Many are aware of the dangers of sexually transmitted disease through unprotected sex, but could we also face a risk from using sex toys? A new study from Indiana University School of Medicine has examined whether vibrators could be transmitting the virus between sexual partners. In the US genital HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, it can seem harmless, but can lead to warts and even cancer.
The study took 12 women between the ages of 18 and 29 who had engaged in sexual relations with both men and women during the previous year. It gave them two vibrators each one thermoplastic elastomer – known as a ‘Rabbit’-style vibrator – and another made of soft silicone and asked the women to swab the vibrators after vaginal use, immediately after cleaning and 24 hours later. They found that nine participants tested positive from the vibrators for HPV on at least one of the vibrators. HPV was found eight of the nine the thermoplastic vibrators and six of the nine silicone vibrators.
When they checked the vibrators after they had been cleaned, they found DNA from HPV on five of the thermoplastic vibrators and four of the silicone ones still. Then after 24hrs they did not detect the virus on any of the silicone vibrators however they did find HPV on two of the thermoplastic sex toys still.
Lead author Dr. Teresa Anderson, from the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, said: ‘Sex toys used between partners within the same sexual encounter have the potential for transmitting HPV,’ Anderson told Reuters Health. Cleaning the sex toy has the potential to decrease the amount of HPV DNA we can detect and so can potentially decrease the risk of transmission.’
Dr. Jeffrey Klausner told Reuters Health said: ‘I agree with the author that we need to study and identify safe and effective ways to clean sex toys. When people are intimate, they’re going to share viruses and germs. The good thing is that HPV is vaccine-preventable. The bad thing is the vaccination rates are very low. ‘It probably would make sense for people not to share their sex toys. I’m not sure how practical it is during sex to start washing your toys.’
Other studies in the past have shown that more than half of women between 18 and 60 years old reported using a vibrator. Plus 65% of bisexual women have admitted to using a sex toy with a partner. It now seems that you may be at increased risk for sexually transmitted infections as a women if you are having a sexual relationship with adolescents and young women as well as women who have sex with both women and men.