Ask the Doctors: Glass Toys & Safety

I have been thinking of getting a glass dildo, but I wonder about the possible danger of a glass toy breaking during use. Obviously that would be terrible–can you tell me anything about preventing this? Many thanks!

There are three or four things to be aware of, safety-wise, with glass sex toys: that is, toys made of annealed/”pyrexed” borosilicate glass — not glass items that people might choose to play with that are not designed to be sex toys. The latter are not safe to use under any circumstances. If it wasn’t designed/sold as a sex toy and it’s made of glass, don’t use it as a sex toy.

The first safety issue is that the safety/integrity of the glass might be compromised if it is dropped on a hard surface. Personally I would recommend that a dropped glass toy be retired and used as a beautiful paperweight if it is dropped on, say, a tiled or cement floor. Even if the user cannot see cracks, the toy might be affected and suddenly be breakable. If this should happen, it could lead to either of the next two possible issues and make them much worse.

Generally glass is sensitive to changes in temperature. That’s why it’s important that glass toys be “pyrexed”–like Granny’s casserole dish, which can go from the fridge to the oven.  A cracked glass toy is no longer protected, so a cool piece of glass going into a warm body orifice is no longer safe if the item has been dropped. (And a non-“pyrexed” glass item is dangerous for this very reason.)

While sex toys are made of very hard glass, if they’ve been dropped, moving around a lot with them inside body orifices is the most dangerous scenario. This puts not just temperature stress on the item, but pressure stress. Obviously an internal break with a glass toy is a worst-possible scenario and must be avoided at all costs.

Even if the glass toy has NOT been dropped/compromised, it will be about as hard and inflexible as metal. And so this part of the answer goes for metal toys too. It is more relevant to dildos than the anal plugs, because the dildos are longer. Trying to sit up with an inflexible item in the rectum, particularly a long one, could be dangerous because the item is not able to bend; it could be painful, if it’s long enough to reach the coccyx/tailbone it could put pressure on it through the rectal wall and bruise it. Worst-case scenario would be tearing, or (if the glass was in fact compromised) breakage. (Vaginal use is not as dangerous but the pain/bruising issue could be relevant there too.)

So when people use a hard plastic/lucite OR glass OR metal toy, especially anally, they should remove the toy before changing positions from, say, lying flat to sitting up. Again, a short toy like a plug is not especially dangerous here — it is the longer dildos that can go deeper and put pressure against the rectal wall/coccyx that I’m especially talking about.

In other words, know your toys AND know your anatomy! Once you do, you can use glass toys safely.

 


We’re dedicated to getting you the information you need about sex, pleasure and your health. If you have any questions, please email our staff experts, Dr. Carol Queen and Dr. Charlie Glickman, at education@goodvibes.com! For product-related questions, please email or call our customer service staff at customerservice@goodvibes.com.

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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