"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!)