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Friday, Jan. 7, 2011

Choosing and Using Glass Toys

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One of the most frequently asked questions at the Tool Shed concerns sex toys made of glass. This question usually comes up as people walk past the case where our glass toys are displayed and say something like, "Oooh... glass. Those are so pretty. But aren't they... DANGEROUS?" A common alternative ending is, "But aren't they... COLD?"

In fact, glass does not have to be either dangerous or cold. Before people pick up a glass toy and feel how heavy and substantial it is, I imagine that many of them think the toys are fragile and easily breakable, and thus dangerous. Most glass sex toys are actually made of borosilicate glass, which is also commonly referred to as Pyrex and is used to make laboratory ware and kitchenware. Borosilicate glass is very durable and can withstand greater temperature extremes than other types of glass without cracking or breaking.

Some glass toys are made of soda-lime glass instead of borosilicate. Soda-lime glass is also used for kitchenware, as well as windowpanes. Although it's not quite as heat-resistant as borosilicate glass, it's still a safe choice for glass sex toys. Which type of glass an artisan toy maker will choose might depend on the final effect he or she wants to achieve, since soda-lime and borosilicate glass have some differences in terms of how they can be colored and manipulated.

In either case, glass toys should be solid and durable. Although glass toys can break if dropped or struck against a hard surface, just like Pyrex kitchenware can, it should not break under normal use, unless you have PC muscles made of steel. If you do crack or chip a glass toy, that toy is no longer safe to use (although a customer once told me about a shattered toy that was recycled into a beautiful glass art piece—a great way to commemorate a favorite toy's years of faithful service!).

So why would someone want to use a glass toy? There are many reasons, actually. Although glass toys appear cold and unforgiving at first glance, temperature play is one of the main reasons that people enjoy them. Glass picks up and retains body heat very nicely, becoming warm and organic-feeling. If I pass a glass toy around during a class, by the time it gets back to me it will be quite warm just from being held in people's hands. Glass can also be placed in a glass of ice water if it's a cool effect that you seek—this may not sound appealing in the middle of a Wisconsin winter, but cool glass can be quite sensual on a hot summer day. I recommend gently heating and cooling using hot water or ice water, and not boiling, freezing or microwaving a glass toy, partly because soda-lime glass will not withstand these temperatures, but mostly because these methods will make the glass too hot or too cold to safely use on your body.

Glass toys can also be used with any type of lubricant—water-based, silicone or oil-based—and, because of their smooth surface, very little lube is needed to make them deliciously slick. Because glass is nonporous, it can be sterilized and is very easy to keep clean. You can even put it in the dishwasher with the rest of your glassware! Glass' hard surface is also excellent for G-spot or prostate play, since many people find that a firm touch is needed to stimulate these spots.

Glass toys can either be handmade or mass-produced. If you like the idea of owning a sex toy that's also a beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece of art, handmade glass might be for you. Glass is also recyclable, making it one of the most environmentally friendly types of toys.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to
laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the
Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side.