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Novelty Use Only? Know Your Dildo

David Bergeron is a carpenter. Naturally, a friend asked him to make her a dildo. And naturally, he did.

She liked it so much that David started his wooden dildo business a year ago. I met him and his unique pleasure sticks at The Everything To Do With Sex Show in Toronto last weekend.

I met Emma there too, the York University graduate student who just bought one. It's her first sex toy. She picked David's wooden dildos "because they're so beautiful. And they're made in Canada."

Two stands down from David were the colourful and multi-shaped pyrex glass dildos you could also confuse for home dĂŠcor.

Laurel is a sex toy distributor. She says more people care about the material of their dildos and vibrators and are requesting healthier products.

Some sex toys contain toxins like phthalates, a chemical softener used in rubber, jelly and plastic toys. Another health concern is whether the material is porous like latex, which makes it difficult to clean and easy for bacteria to hide.

Laurel sells silicone vibrators. She says a vibrator can claim that it's made out of silicone (which means that it's non-porous and safer than plastics and latex according to many in the industry) but also contain other materials. She cautions customers to make sure the label says "medical grade" or "100% silicone."

"All this happens because sex toys don't have to meet any health standards and aren't regulated by Health Canada," says Laurel.

She pointed out the "Novelty use only" caveat written in fine print at the back of many plastic and jelly sex toys, as if they're gag gifts you're not suppose to really use. All the sex toy sellers I asked say this basically shields manufacturers of responsibility, including from the effects of potentially harmful materials used to make these gadgets. It seems like a badge of honour not to have this stamped on your product. It wasn't on Laurel's wares, or on the wooden and glass dildos.

Selling healthier choices is a harder route in the sex toy business, says Laurel.

"It's like organic foods a few years ago. It was more expensive and your clientele was limited because of it."

Silicone, glass and wood sex toys vary in price but usually hit around the $100 mark. Latex and plastic are about $60 cheaper.

I spoke to another Sex Show attendee who just bought a silicone vibrator and asked whether material factored into her decision. She said no. She was looking specifically for a rechargeable plug-in.

"Why? Is it because it's more environmentally friendly?" I ask.

"No. The regular battery ones just zoink-out at the worst moments," she says.

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