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It’s Surprisingly Hard to Ban Toxic Sex Toys

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But Here’s How to Protect Yourself

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These days, most of us will carefully check ingredients lists for gluten and trans fats, demand that our water bottles be made without BPA, and seek out paraben-free, body-safe cosmetics. But the average person can’t tell you what a toxic sex toy is—or even that they exist. Unfortunately, in the unregulated sex toy industry, plenty of sex toys are potentially rife with products that can hurt you (and not even in the fun, kinky way).

Perhaps the most well-known offender in terms of toy toxicity is a group of chemicals known as phthalates, a plasticizer that can be blended with other substances to make them softer and more flexible. A spotlight’s been shone on phthalates in recent years, as publications like Bustle and Bitch, and feminist-oriented sex shops like Good Vibes and Babeland have spoken out against them.

So why all the hullabaloo? It turns out that phthalates may have side effects when they come into contact with your body that could potentially be terrible for you—and aren’t disclosed by most sex toy manufacturers. According to Amanda Morgan, D.H.S., a faculty member at the School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who wrote her master’s thesis on harmful sex toy materials, phthalates are known endocrine disruptors that can cause health problems. “[Phthalates] mess with your hormones; they can cause birth defects, or other things related to liver or kidney functioning,” Morgan told me, referencing studies that have linked phthalates to irregular fetal development, early-onset puberty, and lower sperm counts, among other issues. “They can really mess you up because they pretend to be your hormones, and so your body’s hormonal cycle gets knocked out of whack from exposure to these things.”

When you hear horror stories about sex toys, though, it’s not necessarily phthalates that are to blame. One of the most common anecdotal complaints about toxic toys is that they cause skin irritation: “I first thought [it] was a yeast infection or BV, because of extreme itching and burning on my inner labia,” reports one reader who wrote in to sex toy review blog Dangerous Lilly. “My ass suddenly felt like it was on fire. A burning sensation spread throughout my butt,” recalled sex educator Tristan Taormino about a questionable dildo she used. One Playboy story described a dildo that caused a woman “such severe pain that she could barely speak.”

I asked Emily S. Barrett, Ph.D., a professor at the Rutgers University School of Public Health who has done extensive research on the prenatal effects of endocrine disruptors like phthalates, whether these reported burning sensations fit with her understanding of the chemicals. She told me she hasn’t seen evidence that phthalates irritate the skin in this way, and that they tend to “act on a much more subtle level most of the time.”

So what is causing these health problems? According to Amanda Morgan, phthalates aren’t the only sketchy ingredient still getting into our sex toys. As part of her thesis research, Morgan tested 32 sex toys to determine their chemical makeup. What she found was pretty scary: The toys she tested typically contained 30 to 35 percent chlorine. She said PVC, a material commonly used to make inexpensive sex toys, always contains chlorine (hence the chemical name “polyvinyl chloride”). Even scarier, in 2006, BadVibes.org—an organization that, full disclosure, is linked to pro-toy-safety sex shop The Smitten Kitten—ran lab tests on four popular sex toys. They found that two of them were made of PVC and contained “very high levels of phthalate plasticizer.”

“We use chlorine to kill bacteria in things,” Morgan said. “If you are being exposed to this high level of chlorine, especially in a sensitive membrane area [like the vagina or rectum], we could definitely chalk that up to causing irritation, burning, or messing up the environment by exposing it to something that is, as we know, a sterilization product.” So with the short-term burning effects of chlorine and the long-term endocrine effects of phthalates, PVC is, Morgan said, “definitely one of the worst sex toy materials we’ve seen.”

Now, you might be thinking, “OK, great to know! I’ll just buy only safe toys from now on!” Well, it’s not so simple. Since the sex toy industry is unregulated, it doesn’t fall under the current purview of the Food and Drug Administration. According to FDA press officer Angela Stark, that’s because the agency “does not regulate devices meant purely for sexual pleasure. It does, however, regulate genital devices that have a medical purpose such as vibrators intended for therapeutic use to treat sexual dysfunction or to supplement Kegel exercises.” Of course, the vast majority of sex toys don’t fall under this “health aid” umbrella.

The responsibility of regulating sex toys could potentially fall to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but Morgan told me the understaffed CPSC is already in charge of regulating over 15,000 types of products—not to mention the products themselves. The complex issue of sex toy regulation would be a big ask on top of all that.

Add to all of this the fact that the current Congress likely wouldn’t rush to make a bold, sex-positive statement by mandating sex toy safety, and there are plenty of reasons your sex toy might not meet body-safe standards. “Our government doesn’t generally like to talk about people pleasuring themselves,” Morgan pointed out.

