Five Meaningful Things To Do for World AIDS Day

December 1st is World AIDS Day. The AIDS epidemic, at its height in the 1980s and early 1990s, is still in many ways ongoing and has claimed over 35 million lives in the last ~40 years. Check out this fact sheet to learn more.

A red ribbon for a post on World AIDS Day

From the World AIDS Day website:

[World AIDS Day is] an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.

Many of us, especially LGBTQ+ people, feel helpless in the face of something this huge. It scares the shit out of lots of us – and it should. AIDS was and is one of the most destructive pandemics in human history. But there is hope, too. UNAIDS have a hugely ambitious treatment plan which, if it works, will see 90% of HIV-positive people knowing their status, 90% of these on antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of these with a viral load declared “undetectable” – all by 2020.

So today I wanted to share some small but meaningful things you can do to make a difference this World AIDS Day.

1. Donate if you can

Donate to a charity that’s doing important work in the areas of HIV and AIDS. I suggest amfAR who are pioneering research into a cure, Terrence Higgins Trust who campaign and provide services connected to HIV and sexual health, or the National AIDs Trust who fight for change and champion the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.

2. Get a test and know your status

When was your last full sexual health screening? Go book one in now! If you’re sexually active, you really should be getting a test every six months at a minimum – and more often if you have multiple partners, practice unprotected sex, or regularly have anal sex. I’m fairly slutty and I have a full screening every 3 months. Knowing your status is the best way to protect yourself and your partners.

3. Smash the stigma and share factual information

See people talking shit about people with HIV, AIDS or STIs? Tired of false information? Engage in some stigma-smashing by challenging them to rethink their views and sharing some facts. People living with HIV are not dirty, sluts, immoral or stupid. HIV cannot be transmitted except via infected blood or sexual fluids (or to infants via breast milk). It cannot be passed on through kissing, skin-to-skin contact, sharing food or drinks, water fountains, toilet seats, mosquitoes, saliva, sweat, or modern blood transfusions. This handy guide is useful to share.

4. Stock up on sexual health supplies

As many people as possible practicing safer sex is one of our greatest weapons against HIV/AIDS. Make sure you’re well-stocked with condoms, dams and gloves, as appropriate to the types of sex you have. If you can’t afford to buy supplies, ask your doctor or sexual health provider where you can access them for free. Remember to check your condoms and dams before using to make sure they’re still in date!

Pro tip: Gay bars/clubs and sexuality-focused events often give out safer sex supplies as freebies. If you go to any of these, don’t be scared to claim some for yourself! I used to go out to gay bars so often I don’t think I paid for condoms until I was 24.

5. Wear your red ribbon

The red ribbon is the internationally-recognised symbol of HIV/AIDS awareness and advocacy. Here’s a useful list of where to get them in the UK. If you can afford to, you can also buy a brooch version and support NAT’s work.

What are you doing to support World AIDS Day and show solidarity with people affected by HIV all over the world?

Image from Pixabay. Contains an affiliate link.

[Toy Review] Wand Essentials Nuzzle Tip Wand Attachment

This is the second in a serious of wand attachment reviews. I’m always getting asked about the best attachments for wand vibrators, so I thought it’s past time I tried some out and let y’all know what I thought. Because putting strange things on my genitals for science is what I do.

Up today: the Nuzzle Tip wand attachment by Wand Essentials.

The Important Stuff

The Wand Essentials Nuzzle Tip attachment on the Lovehoney Classic Wand, lying on a white sheet.
Also feat. Lovehoney Classic Wand

The Nuzzle Tip is manufactured by US-based company Wand Essentials, who make wands of various kinds as well as dozens of different attachments. However, the Nuzzle Tip does not need to be used with a Wand Essentials wand – which is good, because I don’t own one! This attachment fits perfectly over the Magic Wand Original, Doxy Original or Die Cast, Lovehoney Classic, Deluxe and Desire wands, and will fit many others. The circumference is 7 inches and the silicone is just slightly stretchy. When in doubt, measure the head of your wand before buying.

The Nuzzle Tip features a tongue-like appendage, covered on the underside in little nodules. The advertising copy says it’s good for internal or external stimulation, but I really can’t see it being long enough to do much internally (there’s no way you’re reaching a G-spot with this thing!) It’s really a clitoral stimulation attachment.

