The Bare Minimum For a Sex Toy That Doesn't Suck: Materials & Safety
Many consumers buy mystery material jelly dildos and vibrators because they’re cheap, without stopping to think about what jelly is, or its effects on delicate, internal mucous membranes.
You read food labels and make sure your ingestibles are safe. Why should you inspect your insertable sex toys any less carefully? Sex toys, unlike food, have no regulation in the market. As a result, they’re commonly made of cheap and toxic materials; manufacturers keep neither the environment nor the consumer’s safety in mind.
WTF even is a "jelly" sex toy?
“Jelly” is an umbrella term for mixes of polyvinyl chloride plastic and rubber, with the addition of phthalates used to soften the PVC. According to Tantus Inc., a manufacturer of silicone toys, a PVC sex toy is typically composed of 35–75% phthalates. If there is no plasticizing/softening agent, the PVC is a rigid plastic.
Signs your toy is undoubtedly jelly
If a sex toy has a vinyl “shower curtain” smell, it's off-gassing and leeching the phthalates and other toxic chemicals into the environment. The off-gassing can melt other jelly/PVC toys near it. Exhibit A: Smitten Kitten's toxic toy jars. Body-safe toys, including silicone, don't do that when you store them together because they’re chemically stable and inert.
As well, transparent and soft sex toys are almost certainly jelly. There are translucent silicone sex toys on the market, but transparent silicone is usually expensive and used in small amounts to make contact lenses.
What's the problem with the chemical composition?
Phthalates are a suspected human carcinogen and endocrine disruptor, linked to infertility, cancer, kidney damage, and developmental abnormalities (for example, a pregnant woman masturbating, or a baby playing with a PVC teething ring). You don't have to take just my word for it. The U.S. government recognizes phthalate-infused PVC as unsafe for use in children's toys.
Other substances you might find in jelly toys include cadmium, toluene, cyclohexanone, tetrahydrofuran, 1‑methyl-2-pyrrolidinone, phenol, dimethylformamide, dimethyl phosphite, and other chemicals with documented detrimental health effects. Some of these compounds are commonly used in laboratories, but only with the usual safety precautions of wearing gloves, long sleeves, pants, and closed shoes. They are not compounds meant to be in your orifices.
Jelly is such a vague term, and manufacturers are not legally obligated to state what the ingredients are. You don't know what you're getting.
Toxic toys are porous, unhygienic, and impossible to sanitize
Bacteria and fungi can also live in the pores of the material. Even if you're the only one using the toy. Even if you're using it only in one hole. It is a cesspool of microbes that can multiply and can disrupt your natural balance. Even if you, say, soak them in bleach, all that does is house bleach that can't get entirely be removed from the pores but is gradually released as the material degrades, making the toy even more toxic.
Can't I just put a condom on it?
The problem is that the oils used in making the jelly can dissolve the condom. There's no guarantee that a condom would protect you. Nobody is saying you WILL get infected or that you WILL get cancer if you use jelly on your genitals, but that you're increasing your risk the more you expose yourself to it. Do your research when it comes to your health.
Body-safe sex toy materials you can trust
There are many body-safe materials to use, like glass, properly finished wood, hard ABS plastic, and steel. However, if you’re looking for a non-rigid toy, silicone is the only soft material that is both body-safe and non-porous.
Other materials like TPE and TPR aren't toxic, but they're porous and not for long-term use. Wash them thoroughly after every use, and throw them away if there are any signs of microbial growth, like dark spots or a funky smell.
Since there is no regulation, manufacturers can intentionally mislabel toxic toys as “phthalate-free” or “body-safe.”
The only way to know you’re getting 100% silicone is to buy from a retailer or manufacturer you trust to label their products accurately. However, you can do a flame test when in doubt.
There are many, many options for affordable and safe toys, but below a certain price point, you get what you pay for. Don't take the health of your internal organs lightly; safety and quality are an investment.
Examples of body-safe sex toy makers
Tantus, LELO, Vixen Creations, Fun Factory, Hole Punch Toys, Je Joue, JimmyJane, BSwish, Njoy, Nobessence, Papaya Toys, Crystal Delights, Swan, Jopen, Toyfriend, Minna Life, Laid, Bad Dragon, Damn Average, Fuze, Fucking Sculptures, BS is Nice, PleasureWorks, Standard Innovations / We-Vibe, Vamp Silicone
This list is by no means comprehensive. You can find a variety of silicone toys via my blog's "silicone" tag!