Beyond that, though, Morgan adds that regulating the sex toy industry might not even be the best solution to getting rid of toxic toys anyway. “If something is federally regulated, that means that the federal government—depending on where they are in their political leanings at that time—could potentially make it illegal to have these products, by saying they are ‘dangerous’ and then regulating them out of existence,” she reasoned. “You get certain types of people in power, and they may not believe in sexual health, wellness, [or] self-pleasuring. It might go against their core values, and therefore they [might] use their political agenda and the federal regulation system to regulate these products out of people’s hands.”

It’s a conclusion that Zach Biesanz, a legal assistant in the office of New York’s Attorney General, came to in his 2007 paper in the journal Law & Inequality: “Special regulation of the sex toy industry would be unreasonably burdensome from a regulatory standpoint,” he wrote. “Only banning these toxins outright will suffice to protect consumers from phthalates’ harmful and even lethal effects.”

In the meantime, how do you tell if a toy is safe? Sex toy experts like Morgan, Smitten Kitten founder Jennifer Pritchett, and seasoned sex toy reviewer Epiphora all recommend buying toys made of phthalate-free, body-safe materials like pure silicone, stainless steel, glass, and hard plastic. Still, it’s difficult to know what’s what in an industry that mislabels its products so frequently. “Sniff your sex toy,” said Morgan. “That’s the easiest thing you can do. If you smell these products and they don’t smell like anything, then it most likely is a stable chemical compound like silicone.” Phthalates and PVC, however, smell “like chemicals,” according to Morgan, “like a new shower curtain,” according to Epiphora, and “like a headache,” according to Pritchett. The sex toy smell test might sound a little weird, but it’s a pretty good first line of defense.<

Morgan also recommends buying toys made by “companies that take a lot of pride in making good-quality, body-safe toys,” citing Tantus and Jimmyjane as examples. Other companies that proudly declare their products body-safe include We-Vibe, Fun Factory, Vixen Creations, and Funkit Toys.

And when in doubt, find a reviewer you can trust. Sex toy review blogs abound on the internet —Epiphora, Dangerous Lilly, and Formidable Femme, to name just a few—and while you’d be wise to take claims about sex toys with a grain of salt in this unregulated industry, sometimes the preponderance of good or bad reviews about a particular company or toy can suggest conclusions about its safety (or lack thereof).

Most important, though, demand body-safe sex toys by buying only from companies you can trust. “Consumers vote with their pocketbook,” said Tantus founder Metis Black. “Support the businesses that make safe toys a priority, that use their resources to educate, that take a stand and advocate for consumers.” She added that while pure silicone toys are expensive now—especially in comparison to PVC toys, which can often be under $30 a pop versus $100+ for silicone—more consumer demand for body-safe toys will create a larger supply at lower prices, as bigger companies with more resources start making nontoxic toys in larger quantities. That’s just sex toy economics.

Bloggers, consumers, and ethical toymakers alike all dream of a future in which no sex toys will burn your junk, give you infections, or cause long-term bodily harm. It seems reasonable enough. And if we keep fighting for it, maybe one day it’ll be reality.

Complete Article HERE!

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Debunking Common College Sex Myths

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by and

Sex is among the most talked-about subjects on college campuses. Yet myths and misconceptions pervade almost every discussion of sexual activity and sexuality, subtly infiltrating the beliefs of even the best-informed people. Sexually inexperienced young people are likely to become confused by the dizzying array of information and opinions that assails them in conversations about sex.

Only by evaluating common sexual myths and the harmful effects they can have are we able to move past ignorance into a healthier understanding of our bodies and ourselves.

Myth 1: The withdrawal method is safe.

The withdrawal method, which is when the penis is pulled out of the vagina before ejaculation, is among the most dangerous and least effective birth control techniques. According to Planned Parenthood, this method is 78 percent effective. Pre-ejaculatory fluid can sometimes contain sperm, which can put a partner at risk of pregnancy. In addition, physical contact and the exchange of fluids can put both partners at risk for sexually transmitted infections. Just because the man has not ejaculated does not mean that the sex is safe.

Moreover, this technique requires very good timing and self-control to be successful.

“It’s just not very reliable to rely on that in the heat of the moment,” said Talia Parker (COL ’20), director of tabling for H*yas for Choice. If the man accidentally ejaculates before pulling out, the woman will be at an even greater risk of pregnancy, have to deal with a sticky cleanup and sex will end without satisfaction. Plan B, emergency birth control, costs more than $50, too. Getting a condom might seem inconvenient or less fun, but it’s worth it to prevent the consequences possible with the pull-out method.

Myth 2: Men just want sex all the time.

