Sex Toys to Avoid: For Novelty Use Only

Americans are used to having all of their products regulated. Food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, cars, children’s toys, etc. Everything is tested and tested again and if there ends up being a problem there is a recall. The items that may effect people in negative ways usually come with warnings “do not operate heavy machinery,” “may cause cancer,” “keep out of reach of children.”

Have you ever looked at what it says on the vast majority of sex toy boxes? “For novelty use only.” The sex toy industry is mostly unregulated. Most companies do not test for quality. In fact many put dangerous ingredients/materials into their products. I don’t know these people so I can’t say whether they’re doing this on purpose or if they really don’t know any better. But if these products were regulated they’d be forced to know better because the consumer would have better protections.

For novelty use only means that if you sue the company for any adverse reactions you got from a toy it likely won’t hold up in a court of law because the toys are not meant for sexual or medical purposes. They are novelties that are not meant to see your genitals ever.

Why are these products unregulated? I’d have to say it has a lot to do with the puritanical idea that no one should enjoy pleasure for pleasure’s sake and this is exactly what sex toys provide for people.

This is why it is so important for us as consumers to do our research before we buy. So over the next few weeks I will be educating you all about what products to avoid and what alternatives are available. I will be covering anal desensitizers, phthalates, vaginal shrinking creams, lubricants, and toys that off-gas. If you have sex products you’d like us to weigh in on, let us know in the comments section below!

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About Garnet Joyce

Garnet Joyce

Queer sex educator starting a new adventure with her wife and two cats.

  • Kaitlyn

    Thank you so much for this! I am a Passion Parties consultant and am sometimes shocked by the things that come out of guests mouth with regards to the toys they have (cleaning with LYSOL!) and the things they’ve heard about toys. I am truly looking forward to this series and all of the useful, educational tips I will gain from it!

  • Michelle Hartz

    I have a safety sex toy question that I’ve been wondering about for a long time. A salesperson said that if you use a vibrating bullet for insertion, that you should use a rubber cover made for a bullet, because the toy could come apart and the rotating thing that makes it vibrate could cut you. It seems like a slim chance to me, and I’ve always wondered if she was just trying to make an additional sale.

  • Charlie

    There’s another element to this. I’m told (although have not confirmed) that sex toys could fall under the regulatory mechanisms for medical devices because they are inserted into the body. Or at least some of them are. While that’s obviously ridiculous since it’s not like you could insert a zucchini into your blood stream, it’s a possibility. The FDA regulations don’t have room for sex toys and it’d take a lot to change them so that toys could be treated in a realistic way and not as medical devices.

  • Garnet Joyce

    In order to be regulated as a medical device, a toy needs to fill a lot of requirements and most sex toy companies aren’t willing to go to those lengths. So no, most toys do not fall under medical device regulations. They fall under novelty device regulations which require nothing as far as safety of insertion.

    Yes, a lot of changes would need to be made, but I think they are important changes since there are many dangerous products out there. Just like everything else that is regulated, it’s necessary to protect the consumer.

  • Garnet Joyce

    It really depends on the type of bullet. The ones that are attached to a cord should be covered with a condom before insertion because it is a bad idea to pull it out by it’s cord. Just like with any electrical device, you do not want to pull anything by a cord because the coating could separate from the wire or you could pull the cord out.

    If it is a cordless bullet you could use it for insertion, but I wouldn’t put it all the way inside. Because of the size of most bullets this will limit how far you can reach with the vibrator.

    You’ll also want to watch out for any seams in the toy that might be sharp. You want to keep all sharp objects away from sensitive tissues.

    And you should never ever use a bullet inside a butt. It could get lost up there.

    Hope that helps!

  • Garnet Joyce

    Awesome! I’m always happy to help. I’ve been in the sex toy industry for almost 3 years and am an aficionado myself.