I wish it wasn’t pink or at least came in other colour options, but you can’t have everything.

A Note on Safer Sex, Care and Cleaning…

The Wand Essentials Nuzzle Tip on top of a pile of books, mainly about sex.
Also feat. part of my extensive book collection.

This attachment is made entirely of silicone, which is phthalate-free and non-porous. This means I am happy to recommend this attachment as 100% body-safe.

If your wand happens to have a porous head (some unfortunately still do, including the famed Magic Wand Original), using a silicone attachment is a great way to make it fully body-safe. Likewise, if you’re sharing your wand between partners and you’re not fluid-bonded, using attachments and swapping them out between users is an easy way to protect yourselves from unwanted fluids and potential STI transmission.

You can clean this attachment with a toy wipe or sterile medical wipe (I buy mine in bulk from medical suppliers,) and throw it in a pot of boiling water/a 10% bleach solution/the dishwasher to sterilise thoroughly.

Remember: this attachment is waterproof, but your wand probably isn’t!

So How Does It Feel?

The Wand Essentials Nuzzle Tip lying on a fuck.com notebook.
Also feat. Notebook from Fuck Dot Com.

When you switch on your wand, the effect is that the tongue on the Nuzzle Tip sort of flicks up and down very fast with the vibrations. This results in very intense and fairly pinpoint clitoral stimulation. The silicone dampens the strength of the wand a little bit, but really not very much.

I actually find I can come more quickly with this attachment with the wand on a lower setting than I can with the wand on full power but without an attachment.

It feels divine, folks. The flicking motion is intense and delicious. I can come in 2-3 minutes easily with this attachment.

One word of caution: without enough lubrication, this kind of stimulation can feel so intense it’s painful, so I always recommend a generous blob of water-based lube.

I’m not ashamed to say I have used this attachment for every single purely-for-fun, not-testing-anything-for-review wank since I received it. I never thought anything could make me love wands even more, but this baby has done it.

So Do I Recommend It?

Yes! I cannot tell you enough how much I love this attachment. If you want intense clitoral stimulation or crave the power of a wand with more pinpoint precision, the Nuzzle Tip is for you.

Thanks to Lovehoney for sending me this and other wand attachments for review. Check out the wand attachments tag for all reviews in this series. If you buy using my affiliate links in this post, I make a small commission. All views are, and will always be, my own. Pictures are by me and not for use without express permission.

Ask Amy #5: “When should I start getting STI tests?”

It’s been a while, but it’s time for another reader question! Don’t forget you can submit your own questions to me to be answered – anonymously – via Twitter or email.

A red condom and some pills. For a post about STI testing.Today’s lovely reader asks:

I have a possibly-stupid question about sexual health testing: I’m quite new to having any kind of sex, and have never had PIV sex. What point should you start getting tested? I obviously want to practice safer sex, but should I get tested now or does it not matter so much until I start having penetrative sex?

We had a bit of back-and-forth discussion and then they followed up with a second question:

To complicate things a bit, I’ve also learned that I have vaginismus. I’m planning to go to the GP about this, but it made me realise that I have zero idea what would happen when getting a tested for STIs! I assume this would involves things going into my vagina?

First: on when to test

My view is that anyone who is having any kind of sex with other people should be getting tested regularly, whether that sex is penetrative or not.

Different activities carry different transmission rates: broadly speaking, anal is riskier than vaginal, which is riskier than oral, which is riskier than hand sex or toy sharing. However, any sexual activity with another person does carry a level of transmission risk, including – for HSV or herpes – any skin-to-skin contact.

Please don’t take this as intended to scare you, dear reader – forewarned is forearmed.  Knowing the facts means you can take steps to look after your own and your partners’ health.

What barriers and safer sex methods you use is entirely up to you. Personally, I use condoms for PIV and shared toys (unless they’re pure silicone and without a motor, which can be boil-sterilised) and have hardly ever bothered with barriers for oral or hand sex. I’ve always been fine. Your level of acceptable risk may be different, and that’s completely fine. A good rule of thumb is to let the most risk-averse person set the level of precautions (e.g. “I don’t insist on barriers for oral but I’ll happily use one if a partner wants to”). And of course, whatever protective methods you ultimately decide to use or not use, it’s vital that this goes hand-in-hand with an open and honest conversation about testing practices and sexual history with your partner(s).