One of the most pernicious sex myths is the notion that men only think about sex all the time. This myth would have us believe that the primary motive behind male behavior is lust. But men have many motivations and drives apart from their sexuality. Relationships between men and women do not always have to be about sex, nor should we callously assume that a man’s actions are motivated by the desire to have sex.

The next time we attribute a man’s actions to his desire for sex, we should take a step back and evaluate why we believe that. More often than not, we will find that we have been making gendered assumptions. Moreover, if a person who identifies as a man does want consensual sex, we should accept this and not try to shame him.

Furthermore, we must remember that not all students in college are having sex. Some students may be choosing to abstain for personal or religious reasons, and others, including asexual students, may not be interested.

“Just having a positive attitude about sex is important and not judging other people for their choices as well,” Parker said.

Myth 3: The only way to experience pleasure is through penetration.

In most of our imaginations, sex means one thing: intercourse between a man and a woman with vaginal penetration. But this image is deeply flawed. It neither incorporates the experiences of gay, queer or intersex people nor accurately conveys the whole array of sexual possibilities available to people regardless of preference or gender.

“The arousal period for a woman is almost twice than [that of] a man,” Lovely Olivier (COL ’18), executive co-chair for United Feminists, a student group dedicated to combating influences of sexism and heteronormativity, said. “Oral sex, erotic massage, hand jobs, mutual masturbation, petting and tribbing, to name a few, are all non-penetrative options for you and your partner to consider. Furthermore, non-penetrative foreplay can increase satisfaction in intimacy altogether. Talk with your partner, share what you want and be open to new experiences.”

Myth 4: Protection doesn’t exist on a Jesuit campus.

Throughout the week, H*yas For Choice tables in the middle of Red Square from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., giving out lube, latex condoms, internal condoms and dental dams for free. For some, long-term birth control, like the pill, may be a better solution. Although intrauterine devices do not prevent STI transmission, the Student Health Center hopes to start giving the devices out next month.

Myth 5: Women do not masturbate.

The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior published by the Indiana University School of Public Health found that 24.5 percent of women aged 18 to 24 said they masturbated a few times per month to weekly, compared to 25 percent of men in this range who masturbate a few times per month to weekly. Masturbation can help people achieve pleasure and help individuals in relationships by “finding what is best for you,” Parker said.

Trying sex toys can also allow women to embrace their sexuality and experience their first orgasms.

Complete Article HERE!

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Feminism and Sexual Submission Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

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A meme showed up on my Facebook newsfeed one afternoon a few weeks back.

by Savannah Stewart

It was shared by some fuckboy I worked with for about five minutes before he was never seen again, except when sliding into his female former colleagues’ DM’s—which should have been reason enough to keep scrolling past, yet here we are.

The picture was of a young woman. “Preaches feminism,” it said just above her head. And below, “likes bondage.” Accompanying the meme was some type of monologue calling out women who support equal rights but “like to get slapped around” as hypocrites.

If women are going to “complain” about the things feminists get all up in arms about—like the fact that one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, or that almost half of murdered women are killed by current or former partners—then they’d better not enjoy a bit of roughness directed their way during sex or they’re full of shit. That was essentially the message of his ever-so-valued input about a woman’s sexuality. Because, clearly, those things are identical.

A few commenters pointed out that enjoying some naughty fun between the sheets is, in fact, completely different from experiencing abuse. “The difference is consent!” one commenter asserted, drawing digital thumbs-up from me and many others.

I agree wholeheartedly with that idea, and I think that the logical argument ends there. Rape and domestic violence are by definition not at all the same thing as enjoying and consenting to being in a position of submission during sex, and there is no correlation between the two. End of story.

But of course, fuckboy didn’t see it that way—how can a woman who likes to have physical force used on her in a sexual context walk around saying that hitting women is wrong? She obviously could not be taken seriously, he asserted.

I know I should’ve moved on, forgetting him and his irrelevant commentary. But I didn’t. It bothered me to reading that post, because I know a lot of people actually believe the things he believes.

Then I realized something: people who think that way, that feminist women cannot also be sexually submissive, probably just think that way because they don’t understand either concept.

And so this is me, after sitting on it for about a month now, retroactively explaining to Mr. Fuckboy what he doesn’t seem to understand.

First, it’s important to know that feminism is about a lot of things, but primarily it promotes political, social and economic equality regardless of gender, race, ability, sexual orientation, etc. It focuses on the issues that affect women, as well as other marginalized people, with the goal of empowering them and helping them achieve equality with privileged groups.

Sexual and domestic abuse are therefore important feminist issues because, though anyone regardless of gender can be the victims of these, they disproportionately affect women, people of colour, people with disabilities, and so on.

