Sex toys and tools such as vibrators, dildos, vaginal dilators, anal toys, penis rings, and penis sleeves can enhance a solitary or partnered sexual experience. However, it is important to use them safely. By using sex toys responsibly and keeping them clean, you can avoid passing on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and/or blood-borne infections (from sex toys that may create small tears in the skin and draw blood).
To prevent spreading STIs with sex toys, one should avoid sharing sex toys with other people. If a person uses a sex toy after a different person with an STI has used the sex toy, it is possible for the STI to be transmitted to the second user through bodily fluids left on the toy. Chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, and herpes can all be spread through shared sex toys. Additionally, although not considered an STI, bacterial vaginosis can be passed from one person to another through the use of shared sex toys.
If a sex toy is to be used by more than one person, put a new condom on the toy before using it each time. Cleaning the sex toy properly after each use can also help prevent the spread of STIs and bacteria, and most sex toys come with instructions on how to use, clean, and store them. If they do not come with instructions, you may be able to get advice from your local sexual health clinic. Sex toys should also be washed properly between using them on different parts of the body such as the vagina, anus, and mouth.
Whenever using penetrative toys, there is the possibility of creating small breaks in the skin and drawing blood. This could lead to the possibility of passing blood-borne infections such as HIV or hepatitis B or C from one person with an open wound to another person with an open wound if they use the same sex toy.
In addition to following previous suggestions of using condoms on sex toys and cleaning them properly after each use, individuals should avoid sharing sex toys if they have any open sores. When using penetrative sex toys, one should also ensure that the insertion location (vagina or anus) is properly lubricated to avoid any tearing when the toy is inserted. Personal lubricants are especially helpful for anal toys, as the anus does not self-lubricate like the vagina.
Lastly, it is important for anal toys to have a wide enough base that they will not go all the way into the body and get stuck. If this happens, you should seek medical attention immediately to remove the toy.
Sex toys and tools can be a fun, unique way to expand your sexual repertoire and enjoy different aspects of your sexuality. Use them safely to ensure that the experience remains healthy and enjoyable.
For more information on this topic, please read these publications from the ISSM Journals: The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Sexual Medicine Reviews, and Sexual Medicine Open Access:
NHS. (2023, January 5). Are Sex Toys Safe? https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/are-sex-toys-safe/
Planned Parenthood. (n.d.). Sex Toys. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/sex-pleasure-and-sexual-dysfunction/sex-and-pleasure/sex-toys