For more info on how to have this conversation, check out Reid Mihalko’s ‘Safer Sex Elevator Speech’.

Finally, this bears saying over and over again: Most STIs aren’t that scary, and the majority can be cured with a simple course of antibiotics if they’re caught early. A huge percentage of the population (between 50 and 90% depending on who you ask) is carrying the HSV virus, and the majority will never have an outbreak and may never know they’re carrying it. Even HIV, which many regard as the worst of the worst, is completely manageable these days and those diagnosed can live a full and normal life.

Knowing your status is your first and best weapon in protecting yourself, so please start getting tested as soon as you start having sex with other people.

Now, on to the second question: what actually happens when you go for a test?

It slightly depends on the clinic.

I’ve been going for STI testing regularly since 2009. Back then there tended to be a full, clothes-off-feet-up-in-stirrups examination by a nurse. But that hasn’t been the case for years. And as someone who has moved around a lot, I’ve been to quite a few different clinics.

Every clinic I’ve been to in the last 6+ years has asked for either a urine sample or a self-swab, the latter being more common. This is a tiny tiny thing that you put in your vagina for a few seconds, swirl around and then pop into a sterile container and give to the clinic nurse. You do this in private, either behind a curtain in the consulting room or in the bathroom. (If you’re having anal or oral sex, they should do rectal and throat swabs too, though I sometimes have to prompt for this). They’ll also do a blood test, which is the most reliable way to screen for blood-borne infections such as syphilis and HIV.

The most important bit is to speak to the nurse/practitioner on the day about any concerns you have, including your vaginismus. The swab things are really tiny (much much smaller than even the smallest tampon), but if anything going into your vagina is a no-go for you, they should offer you another option such as a urine test. STI testing shouldn’t have to be painful or uncomfortable.

At some point during the test, they’ll ask you some questions about your sexual history, especially your most recent partners. Some of the questions might seem weird or irrelevant, but it’s important to answer them honestly. A good healthcare practitioner shouldn’t make you feel judged for whatever you tell them, and if they do, you’re within your rights to gently push back or even ask to see somebody else.

After that, you usually wait two weeks for your results. Some clinics will text you to tell you everything is okay, and others operate on a “no news is good news” policy. If there are any issues, they will call you and ask you to come in to discuss the issue and your treatment options.

And that’s it! Go forth, lovely reader, and have lots of responsible safer sex.

Again, please submit your questions to me for an anonymous answer on the blog. Patreon supporters get priority!

Sexy Festive Travel Essentials

The main thing I’m looking forward to over Christmas, apart from my mother’s cooking, is spending some quality time with Mr CK and having some hot filthy sex. We’ve both been sick lately – first me, then him, now me-again-but-still-him-a-little-bit-too. Combined with the fact that my day job works me into the ground from early October to late December, and… yeah. Kinky fuckery has been thin on the ground lately!

The bottom of a Christmas tree with presents under it, and a woman's legs in stripey stockings and a Mrs Claus skirt. For a post about sexy travel essentials.

In the spirit of the holidays – a time when lots of us are visiting or being visited by family – and also the fact that Mr and I will be going on an Actual Vacation in January, I thought I’d share some of my favourite sexy travel essentials and tips with you all. These are things that are small enough to throw into an overnight bag or carry-on, easy to use discreetly… and not likely to raise any questions at airport security if that’s a thing you have to contend with.

Sample packs of lube

Lube is an absolute essential to me – I often don’t get wet enough to have intercourse comfortably without it, even when I’m really turned on, plus it’s a great shortcut in those “oh look the family have all gone to the store we have fifteen minutes” moments.

A large bottle is problematic when traveling, though. It’s bulky when you’ve got limited packing space, and frankly I’m always terrified it’s going to leak all over my clothes. Sample size packs are perfect – they’re tiny, light, don’t leak, and you can discreetly dispose of the packet at the end of playtime.

Top recommendation from me is the Sliquid Lube Cube.

Small and discreet vibe

Alas, my Doxy is neither discreet enough for sneaky quiet fucks while staying in the family home, nor likely to get through airport security without raising some serious questions. I still want to be able to use a vibe while traveling, though, so the key is to take something small and not too loud!

