The Difference Between Adult Novelties and Sex Toys

Written by Kait Scalisi, MPH, Director of Education and Training, My Secret Luxury and My Secret Soiree

You know adult sex toys can help keep your relationship fun and exciting. But not all toys are made equally. Is there a difference between adult novelties and sex toys? Yes . . .  and no!

First and foremost, those toys that have “For Novelty Use Only” written on the box should be viewed as such: a gag gift ONLY that never ventures near your genitals.

The sex toy industry in the US is completely unregulated.

Sad - but true. What does this mean to you?

  1. When a new product comes out, it does not have to undergo testing in order to be sold. Instead, a company just starts selling it. Without testing, there is no way to know if the toy has risks associated with it.
  2. There are no regulations about what materials can and can NOT be used.
  3. There is no one to call if something bad does happen.

Compare this to medical treatments and devices which undergo several rounds of research and always come with information about potential side effects and contact information to report “adverse events.”

The ‘novelty’ label is result of this lack of oversight.

Some toys are called "Novelties" just because:

  1. It makes it less likely that a company will have to pay if you have a bad reaction to their product and sue them.
  2. The label distinguishes adult sex toys from medical devices. This requires both FDA approval and the extensive research and paperwork associated with such approval. It can take years and a whole lot of money to get a product through FDA testing.
  3. Medical devices are taxed at a much higher rate than novelties.
  4. Companies may have a case of “everyone is doing it.” Because they see other companies, including those who’ve been around for a while, using such labeling, they follow suit.

Luckily, not all toys suffer from being a ‘novelty.’ An increasing number of manufacturers, like those featured at My Secret Luxury, are committed to promoting sexual pleasure AND health.

What does this mean to you?

The toys are made with medical-grade materials. Such materials have undergone extensive testing, are proven to be safe for your body, and have been used for medical purposes for decades. Think 100% silicone, hard plastic, medical-grade stainless steel, and borosilicate glass.

Many of these companies also sell their products in Europe where sex toys are actually tested. This means their products must meet the rigorous standards of the EU and undergo the associated testing.

In general, you should avoid any toy with a ‘novelty’ label on the box. But of course, like many things related to sex, there are caveats.

Your state’s laws may require all retailers to market their toys as “novelty use only.”

Texas and Alabama are two such states. This makes it hard to tell whether the product you buy is actually safe for your body or never meant to go anywhere in or near it.

Even the best manufacturers may still include the word ‘novelty’ somewhere in their language.

This primarily has to do with avoiding being penalized by the FDA and falling victim to “everyone else is doing it”-itis. These manufacturers, however, will include this language in their general disclaimer about the toy not being used for medical purposes rather than smacking in on the box in big letters.

How to Choose a Safe Sex Toy

Now that you have an understanding of the difference between adult novelties and those sex toys that are safe to use, how do you pick the a safe one?

Here are 3 tips:

  1. Stick with manufacturers who are known for maintaining rigorous standards for their products. Think Fun Factory, Je Joue, JimmyJabe, LELO, OhMiBod, Tantus, Tenga and We-Vibe.
  2. Shop from stores that only offer body-safe high quality toys. Hint: My Secret Luxury is one of them!
  3. Avoid toys with any of the following characteristics:
    • Rough seams
    • A rubber-y, chemical smell (like that of a new shower curtain)
    • “Jelly” toys
    • See-through non glass toys
    • A lack of instructions

Now that you’re an educated consumer, you can focus on using high quality toys to enhance your sexual repertoire and relationship.

Confused about which sex toy is right for you? Schedule a FREE 15 minute consultation with our sex educator Kait here. Here’s what people are saying about working with her: “Working with Kait helped me experience more pleasure in my life!” ~DT, 29