Vegan. Organic. Local. Environmentally friendly. Chemical free. These are labels we see featured on clothing, food and dry goods everywhere. What eggs you buy (or don’t buy, for that matter) is now a political statement, a way to broadcast to others your social and ethical ideals. But what about the items you don’t display proudly as you leave the store? Should the contents of your bedside table drawer or the dungeon hidden behind your closet be any less ethical than what’s in your refrigerator?
Conscious (Sex Toy) Consumerism
A lot of people would say no way - ethical is ethical, right? Here are some suggestions to keep your nighttime debauchery as guilt free as you want it to be. I’ll leave the organic fair trade Egyptian cotton sheets and wild caught oysters to you.
Few people realize that many condoms contain animal products, a fact that might not sit well with those who stick to a vegan diet. Latex is often processed with casein, a protein that is commonly found in mammalian milk and that makes the rubber soft and supple. The casein isn’t present in the finished product, but if you care about whether or not animals were involved in your sexy times it may still leave a sour taste in your mouth.
Thankfully, there are a few companies that produce totally vegan condoms, including Glyde, RFSU, L., and Sir Richard’s. Some are also incorporating other ethical choices into the production and distribution of their condoms. Many of these companies also do activist work or contribute some of their profits to charity. Safe sex and something to feel good about? Sounds like a win-win situation. (Of course, in order to really have safe sex, you need to put the condom on correctly. Read what not to do in 9 Things You Didn't Know About Putting on a Condom.)
Lubricants are another culprit for vegans and other people looking for an ethical choice: Who thinks about the fact that what you’re putting in your orifices may or may not contain animal byproducts? Or whether your lube was tested on animals? (I don’t want my lube being tested on bunnies, no matter how many "they must dry up after all that sex!" jokes you want to make.) Do you know whether your slippery stuff uses organic ingredients? Or is free of glycerin parabens and other nasty irritants or chemicals? Worse yet, some lubricants may not be safe to use during pregnancy, or could harm sperm if you're trying to get that way.
It's a lot to worry about. Thankfully, there are natural lubricants popping up all over the place. Check out Coconu, Good Clean Love, Sliquid, Yes Organics, Blossom Organics and Hathor Aphrodisia. (Check out a review Kinkly did of another all-natural lube, Yes Butter, here.)
If you’re looking into sex toys and BDSM/kink gear, there are a few considerations. If you want to go local, it can be rather difficult. Most sex toys are made in China, just like many other consumer goods, but there are some companies that operate in North America and Europe. Most of these companies are small and artisanal, although some operate on a slightly larger scale.
Where to look? Well, Tantus makes fabulous, 100 percent silicone, hypoallergenic and body-safe products. It also operates a factory and all of its offices in one location in Nevada. Not only are this company's products "local," but they are of incredibly high quality - I recommend them incessantly.
Other options in North America are mainly companies working in silicone like Bad Dragon, Vixen Creations, Fuze Silicone, Vamp Silicone, Whipspider Rubberworks and Divine Interventions. Crystal Delights and Pyrexions are some fantastic glass companies also operating out of North America. If you’re in Europe, try BS is Nice (Madrid) or Babes 'n’ Horny (London) if you’re looking for beautiful, high-quality silicone toys. Fun Factory, a large, international company that makes silicone vibrating and non-vibrating products (as well as "pulsating" products) operates entirely out of Germany. I don’t know of any other companies operating out of Europe currently, so do let me know if you’ve heard of some!
For the kinksters out there, there are a lot of vegan alternatives to the usual leather restraints that are currently on the market. In fact, you can just about satisfy your leather fetish without an actual cowhide. You can find some high quality examples at Aslan Leather, and I’m going to plug Tantus again and point out its silicone paddles; these are not only vegan and body safe, but you can boil them for cleaning, which means play of any sort with as many people as you'd like. (What's the difference between a wood, leather or silicone spanking paddle? Ducky tells it like it is!)
Be Good, Be Good to Yourself
If you're concerned about buying local food, minimizing your environmental impact or avoiding harmful chemicals, you probably don't check those worries at the door of your local sex shop. The good news is, companies are increasingly stepping up to provide products that are both pleasurable and ethical. It's as guilt-free as sex gets. Of course, whether you regret it in the morning is another story.
If you have questions about other ethical options for a specific type of sex toy, safer sex barrier, or lubricant I’d be more than happy to help.