I’ll be packing my We Vibe Tango and my Rocks Off Bamboo, for sure. Whatever vibe you’re taking with you, remember to travel-lock it or take the battery out while you’re on the move!

Travel-friendly kink toys

The family home is not the place to crack out (see what I did there?) the 6 foot singletail. Things like floggers or even hand-spanking are probably out, too, if you’re sharing space in close quarters with people who don’t want to hear what you’re up to!

My favourite discretion-and-travel-friendly kink toys include a set of leather cuffs, nipple clamps, and the Evil Stick of Pain.

(Disclaimer: I don’t promise your sub will be quiet when you use the latter on them!)

Some underwear that makes you feel really sexy

When it’s difficult to find the time or privacy to fuck or masturbate, but I want to remind myself that I’m a sexual being, wearing some really sexy underwear under my clothing helps me tap into my sensuality. When no-one else knows it’s there, it’s my private little sexy secret – all for me.

If a lover gets to see it hours later when I peel off my clothing, that’s a bonus. But the point of wearing it is just to feel good in my body.

You know what feels good to wear for you. For me, it’s my favourite knickers. (Link contains my butt.)

A small safer-sex kit

Mr and I are fluid bonded, so our safer sex kit is small, but we usually pack a few things – especially if there’s any chance at all that we’ll have the opportunity to hook up with anyone but each other. Your preferences will inevitably vary, but some condoms, some nitrile gloves and some dams, a pack of sterile wipes (for toy cleaning on the fly) and some alcohol gel are our essentials. Of course, if you’re on any kind of regular birth control, take that with you too!

Tweet me and tell me what your seasonal travel essentials are!

Affiliate links are contained in this post. All opinions my own. Image is from Pixabay, a fab source of legal, royalty-free images.

It IS [Mostly] All About the Sex

For today’s #KinkMonth post, it’s all about SEX! As you’ll have gathered (unless this is your first visit, in which case – welcome!) I’m doing posts inspired by Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s. Today, Kayla asks:

Have you ever considered D/s without a sexual component? Would you be interested in something like it? How important is sex to your current or future D/s relationship?

A pair f black lace panties lying on the floor next to two condom packets, one torn open. For a post about people saying BDSM is not about sex

I do it because it gets me off.

For some reason, it seems to be a thing to deny that BDSM is mostly, or entirely, about sex. And for some people, this is probably true. But, if I’m completely honest, I’m a bit sick of it.

For me, kink and BDSM are, and always have been, overwhelmingly about sex. Yes, they’re means of connecting with people I love. They’re sometimes spiritual. But for fuck’s sake, the vast majority of the time, I do this stuff because it makes my cunt wet and gets me off.

People have tried to divorce BDSM entirely from sex. I am willing to entertain that there are some people – folks at the far end of the Ace spectrum, for example – for whom this is the case. But at its core, I do believe it’s fundamentally a sexual or sex-adjacent practice 99% of the time.

I don’t fuck everyone I scene with, but I do get turned on during pretty much any good kink interaction. It’s part of my pre-negotiation with new partners: “you don’t have to do anything about it, but you need to be okay with the fact that if we have a good scene, I WILL be aroused.”

What’s wrong with sex anyway?

We live in a world where it’s pretty hard to admit that something we do is mainly or entirely about sex. Sex is not seen as a good enough reason to do something – there has to be a higher purpose, a better reason.

Confession I’m seriously not proud of time: pre-20, I was really judgy about people who have casual sex. “I only have sex when I’m in LOVE,” I proclaimed loudly, as if it made me better than other people. Thankfully, I 1) grew the fuck up and stopped being a judgemental bitch, 2) learned the awesomeness that is good casual sex.

A lot of polyamorous people – and yes, I used to be one of them, much to my embarrassment – go around saying “it’s about LOVE, not SEX!” This often goes hand in hand with, “we’re not SWINGERS!” The problem with this is that it implies being a swinger is a bad thing, that love is inherently superior to sex, and it neglects the fact that sex is a hugely important part of romantic love for a lot of us. In this way, people who are ostensibly part of the sex-positive community fall into sex-negative and sex-shaming patterns.

