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Make sure your sex toy is safe

What is the best way to sanitize a latex dildo? At least I think it's a latex dildo. I actually don't know. I had a yeast infection a few months ago, and before I knew what was up, I used my toy. Now I'm afraid to touch it until I know it won't reinfect me!

Inserting This Chances Harm

"It sounds like ITCH isn't 100 percent sure what their dildo is made of," said Hannah Jorden, senior staff sex educator at Smitten Kitten (, a progressive sex toy and gear shop based in Minneapolis. Don't feel bad, ITCH: Most people don't know what their sex toys are made of.

"Sex toys aren't regulated like food when it comes to packaging," Jorden said. "There's no list of ingredients on the back. It could be latex, some other porous rubbery substance, or even a nasty, rash-inducing, endocrine-disrupting, cancer-causing mixture of PVC and phthalates."

For someone who works in a sex toy shop, Jorden sure makes sex toys sound scary — and phthalates, a chemical compound found in everything from cosmetics to shower curtains to sex toys to food packaging, are pretty fucking scary. Phthalates block male hormones, harm fetal genital development, interfere with adult brain function, and may put people at greater risk of breast cancer and testicular cancer. But the good news is that you don't have to settle for shitty, dangerous, potentially toxic sex toys.

"The trick," said Jorden, "is to buy only nonporous, nontoxic toys from trustworthy manufacturers and retailers."

So maybe your best course of action, ITCH, would be to toss that old dildo and buy yourself a new one. So what should you look for when you go dildo shopping?

"The best option is medical grade, platinum-cured silicone," said Jorden. "Silicone dildos are popular because they come in lots of different textures and firmnesses, and you can quickly sterilize them by putting them in boiling water for a few minutes or running them through a hot dishwasher cycle. As long as they're sterilized between uses, silicone dildos can be safely shared with different partners, and they can be used in different orifices without risk of bacterial contamination."

Those platinum-cured silicone toys are going to be pricier, of course, but aren't our orifices worth it? And our breasts and balls? And our children and their genitals? But if you can't afford silicone, or if you have a sentimental attachment to older sex toys, you can put condoms over them and continue to use them.

"It's not a foolproof approach," Jorden warned, "and it supports companies that make low-quality toys. A silicone toy will last a lifetime, and when you buy one, you're investing in a company that cares about quality and your sexual and reproductive health. Progressive sex shops, like those that are members of the Progressive Pleasure Club (, can help ITCH figure out which toys are safe and which should be avoided."

Jorden recommended a few trustworthy brands: Toys from Fun Factory, Tantus and Vixen Creations are safe, nontoxic and phthalate-free. And here's a nonporous, nontoxic, non-silicone option for you, ITCH: the stainless steel toys made by NJoy ( They're pricey, it's true, but they are as indestructible as they are beautiful.

I am a 25-year-old woman and just started dating a great new guy. My problem is that I am concerned he might be gay. I tend to be more conservative, and although I have slept over, I banned anything below the belt. He "petted" me over the underwear, and then I did the same to him. I also went under his underwear and rubbed my hand around his penis without actually touching it. When I have done this to other guys, they tended to go crazy — writhing, panting and begging. But this elicited no reaction from him, though he was already hard. Am I reading too much into this? I know everyone is different, but something about this threw me off. I would like to think that this is the 21st century, and if he were gay, he would just be gay, but I know that's not always true. Is there any way I can figure this out?

Guessing About Yearnings

How on earth do you stick your hand in a guy's underpants — how do you go under a guy's underwear — without actually touching the guy's cock? Anyway, your new boyfriend did have a physical reaction when you were fooling around: His dick got hard. He didn't have the same over-the-top reaction to your bizarre moves that other guys had in the past, GAY, but getting an erection when a girl sticks her hand in your underpants is a pretty good indication that a guy isn't gay. It's also possible that he wanted to pant, writhe and beg, but he restrained himself because you had banned "anything below the belt" and your great new boyfriend didn't want you to feel pressured to go further than you were comfortable with.

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