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Cory Silverberg

Canadian Minister Calls for Regulation of Adult Sex Toys

By December 18, 2009

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Yesterday Dr. Carolyn Bennett a Canadian Liberal Minister of Parliament sent a letter to the Conservative Federal Minister of Health, Leona Aglukkaq, asking the health minister to look into developing regulations for the adult toy industry in Canada.

Bennett, who has a long history of advocating for women's health issues and generally talking about public health issues most politicians wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, was inspired to write the letter after visiting Red Tent Sisters, a sex shop in her riding.

The letter (which you can download here) calls out phthalates and BPA in particular, pointing to what little research has been done on sex toys, and suggesting that there is an "urgent need for responsible regulation in the adult toy industry." The minister wants products to be safety tested before they can be sold, and the chemical composition of all sex toys to be made publicly available.

I think it's great that these entrepreneurs sought out a politician willing to speak out on a subject that intersects sexual health and pleasure and that she followed through in this public way. Most good sex shops already offer a wide range of products that are phthalate and BPA-free. But better quality sex toys are always a good thing.

At the same time, as someone who cares about the sexual rights, health, and freedom of all people, and not just middle-class women, I have to admit to having an uneasy feeling about this letter and the assertion that sex toys pose a significant risk to public health.

To the extent that the trend to "eco sex toys" is producing thoughtful public discussion and encouraging everyone who wants to buy sex toy to educate themselves, I think it's great. But if you read what's written on this topic much of it lacks any critical analysis. Sex toys were once emancipatory tools of empowerment and I fear they're becoming luxury accessories with little more meaning than deodorant or mouthwash.

I wish it didn't have to be an either-or situation, but the fact is that the public, the media, and certainly the government don't have a history of managing more than one public discussion about sexual health and pleasure at a time. The minister is absolutely right when she writes that the government shouldn't "shy away from legislation that protects us" because the topic of sex may make us uncomfortable.

But given the disparities in access to sexual health and experience of sexual pleasure among Canadians, I just can't help but feel like this is a much easier topic to deal with than the known threats to public sexual health, which are routinely ignored, by most politicians and citizens every day.

Read more - Globe and Mail: 'Urgent need' to regulate sex toys, MP says

Comments
December 20, 2009 at 8:40 pm
(1) Robert says:

She is not a current government minister, she sits in the Opposition. The title of this article suggests otherwise, which is incorrect.

Thankfully, the Conservative government is highly unlikely to ever take this up as an issue.

December 21, 2009 at 9:07 am
(2) Cory says:

Thanks Robert. I changed the text but not the headline, she is still an elected minister. But my first sentence made it sound like she was in the government and not the opposition. I sit mildly ashamed, since I live only a few kilometers from her riding. the hazards of blogging when you’re tired.

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