A new kind of unsafe sex….

The safest sex used to be with yourself. After all, any STD you catch is most likely to be one you already have. According to Greenpeace, though, you might be in danger of picking something up even when you’re enjoying your single-serve pudding cup all alone.

Some of the squishier jelly vibes are made using phthalates, free roaming chemicals that keep the plastic squishy but which could detach from the device completely, ending up . . . well, wherever you happen to be sticking it at the time. The question of course is how dangerous these little fellows really are.

While they do cause cancer in rats, they haven’t been conclusively shown to cause problems in adult humans at modest rates of use. Because they may be considered a danger to children, these chemicals have been banned from toys such as teething rings, but they remain in a number of sex toys even though there might be an issue with continued use and buildup of the chemical in the body. Long-term studies will be able to better show how these chemicals might affect us.

In the meantime, better use a condom — even when you’re by yourself.

(Sorry for the lack of citations and the possible rambling — I’m home with a mildly broken back and in desperate need of a chiropractor.)

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. With a bad back, you can't enjoy anything. Everyone seems to have their own favorite way of dealing with it; I tend to go with eradicating the pain as well as possible. Some people like ice, some like heat; once I tried lying flat on the floor with my knees bent and my legs on the seat of a chair, anything to stretch out my back as flat as possible. Kaiser prescribes drugs, muscle relaxers.

    I've heard the "tough it out" theory, which is that the back will untwinge in its own time, whether you suffer at work or at home — I have a four-letter word for that theory.

    You know, some of the chiropractor stuff, like the heat pack, you can imitate completely without resorting to their other mishegas. I looked on Google, and many of the links for "bad back" were from the UK. Shrug. Or in your case, don't shrug.

    Feel better soon.

  2. Regarding chemicals, didnt they find that certain chemicals used in plastic closely resembled female hormones, and were suspected to make men less fertile.

    I also saw an interesting documentary a while back that said that even though we know the effects of various chemicals that pollute our waters, and we know what the "safe" levels are below which they are apparently harmless, there's now research suggesting that combinations of many of these pollutants are having a whole range of unpredicted effects.

    Another interesting result was that some pollutants are actually more dangerous in minute quantities because the body's immune system would take care of them when present in larger quantities. It almost made me think of homeopathy. Almost …

    Anyway, sorry to derail.

  3. Back pain…I often get those… But my worst nightmare happened luckily only once… My back hurt so much that I couldn't stay in a lying position for more than 20 min… So, it was difficult to sleep for almot 2 weeks… I had to stand up and start walking in the house during the night… It was awful. And just sitting on the side of the bed and try to stand… Ohhh boy… It was the worst pain I ever had. I was almost crying… I can't imagine someone living with that pain in his or her everyday life…

    And… erm…I must admit something… During that time… I did try to go to a chiropractor (I was desperate)… And I do thing that it might have helped me… Although, if I would have listened to him, I would still be going twice a week…

  4. Another interesting result was that some pollutants are actually more dangerous in minute quantities because the body’s immune system would take care of them when present in larger quantities. It almost made me think of homeopathy. Almost …

    It's more like how if you ingest large amounts of certain poisons, it'll automatically trigger the gag reflex and you'll vomit it out, but if you don't take quite as much, it'll stay in and kill you.

  5. I had that with bad meat once. Had I eaten more and thrown up, I probably would have been fine. Instead, I ended up with food poisoning. Ouch :(

  6. Actually, I've had my own back problems for the past few years. I think it originally started with an injury that inflammed some muscle that put excess pressure on my sciatic nerve, causing some nasty pain in my lower back and down my left leg. It's never completely gone away, but the absolute number one best thing for that was just improving my posture… which I never quite did completely, which is probably why I still have problems. ;)

    But my pain did get a lot worse during the time the back of my chair broke and I couldn't afford to replace the chair because I was unemployed, then it got way better when I finally got some money to buy a new chair. Corrected sitting posture did wonders for my own back troubles, so I'd investigate that for yourself. Sleeping posture might also have a lot to do with it. I've noticed my back troubles me less when I sleep lying flat on it with only one pillow under my neck, but unfortunately I don't fall asleep very easily that way. But if you can make it work for you, it might help your back some.

