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Sex Toys and Safer Sex

How to Practice Safer Sex with Sex Toys

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We you hear the term safer sex what comes to mind? Is it sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), condoms, and uncomfortable conversations with potential sex partners? In fact, using sex toys is a pretty low risk sexual behavior, but your risk of getting an STD while using sex toys can go up or down depending on how you use them, and if you follow some simple safer sex tips when using sex toys. One of the great things about sex toys is that you never have to ask if they mind using a condom. They pretty much do what they’re told (that is until robotic sex toys take over the world).

Of course, safer sex isn’t just about protecting yourself from STDs, and you can think about safer sex with sex toys in at least three ways.

Sex Toys and STDs

The risk is considered to be low, but the fact is that anything that goes into a person's rectum and/or vagina could transmit HIV or other STDs, and this includes sex toys. Several research studies have found a relationship between using sex toys and acquiring STDs, but few have looked specifically about how to use sex toys safely. Those that have are primarily studies of women who have sex with women. STDs, including HIV, can be transmitted via sex toys (although all of these studies included very few people). Researchers presume this transmission may happen via mucous or via blood which might be present on a sex toy. There are a few simple ways to prevent transmission of STDs when using sex toys:
  • Don’t share your sex toys.
  • If you share a sex toy, use a fresh condom on it each time for each partner.
  • If you have a silicone sex toy, boil it in water between uses (you still can’t share the toy without boiling it between sharing).
If you currently have an STD you should use condoms on your toy even if you don’t share it, as it’s possible that you could re-infect yourself.

Sex Toys and Other Safer Sex Concerns

There are a few other common ways that using sex toys can lead to unintended sometimes painful consequences. Thankfully there are easy preventions for all these problems:
  • Always use a fresh condom when moving a sex toy from the anus to the vagina, as bacteria that are welcome in the anus can cause serious problems in the vagina.
  • Use latex or non-latex gloves for anal sex play to reduce the risk of carrying bacteria from the anus into a bottle of lubricant, your mouth, your eyes, or, again, your partner’s vagina.
  • If you are prone to yeast infections, it’s suggested that you avoid lubricants with glycerin and you should probably avoid warming and flavored lubes.
  • Some people can get rashes or allergic reactions to sex toys. Know about your sex toy material to reduce your risk.
  • Finally, environmental organizations have raised concerns about exposure to phthalates in sex toys. There isn’t any direct evidence linking phthalates in sex toys to health problems, but what’s important is that you educate yourself so you are informed about the potential risks.

Sex Toys and Emotionally Safer Sex

An often overlooked aspect to safer sex is the idea of sex being emotionally safe. By this I mean that you should never have sex unless you’re willing. If your partner is interested in using sex toys and you don’t feel comfortable or safe, let them know. There may be ways for you to get comfortable with the idea of using sex toys (the best one is to try it out on your own first) but the bottom line is that you shouldn’t use sex toys because your partner insists or because you think they are required for a stellar sex life. Sex toys can be great, but they are by no means necessary for everyone.

Sources:

  1. Kwakwa, H.A. & Ghobrial, M.W. “Female-to-Female Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Clinical Infectious Diseases. Vol. 36, No. 3 (2003): 40-41.
  2. Marrazzo, J.M., Coffey, P., Bingham, A., et. al. “Sexual Practices, Risk Perception and Knowledge Of Sexually Transmitted Disease Risk Among Lesbian and Bisexual Women.” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. Vol. 37, Iss. 1 (2005): 6-7.
  3. Marrazzo, J.M., Stine, K. & Koutsky, L.A. “Genital Human Papillomavirus Infection in Women who Have Sex with Women: A Review.” American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Vol. 183, No. 3 (2000):770-774.
  4. Pinto, V.M., Tancredi, M.V., Neto, A.T., Buchalla, C.M. “Sexually Transmitted Disease/HIV Risk Behaviour Among Women Who Have Sex with Women.” AIDS. Vol. 19, suppl. 4 (2005): S64-S69.
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