Q&A: My Roommate Used My Vibrator Without Telling Me

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QUESTION: My roommate told me that while I was gone, she used my vibrators and dildos. She seems not to understand why that's a violation of my privacy but also why it's dangerous to share sex toys without taking proper precautions. Can you explain the risks of sharing sex toys?

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Keep-Out

Photo: yewenyi (flickr.com)

Many people would agree that having someone go through their personal belongings would feel like an invasion of privacy.

When NOT to Share

Sometimes I hear from people who feel curious about using a sex toy that belongs to their roommate, sister or sexual partner when that person is not at home. Many people would agree with you that having someone go through their personal belongings, especially their belongings that are particularly private, would feel like an invasion of privacy.

One of the health-related problems with sharing sex toys is that it is not known how long certain bacteria or viruses can survive in sex toy materials. That means that sharing sex toys can result in sharing infections.

If your friend is interested in trying a sex toy, she would be better off buying an affordable sex toy and seeing if she likes it herself or going to a woman-friendly sex toy shop or in-home sex toy party to touch and turn on various toys and see which one she would want to buy and try on her own.

The Anatomy of a Sex Toy

There are many different types of sex toy materials, some which are more porous than others. As a result, some sex toys may be more likely to harbor germs and various organisms than other materials. Sex toys that are made of glass, hard plastic or silicone tend to be less porous and thus easier to keep clean.

Some sex toy materials, such as soft Jelly materials, can be more porous and thus more difficult to keep clean.

The texture and structure of a sex toy are also important to consider. If a sex toy has a lot of cracks and crevices, it can be more difficult to keep clean. Read more about different sex toy materials and things to look for when sex toy shopping in Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure & Satisfaction.

Most sex toys can be cleaned with soap and water, though we need more research to understand how long certain bacteria or viruses can live on various sex toy materials. Non-vibrating dildos that are made of glass or silicone can often be boiled in a pot of water on the stove or washed in the dishwasher. Vibrators, because of their wires and motors, cannot be cleaned this way.

Sharing Together

Sometimes couples choose to share sex toys with each other, sometimes with a condom put on over their sex toy. If they have both been tested for sexually transmissible infections (STI) and are comfortable with whatever results they have received, then sharing a sex toy is not necessarily a problem – but if one partner has an STI, it could possibly be transmitted via sharing sex toys, so getting tested ahead of time is important.

A Question of Privacy

The bottom line is that sharing sex toys should always be done with caution and care and borrowing someone’s toy without telling them can be risky and may feel disrespectful to the person whose sex toy it is.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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