Smitten Kitten is a Twin Cities-based award-winning feminist sex shop and educational resource. In 2005, Smitten Kitten launched the first-ever community advocacy organization and adult industry education organization, the Coalition Against Toxic Toys. In conjunction with this year's Earth Day, Smitten Kitten's owner, Jennifer Pritchett, released the following public service announcement about the work Smitten Kitten has done to abolish toxic sex toys from she first discovered them in conjunction with the opening of her shop back in 2003:
Pritchett's announcement is a good reminder about the importance of selecting sex toys carefully (stay away from porous soft plastic materials such as vinyl and jelly and choose hard materials such as hard plastic, glass, ceramic, and silicon).
Smitten Kitten released the following Coalition Against Toxic Toys shopping guide in 2008:
SMART SHOPPERS TOOL KIT:
Use the following tools and tips to make smart, informed decisions despite ill-informed store clerks, unreliable product packaging and overwhelming options. These tips are meant as guides to help you make your own decisions!
1. Implement The Smell Test. Your sense of smell is your most reliable tool for identifying a potentially dangerous sex toy. If you smell any chemical odors or perfumes you can assume that these odors are a direct result of a process known as off-gassing in which myriad, unknown chemical compounds are migrating out of the material (usually PVC or Polystyrene) and contaminating the air you breathe. There is concern that these “mystery” chemicals will also migrate onto your skin and into your body during the course of use. Safe 100% medical grade silicone toys do not smell because there are no chemicals present to off-gas.
2. Be Wary Of Claims That Condoms Will Protect You From Toxic Toys. If your sales person or product literature suggests that you always use a condom over your sex toy, beware that this toy is potentially toxic. Safe sex toys made from 100% medical-grade silicone, high-quality glass, surgical steel, polished stone, or hard plastics including acrylic do not require the use of a condom because they can be thoroughly sanitized to prevent the exchange of microscopic organisms including bacteria, fungi and viruses that might cause infection. Remember that to prevent the transmission of infection, you must sanitize your toy before sharing it.
3. Never Take Claims Made On Sex Toy Packaging At Face Value. There is absolutely no requirement that the product packaging for sex toys or the literature contained therein be truthful in any way. Just because particular packaging might say a toy is made of silicone does not mean it actually is! Sex toy manufacturers have gotten savvy (you might say tricky). They try to lure consumers to purchase products by falsely labeling them as safe. These toys are clearly labeled as silicone but contain only trace amounts of silicone and are instead riddled with much less savory ingredients!
Also, consider quality claims like “hygienically superior” to be baseless until convinced otherwise by your own good research or common sense. Be on the lookout for confusingly similar spellings of materials that you know are safe. For instance, never confuse silicon with silicone. The long and short story is: don’t trust the packaging without supporting evidence.
Having said that, keep in mind that all reputable silicone toy manufacturers do clearly label their products as such. While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, some responsible and safe silicone toy makers include: Tantus Silicone, Vixen Creations, Jollies and Fun Factory.
4. Be suspicious of space-age, overtly sexual or technical sounding terms for sex toy materials. One way to spot these faux “materials” is to look for the Registered Trademark symbol ( ® ) following the “material” in question. If the term in question is trademarked, this means that it is a trade name and has been registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office. If you see the (TM ) symbol this may mean that the user claims some exclusive rights to use of the mark or word. Remember, no actual names of materials will ever be properly trademarked.
Know that these trademarked terms do not necessarily connote any specific chemical composition. They are instead marketing terms used by companies to differentiate and sell a particular product without making any specific claims or mention of the actual materials used in the production of the item in question.
This means that all of those directions about caring for “cyber____” or “real____” are suspect at best because these words are nothing more than a product marketing executive’s smooth attempt to seduce you into buying their product because it sounds sexier or more technical than their competitor’s.
For example, there is no reliable way to know what a toy that is labelled “cyber____” is actually made of without full disclosure from the manufacturer and/or an independent chemical analysis by a qualified laboratory. Always wonder why a toy is labeled with a fancy name without also disclosing the ingredients!
To determine if a toy is safe you must first determine the actual composition of the toy. Toys made from non-toxic and non-porous materials such as 100% medical grade silicone, polished stone, surgical steel, high quality solid glass and hard plastics including acrylic are safe. You will notice that a ® or a TM symbol are not present following actual ingredients (as opposed to those made-up marketing terms) because you cannot claim intellectual property rights on such words.
This document is provided for consumer education, and other educational purposes. © 2008 Coalition Against Toxic Toys. All Rights Reserved. For more information: 3010 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408. Phone:612.721.6088. www.smittenkittenonline.com.