A sex toy is an object or device that is primarily used to facilitate human sexual pleasure, such as a dildo or vibrator. Many popular sex toys are designed to resemble human genitals and may be vibrating or non-vibrating. The term sex toy can also include BDSM apparatus and sex furniture such as slings; however, it is not applied to items such as birth control, pornography, or condoms. Alternative expressions include adult toy and the dated euphemism marital aid, although "marital aid" has a broader sense and is applied to drugs and herbs marketed to supposedly enhance or prolong sex. Sex toys are most commonly sold at a sex shop, but they may also be sold in a pornographic DVD store or head shop. Today's sex toys are available in almost all countries for male and females.
Another form of sex toy for both men and women are those for erotic electrostimulation.
Erotic electrostimulation refers to the act of using electricity for sexual stimulation. Electrostimulation dates back as early as the mid 1700s. By the mid 1970s, medical transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machines were widely available. The machines work by stimulating nerve endings with electricity, sending signals of stimulation to the brain. Electrostimulation works off this same principle, when the brain received a signal of stimulation from the genitals, pleasure hormones are released.
Erotic furniture is furniture specially shaped for comfort, penetration levels, and stimulation.
General penetrative toys
Glass sex toys
Glass sex toys are commonly made from clear medical grade borosilicate glass ("hard glass"). This particular type of safety toughened glass is non-toxic and will withstand extreme temperatures, as well as physical shock without compromising its structural integrity.
The choice of this high-grade material provides safety in use and the option to heat or chill the toys. Borosilicate glass is also non-porous and can be sterilized to help prevent infection with reuse. The highest quality glass toys can even be put in the dishwasher making them easier to keep clean. As well as their practical qualities, a main selling point of glass sex toys is their visual appeal.
Some glass sex toys vibrate. There are two main ways this can be achieved. Either the toy may have a hole into which a small bullet vibrator can be inserted, or the core of the glass design can be modified to form a standard vibrator. The latter option usually has a plastic cap covering the battery compartment, which will also house any control buttons or switches.
Vibrators are vibrating devices intended to stimulate the body. Vibrators come in a range of shapes and sizes, for internal or external use. Some vibrators intended for internal use are phallic in shape. Small vibrators may have a stretchy loop attachment for use as a finger toy or cock ring. Penetrative vibrators usually measure twelve to eighteen cm (five to seven inches) in length and two to five cm (one to two inches) wide often to mimic the size of the average human penis.
Health and safety concerns
No safety regulations exist in the sex toy industry. The sex toys are sold as novelty items so they do not need to adhere to certain regulations such as reporting the chemicals and materials used in a product. Due to this status, manufacturers are not responsible if their toys are used for any other purpose than being a novelty. Regulations such as REACH do exist, and some sex toys may be compliant to this though, despite that there is no obligation for manufacturers on attaining compliance. A recent (2006) study conducted by the Greenpeace Netherlands office found high level of phthalates in seven out of eight plastic sex toys tested.
A sign that a toy contains Phthalates may include sweating. If you wash a toy and dry it and it appears to be sweating and has an odor that may cause headache, there is a high chance that contains Phthalates. The reason why sex toys are classified as novelties is because sex toy manufacturers find the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to have extensive testing and financial requirements for sex toys to be classified as medical devices. Therefore, sex toy manufacturers more often choose the less complex production by labelling them a novelty, where their listed ingredients do not have to be accurate in chemical composition or percentage of ingredients. Due to the novelty classification, sex toys are permitted to contain known toxins in them such as phthalates, which have been banned in children’s toys by the CPSC. Phthalates are chemical plasticizers that are added as softeners, to create the malleable and soft effect that many look for in sex toys.
Studies on rodents have revealed that when exposed to very large doses, phthalates can cause damage to the liver, lungs, kidneys, testes and can cause hormonal disruption. The latest research indicates that exposure to these substances can upset the body's ability to regulate hormone production, damage reproduction, can cause liver and kidney defects, and can cause cancer. The most common and external side-effects are rashes, itchiness and irritation to the locations of use.
