Unsafe Sex Toys & Practices

“Sex toys are an awesome gateway to an incredible sex life,” says sex educator/author/blogger Violet Blue. “These silly, bizarre little (or big) things can lead to hours of orgasmic exploration, self-discovery, sexual self-reliance and even deeper intimacy between couples (or a hilarious comedy of errors, depending).”

But not all sex toys are safe, says Violet in her article, “Unsafe Sex Products,” also available as a podcast. For example, some sex toys labeled “for novelty use only” are made poorly and cheaply, may break easily, and/or may contain chemical materials that you don’t want in contact with your delicate parts.

Fortunately, many high-quality sex toy manufacturers and vendors take your pleasure and sexual health seriously. (The woman-friendly sex shops I recommend in Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty care about your health and your pleasure, and are careful to carry quality products.)

I’ve paraphrased some of Violet’s tips here, with her permission, about a few products and practices to avoid:

* Nonoxynol-9: an agent that is supposed to kill HIV/AIDS, but can cause cervical abrasions and strip away rectal lining.
* Numbing lubricants and desensitizing creams such as Anal-Eze: If something you’re doing hurts, you want to know it and back off, or injury or infection can occur. “When you can’t feel pain, you are getting injured, period,” says Violet.
* Sugar/ glycerin: Avoid lubricants with sugar, colorings and flavors in them. Glycerin/glycerol is a sugar. Sugar feeds yeast, causing vaginal irritation. (That also means no whipped cream or chocolate as “dessert” during oral sex — keep sex and food separate!
* No Back to Front: Never go from anus to vagina with body parts or sex toys. Even if you’re squeaky clean from the shower, internal fecal bacteria can transfer. If you like anal stimulation with a sex toy, cover it with a condom.

(Violet Blue is the author and editor of over a dozen books on sex and sexuality, a sex educator who lectures at UC’s and community teaching institutions and writes about erotica, pornography, sexual pleasure and health. Her books include Best Women’s Erotica 2007, The Adventurous Couple’s Guide to Sex Toys, and Lust: Erotic Fantasies for Women. Caution: if you’re not used to in-your-face, graphic sex writing and photos, tread carefully when you visit Violet’s blog!)


  1. Anonymous on January 14, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Joan I am not sure if this is the correct category to ask but my partner enjoys anal (ditigal) stimulation from time to time. We have spoken about going to the next step, ie anal intercourse but as we have never done it previously we wonder whether we should be thinking this way at all.

  2. Joan Price on May 31, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Anonymous, if you visit a woman-friendly sex shop like Good Vibrations or A Woman’s Touch or the others that I list in my book, or order from an informative online store like Blowfish, you can find out the ingredients. There are plenty that don’t have glycerin.

    Let’s start a new post about post-chemo sexuality. Can you email me your story or your concerns? I’ll start a new post with some information and resources.


    • Anonymous on April 26, 2013 at 5:31 am

      In some recent reading I came across the information that many lubes contain glucose and that glucose is a sugar based ingredient. The lube I use is a store brand 4 ounce tube. Glucose is listed as the second (after water) ingredient. I use a lot of the lube rectally so now I am wondering just how much sugar is contained in a 4 ounce tube. Diabetes is an issue so this is more than a question of casual interest. Thank You just John

  3. Anonymous on May 30, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    I liked this post . in the past i noticed a chemical smell on a “jelly”(clear) toy that I bought.So you can tell by the smell.Instinctually, I threw it away.
    I wonder what lubricants are glycerin/sugar free.I tasted Astroglide and it is sweet,so I suspect it has sugar.It’s always what is recommended as the best but since chemotherapy I find it stings a bit when used for intercourse.
    I really don’t know who to talk to about post-chemo sexuality.I used to be much more orgasmic,but don’t
    want to become discouraged.

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