The sex toy industry serves over 150 million people in America, about half of the total adult population. Few industries can match the extensively large customer base, or the global profit margin of over $15 billion annually.However, these figures might elicit concern when you realize the sex toy industry faces very little (if any) regulation.
Our team’s experience with one of the largest sex shop franchises in the U.S., have enabled them to help hundreds of people improve their sex lives and spend hours learning about the industry and the companies in it. Due to the extreme lack of regulation, they often served as a guide for folks who wanted to learn more about toy safety.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates food, medicine, children’s toys, dog toys, medical devices, cosmetics, and much more. Yet no pre-market testing for “adult novelty products” exists.
Thankfully, the industry doesn’t go completely unchecked. The Consumer Product Safety Commission will recall a product if they receive enough complaints or injury reports. However unlike the FDA, the CPSC relies entirely on aftermarket complaints.
This leaves the industry to regulate itself. Resulting in bad companies attempting to make as much money as possible, regardless of the effects. This leads to major problems with toy materials, toy design, and misleading packaging.
Some may argue that many industries make unsafe products - like big tobacco – and the consumer’s responsibility includes making informed and safe choices. However, the health effects of cigarettes are well documented and even taught in school. Sex toys do not elicit this level of attention and care. Cigarettes and alcohol have warning labels regulated by the government, information campaigns, and the health benefits do not change from product to product, therefore allowing the consumer to make an easy decision.
The sex toy industry has many more complexities because while a body safe toy can have noticeable health benefits, an unsafe toy can do exactly the opposite. Although we like to consider American culture as one of the most sexually liberated, information campaigns regarding sex toy safety and discussion about sex toy safety in sex-ed classes simply does not exist.
The lack of government pre-market regulation has real effects. An 11 year study conducted by the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found that nearly 6,800 people in the U.S. visited the ER for sex toy injuries. Interestingly, the annual number of injuries doubled in this time from 1995 to 2006. This suggests that as the industry grows, the number of injuries grow as well.
The materials of toys largely determine their quality and safety. The best options for non-porous materials include silicone, glass, stainless steel, and some medical grade plastics. Porous materials like TPE and TPR plastic, rubber, and jelly have microscopic pours that trap germs and bacteria, even after washing. Repeatedly using toys made out of porous materials without protection, like a condom, puts your health at risk.
The smell of a new toy can also indicate the quality. The chemical smell that often comes from porous toys was one of the largest complaints identified by our experienced team. If your new toy produces a strong chemical smell, avoid using it without protection and store it in a cool dry place. Many low quality materials contain unsafe chemicals and phthalates, that create a strong and unpleasant smell. A chemically unstable toy can actually start to break down (melt) overtime.
The use of phthalates continues to concern many within the industry. Phthalates are chemicals often used for softening plastic products, but they can increase the risk of health issues including loss of fertility, hormonal imbalance, and even cancer. Global bans on the use of phthalates in children’s toys, due to the risk of oral contact, do not seem to consider that sex toys have a much higher risk of internal contact.
Unfortunately our team had to learn about design defects through their work in the adult industry. For example, if an anal toy does not have a flared base - meaning the base of the plug is wider than the neck – it runs a serious risk of getting sucked up by the sphincter mussels. This risk only increases with extremely flexible materials like jelly. Working in the adult industry, our team saw many of these dangerous butt plugs come and go. Without proper regulation, even companies with influence and success make unsafe and unreliable products. This is why, Shaggbox is committed to providing entirely body-safe adult products, and comprehensive sex-education.
Since the U.S. government will not participate in pre-market testing for these items, it puts all the responsibility on the consumer to make an informed and safe choice. As a consumer, all of this information can seem daunting and overwhelming – it’s not common knowledge. Thankfully, Shaggbox team is passionate about providing you with the information and the products you need to have a healthy and fulfilling sex-life .
Your purchases as a consumer not only influence your own health, but influence the entire market - when the demand for regulated body-safe toys increases, the industry will provide. So treat yourself! Buy a nice toy for yourself or a partner and enjoy- but most importantly, stay informed and stay safe!