Toxic Sex Toys


As far as sex toys go, the vibrator was initially prescribed as a cure for the treatment of hysterical women. Historian Rachel P. Maines wrote in her book, The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction, that “hysterical” women turned to their doctors for treatment who obliged by performing manual clitoral stimulation. By 1880, Joseph Mortimer Granville’s patented electric vibrator alleviated this tiresome task for physicians. Women were also pleased by his discovery, and by the turn of the century, magazines advertised do it yourself vibrators for home use.

In 1952, the American Psychiatric Association dropped hysteria as a recognized condition. After the sexual revolution, women no longer needed a medical excuse to purchase a sex toy. 

jelly dildo

Today vibrators and dildos are advertised in store front windows from Chelsea to the Castro. As manufacturing evolves so does the material in which sex toys are made, and unfortunately, there is no “Consumer Report” on these products. One potentially harmful substance that is incorporated into dildos and vibrators, especially the jelly type, is the same substance used to make PVC flooring. I’m referring to phthalates, a plasticizer, which is easily identified by its smell. Think of a new car or a freshly unwrapped shower curtain. Phthalates emit a gas that escapes from the plastic. Studies on lab mice concluded that large doses caused damage to liver, lungs, kidneys and the testes. A 2006 study performed by the National Toxicology Program concluded that phthalates adversely affected the reproductive organ development in exposed male infants. Most baby toy manufacturers quickly removed them from rattles and pacifiers. Sex toy manufacturers continue to use phthalates because they are inexpensive. Complicating matters further is that phthalate sex toys are porous and do not withstand extreme temperatures. This makes them difficult to sanitize. Manufacturers recommend washing them with mild soapy water. I urge that you avoid these jelly toys and opt for ones made with silicone, hard plastic, glass, or metal. If you insist on using one of these jelly toys then be sure to put a condom over it. (Condoms should be used regardless and be sure to change the condom if you are going to share the toy with your partner.) Since silicone sex toys can withstand extreme heat; throw them in the dish washer for a thorough cleaning.  You can not do this with jelly toys. Avoid oil based lubricants with jelly toys as they can facilitate leaching of phthalates.


Members of the Coalition Against Toxic Toys (CATT) informed me that some manufacturers hide behind phrases like “trade secret” and “novelty use only,” in relation to phthalates. This is so they can avoid any liability. Currently the FDA does not regulate sex toys.


One Comment

  1. Tracey
    Posted October 10, 2009 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    I found this post interesting especially since I watched a movie a while back. Seems like something very similar to your article. It is a free movie called The Disappearing Male.

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