What I Learned in Bed

By Hannah Wydeven

Dear Hannah,
My girlfriend and I are in love, but we have totally opposite class schedules, so we never get to see each other during the day. Where is a good place on campus for us to have a quickie?
– Frisky on Campus

FOC, if I revealed all my secret sex spots on campus, we would have some awkward encounters. Be creative. Dear Hannah,
I love using sex toys, but I’ve heard rumors that some of them are toxic and bad for the environment. Is this true? Can I happily enjoy my toys without worrying?
Environmental Studies Major Looking for Fun

The sex toy industry has a pretty bad reputation in terms of disclosure, ESM. The industry isn’t regulated, so companies aren’t required to let you know what’s in the products. A lot of mystery surrounds the materials used to make them and how harmful they can be.

Fortunately, there are groups out there dedicated to exposing these companies and finding alternative ways of making sex toys safe. One is the Coalition Against Toxic Toys (CATT), a non-profit based in Minnesota and associated with the Smitten Kitten, a sex-positive store on Lyndale Ave. In their own words, CATT’s mission is: “To demystify the adult sex toy industry and positively transform socially irresponsible, environmentally and personally hazardous sex toy manufacturing and sex toy sales practices.” Their website (www.badvibes.org) talks about how sex toys can be dangerous for both people and the environment.

Certain synthetic materials used to make sex toys can be toxic to humans, which might remind you of recent drama with children’s toys. Using toxic toys in your special places can make it that much easier for them to enter and accumulate in your body.

Toys can also have a dangerous effect on the environment because of the presence of toxic chemicals. Greenpeace ran an article in 2006 about the danger of phthalates, a substance used to increase the flexibility of toys, which does not easily biodegrade and can be harmful even in small amounts.

According to a Smitten Kitten employee, there are specific things you want to watch out for when you buy a toy. Anything made with “jelly” rubbers or elastic toys can have a mixture of toxins that are bad for both you and the environment. There are ways that you can tell if your sex toy is dangerous, ESM. For example, if it smells bad (a chemical or plastic smell), you might want to get rid of it. The Bad Vibes website has great tips for identifying whether your naughty toy might harm you.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to these nasty jelly toys. Some companies only make toys that are guaranteed to be non-toxic, and stores like Smitten Kitten make sure that their shelves are stocked with only safe products. Many of those safe toys are made of medical grade silicone, which is an inert substance; it is non-toxic to the environment and it will never break down. If you really want to reduce your impact, use a toy made from glass, ceramics, or surgical steel that is safe for you and can be recycled after you’ve moved on.

Fear not, sex toy lovers: you can experience the pleasure of your vibrating friend if you make the extra effort to know about where it comes from. As long as you get your facts straight, you can have sexy toy time without increasing your ecological footprint or your guilty conscience.

Dear Hannah,
My parents are dropping me from their health insurance plan this year, and the insurance company that I’m applying for makes me answer personal and inappropriate questions. For example, “Have you ever had sex with a gay man?” or “Do you participate in anal sexual activity?” Can I lie? Or refuse to answer? I don’t want to pay more for health insurance when I already know for sure that I don’t have STIs or HIV.
Pissed for Having to Pay

I’m assuming you’re afraid to answer these questions because you have participated in these activities and don’t want to pay consequences for not doing anything wrong. What you have to understand is that health insurance companies don’t care that these questions seem completely inappropriate and unfair to you. They ask you these things to assess your “risk” as a patient, and that’s how they decide whether or not they are going to cover you and how much they are going to charge.

Most likely if you answer “yes” to those questions, they will assume you are at higher risk for HIV and may deny you coverage. Though you could lie about it, and your health insurance company may never know, it’s better not to. If you lie about those questions and then end up contracting something like HIV, there is a good chance that your insurance company will deny you coverage for your treatment. Each plan is different for this. Some will say if you contract within six months, one year, and sometimes within a much greater time, you won’t be covered. If that happens, you will be paying out of pocket for treatments and you won’t find any other company to cover you.

My advice is to look for a different plan. Not every plan will ask you those types of questions. If you are a graduating senior, then you should consider this when you are applying for jobs. Many employers offer health insurance and none of these questions are involved and the applications are much simpler and less personal. Also, there are plenty of insurance companies that offer starter programs for people on their first plan and many of these won’t have such specific requirements.

If you’re still in school, you can buy Macalester’s health insurance plan. The plan has very minimal requirements and only asks simple questions about your income and pre-existing conditions.

Unfortunately, PHP, the real world sucks, and you have to deal with people who aren’t going to be accepting of everything you do. Don’t lie about who you are, because it might come back to bite you. Instead, try to find a company that isn’t so concerned about your sex life.