Do It Tonight! Throw Away Your Novelty Toys

sex_toy_storephoto by Foxtongue

You might think “novelty” means “nice, fun sex toys,” but you’d be wrong. It’s actually a legal term for products not intended for serious use. And thanks to A) bullshitty obscenity laws still on the books in some states (we’re talking to you, Alabama), B) no government regulation overseeing the safety and package labeling of sex toys, and C) manufacturers who focus on quantity over quality (i.e., male customers over female customers), many toys in your average adult store are marked “for novelty purposes only” (read: “Don’t use this anywhere near your genitals!”). These cheap, crappy, gimmicky toys are about as likely to get you off as an episode of Larry King Live. They’re often made in China, most likely under dubious labor conditions. And they don’t come with instruction manuals or ingredients listings (which more often than not would include “phthalates,” a potentially carcinogenic material in soft plastics and jelly rubber); if they did come with use, care, and content info, they’d be considered medical devices and would be subject to expensive safety regulations. “Screw that,” say the big-biz manufacturers. “We’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing for the past thirty years, thank you very much.” Good for them, bad for you. So if you’ve got a toy that has rough seams, smells of stinky soft rubber, gives you a rash, feels uncomfortable, is a cheap knock-off of a popular toy, didn’t come with instructions, and/or came in a box with a cheesy naked lady on it, probably best to break up with it.

For more info, please check out our book, “SEX TOY: An A-Z Guide to Bedside Accessories.”


  1. As with many products, it’s not always the case that the more you spend, the better they are. However, sticking to well known quality brands such as Lelo, you know what you are getting every time.

  2. As a online dealer, I understand what you are saying about alot of crap out there.
    If you look up my online store you will see we don’t have junk, and are very happy to here feed back on our assorted toys, lubes and Vod.
    As for the lady’s out there who are afraid the someone will see your package it is wrapped in discreet paper back. Google website name as it shows. Humansoftware sex novelties. Click on it and it will take you to links.

  3. And Elizabeth: you could check out a store called Fascinations in Portland — it’s a big chain store and they do sell a lot of crap, but they also carry products by Fun Factory, Tantus, Vixen Creations, and Lelo. They don’t carry Vibratex (the company that makes the original Rabbit), so if you’re getting a Rabbit knockoff make sure it isn’t made from cheap jelly rubber. When in doubt, go for non-porous, phthalate free materials.

  4. Hi Lauren, we didn’t mean to imply that the entire sex toy industry is guilty of pushing crappy toys. Just read some of our stuff and you’ll know we’re huge fans of all the great companies that make high quality toys out of body-safe materials that are easy to clean and care for (Fun Factory, Vixen Creations, Tantus, Vibratex, Lelo, JimmyJane, to name just a few). And they don’t all have to cost an entire paycheck or look like abstract art. Somethings can be affordable novelty-ish items — like Vibratex’s little Water Dancer. We’re just saying there’s a lot of stuff out there that’s sold as if it should be put up your cooch when it probably shouldn’t. If a toy falls under one or more of the categories we mention above (at the end of the post), then buyer beware. We’ve been writing about sex toys for years and we even published an entire book on them! (“SEX TOY: An A-Z Guide to Bedside Accessories”) so if we’re quoting anyone, it’s ourselves — we’re so passionate about this topic that we do tend to repeat ourselves. 🙂

    And to Bi Babe: You should contact the makers of the Feeldoe directly and see what they say. In the interim, put a condom on each end. You could also try VixenCreations.com’s double-ended toy, the Nexus.

  5. I’m curious, who are you quoting in this article? Are you citing any sources? I don’t doubt that there are novelty sex toys that contain phthalates (there’s tons of research on it) I’m just more curious as to why you seem to hellbent on badmouthing the entire industry. I mean, just because one company may do it, doesn’t mean they all do it (thus the comments above).

  6. Question:

    Has anyone else bought a Feeldoe and found the seams to be rough? I spend a good size chunk of change on this toy, and if used for a long period it rubs my girl and I the wrong way, if you know what I mean. Is there anything I can do about it? It’s an otherwise lovely thing and I hate to chuck it.

  7. Elizabeth: Yes there are. Babeland GoodVibes have a few different real-life stores, and there are plenty of other responsible, clean, well-lighted sex toy boutiques across the country. Where do you live?

  8. As a resident of the state of Alabama, I would like to say damnit Alabama! I am under the impression you can buy sex toys if you sign a form saying it is for medical purposes.

  9. Wow you two, lovely broadside! I was shocked when I found out (from Babeland and eco-journalism site Grist no less) that the term “novelty” wasn’t just a way to dodge blue laws but also to dodge responsibility and, worse, *liability!* But yeah, evidently if you get injured or sick they can evidently just tell a judge “our “gag gift” product wasn’t intended to be *used*” and they’re off the hook. Yikes!


  10. are there any non-novelty toys that are actually IN stores? I can’t have sex toys sent to me in the mail….

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