toy, silicone is the only soft material that is both body-safe and non-porous. Other materials like TPE and TPR aren’t toxic, but they’re porous and not for long-term use.
The only way to know you’re getting 100% silicone is to buy from a company you can trust to label their products accurately and/or do a flame test when in doubt. Since there is no regulation, manufacturers can intentionally mislabel toxic toys as “phthalate-free” or “body-safe”.
Big companies like California Exotics and Doc Johnson do sell both toxic toys and silicone. While you can get quality, body-safe toys from them, it’s often a “buyer beware” situation. All toys I review on my blog are body-safe. If they’re porous, I openly state that.
There are many, many options for affordable and safe toys, but below a certain price point, you get what you pay for. Don’t take the health of your internal organs lightly; safety and quality are an investment.
Examples of silicone toy makers
Tantus, Lelo, Vixen Creations, Fun Factory, Hole Punch Toys, Je Joue, JimmyJane, BSwish, Njoy, Nobessence, Papaya Toys, Crystal Delights, Swan, Jopen, Toyfriend, Minna Life, Laid, Bad Dragon, Damn Average, Fuze, Fucking Sculptures, BS is Nice, PleasureWorks, Standard Innovations/We-Vibe, Vamp Silicone
This list is by no means comprehensive.