It’s easy to do and I sympathise with it. We’re taught, more or less from birth, that sex is bad. Dirty. Gross. That sex is only “when mummy and daddy love each other very much and want to have a baby.” A huge part of sex-positivity and the sex-posi movement, in my view, is about unlearning these toxic narratives and trying to do better.

Real talk: I don’t have an IUD to control my period (though that’s a nice side effect.) I have it for sex.

For evidence of pervasive anti-sex sentiment, see also: “I use birth control for reasons that have nothing to do with sex, like controlling my painful periods.” Again, for a lot of people with uteruses (uteri?), this is entirely true and it’s completely valid.

However, lots of us DO use birth control for sex, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Saying that it should be freely available BECAUSE it has uses that aren’t sexual is really problematic. It should be freely available because it’s a normal part of healthcare, and lots of people like sex while also liking not being pregnant.

Let’s all just admit that some things ARE about sex

My challenge to you, and to myself: next time you find yourself wanting to defend a part of your life or identity with “it’s not about sex!” …Stop. Think about it. And resist the temptation to jump to this defense. Because sometimes, it is about sex. And there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.

I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from the great Oscar Wilde: “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.”

Kinky item of the day: Condoms! If you engage in penetrative sex or share toys in non fluid-bonded relationships, you need condoms to keep things sexy and safe. Buy 2 packs for 20% off.

Heads up: this post contains an affiliate link.

The image featured in this post was offered for use via Creative Commons Licensing.

Sex Educator Interview #5: Cooper S Beckett

You may have heard of this little project started by Jenny Guerin and myself, the Sexy Summer Book Club. It’s an online read-along where we share questions, invite discussion and encourage people to use the books as jumping off points for their own writings.

The cover of Approaching the Swingularity by Cooper S Beckett

August’s book is Approaching The Swingularity by Cooper S Beckett, which I actually reviewed a while back. Very fittingly, therefore, today’s interview is with Cooper himself. Without further ado, let’s hear what the sexy-voiced podcaster, author and progressive swinger extraordinaire had to tell us.

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

I write sexy books, and books about sex, which are sometimes the same thing, sometimes not. I’m also a coach and educator about sex positivity, safer sex, and focus on non-monogamy. I’ve been host of Life on the Swingset, The Swinging & Polyamory Podcast for the last 7 years, and we’re about to record our 300th episode! My goal is always to get people to think about their conceptions of their sexuality and how that relates to their partner(s) and the world, and take the opportunity to color outside the lines a bit, and learn about themselves.

What first made you want to write and podcast about sex and non-monogamy?

Hubris. I’d been swinging for a grand total of like 10 months and I thought, “You know what, I understand this pretty well, I should teach other people about it!” I corralled Dylan Thomas into co-hosting and the podcast was born. The writing has a little more sense behind it, but still not much. Before opening up I was a writer and indie filmmaker, so once I opened up and found the time to get back into it, writing about this all was a natural progression.
 

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a podcaster, sex educator and published author? How does one ‘make it’ in this field? 

 
If anyone tells you they’re “making it” in podcasting they’re the incredibly rare and lucky breed. Honestly, podcasters don’t really make it. It’s all about reach, isn’t it? So podcasting is a vehicle for reach. The more I podcast, the larger my audience, the more opportunity to share my speaking gigs and educating and books with the world. But podcasting itself…it’s nice if it pays for itself. I guess that’s when you know you’ve made it, when the podcast isn’t as valuable as a drain in your bank account.


What does “a day in the life of You” look like? 

 I sleep way later than I should before I go to my (still unfortunately necessary) day job. In my free time I try to focus on projects and writing, while balancing with time with my lovely partner & binary star Ophilia Tesla, and still finding time to keep up on current media like Doctor Who and Legend of Zelda. 


What’s the best thing about being a sex educator, in your opinion? The worst?

The best thing about being a sex educator is the same as the best thing about being any type of educator, that moment when you see the person you’re talking to “gets it” and something changes in them. Since sex is such a major part of people’s lives, and the things I teach have the possibility of changing them fundamentally, it can be a really amazing moment. The downside is that sex is really really looked down upon as something worth educating yourself about. So there’s tremendous stigma surrounding it.

