I talk a lot about the lack of regulation in our industry and the need for consumers to educate themselves on what they’re buying. Toxic and porous sex toys flood the market, and they can be mislabeled without any consequence. It is our responsibility as consumers to educate ourselves about what we are buying to keep our bodies safe and our money out of the hands of those who have no regard for our health. What I haven’t mentioned much though, was how to identify these potentially harmful toys, and that bit is pretty important.
Research the Retailer and/or Manufacturer
While it doesn’t mean everything, having an idea of where a sex toy came from came from can give you a pretty good idea of if you can trust it to be safe. What you want are companies that have a good reputation in the adult industry. Note: a “good reputation” and “popular” are not synonyms. Pipedream, a very well known company in the industry, is also one of the most problematic ones out there, and although Adam & Eve can afford to advertise everywhere, their stock is mostly crap.
Look and see what some people you respect in the industry have to say about the company you’re looking into. Sex-ational is going to start producing report cards for many companies, The Redhead Bedhead has a great list of Superhero Sex Shops that you can purchase from, and Lilly has a list of trusted manufacturers as well as a TON of information on toxic toys.
My personal favorite shop is SheVibe where not only do they have great art and site design but they also have detailed information about the materials a toy is made of listed at the bottom of every product page. Some of the toys they carry are porous, but their pages state this clearly and has suggestions for proper use and care of these products.
There are a number of great manufacturers out there, my favorites for dildos are Tantus, Vixen Creations, Nobessence, Njoy, and Fucking Sculptures. Then there’s Lelo, Je Joue, We-Vibe, and Fun Factory for vibes. NYTC is fantastic for FTM gender expression while Crystal Delights and Aneros make some great butt stuff.
Take a Good Hard Look at It
This won’t help you a whole lot if you’re getting a material like stainless steel, glass, or wood, with those you’ll have to just rely on buying from a respected manufacturer, but there’s a lot you can look for when you’re trying to identify silicone.
First off, the material should be opaque, none of that “crystal”, “jelly”, or “ice” crap. If you can see through it at all it’s not silicone, it’s that simple. As confirmed by Metis Black1 it is very expensive to make clear silicone (think contact lenses) and it makes the material very firm. The only company I’ve seen do it is Chavez Dezingz (makers of the Jollet). It may not be toxic but if a toy is cheap and clear it is at the very best porous.
If you’re in the market for a hyper-realistic toy you’re going to want to be careful as well. It’s much harder to display the same level of detail in a silicone cock compared to one made of Cyberskin, PVC, or some other mystery meat material. The Deen Peen is a perfect example of this as it was released in multiple materials. Notice the subtle differences in color on the PVC dildo, the blue in the veins and skin-like texture on the tip. Now look at what happens when they pour silicone in the same mold; It’s all one flat color and as a result the veining and texture is much more subtle. Now look at the price, it’s more than $20 more to get silicone.
This isn’t to discourage you from getting a body safe toy by any means! It’s totally possible to get a safe and very realistic silicone toy, Vixskin and NYTC Shilo are some great examples, and while they may cost a little more they’re going to last you much longer. Tantus and Pleasure Works make some more budget friendly realistically styled toys too, they’re just not quite as detailed. That said, if the toy you’re looking at is under $50, realistic, and finely detailed? Well chances are it’s probably porous too.
Now Get Reeeal Close.
…if you can that is. These strategies won’t work if you’re researching a toy online, but if you’re in a store with it or already have it at home there are a few other things you can do.
First of all, look at the surface to see if it has any sort of shine or drips on it. Unstable materials go through a chemical process known as off-gassing in which they slowly break-down and sweat an oily substance on their surface. That said, some silicone toys will have a glossy surface, but those toys will feel very grabby on the skin and won’t have that slippery, oily texture. This off-gassing will also produce a strong chemical smell, like a new shower curtain, while a true silicone toy won’t have a smell at all.
If you can touch the toy itself, see about the material’s consistency. A silicone toy is typically going to be pretty firm, with Vixskin, Tantus 02, NYTC, and Bad Dragon’s softest shores being the exceptions. It may have some flexibility and a little bit of give but nothing drastic. At it’s softest I’ve never seen a silicone toy stretch more than an extra 30% or so, so if your toy is stretching like a children’s gummy toy it’s probably not silicone. Especially if this elasticity is accompanied (as it often is) by one of those crystal see-through materials.
If you’re feeling particularly science-y you can even try a flame test (provided you’ve actually purchased the toy already that is. Please don’t go around your local shop setting things on fire. Bex Talks Sex does not endorse arson.). A silicone toy will not sustain any material damage when making contact with the flame from your average lighter, other less safe materials on the other hand often go up in flames. As always, the wonderful Lilly has more info on this one too.
Still feeling lost? Reach out! I’d be more than willing to take a look and give you my take on if it’s a toy I would trust, or a company know. Just drop me a line on my contact page, Twitter, or BexTalksSex (at) gmail and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction!
- Who runs Tantus and knows things. [↩]