This post was originally featured on a previous iteration of this site on November 17th, 2013. It has been reposted here for posterity.
This interview is part of a series, asking industry professionals and experts about toxic sex toys, how our adult stores have changed, what we can do to support change- and most importantly, how we can avoid toxic toys ourselves. Some of the quotes from this interview were featured in my post for Bitch Magazine, The Trouble With Toxic Sex Toys.
Epiphora is a big deal. With six years of reviewing sex toys, hundreds of said toys residing somewhere in what I assume is a magic carpet bag not unlike the one Mary Poppins touts, and a job selling sex toys, she knows her stuff and is one of the most well known reviewers on the internet.
Sexational!: When did you first become aware of the existence of Toxic Sex Toys? I know from your “Terrible Sex Toys I Used to Lust After” list that at one point, the idea that jelly was bad was a quiet whisper rather than the roar it seems to be now. What changed?
Epiphora: I started out knowing nothing. I owned a grand total of two vibrators before I began reviewing, so I learned as I went along. I had to start by reviewing lower-end products, but I mostly stuck with hard plastic vibes. As I devoured more information about the industry, I learned more about phthalates and labeling issues and such. It quickly became a crusade after that. Nobody should have to endure creepy chemicals in things that are meant to touch mucous membranes.
S!: Have you ever and do you still own any Jelly/Porous sex toys? After experiencing a wider range of products and materials, are there reasons you prefer non-porous toys beside the fact that they are less likely to have dangerous ingredients?
E: I have a few. I had a red cock ring that leached its coloring onto another toy’s charger. I had a finger sleeve that promptly melted when I took a flame to it. Most recently, I had the PVC James Deen dildo, which smelled so strongly that I had to put it in a cardboard box under my bed, by ITSELF. I banished it from all my other dildos. That was a special case; normally I don’t accept anything porous to review. But it reminded me why I stick to non-porous materials. They never smell, they don’t harbor bacteria, they’re SO EASY TO CLEAN, and I know that they’ll last forever. I must say, I really appreciate that I can leave them out for days and wash them whenever I get the chance.
S!: As someone that works in a retail environment, how do you talk to customers about toxic toys? Since you work in a more sex positive store that has few (or no?) porous toys, is it a topic that comes up often?
E: Aside from mentioning that all of our toys are body-safe and most are 100% silicone, I don’t bring it up unless the customer does first. But once they do, and especially if they mention having had a bad experience with a toxic toy, the flood gates open. Most people are shocked to realize that nobody is stopping companies from making sex toys out of whatever materials they want, then labeling them however they please. It upsets me to see people so disillusioned with sex toys.
S!: How do you determine whether or not a company is one that is trustworthy in terms of the materials they use? What advice would you give to someone trying to figure out what is or is not safe?
E: Certain companies have been around long enough and built up a reputation. They’re reputable. They have always had safety in mind. Then there are other companies, like the huge ones that churn out tons of toys, who still peddle toxic products. My best advice would be to read blogs! Or email me. I can tell you right off the bat whether I trust a company, but I only know that from years of reviewing toys. It’s an unfortunate fact that it requires research, but it does.
S!: In an ideal world, what are your solutions for eliminating toxic toys?
E: Ideally, nobody would’ve ever been enough of an asshole to make toys that poison people.
S!: Since we live in reality, what are some more feasible answers you have for combatting the plague that is toxic toys?
E: Education. Government is not going to do it for us, at least not completely. At this point, the best we can do is get the word out. Blog about it. Tell our friends. Tell our family members. Teach people that toxic toys are unacceptable and that there are much better alternatives. It’s happening slowly, but people are starting to hear about this and they’ve started to ask questions. They’re becoming informed consumers. And informed consumers put their money into companies who are fighting the good fight.