When choosing a sex toy, one should check the ingredients. If it says it contains PVC, vinyl and/or jelly rubber, it is not safe for usage. Other ways to know that one is not safe is if it is also flexible, soft and squishy, has oily sweat-like beads that discharge (this is chemical degradation) and/or if it has a rubber or chemical like odor.
Before using a sex toy, owners should take precautions. One should check for tears, rough seams or cracks that could harm the inside of the vagina or anus. Condoms should also be used on porous sex toys and sex toys that are being shared between two or more partners. They should also use appropriate lubricants; silicone lube will break down silicone toys, and oil-based lubes will break down latex condoms.
Cleaning sex toys is also very important for sexual health and sex toy safety. Cleaning them will avoid the potential of bacterial infection, transmission of STIs (if shared), or pregnancy (if sperm is present on the toy). Porous sex toys (ridged, flexible, soft and squishy) are difficult to clean and can hide bacterial that multiply and harm the human body. Non-porous toys are easier to clean, being less harmful. When cleaning sex toys, always use warm water and unscented anti-bacterial soap.
Anal toys (butt plugs, small dildos, etc.)
Sex toys are illegal in India. Selling sex toys is a punishable offense under section 292 of Indian penal code, as sex toys are considered an "obscene" product. Besides sex toys, any book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation, figure or any other object, is by the way also considered obscene by section 292 if it is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest. The punishment for the offense is up to two years in prison.
In Japan, many dildos are created to resemble animals or cartoon characters, such as Hello Kitty, rabbits or dolphins, so that they may be sold as toys, thus avoiding obscenity laws.
In Malaysia, the sale and importation of sex toys is illegal.
Section 18A of the Sexual Offences Act, 1957, inserted by the Immorality Amendment Act, 1969, prohibited the manufacture or sale of any item "intended to be used to perform an unnatural sexual act". The term "unnatural sexual act" referred to any sex other than vaginal heterosexual sex, and this prohibition was ostensibly aimed at preventing the use of dildos by lesbians. No longer enforced, the section was repealed by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007.
Sex toys and lubricants have become increasingly available in major commercial outlets in the United States. On-shelf displays tend to be more discreet than the offerings on web sites. These items tend to be displayed in the "sexual health" sections of stores.
Until recently, many Southern and some Great Plains states banned the sale of sex toys completely, either directly or through laws regulating "obscene devices." In 1999, William H. Pryor, Jr., an assistant attorney general in Alabama commenting on a case involving sex toys and discussing to what end the devices are used, was quoted as saying there is no "fundamental right for a person to buy a device to produce orgasm". A federal appeals court upheld Alabama's law prohibiting the sale of sex toys on Valentine's Day, 2007.
In February 2008, a federal appeals court overturned a Texas statute banning the sales of sex toys, deeming such a statute as violating the Constitution's 14th Amendment on the right to privacy. The appeals court cited Lawrence v. Texas, where the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 struck down bans on consensual sex between gay couples, as unconstitutionally aiming at "enforcing a public moral code by restricting private intimate conduct." Similar statutes have been struck down in Kansas and Colorado.
Marty Klein, author of America's War on Sex and an advocate for the moral value of sex toys, has written of sex toy bans that this "extraordinary erosion of personal liberty, coupled with the massive disrespect of and fear of sexuality is no joke" and that the "Supreme Court [of the United States] has declared our orgasms a battlefield, and sex toys another casualty."
As of 2008, it was valued at US$15 billion worldwide, with a growth rate of 30%. 70% of sex toys are manufactured in China. Sex toys are sold in various types of local and online sex shops, at conventions associated with the adult industry, and at parties. However, some items, such as "hand held massagers", are sold in mainstream retail outlets such as drugstores.