  • Eliza

    Cosmetics are BARELY regulated in the United States. We ban maybe 200 substances compared to 2000 in the UK. has really opened my eyes to all the mutagenic compounds nobody thinks twice of. That being said, thanks for this post. I always check the labels on lubricant and switched from petroleum-based KY to paraben and gylcerin free Astroglide, and wish I could justify the expense of one of the nicer organic brands like Sliquid. Please post reviews if you have the intimate knowledge, so to speak…

  • Mens Sex Toys

    I’m in this industry, and I have mixed feelings on the subject. On the one hand I agree, there should be some regulation to ensure that harmful/dangerous products don’t make it to market. Especially when it comes to lubricants and products that can be absorbed by the body.

    On the other hand, many of us are severely over-sensitive to media hype and scare mongering about the slightest thing. You just need to see an advert for a cleaning product like “Dettol” to know how insane this has become. Do we really need a cleaning product that kills 90% of bacteria? Is that bacteria actually as harmful as they pretend? And if so, how has the Human race managed to survive for so long without their product?
    In this case, I fear the use of such a product is actually doing more harm than good. Especially for children. They need exposure to these bacteria to build up an adequate immunity.

    When it comes to novelty products that “off-gas”, unless you’re holding it to your nose for ten hours a day for a decade, I can’t see how this is any different to the millions of other objects in your home. These novelties are made of the same materials you’ll find in everyday use, they’re not exotic and alien to us, they’re just used in a very different way.

    And if we’re so concerned about a product that goes on your manhood or in your “lady garden” (too good an opportunity to use that hilarious term!) for a few minutes a week (depending on your appetite of course) why are we not equally scared about the pollution we’re all breathing in every day, the flouride added to a water supply, the electromagnetic fields emitted by various household appliances?

    These are things we deal with every day, for prolonged periods. There’s no escaping the damage that they have been PROVEN to do.

    As a retailer of such products, I consider a product based on its ability to perform a function. If I have more than a 2% fault/complaint rate for any product over a six month period I remove it from sale permanently.

    As for “protecting the consumer”, I fear we have all become far too soft. Why do we expect big government to do everything for us? And, like I said, why is there such hypocrisy in this argument? If we need a government body to tell us what we should use as sexual devices, why are we not also demanding that something be done about the diseased factory farming system, the continued use of fossil fuels instead of developed modern clean energy, the prevalence of drugs that are not necessary and are regularly found to cause *insert worse side effect here*?

    So, my opinion? By all means weigh in on the products that could potentially harm a person such as creams and lotions that “pretend” to do one thing or another. But concentrate on the issues of whether a product is fit for its intended function rather than whether it’s dangerous.
    Everything is dangerous if used incorrectly. Anything can be good or bad for you depending on the circumstances.

    By focussing on whether a toy is emitting harmful gas (like every other material in your home?) we’re missing an opportunity to focus on whether products are mechanically safe and actually do as they are supposed to do.

    And, before I end, has anyone considered if they would actually like a puritan, right-wing government taking control of such an industry? With lobbying the way it is in the USA, how long would it be before a religious group hijacked the subject and seriously restricted your rights to enjoy any product you liked based on their moral “superiority” rather than on the intended criteria?

  • Mens Sex Toys

    I would suggest that this person was both a scare-monger and a hypocrite. If they were that concerned about a product they were selling, why are they selling it?
    There is a “possibility” that it could happen. Just as there is a possibility that a green dwarf will burst into my home and sing Oklahoma while riding a unicycle around my living room. Is it likely? NO. Is it possible? Yes.

    Personally, I would stay away from that company from now on. And I would have written back suggesting that if they think there is a chance of that happening, enough to “warn you” about it, they should not be selling that product and they should be reported for doing so.

    That’s something we have to consider here; while we’re discussing the lack of regulation, all of these products are still covered under standard sales regulations. If a product harms you, you have the same protections and legal rights to take action against that manufacturer. It may be a novelty, but even novelties have to be sold under existing sales and product guidelines.