Which of your 3 books is your favourite, and why? Also what’s your favourite episode of the podcast, and why?

Approaching the Swingularity is my favorite, maybe because it’s the newest, but I also think it’s my best work. It allowed me to go deepest into my passions and take characters to new and unexpected places. Also to be really mean to them, cuz that’s kinda my thing. My favorite episode of the podcast was our 200th episode where we were lucky enough to get Dan Savage on as our guest. That was a real feeling of having “made it” – so I guess that also answers a bit of the question above!
 

Will there be a third book in the “Swingularity” series? 

There will, and at the moment it’s a shorter book like A Life Less Monogamous and will follow Jenn and Ryan’s early issues with true polyamory. The working title is Polywogs. But, for the moment, I’ve become distracted with a supernatural series featuring a pansexual poly woman named Osgood as the lead.

Which of your characters do you most identify with and why?

Depends on the day. All my characters are ultimately me, even if their personality isn’t. I split up my traits among them and give them my hangups. Ryan is probably the most ME, but in Swingularity, I’d have to say between Crista and Raymond for the most intense identification.

Who inspires you, professionally and personally?

Tristan Taoramino and Dan Savage are my two big favorite sex educators. I love his acerbic wit, and I aspire to the variety and depth of the work Tristan produces. For fiction my big inspiration is Stephen King, because nobody does character as well as him. I also adore the work of Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury. 

If you were stuck on a desert island (sorry, sorry, I HAD to do a ‘desert island’ question) and could take three toys and one sexy book, what would you pick and why? 

Hmmm. If I’m by myself, a Tenga Egg, the nJoy Pure Wand, and can I bring a bottle of lube instead of a third toy? I feel like the heat would make lube essential. If I’m with someone else, definitely the nJoy Eleven. A sexy book….so many options.

What’s something you used to believe about sex/relationships but are glad you don’t believe any more?

That sex equals PIV/PIA (Penis in Vagina/Penis in Anus) penetration. And if I didn’t have that I wasn’t having sex. It’s tremendously pressuring, especially in group sex situations. Making everything sexual, including heavy making out, sex means that I no longer feel pressure to take things to an obvious conclusion, and can simply enjoy the smorgasbord of sexy in front of me.

What’s the best sex advice you ever got? 

 
It’s okay for sex to be silly. It always looks so dramatic and intense in movies. My best sex involves conversations, mistakes, and laughter.


What do you think is the most toxic myth that our society perpetuates about sex/relationships?

 

That there’s a right way to do it. That gives us all complexes that we’re not doing it right, and we stress out and make foolish decisions because of it.

What’s one question that you wish people would stop asking you? 

“You REALLY use condoms for blowjobs?” Yes I do. I’m happy to keep talking about it, though, until oral barriers are a thing.

And just for fun, because it is “Coffee and Kink”: Do you like coffee and, if so, how do you take it?

Oh god. My Starbucks coffee order is insane and will make people throw up from sweetness. I do a Venti double shot with 5 total shots of espresso and vanilla and caramel syrup. Otherwise, I don’t much go in for coffee.
Thanks Cooper for your time and always-fabulous insights, as well as the sexy books. Next up in a day or two is one of the cohosts of Life on the Swingset, Dr Liz… stay tuned for that!
The image featured in this post is the cover of Approaching the Swingularity and is the property of Cooper S Beckett.

Toxic: Ingredients to Avoid In Your Lube

There are a lot – a LOT – of sexual lubricants available on the market today. Go into any sex shop and you’re likely to see rows upon rows of them. How do you even begin to know which to choose?

An old fashioned corked bottle filled with blue liquid and labelled with a skull and crossbones and the word "poison." For a post on toxic ingredients in lube

A lot of it is down to personal preference, compatibility with your particular body, and dependent upon what toys, condoms etc. you’re going to be using it with. I can’t tell you the perfect lube for you. What I can do, though, is point out some toxic ingredients commonly found in commercial sexual lubricants (as well as toy cleaning solutions, if those are a thing you use) which we would all be well advised to avoid.

1. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphate

What it is: Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth (ether) sulphate (SLES) are additives found in everything from household cleaning products to cosmetics. They’re what creates that foamy/lathery appearance and also used for their cleaning properties.

