Sex. It’s something that a lot of us spend a lot of time thinking about, from daydreaming about our favourite celebrity to worrying if we’re doing it right to listening to your more adventurous friend brag about their exploits. But I bet that you’ve never thought about whether your sex life is ethical.
Now, I (Emma) know this seems like it’s going to an article where I lecture you about what you are doing ‘wrong’ in your sex lives. It’s not, I promise. I’m just going to look at some ways to make our sex lives more ethical – and possibly even better! After all, we’re always looking to make other areas of their lives more ethical (i.e. going flexitarian or recycling more), why not the bedroom as well?
I’ll be honest, this whole article was pitched after I tried to find a more eco-friendly way to clean my vibrator. I’m trying to cut down on the amount of trash that I create, so I wanted to stop buying the special wipes. Then I ended up down an internet rabbit (pun intended) hole and found out that cleaning might be the least of my sex toys’ eco problems…
It turns out that the average sex toy is made in China (as with most consumer products) to cut down on labour costs, so it could have a large carbon footprint by the time it reaches you. It may even contain some nasty chemicals or animal products, which you probably don’t want near your private parts. Then, there’s the issue of disposing of your sex toy. You can’t exactly chuck it in with the kerbside recycling, can you?
What should you do?
- Keep your sex toys for as long as possible, as ditching older ones before their time will only exacerbate your environmental impact. But when you are ready to retire them don’t throw them into a landfill; there are some recycling schemes available, like Love Honey.
- Clean your sex toys with warm water and white vinegar or, in the case of non-electric toys, simply boil them
- When looking for a new sex toy, look for ones that are made in your country (to decrease your carbon footprint) and choose ones made from medical-grade silicone, glass, metal or wood. If you do opt for a plastic one, stay away from any that contain phthalates, a potentially carcinogenic chemical. You could even find a solar powered sex toy to cut down on battery and electrical use. I swear that you won’t have to leave the whole thing out in plain view; just the battery.
What porn you consume – and how – can make a big difference to how ethical your sex life is, mainly because of how the industry treats its actors. And as the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have taught us, big, powerful companies – and the (mostly) men at the heads of them – generally suck at controlling themselves.
Most mainstream porn has problems with:
– unsafe sex, which some actors report being forced into
– pressuring actors into sex acts that they are uncomfortable with
– a lack of rights for workers, including unfair wages
– the fetishisation of its actors, particularly POC, LGBTQ+ people, plus size people, and mature people
All of that is appalling and it doesn’t even cover the fact that in most mainstream porn the female actors are forced to fake their orgasm, which creates an unrealistic view of sex for the consumer.
If the person making my veggie burger was working under unsafe conditions, I’d be furious, so why should I care less about the people making my porn? Now, this isn’t to say you should stop watching porn. I didn’t stop eating eggs when I found out about battery hens, I switched to free-range.
Instead, look into a more ethical type of porn that treats workers fairly and promotes intersectionality. Also, it could do wonders for your sex life by showing real sex acts that actually get women off and that you could try at home- mainstream porn seems awfully scared of a genuine female orgasm, doesn’t it?
So how can we make sure that the porn we’re watching is ethical?
There are no consumer reports on how ethical porn is, so it’s mostly up to you to decide for yourself, but here is my advice.
Pay: I know that we’re so used to getting our porn for free that it seems absurd to suggest you start paying for it again, but I swear there’s a good reason. When you don’t pay for porn, the industry can cut corners, which can hurt the performers.
Play favourites: Find a porn star that you like. Do your research on them, listen to what they say about their work, and find out if they have more control over what they do with whom. Some performers may even have a website (perhaps with free clips and photos!) and those actors are more likely to have control over their content.
Trust your instincts: The next time you’re watching porn, ask yourself if you think the actors are enjoying themselves and if the scene seems safe. You can still explore fantasies that may not look safe on the surface (i.e. BDSM), but it’s important that the performers are safe and happy to be in the scene.
I know this can seem like a lot, but considering how exploitative some porn can be to its actors, isn’t it worth it to support the performers who have done so much for you?
Lube And Barrier Contraceptives
Did you know that your lubes and contraceptives could contain animal by-products? Or that they may have been tested on animals? It’s something that I naively assumed was only true in contraceptives from the distant past, but unfortunately, it’s something that is just as true in the 21st century.
What can you do?
Simply, it’s a case of being a more informed consumer.
Organizations like PETA and the Leaping Bunny keep track of vegan and cruelty-free brands, but you should know that obtaining these certifications isn’t exactly common among the makers of lubes and contraceptives. Otherwise, you can always check the ingredients list on your lube for ingredients like glycerin and your barrier contraceptives for casein (or ask the manufacturer).
Now, I know that some of you are waiting for me to talk about how barrier contraceptives contribute to our landfills and that no one knows how long they take to biodegrade. However, I’m not going to tell anyone to ditch barrier contraceptives as they’re the only things that protect against STDs.
The only thing I’ll say is – DON’T FLUSH THEM DOWN THE TOILET! They’re really hazardous to marine life.
Okay, so this is how I’m pursuing a more ethical sex life, but now I’d like to hear from you. Are you trying to get a more socially conscious sex-life? How’s it going? Let me know in the comments section below.
This article, written by Emma, was originally published on LOTL and has been reprinted with permission. It contains some amendments for a UK audience.