The stigma of buying used sex toys has weakened. But still.
I dream of the day our nation’s greatest minds come together and invent a compostable dildo.
Tragically, that day has not arrived.
Over the past few years, however, there’s been a growing interest in sustainable sex toys — including, but thankfully not limited to, used sex toys. Browse Craigslist, Reddit, or even some of your favorite sex-positive Facebook groups, and you’re guaranteed to find a discounted, freshly boiled anal plug for sale.
And while there’s nothing quite so magical as coming home to a warm pot of cock rings on the stove, it’s worth noting that no used sex toy is ever completely free of risk.
Memorize that fact. Somehow over the past decade, it’s been forgotten.
If you haven’t seen used sex toys for sale, well then bless your pure heart. The rest of us sinners have been subject to all kinds of questionable advertising, including r/usedsextoys, an online marketplace for used toys. The page brands itself as a service for people who don’t want to waste their used sex toys or just kinda have a kink for it.
“Why just throw away your toys when you can make a bit of money?” the homepage reads. Some ads appeal to the more socially conscious consumer. The kind of responsible person who adopts their dog from the shelter — just substitute sex toys for dogs and social platforms for shelters.
“All these goodies are for sale! Tried ’em each a time or two. Rather give them a new home than sit unused,” one ad recently implored.
r/SexToys is more circumspect. Only nonporous toys are available for purchase, and advertisers must explain how the toy was previously used (which still relies on something of a trust system).
For all its public health reforms, Craigslist still remains one of the best places to buy used sex toys online. Take, for example, this delightful piece of booty bling available for purchase from a random street in Brooklyn:
Used sex toys may not exactly be having a “comeback,” but one thing is clear: The stigma against them has diminished.
Understandably so. Today’s millennials don’t live in the shadow of the AIDS epidemic. Plenty of STIs are curable. Sex toys can be wildly expensive. Boiling a sex toy can work wonders, just not magic.
Lisa Finn is a sex educator and brand manager for Babeland, a feminist sex toy boutique with locations on both coasts. While Finn understands why some folks prefer to buy used sex toys online, she cautions that purchasing one isn’t without risk:
Even the most conspicuous consumer might be caught off guard
“There are materials like stainless steel and factory-grade silicone that can very easily be disinfected. Some toys that don’t have any motors or divets or openings can be completely disinfected, like platinum-grade silicone. But,” Finn argues, “you can’t guarantee that those products are made out of those materials. Or if that silicone has been degraded.”
Even the most conspicuous consumer might be caught off guard. “The only real guarantee is if you know exactly what the material is and how its been cared for,” Finn says. “Buying things that are boxed doesn’t make a difference. You don’t know if someone opened that box and went to Staples [to repackage it]. People are able to resell something that’s been used and been contaminated.”
Next to saving for your retirement, buying a new sex toy is a solid investment. And if you can spare the cash, it’s worth purchasing it from a quality manufacturer who uses materials that won’t singe your genitals. Freshness does make a difference, whether you’re talking about broccoli or anal beads.
To be clear, not everyone who’s buying a used sex toy online is doing it for the great discounts, and they’re not all indifferent to the health risks. Some are just genuinely concerned about sustainability.
There are no known recyclable cock rings. I have yet to see a paper mache butt plug. Day after day I look for compostable vibrators, and yet. And yet.
Finn admits that sex toys typically aren’t made of recyclable materials. There’s not much you can make out of a silicone dildo besides another … silicone dildo. Some e-waste facilities exist, but by and large, sex toy recycling technology lags far behind.
Far better, then, to think of sex toys as a long-term investment, not a disposable good. Relieve your recycling anxiety. Just as we put time and attention into purchasing a new home, we should put care into picking out our next big vibrator. We don’t need “fast fashion” in the same way we don’t need “fast f*ck toys.”
For those who don’t have the money to make a substantial investment in double dildos, Finn suggests looking into retailers who offer quality generic lines. (There’s also a charity that provides free sex toys, as part of their mission to close the orgasm gap.)
“Our cheapest vibrator is $12, and we’re using materials that are body safe … These are simple functional sex toys for someone who wants the experience to try out a sex toy but doesn’t have the money.”
If you’re a sex toy consumer interested in discounts and/or your personal safety, you don’t need to turn to the secondhand market. Hope springs eternal in generic sex toy lines and long-lasting toys.
Purchase wisely and always remember to boil.