The Ins And Outs Of Sex Toy Safety

The Consumer Product Safety Commission's new database SaferProducts.gov has been touted as a resource that will allow people to find information on everything from recalled strollers to toasters. It may have a raunchier, but equally important use: Allowing people to investigate the safety of their sex toys.

The possibility is raised in a Scientific American article on the many ways people can injure themselves while spicing up their sex lives with toys. Though currently it seems there aren't any reports of "personal massagers" likely to go on the fritz, the site could allow people to find information on poorly-made devices that are likely to lead to painful and embarrassing injuries.

With vibrators and penis rings now sold even in drug stores, there's been a huge increase in the amount of people using sex toys, and thus more injuries. Scientific American reports:

An estimated 6,800 people showed up in U.S. hospitals between 1995 and 2006 with a sex toy emergency, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy-most often, people in their 30s who needed help retrieving their vibrator or dildo. In 2007 alone about 900 people had injuries severe enough that they were admitted to the hospital to remove a foreign body from their rectums.

Sex toys are often marketed as "novelty devices," and thus aren't subject to government regulation. Alan Shindel, who co-authored a study on sex toy mishaps last year, doesn't think we're even capable of handling the issue like adults. "I don't know that the country is ready to address sex toys in a mature fashion, to make them something that's regulated," he says.

Devices designed for pleasure may seem harmless, but they can lead to a wide variety of nasty maladies. One concern is what the item is made of. Some upscale sex shops have banned products that contain phthalates, a plastic softener that's been linked to cancer. However, a study found the chemical isn't a health risk, as long as your aren't devoting more than an hour per day to the fine art of orgasming.

It isn't that easy for a sex toy to get lost in the vagina, but there is such a thing as too much clitoral stimulation. Nerves in your nether regions can be subject to a "vibratory strain injury," so it may be better to get a device that switches modes. As for dudes, they should be sure not to leave a penis ring on for too long, as this can lead to a condition known as "penile strangulation."

As anyone who's seen the SNL skit "Appalachian Emergency Room" knows, there's another area where people of both sexes and suffer incredibly disturbing injuries, and Scientific American gets surprising graphic:

Anal objects ... can easily get lost. During orgasm, powerful rectal muscles contract and can suck an object up and up, potentially obstructing the colon. A toy might be harmlessly flushed out, but it might also perforate tissue, leading to bleeding or infection. Use toys with a flared base or a string, Shindel says. Apply lots of lubricant, and choose toys designed for anal use because sharp ridges on vaginal dildos can tear more sensitive anal tissue. Hemorrhoid sufferers should be extra careful.

Size does matter: Gargantuan dildos might seem a fun idea but can tear delicate skin at the entrance to the vagina or anus, especially when enthusiastically inserted.

Duly noted! The fact that the magazine is able to engage in some frank talk about getting stuff stuck up your butt gives us hope that America may soon be ready to talk about sex toys in a "mature fashion." Hopefully we'll soon see some recalls of shady, foreign-made vibrators right next to the SaferProducts.gov's reports on defective pacifiers.

Good Vibrations: U.S. Consumer Web Site Aims To Enhance Sex Toy Safety [Scientific American]

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