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Arts & Culture

Savage Love: Dildonics

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What is the best way to sanitize a latex dildo? At least I think it’s a latex dildo. I actually don’t know. I had a yeast infection a few months ago, and before I knew what was up, I used my toy. Now I’m afraid to touch it until I know it won’t reinfect me!
—Inserting This Chances Harm

“It sounds like ITCH isn’t 100 percent sure what their dildo is made of,” said Hannah Jorden, senior staff sex educator at Smitten Kitten (smittenkittenonline.com), a progressive sex toy and gear shop based in Minneapolis. Don’t feel bad, ITCH: Most people don’t know what their sex toys are made of.

“Sex toys aren’t regulated like food when it comes to packaging,” Jorden said. “There’s no list of ingredients on the back. It could be latex, some other porous rubbery substance, or even a nasty, rash-inducing, endocrine-disrupting, cancer-causing mixture of PVC and phthalates.”

For someone who works in a sex toy shop, Jorden sure makes sex toys sound scary—and phthalates, a chemical compound found in everything from cosmetics to shower curtains to sex toys to food packaging, are pretty fucking scary. Phthalates block male hormones, harm fetal genital development, interfere with adult brain function and may put people at greater risk of breast cancer and testicular cancer. But the good news is that you don’t have to settle for shitty, dangerous, potentially toxic sex toys.

“The trick,” said Jorden, “is to buy only nonporous, nontoxic toys from trustworthy manufacturers and retailers.”

So maybe your best course of action, ITCH, would be to toss that old dildo and buy yourself a new one. So what should you look for when you go dildo shopping?

“The best option is medical grade, platinum cured silicone,” said Jorden. “Silicone dildos are popular because they come in lots of different textures and firmnesses, and you can quickly sterilize them by putting them in boiling water for a few minutes or running them through a hot dishwasher cycle. As long as they’re sterilized between uses, silicone dildos can be safely shared with different partners, and they can be used in different orifices without risk of bacterial contamination.”

Those platinum cured silicone toys are going to be pricier, of course, but aren’t our orifices worth it? And our breasts and balls? And our children and their genitals? But if you can’t afford silicone, or if you have a sentimental attachment to older sex toys, you can put condoms over them and continue to use them.

“It’s not a foolproof approach,” Jorden warned, “and it supports companies that make low-quality toys. A silicone toy will last a lifetime, and when you buy one, you’re investing in a company that cares about quality and your sexual and reproductive health. Progressive sex shops, like those that are members of the Progressive Pleasure Club (progressivepleasureclub.com), can help ITCH figure out which toys are safe and which should be avoided.”

Jorden recommended a few trustworthy brands: Toys from Fun Factory, Tantus and Vixen Creations are safe, nontoxic and phthalate-free. And here’s a nonporous, nontoxic, non-silicone option for you, ITCH: the stainless steel toys made by NJoy (njoytoys.com). They’re pricey, it’s true, but they are as indestructible as they are beautiful.

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