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Great deals can be found on used sex toys. But at what cost?
This article contains sexually explicit material.
The Internet is Earth’s yard sale. Whether you’re selling designer clothing that no longer fits, books you’ve already read, or incredibly outdated electronics, there is no shortage of sites connecting you to people willing to free you of your old shit.
Some items, though, are a particularly hard resell. How, for instance, does one offload used sex toys?
Whether they be vibrators, harnesses, costumes, paddles, or something else entirely, sex toys are increasingly becoming investment pieces. For many years, toys were either novelty purchases made at seedy peep-show fronts or disguised as “personal massagers” at stores like Sharper Image. Then, in the late ’90s, one episode of Sex and the City launched a million Rabbits. Since then, the taboos against filling out your goodie drawer have slowly eroded and more people became interested in quality and function. Brands have delivered and upscale products from brands like Lelo and Jimmyjane going for over $200 (or this 18k gold plated number for $3,000).
However, there is no such thing as “one dildo fits all.” Naturally, some toys and sexual aids just won’t work for everyone. Plenty of sex shops will let customers try out a lube or a toy on their own hands. But due to the intimate nature of these products, they cannot be thoroughly tested out beforehand—leaving customers with a considerable financial investment that feels wrong to just throw away.
Which is why some people are turning to Craigslist:
Exchange sites like Craigslist don’t boast many listings for used sex toys (and eBay does not allow used sex toys to be listed on their site), but there are at least a couple in every city. For the brave, great deals can be had. One listing for a WeVibe 4 plus, which retails for $179, is just $75 in one Craigslist listing, which specifies that it is “washed and disinfected but still USED.” Another lists a 9″ dildo for $25, “used only one time, still in the package. I can’t have in the house.” One seller offers a selection of “moderately used, like new” dildos for about the third of the price as they are new.
There is also the forum r/usedsextoys on Reddit, which asks “Why just throw away your toys when you can make a bit of money?” As of now there is only one post for a WeVibe 4 that “just doesn’t work as expected for the wife.” They’re asking $40.
According to Sarah Tomchesson, Head of Business Operations for nationwide sex shops The Pleasure Chest, the allure of buying a sex toy used is the allure of the deal. “Amazon and discount retailers have gotten consumers so used to being able to purchase items well below their typical retail value,” she told the Daily Dot. We know we don’t have to spend a lot of money to get quality goods. If it’s a product you already love but can get it for half the price, it seems like a steal. And if you try it and it doesn’t work, well, at least you spent $25 and not $100.
In that sense, the reasons for buying used sex toys are the same as for anything secondhand. But intuitively, buying used sex toys just seems gross, to the point where when I contacted one Craigslist seller offering a small bullet for $25, they specified it was brand new and asked “Why on Earth would anyone sell something used like that?”
To be sure, there are a lot of risks when purchasing someone else’s sex toy. There is no guarantee the seller is being honest about how well they cleaned their toy, and many toys are made with porous materials that can absorb bacteria even if cleaned well. Sometimes, you can’t even trust the manufacturer to be honest about what those toys are made of. “Because sex toys are labeled as ‘for novelty use only’ some manufacturers may label products as silicone when they are in fact a silicone blended with a porous material,” says Tomchesson. Bacterial vaginosis, anyone?
Despite these gross details, sex toys can still be sold online because, simply put, sites like Craigslist are notoriously not very regulated. It’s easy for sellers to post there, so why not? There are also, frankly, not many better options, as nearly all sex toy retailers will not accept returns or refunds. Babeland will accept damaged and defective items for return, but not “satisfaction returns.” Neither will Pleasure Chest, “because of the sensitive nature of our items.” LoveHoney, a UK retailer, offers a recycling program for used toys, but they must have vibrating parts, meaning they won’t accept dildos, Fleshlights, or other non-electronic toys. Adam & Eve claims to be the only adult retailer to accept all returns, though they must be within 90 days of ownership. So if you’ve spent your paycheck on a new Rabbit only to find it doesn’t hit you in the right spot, you’re pretty much stuck with an unusable hunk of silicone gathering dust next to your bed.
Rest assured, though, Tomchesson stresses that if you buy your toys from an expert, there’s not as much likelihood of you needing to sell your toys online. “When you shop with a reputable retailer, staff is trained to ask questions like what have you used or liked before?” she explained. “If you haven’t owned a sex toy before, what are sensations that are pleasurable or orgasmic for your body?” With professional guidance, there’s less chance of you getting home, trying out your new purchase, and being disappointed.
But even then, there is always the allure of offloading your goods to offset the cost of a newer model, or of finding what you want for cheap. For that, the Internet will always provide.
Image via Sergey Galyonkin/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed
Jaya Saxena is a lifestyle writer and editor whose work focuses primarily on women's issues and web culture. Her writing has appeared in GQ, ELLE, the Toast, the New Yorker, Tthe Hairpin, BuzzFeed, Racked, Eater, Catapult, and others. She is the co-author of 'Dad Magazine,' the author of 'The Book Of Lost Recipes,' and the co-author of 'Basic Witches.'