  7. I never had a bad experience with a Chiropractor. Of course, the fellow I used to go to was firmly of the opinion that you didn't have to use more than 2.2 lbs of pressure per square inch for any manipulations, and he never claimed to cure diseases– only soothe aching joints &tc. Indeed, there was a time I had serious TMJ syndrome, and he would reset the joint so that it was no longer killing me– But advised that I see an orthodontist for a more permanent fix.

    Am I to understand that this is not the standard model of Chiropractor?

  8. Well, remember that at we do have our own resident chiro ( ). I was joking, though – despite the fact that I like Ed's style, I don't trust any other chiro enough to waste my time hobbling to his or her office, only to find out that my chakras need jimmying. At least three people from work have suggested I see a chiro, though. I politely "um" and "er" until they get the hint or just go away.

  9. That'd be cool. I've heard from the Skeptical community that Chiros are a bunch of woo-woo believers in magnets and auras and the uses of spinal manipulation to cure diabetes.

    I have never been to a Chiro that believed more than that the best way to cure back pain was to make sure your spine was properly aligned and your muscles relaxed.

    I'd like to know if Chiroprators themselves notice such a deep split in their community.

  10. Actually, there's a faction of Chiropractors calling themselves "Objective Straight" who are approaching respectability. The one you saw, Rav, was most likely one of these. I actually made a post on my blog explaining this just a couple of days ago.

    I’d like to know if Chiroprators themselves notice such a deep split in their community.

    The big ones in the mainstream do, as do almost all of the Objective Straights.

  11. "today I learned that oral sex might give you throat cancer."

    I hope you learned that by reading about it rather than finding out the, um, hard way.

  12. I’m just glad male masturbation is still safe. I mean, today I learned that oral sex might give you throat cancer.* What will they think of next?

    *Another reason to hate the people opposed to HPV-vaccines.

  13. Thanks, Info– I am glad to know that there are some competent physical therapists out there:

    I just had a mildly violent disagreement with an old friend over "Traditional" medicines. While I have used Chinese Traditional Medicine on occasion (like when I couldn't get to a real physician when I lived in Taiwan), and believe that it has SOME merit; My friend convinced me to try her "doctor," who used Ayurvedic techniques.

    Well, I decided to try it out, and was immediately turned off when the "doctor" began diagnosing me my passing magnets over me whilst holding bottles of various herbal tablets formulated for different internal organs.

    Seems my friend wouldn't accept that that magnets are about as much good as magic. Just because the advice to her amounted to "Watch what you eat, exercise regularly, don't overindulge, &tc" she felt better. but she could have done that on her own.

    At least a Chinese doctor will physically examine you and go over your real medical history. –Although when you can get things like proper aspirin, I see no reason to go chew on a bit of willow bark because it's "natural."

  14. Yes, I would love a review of chiropractic. I have a friend who happens to be a chiropractor, and she said she just enjoys making people feel better. She has made me feel better when she rubs my back, and puts nice hot packs on the place where it hurts, but she has never made the pain actually go away as if the problem has been cured. It scares me when she would hold my head in her two hands and twist it so that I heard crunching noises. She received her doctor of chiropractic degree or dipoma or whatever it is at about the same time as the union medical plans began to pay for chiropractic treatments. She learned how to process the insurance claims and she has become the main breadwinner in her family. When I found out what the chiropractors are taught, I decided not to go to her professionally anymore, and she and I agreed not to talk about it.

    Once I was having a very strange muscle spasm that I could only alleviate by holding my hand over my head with my arm bent at the elbow; I didn't feel like taking drugs for it, which is how it would have been treated at Kaiser, my HMO. My daughter took me to a different chiropractor who did something odd. He showed me a picture in a reference book of a man who had his arm bent the same way mine was. He then used an instrument that looked and sounded like a ballpoint pen, and clicked it on my back about a dozen times.

    I was advised to make several more appointments — and I did — and he did the same treatment each time. Finally the muscle relaxed, but I was pretty sure it would have eased up anyway; there was no way to have a control experiement.

    I decided that if that ever happened to me again, I'd go to Kaiser and get drugs.

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