Bringing sex toys into your relationship can be a way to invigorate a stale routine or max out an exciting one. Even a simple visit to an adult toy store or lingerie shop with your spouse can make a couple see what they’ve been missing or discover things that they never, ever want to try. It can be a time to break through walls and discuss secret fantasies or broach requests that may otherwise fester secretly into resentment and resignation.
However, there are some things to keep in mind when using sex toys and things you both should know from a medical standpoint before you start bringing home anything exclusive to the bedside drawer.
Make sure you are not allergic to anything.
A latex allergy is common and if you or your partner has a latex allergy, then you have to be very careful with any sex toys. Even sex toys that claim to be latex free may have been exposed to latex at some point in the manufacturing process. You are fairly safe using silicone toys, but read the labels and make sure the toy doesn’t have any scented dyes, which may be latex-based. If you find yourself having an allergic reaction to a sex toy, stop immediately and seek medical attention.
Watch out for phthalates.
Phthalates are chemicals that are sometimes used in the production of sex toys to soften them, but they can damage the liver and kidneys. Because many places sell sex toys as "novelties," depending upon the laws in the state you live in, they are often unregulated for health reasons, and unscrupulous or unaware merchants may carry items that contain these toxins. Ordering online from reputable shops could be a good way to get around this if you live in an area where you think this may be a problem.
Watch out for rough places and points.
You should always be careful of anything put inside you. Tissue in the vagina and anus is very sensitive and can easily tear. Lubricants such as Astroglide, KY Jelly, or Replens’ Intimate Options Lubricant Mousse can be used for vibrators just as easily as for intercourse. Make sure to be careful and gentle with sex toys and immediately go to an emergency room if anything gets stuck (it happens).
Always clean your toys.
Always clean your toys after use. Wash with hand soap and hot water, preferably antibacterial soap. Silicone-based sex toys can even be put in the dishwasher, but make sure that you remove the batteries, and take them out of your dishwasher before your in-laws visit. Otherwise you might get a new set of mixing spoons for Christmas, and wonder why, oh why?
Dr. Machelle Seibel is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Massachusetts, and former Editor in Chief of Sexuality, Reproduction and Menopause, a journal of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.