Over the years many groups and individuals have suggested that sex toys are dangerous. Arguments have been made that sex toys are dangerous for our morals, our sex lives, and our planet. I think each argument is worth hearing and considering, but at the same time, we should critically consider the position of the argument and the argumentor.
There are lots of reasons that people in power (be they legal, medical, political, or parental) would prefer that we not have sex at all, or if we must, that at least we have sex inside the narrowest box possible (otherwise known as penile-vaginal intercourse). Anything that feels too good can easily end up on the scare list of “dangerous” activities.
So it is with sex toys.
There is relatively little good research on sex toy use, but what little we have doesn’t suggest that sex toys are dangerous when used properly, even if they are used often. This doesn’t mean that sex toys can’t be dangerous if used improperly, or if they are made without proper care. What follows are some of the most popular claims about dangerous sex toys, and what we really know about them.
Sex Toy Injuries
What little research we have suggests that injuries sustained while using sex toys are rare and most are minor, hardly dangerous. Sex toy injuries should be distinguished from injuries that result from using something that isn’t meant to be a sex toy as a sex toy (like, say, an electric toothbrush, or bottle). Although if we lumped them together there might be a group calling for a ban on electric toothbrushes.
Toxic Sex Toys
The most recent dangerous sex toy scare focused on chemical ingredients in sex toys, particularly the use of phthalates in soft plastic vibrators and dildos. While there is a growing body of research that suggests phthalates have a toxic effect on infants (and mostly on rats) and I personally suggest avoiding sex toys with phthalates, there is simply no evidence that phthalates pose a direct risk in sex toys.
Sex Toys as a Gateway to More Dangerous Sex
Some people suggest that using sex toys can be dangerous because it can lead to other sexual activities that, according to these people, are risky. This idea is usually presented in a religious context (sex toys are unnatural, not as God intended us to have sex, lead to infidelity, etc…) But at least one public health researcher has tried to float this idea out there. Unfortunately the single study is so poor, and their conclusions so overstated that it’s difficult to take the argument, that sex toys are like drugs, seriously.
Sex Toys Causing Yeast Infections
To date there’s no published research looking at the role that using sex toys might have in yeast infections. Yeast infections are incredibly common though, and it’s possible that some sex toys, used in certain ways, could increase the chance of getting a yeast infection, particularly for someone already susceptible to getting them. Body responses including irritation from friction, allergic reactions, and bladder infections could all play an indirect role from sex toys to yeast infections. There are some simple things one can do to reduce the theoretical risk.
Sex Toy Addiction
Sex toy addiction is no more real than internet porn addiction (or sex addiction more generally). It sounds scary and dangerous, but it doesn’t exist. It’s true that if you use sex toys you can get used to having orgasms in one way. But once you can orgasm one way, in almost all cases you can orgasm a thousand other ways. You just have to try.
Sex Toys Are a Danger to Sexual Sensitivity
Sex toys, vibrators in particular, can cause temporary numbness, particularly when they are powerful and used for a long period of time. But the numbness goes away and there is no evidence that sex toys cause any permanent or even temporary but significant damage to sexual sensitivity.
By Cory Silverberg