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.
My friend Dangerous Lilly is one of the sex toy reviewers that has been around for awhile- and one of the most vocal about materials. Aside from her blog, Lilly helped get the non-profit Dildology , a third party materials tester of sex toys, by drumming up support- and has done extensive research into the “For Novelty Use Only”claim and what it could mean to the consumer as well as regulation of the industry. Through it all, Lilly has been known to call companies out on their shit, no matter who they are, and for her honesty when it comes to her readers. “Once I started researching decent sex toys, I found out about the bad stuff. Pretty early on I knew to stay away from things like jelly and cyberskin. I just am the sort of person who does research. I dig and dig until I find answers that I understand.”
Sexational!: When did you become aware of the existence of toxic toys, and how did you react to that information?
Dangerous Lilly: I guess I partially answered this above; but my reaction was at first confusion. Then clarity, as some of the odd things I’d experienced with my first sex toys suddenly made sense. And then I was angry….angry enough to commit to researching, writing and warning people. It really hit home that they could actually be toxic when I had more and more people either asking me directly, or arriving at my blog with search terms related to “burning” sensations. And then I read Violet Blue’s toxic toys article and it started off my little “crusade”. Plenty of people are arriving at my site querying some very troubling things, and I wanted to be able to give them answers.
S!: I know you’ve done a lot of research in terms of regulation of sex toy materials. Is it feasible or even a good idea? Why or Why not?
DL: I actually don’t believe it’s feasible. That’s why I believe that Dildology should be more heavily supported. In fact, this paragraph from my post about Dildology really sums it up well, and I arrived at this after talking to a couple of industry people (quoted in the two Novelty Use Only articles):
“We can cry out for the industry to be regulated by our government, but really what will that get us? A higher priced dildo. A “luxury sex toy” that costs double what they do now, and their current costs are already prohibitive to many. Sex toys that take twice as long in development resulting in fewer, quality new sex toys being introduced to the market every year. When you bring the FDA to the party, you get mountains of paperwork, costly fees and annual 3-4 week-long audits to retain your FDA classifications. The better solution just might be to let the industry self-regulate, but with a little help from a neutral party.”
S!: You’ve also written about the “For Novelty Use Only” claims on sex toy packaging. I’ll link to your articles, but can you briefly talk about what this means? Does it say anything about the safety of the product or accountability of the company?
DL: I think that it’s largely a relic, and many companies tack it on just because it’s always been done, and everyone else does it – legally, in terms of lawsuits, it’s worthless and wouldn’t hold up in court. It’s also done to show that it’s not a product that would fall under “medical use” which involves the FDA; this is done to cover their asses on the FDA front and importing into the US (since most vibrators have to be made in China). Since the warning can appear on any sex toy, and has appeared on brands that we know are trustworthy and create only items of pure silicone, etc, I don’t feel it has any bearing on the accountability of the company.
Here is Al Bloom’s explanation of it: “To avoid being classified as a medical device by the FDA, we have to make a clear distinction in our labeling that our products are strictly for pleasure, and not a medical device of any type. Once pleasure products fall under the auspices of the FDA, the thousands of choices that consumers enjoy today, at prices they can afford, would dry up, and they would be left with a handful of very expensive products that weathered the storm of FDA testing, retesting, and multiple fees and costs along the way.” (this is from the Novelty Part 2 post)
S!: What is your advice to someone looking for a body safe toy?
DL: Do your research; stick with the companies that most sex educators/writers have agreed are safe. (My list is here: http://dangerouslilly.com/2010/10/yes-jelly-sex-toys-can-be-dangerous/) Stick with toys made only of pure silicone, safely treated wood, stainless steel, glass, ceramic or hard plastic. Even if a cheaper item does not contain phthalates (such as most toys labeled as “TPR” or “Elastomer”, for example) it is still a very porous and unstable material which can harbor bacteria, mold, mildew etc and can over time make you sick that way.
S!: Have you ever used or come in contact with a jelly rubber toy that gave you a negative reaction?
DL: I’ve had toys that break down (sweat out the softening agents), and in handling them have had rashes/irritation on my skin. I once had a toy that caused itching, but at the time we didn’t know the correlation. I’ve had a really bad reaction to the VOCs present in a cyberskin-like dildo that I was given to review early on. The stench was so bad that it triggered headaches, stomach aches, and more.