A few months back, on my “real life” Twitter, I watched a train wreck unfold between some toy materials activists and a toy manufacturer. Normally, the businesses don’t interact, or if they do, they give a form response that’s vague yet respectful. This is PR and Customer Service 101 – don’t get defensive. Deflect until your lawyer can put together a statement or press release if it gets really bad. Deal with complaints privately. Don’t do what Screaming O did:
Shout out to Dangerous Lilly, Raavynn Digital, Sexational, and Bex (I know others chimed in, but these folks appeared in SO’s mentions). I’ve left quite a lot out of this for honing a focus on the words and attitudes of the company, which I hope shows. When you misgender people as “ladies” and call them cute, that’s REALLY problematic, especially in the adult products industry.
As a business owner myself, I think this also teaches us a valuable lesson about social media marketing. I mean, I get it – I own a business, too, and it’s just little ‘ol me, so it is easy to take customer dissatisfaction personally. Taking criticism poorly only ever reflects poorly on the business, and getting into arguments like this leads to an even worse brand reputation. In fact, I had completely written this company off. I like to think that half hour break involved someone getting called into an office and someone else taking on the Twitter account to issue a statement. One can only hope whoever posted the offensive tweets was disciplined. They need to take responsibility for who they hire and responsibly disciplining employees who behave unprofessionally.
Everyone pretty much forgot about this until now, when apparently the company had their products TESTED! AVN published a press release, which had a positive, if not cautious reaction from Dangerous Lilly, the guru of investigative journalism when it comes to sex utensil materials. Issuing her own mea culpa, it was not without reason she was originally skeptical, because jelly-like materials are traditionally a mystery meat. They’ve been known to cause chemical burns and suspected of much, much worse.
Now, I’d like to point out a couple of things:
- They DID lie about the materials in their products:
To be clear, the product you mentioned is made by using a blend of silicone and elastomer that is NOT porous and will NOT harbor…
— The Screaming O (@screamingo) November 12, 2014
The results of the test showed only styrene-ethylene/butylene-styrene in the product, and no silicone. Further, unless some chemical & materials engineers really start paying attention to this and setting the record straight, as far as we know, soft and flexible materials that are not silicone are porous. I’ll admit to having some limited background in organic chemistry, and I can identify functional groups here that are familiar, but I can’t tell you if this is porous. But was this a lie of ignorance, the same old story, or malicious?
It’s likely Screaming O is a manufacturer that started out like many of them – rich dude wants to make money off the sex products industry, contracts with a facility to produce the product, and profits without a second thought of what’s in the product. Certainly, China doesn’t care. Every few years we still find lead in children’s jewelry at the dollar store. When you’re paying factories and workers that little, corners are going to be cut. Heck, outsourcing for the purpose of cheap labor rather than expertise is cutting corners in and of itself (although, at this point, China is an expert at cheap labor and small mechanical goods). I’m not saying that’s the case here, though, I honestly don’t know.
Before I get off track on supply chain issues, the point is, the business-end of the business has had a financial incentive to maintain plausible deniability, and still is trying to wrap its collective head around the concepts of porosity and toxicity, and is just beginning to understand how important this issue is to consumers once they learn the truth. I mean, after all, it’s not like the government is making them do anything, so what’s the big deal?
- There was no further follow up and the tweets are still there. We don’t know if someone lost their job or if it’s one person doing all the tweeting or what, and the apology wasn’t that great, to be honest, and too little too late.
They seem to think cleaning with soap and water will protect you from STI’s. Soap and water is NOT a sterilization procedure.
They claim this material is non-porous, but after years of trying to figure out what the hell is in our sex toys and trying to spread correct information, I think it’s understandable why everyone is so suspicious that it isn’t.
I haven’t had an opportunity to post my own guide to sex utensil materials yet, and for that I sincerely apologize. I am practically carving this hole in the Internet out with the spoon of my spare time and sanity, rushing to get as much content published as I can while this blog is in its infancy, so a materials guide is still on my to-do list.
In the meantime, if you want to know more about sex toy materials, visit the following links:
- Toxic Toys – The Definite Guide to Toxic Sex Toy Awareness.
- Coalition Against Toxic Toys (posting this again in case you miss it in Lilly’s post)
- Tantus: TOXIC TOYS: BEYOND PHTHALATES by Metis Black
- Tantus: Danish Ministry Environment Study PDF
- Tantus: GETTING THE GOVERNMENT IN BED: HOW TO REGULATE THE SEX-TOY INDUSTRY by Emily Stabile
I truly hope this is the start of a trend in the industry – beyond just starting to make items out of silicone and labeling things as pthalate-free, it’s long been a goal to see these items tested and the results made public, and accurate materials listed on the packaging.