I normally talk about the negative side effects of mystery and unregulated/unresearched materials in terms of sex toys and accessories. I’m a firm believer that what you put in, near, or next to your body should be safe — whether we’re talking about vibrators, menstrual products, deodorant, or your favorite snack. Many products, especially in the adult product and menstrual product world, simply are not safe.
In the case of sex toys, the industry is completely unregulated and little research is done in regards to the negative effects of softening agents in PVC toys and other additives like pigmentation. We do know from many recounting personal experiences that they can be harmful to the respiratory system, that porous toys can cause chemical burns and re-infection of bacterial and yeast infections because they can never be sterilized… This is only the beginning of the story. Thankfully, there are some great companies like Tantus, Crystal Delights, BS is Nice, nJoy, and Nobesseces making body safe, non-porous alternatives for us all to enjoy.
Disposable menstrual products pose a similar issue; many contain known to be harmful, but deficit in research for this particular use, chemicals — which means that companies can get away with adding in bleach, fragrances, and other irritating and possibly very harmful ingredients like dioxin, a known carcinogen. You can read more about this in my interview with the ever-lovely President of GladRags, Tracy Puhl.
The conclusion all of this leads me to is that a lack of proper sex education, in terms of pleasure and biological functioning as well as gender and sexuality, has lead to a lack of knowledge about how one’s own body works. This ignorance then leads to shame and stigma, which leads to many not wanting to or feeling comfortable talking about sex toys or tampons including the possible negative effects some of their ingredients can cause. This cycle leads to nothing but pain, both physically and mentally. When people experience irritation from a toxic sex toy or a disposable pad, they frequently blame themselves- often hoping that if they ignore it, it’ll just go away on it’s own. This is one reason many STIs go untreated and get much worse than they could have been. People are too ashamed to go to the doctor about issues they’re having if it’s related to sex, sexuality, or their genitals, and don’t know how to talk to the doctor about it even if they do make their way there. This is completely preventable with complete sex education that covers all the bases, including pleasure and anatomy.
It’s things like this that make me grateful for companies like GladRags and my favorite sex toy companies. Reusable pads are gentle on the skin and devoid of harmful chemicals. Menstrual cups are silicone — they will not interact with your body and are completely sterilizable, lasting up to 10 years. The comfort I feel when wearing my menstrual cup is unlike any period experience I had using disposable pads, which resulted in itchiness and irritation for years. Reusable natural sponge tampons are gentle, reusable for 6 months or more with proper care, and can be used for mess-free bleeding time intercourse. Using products like these has left me comfortable, without irritation, and more at ease with my bodily functions, and I almost feel that it’s my responsibility to share this with anyone who will listen.
In short, we can all benefit from sex ed — and while you’re researching, you should pick up some body safe reusable menstrual products and body safe sex toys and note the difference they make for you. Feel free to ask me any questions via Tumblr or my Contact page!
About the author of this post:
Caitlin of sex-ational.com is an adult product reviewer, former adult store worker, and a passionate sex educator working out of Philadelphia. Their specialty lies in sex toys and the materials they’re made out of. They are a writer, illustrator, and designer who loves cats and cooking.