But on top of that, feminism is about making sure everyone has the freedom, education and tools required to make their own choices and become the rulers of their own destinies.

This includes, but is certainly not limited to, sexual preferences. Feminists believe that people should have the necessary information and confidence to figure out for themselves independently of society’s imposed constraints what feels good, what turns them on, and how they want to have sex—as long as it’s done between people who are fully informed and consenting.

Therefore, if someone comes to the conclusion that they enjoy being in a submissive role for sex and they want to act out fantasies of submission with a trusted partner, it in no way makes them less of a feminist—in fact, that’s feminist as hell. Feminism supports people owning their sexuality; so it’s not an excuse to start criticizing people who know what they want and actively seek it out.

But perhaps fuckboy’s issue is more with the notion of a feminist, someone supposed to fight for equality, wanting to submit themselves to the whims of another human being, very oftentimes a man?

The thing about submission is, like most other fetishes, it is the complex and unpredictable result of years of lived experience, exposure to all sorts of media, and plain old nature and nurture. And, just like every other fetish, it is a sexual fantasy that for most people in no way dictates how they wish to be treated outside of a sexual setting.

Think about it: just because you like being touched a certain way during sex does not mean that you want people to touch you that way when you’re on the bus, or making dinner, or reading, or doing whatever else. This can’t be repeated enough—consent is the key.

The truth of the matter is that we can’t control what turns us on, and our turn ons usually have nothing to do with how we live our lives. But something we can do is find ways to act out our turn ons in such a manner that is safe, respectful and enjoyable for everyone involved.

For people who enjoy experimenting with a power exchange, that’s where kink comes in. With communication, safe words, discussions about hard & soft limits, people who want to take on a dominant or submissive role during sex can do so in a way that is respectful and mutually beneficial. If you want to learn more about kink and dominant/submissive relationships, this guide is a really great start.

With all these tools at their disposal, people who are interested in being dominated—or dominating—can do so in a way that makes them and those they engage with feel comfortable. The goal is never to actually hurt someone, push someone’s boundaries or to make them feel unsafe.

Submissive feminists aren’t hypocrites. They are people who know what they like, know what they want, and know that their preferences don’t take anything away from their value as human beings.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why having the sex talk early and often with your kids is good for them

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By and

Parents may be uncomfortable initiating “the sex talk,” but whether they want to or not, parents teach their kids about sex and sexuality. Kids learn early what a sexual relationship looks like.

Broaching the topic of sex can be awkward. Parents may not know how to approach the topic in an age-appropriate way, they may be uncomfortable with their own sexuality or they may fear “planting information” in childrens’ minds.

Parental influence is essential to sexual understanding, yet parents’ approaches, attitudes and beliefs in teaching their children are still tentative. The way a parent touches a child, the language a parent uses to talk about sexuality, the way parents express their own sexuality and the way parents handle children’s questions all influence a child’s sexual development.

We are researchers of intimate relationship education. We recently learned through surveying college students that very few learned about sex from their parents, but those who did reported a more positive learning experience than from any other source, such as peers, the media and religious education.

The facts of modern life

Children are exposed to advertising when they’re as young as six months old – even babies recognize business logos. Researcher and media activist Jean Kilbourne, internationally recognized for her work on the image of women in advertising, has said that “Nowhere is sex more trivialized than in pornography, media and advertising.” Distorted images leave youth with unrealistic expectations about normal relationships.

Long before the social media age, a 2000 study found that teenagers see 143 incidents of sexual behavior on network television at prime time each week; few represented safe and healthy sexual relationships. The media tend to glamorize, degrade and exploit sexuality and intimate relationships. Media also model promiscuity and objectification of women and characterize aggressive behaviors as normal in intimate relationships. Violence and abuse are the chilling but logical result of female objectification.

While there is no consensus as to a critical level of communication, we do know that some accurate, reliable information about sex reduces risky behaviors. If parents are uncomfortable dealing with sexual issues, those messages are passed to their children. Parents who can talk with their children about sex can positively influence their children’s sexual behaviors.

Can’t someone else do this for me?

Sex education in schools may provide children with information about sex, but parents’ opinions are sometimes at odds with what teachers present; some advocate for abstinence-only education, while others might prefer comprehensive sex education. The National Education Association developed the National Sexual Health Standards for sex education in schools, including age-appropriate suggestions for curricula.

Children often receive contradictory information between their secular and religious educations, leaving them to question what to believe about sex and sometimes confusing them more. Open and honest communication about sex in families can help kids make sense of the mixed messages.