Why it’s toxic:
SLS is a skin irritant. SLES is somewhat less irritating (which is why it’s the one you’ll more commonly see in personal care products) but it’s no less toxic. It also cannot be metabolised by the liver. Like many chemicals, these are absorbed into the body from skin application and both can cause damage to the skin, hair follicles, eyes and even the liver. In the body SLS can mimic the function of Oestrogen, possibly contributing to a range of hormonal problems from PMS to lowered fertility to increased risk of breast cancer.

2. Parabens

What they are: Parabens (butylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben) are preservatives. They are commonly used to prevent bacteria growth in cosmetics and other products.

Why they’re toxic: Like SLS and SLES, they’re xenoestrogens – meaning they mimic oestrogen in the body. Oestrogen disruption has been linked to breast cancer and other reproductive issues and in a 2004 study, parabens were found in malignant tumours.  What’s more, there’s some evidence that they can be stored in the body and have an accumulative effect over time.

3. Phthalates

What they are: Pthalates are a common ingredient in cosmetics, lubes and many soft plastic or ‘jelly’ sex toys. They’re used to increase flexibility, durability and longevity in plastics. In lube and other cosmetics they can be used as binding agents or softeners.

Why they’re toxic:
Research suggests that prolonged exposure to pthalates can alter the cycles of reproductive hormones with effects including delaying or suppressing ovulation. Studies have also linked them, variously, to asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, diabetes, neurodevelopmental issues and male fertility issues. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classes DEHP, a common phthalate, as a possible carcinogen. Some people have even experienced chemical burns when using products containing pthalates on their genital areas.

4. Glycerin/Glycerol

What it is: A colourless liquid found in all natural plant and animal fats, although it can also be produced synthetically. You’ll find it in lots of lubes because it is a humectant, which just means it attracts moisture to the area where it’s applied. It has a slightly sweet taste so is likely to appear in a lot of flavoured lubes in particular, but it pops up all over the place.

Why it’s toxic:
Sugars and sugar derivatives simply do not belong in your vagina. Glycerin can increase the presence of candida, and this in turn can lead to yeast infections. Best avoided, particularly if you’re prone to them.

5. Parfum/Perfume/Fragrance

What it is: It’s what makes certain products smell nice. Beyond that? We haven’t a clue – under UK law at least, “parfum” or “fragrance” is a catch-all. It could mean any combination of hundreds of different potential ingredients which do not have to be listed separately.

Why it’s toxic: If you don’t know what it is or what it’s actually made up of, then I strongly recommend not putting it in your body.

6. Any numbing agent

What it is: Typically found in lubricants designed for anal sex, ingredients like benzocaine or lidocaine are basically anaesthetic agents. They’re used to partially, or even completely, numb the area they’re applied to.

Why it’s toxic: Do I really need to spell this out? If you need a fucking anaesthetic to have sex, then THIS IS SEX YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE HAVING. These products are sold on the strength of the idea that the receiving partner (particularly a female receiving partner) doesn’t actually want to be penetrated, and that anal sex is inevitably going to be painful and unpleasant.

There may be some discomfort with anal at first – that’s normal and why going slow and using plenty of (body-safe, non-toxic, no-freaky-ingredients) lube is vital IF it’s something both parties are enthusiastically into the idea of doing. (If you’re not: don’t do it. If your partner isn’t: don’t pressure them to do it!) Even more dangerously, pain is your body’s way of signalling that something is wrong. If you can’t feel it, you won’t know if sensitive tissues are being torn. Real damage can be done this way, which at best will be uncomfortable for a few days and at worst can be a serious medical emergency. JUST SAY NO TO A NUMB BUM.

To sum up:

You read the label when choosing foods, right? Please, please do the same when choosing lube, toy cleaner and even condoms (those “delay his climax” condoms, for example? They probably contain numbing agents.)

There are really good, safe, body-friendly products out there made by amazing ethical companies. They’re worth looking for.  Ask for recommendations from those in the know, do your research, and above all READ THE LABEL.

My top pick for lube, always and forever, will be Sliquid.

I started this blog, in part, to realise my passion for informed, honest, transparent and freely available sex education for everyone. If the information here was valuable to you, please consider buying me a virtual coffee or even becoming a sexy patron. Thank you!