Sex&Privilege

Three Clues: Jelly. Not Regulated. Can Cause Chemical Burns.

toxic sex toys

The first vibrator and butt plug Rayne Millaray and her husband owned together were both the jelly kind because, well, they were broke and silicone was “hella expensive back then.”

They didn’t think much of it. Rayne had heard some bad things about jelly toys, but she brushed them off because she figured those stories came from people who didn’t know how properly to use a sex toy.

So they began using the jelly toys. “Surely, it’s illegal to sell something that could cause harm to your body if you use it as it’s intended, right?” Rayne said.

The vibrator caused a bit of burning when it was used on her, but it didn’t seem like anything to panic about. What really made her rethink her choice to buy jelly sex toys was the butt plug.

“Within months, small chunks of the plug just…disappeared,” Rayne said. “I’m not sure if they melted inside of me, or if it happened in the toy box. Because I’m an idiot, and we had nothing else, I continued to use it. And then one day I went looking for it in our toy box, and it was still solid, but it was really tacky to the touch, and had a stain on it that wasn’t there when I put it away. We decided to stop using it.

“And then one day I pulled it out of the toy box when I was organizing things and it was solid but super squishy. Like…Jell-o, maybe. You know how Jell-o looks solid, but it just squishes into pieces if you touch it? Like that. I finally threw it away.”

Rayne started reviewing toys. She reviewed the EdenFantasys’ Portable Pleasure Petz Platypus which, she says, “in under year, despite caring for the sleeve the way you’re ‘supposed to’ care for jelly, it melted.”

Then she tried the California Exotic Novelties Calla Lily, which first burned her labia and then the thermoplastic rubber (TBR) peeled off the internal mechanism. After cleaning the toy with a designated sex-toy cleaner, the toy turned white and foggy-looking. The toy is branded as “hypoallergenic, latex and phthalates free.”

“It may well be,” Rayne says, “but I think it’s more likely CalEx doesn’t know what the fuck is in their toys.”

But the worst sex toy Rayne has ever used was a “silicone” ball gag her husband bought for them.

She writes, “It was fine for a while, and then my mouth, tongue and throat were on fire. Here [my husband] was barely touching me, and I was sobbing from the burning in my throat. I damn near unhinged my jaw trying to tell him what was going on.

“It was a ball gag labeled ‘silicone’ that obviously was not. Silicone doesn’t burn me anywhere.”

How common is this? We can’t know for sure how many people have been hurt or burned by cheaply made sex toys, but the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) says there are around 2,000 sex toy-related emergency room visits every year.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates pretty much everything that goes inside your body (medical-grade implants, toothpaste, tampons, etc.) but because many sex toys are technically labeled as “for novelty use only,” they don’t need to be regulated by the FDA.

The CPSC is supposed to be in charge of investigating reports of toxic sex toys. But, according to Vice, here’s what the CPSC says on the topic:

“Every situation is different—there is no ‘number-of-reports’ threshold. When a death is attributed to a product, an in-depth investigation is more likely. We have situations in which one report resulted in a recall and other situations in which there have been several reports, but no recall has taken place.”

So, uh, that doesn’t exactly sound like a formal process. They might care if a sex toy kills someone, but otherwise it’s like, “Should we investigate this sex toy that’s reportedly burned some people? Ehhhh…..”

How can you make sure you aren’t buying a toy that’s going to burn your bits off? Short-term, your best bet is to buy from a company that says they advocate safe sex toys. Long-term, harass the shit out of manufacturers who produce sex toys that burn us. These manufacturers are benefiting off a culture that makes talking about sex taboo. We need to stop being ashamed to talk about the fact that some people use sex toys, and start talking about this stuff — or they’ll just keep getting away with it.

“Stand up for your right to not put things inside your body that are made with harmful chemicals that can cause burns and even cancer,” said Rayne, who is now a freelance copywriter, editor and social media manager in the adult industry. “Urge your friends and family to buy from manufacturers you know are safe, and tell them which manufacturers to avoid. Eventually, those companies that insist on selling unsafe materials in the interest of lower costs will feel it in their wallet, and they’ll either continue selling poison and sink, or upgrade to something safer and swim.”

You can also check out this list of good sex shops or check out Dildology.com, which accepts donations so they can take it upon themselves to test sex toys.

———

Thanks so much to Rayne for allowing me to interview her. You can find her here and on Twitter.

Photo via Flickr user Mayhem Chaos under Creative Commons 2.0.

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