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Bad vibes over latest EU sex scandal

September 13th, 2006

Dr Petra

Greenpeace recently announced that sex toys could be dangerous.

It seems the Dutch office of the pressure group tested eight different types of sex toy and discovered 7 out of 8 toys contained phthalates which are chemical softeners used to make PVC more flexible. Such chemicals are banned in children’s toys – but not, it seems, in toys for adults.

The Greenpeace report didn’t really make it clear whether the risk came from using the toys on (or in) the body, or was linked to problems of biodegradability after toys had been discarded.

Phthalates have been linked to hormonal and reproductive problems, liver and kidney disease.

Whilst many sex toys are tested for safety these tests are not always standardised and may focus more on the way the product works rather than what it contains.

Greenpeace are calling for greater legislation to ban the use of harmful substances in products and claim the safety of all products (including their content) should be proven before they can go on sale.

Predictably the press have mostly responded with criticisms of Greenpeace and their focusing on ‘obscure causes’ – yet with increased sales of sex toys year on year the safety of such products is an issue – and we could do with being better informed about what we’re consuming. Cory Silverberg has two useful blog entries that explains more about the Greenpeace report and safety of sex toys (check out the links at the end of Cory’s second blog which are particularly informative).

Not included in this report are other issues around sex toys and green/consumer issues. Battery operated toys increase our use and disposal of batteries that can have environmental consequences, and with many sex toys produced in developing countries there’s also the issue of people on very low pay with limited opportunities creating sex toys for those with money in other countries to consume.

We don’t critique sex toys. In the past we saw them as something only weird people with odd sex lives used, but now they’ve been mainstreamed and are part of our sex-as-lifestyle view they are rarely questioned. Now we have the Greenpeace report that sounds very scary – but is a test of eight toys really enough to go by?

We do need to know more about the toys we buy – how safe are they? And how ethically are they produced, marketed and sold? People often don’t know or don’t question where their toy comes from or how it was made – and not all staff selling sex toys know the answer either.

Sadly this is an area that is rarely researched and only currently studied in-house (so you never really get reliable and transparent results). The time has come for a wider investigation into the creation and sales of sex toys, and more investment in independent research on their construction and promotion.

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