So for those who don’t know, I used to work in an adult store. And I gotta say I’ve learned a lot. But the biggest thing I learned is what has stuck with me the most:
The sex toy industry has no regulation!
I would like to think that a $15 billion dollar industry (thanks Fifty Shade Of Grey), would have some health regulations. But nope. There is no official regulation, let alone substantial research that has gone into these fun things we literally stick in our bodies. That’s a little weird don’t you think?
I mean we’ve all heard that sex and masturbation is good for us. Stress relief, lower blood pressure, body confidence. Can’t forget that orgasms are a pain reliever. Why have we not put the same consideration into the tools we can use to gain these benefits?
Maybe it shouldn’t be such a shock 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 helping someone else find something fun. Which is largely in part the fact that most people just don’t realize there are unsafe products. Safety is assumed. And worrying about that kinda thing isn’t gonna get your motor running.
Customers and friends are always shocked when I tell them about the lack of regulation, so I wanted to venture out and find if anyone else had similar experiences. I talked to some other sex store workers in the area. They said only about 10 per cent of customers came in asking about safe materials.
We talked about porous materials that can harbour bacteria and cause infections, as well as phthalates and BPA plastics. Materials that are proven to leach toxins into the body, and have been banned from baby bottles and toys, as well as 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% 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% silicone, and then I looked on the back and in the little fine print it had TPR (thermoplastic rubber)... so [we] pulled it from [the] line just because it was misrepresented. Don’t say its silicone [when] it’s not.”
At the shop I worked at, we noticed that a brand of water-based lubricant, "Fuckwater" actually contains an ingredient that acts like silicone, making it unsafe to use with silicone toys. But that information is only on the product’s website.
Little slip ups like this come from lack of regulation. By simply calling a toy a “novelty item” a company can get away with being untruthful or using harmful materials because “novelty items” are not intended for actual use.
"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." This is just another opinion of course, but it makes a good point. And shows that we have the power to make change.
Now don’t let this scare you, there are plenty of good quality, safe products out there!
My only hope is to see a world where each and every one of us can walk into any sex shop and pick out any toy from any shelf and know that it is good quality and safe material that is going to last.