Parents remain the primary influences on sexual development in childhood, with siblings and sex education as close followers. During late childhood, a more powerful force – peer relationships – takes over parental influences that are vague or too late in delivery.

Even if parents don’t feel competent in their delivery of sexual information, children receive and incorporate parental guidance with greater confidence than that from any other source.

Engaging in difficult conversations establishes trust and primes children to approach parents with future life challenges. Information about sex is best received from parents regardless of the possibly inadequate delivery. Parents are strong rivals of other information sources. Teaching about sex early and often contributes to a healthy sexual self-esteem. Parents may instill a realistic understanding of healthy intimate relationships.

Getting started

So how do you do it? There is no perfect way to start the conversation, but we suggest a few ways here that may inspire parents to initiate conversations about sex, and through trial and error, develop creative ways of continuing the conversations, early and often.

  1. Several age-appropriate books are available that teach about reproduction in all life forms – “It’s Not the Stork,” “How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex” and “Amazing You!: Getting Smart About Your Body Parts”.
  2. Watch TV with children. Movies can provide opportunities to ask questions and spark conversation with kids about healthy relationships and sexuality in the context of relatable characters.
  3. Demonstrate openness and honesty about values and encourage curiosity.
  4. Allow conversation to emerge around sexuality at home – other people having children, animals reproducing or anatomically correct names for body parts.
  5. Access sex education materials such as the National Sexual Health Standards.

The goal is to support children in developing healthy intimate relationships. Seek support in dealing with concerns about sex and sexuality. Break the cycle of silence that is commonplace in many homes around sex and sexuality. Parents are in a position to advocate for sexual health by communicating about sex with their children, early and often.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Reasons The Sex Toy Market Is Failing The Needs Of Seniors

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By Lisa S. Lawless

Yes, older women want pleasure, too!

Sex toys are quite popular these days, but there are a few challenges that people over the age of 50 may be having with them. First, let’s get past the old myth that age has anything to do with one’s sexuality. Seniors are usually open to sex toys and have a healthy sexual desire. In fact, most people find their desire for sex and involvement in sexual activity continue as they age.

However, there are a few issues seniors are having when it comes to buying sex toys.

Here are 5 issues that seniors might run into when buying sex toys:

1. Sex toys are getting more technologically advanced and confusing.

Sex toys have been getting more and more advanced, and it is not uncommon to find such high-tech features as Bluetooth compatibility, multiple speeds, various functions, and remote controls that can be operated through your smartphone — not to mention the apps that allow users to create specialized vibration settings.

With basic knowledge in technology required for some of these new adult novelties, many seniors are finding it overwhelming when trying to find just a simple, quality sex toy. Often, they are left more confused when pursuing them than when they began.

2. New toys often require USB ports to charge them.

Many sex toys no longer feature the old fashioned batteries and plug-in chargers and are coming with USB charging technology.

They are less expensive than plug-in chargers to produce and they allow manufacturers to make only one model rather than having to do various models for different electrical outlets outside of the USA. However, many seniors who order sex toys are sometimes surprised when their sex toy arrives with a USB cord and may be unsure of how they are supposed to charge it.

While USB charging is becoming more common across all industries, it can leave some seniors wondering how they get a USB adapter or even what one is.

3. They’re not often ergonomic.

With new technology allowing sex toys to be more compact and artistic in design it sometimes means not being easy to hold especially for those who have arthritis or mobility issues.

There are some sex toy holders and pillows that can help hold toys in place, but those seniors who have such concerns may find it difficult to know how much trouble they might have holding or maneuvering a sex toy without having to buy it first.

4. Their designs can be confusing.

With many of the new sex toys looking more and more like sculptures and less like the human anatomy, it can be difficult for seniors to get an idea of what goes where and how a sex toy is going to stimulate themselves and/or their partner.

Some retail descriptions offer a lot of hype but fail to explain how sex toys specifically work, what parts stimulate the body and instructions on how to use a product.

5. Sex terminologies have changed.

With sex toy retailers using terms like “dils” instead of dildos or phalluses, and “love rings” instead of “cockrings” or “penis rings,” some seniors are having a hard time catching up with the terminology that is being used. Many are not aware that some sex toys contain toxins and why the terms body-safe and phthalate free are so important.

With changing terminology, it can make it difficult for seniors to articulate what type of products they are looking for let alone understand what is available to them.

One beneficial change in the modern era, however, is senior sex toy support!

On the bright side, with sexual wellness education available through quality sex educators, it is easy for seniors to find helpful articles and customer service representatives to become educated about these topics and learn how sex toys can not only provide pleasure but also increase sexual health and intimacy with their partner.

Complete Article HERE!

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