Sex toys in Ottawa

There’s a new debate bubbling up in Canada’and I’m not talking about the argument that the government should actually, you

There’s a new debate bubbling up in Canada’and I’m not talking about the argument that the government should actually, you know, govern. No, I’m talking about the quiet debate that’s begun about sex toys’and whether or not they should be regulated by the government.

On December 15, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, the MP representing Toronto’s St. Paul’s riding, sent a letter to minister of health Leona Aglukkaq suggesting that legislation be put in place to regulate the safety of sex toys. She sent the letter after visiting Red Tent Sisters, a pro-woman sex shop in east Toronto.

At issue is the questionable safety of the chemicals used to make some vibrators and dildos (and whatever else floats your boat), specifically Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. Bennett argues that while the government has banned the sale of baby bottles containing BPA and toys containing phthalates, there are currently no safety regulations in place for sex toys because the majority of them are sold as novelty items (which suggests that they are merely sold as gag gifts for wedding showers and will not actually be used). She urges the health minister to protect women’s health by implementing legislation that will ensure the only sex toys that make it to shelves are the ones that are proven to be safe.

In response, the owners of Toronto sex shop Come As You Are (CAYA) have written  back to Bennett describing what they find wrong with her letter:

1. Not only women use sex toys, therefore sex toy safety should be seen as a general health issue for people of all genders and persuasions.

2. Phthalate- and BPA-free sex toys are expensive and banning cheaper toys would discriminate against people with lower incomes.

3. Sex-toy safety isn’t really a big ideal at all compared to other sexual issues such as access to abortion and cervical cancer rates in Aboriginal people.

Now I’m a fan of Come As You Are’the folks there are inclusive, knowledgeable and provide a welcoming environment in which to shop for fun stuff that will knock your socks off. But I take issue with their letter. While I wholeheartedly agree that this isn’t just a woman’s issue, I also agree with Bennett’sex-toy safety should be regulated. It’s true that many of the so-called safer toys are much more expensive than the ones that include BPA and phthalates (and CAYA has a variety of those cheaper toys for sale). But shouldn’t we look at ways to make safe toys more affordable rather than turning a blind eye to the potential health concerns associated with the chemicals used to make cheaper ones? Yes, there are many more pressing sexual health issues that need government attention, and I commend CAYA for bringing those to light. However, that doesn’t mean an MP like Bennett shouldn’t bring the issue of sex-toy safety to the health minister’s attention.

Do you think sex-toy safety is an important issue or a frivolous waste of time that could be spent tackling more significant concerns?