Like many others who were trying to feel something good while quarantining, I purchased my first sex toy during the pandemic. As a germaphobe, physical contact with others has always been something I’ve engaged in reluctantly, so some pandemic-prescribed distancing turned out to be a relief. But I also decided to explore enjoying intimacy in the absence of somebody else. 

My first purchase was a little lavender vibrator with a smiley face on the end. It cost $60, a mild expense compared with other vibrators I’d seen while researching — some were upwards of $350. Vibrators, dildos, and other intimate accessories may be more kink-inclusive than ever, but the steep cost of these higher-quality toys means they are not as accessible for everyone, especially if you want to purchase from a luxury brand that offers state-of-the-art sexual innovation. 

Some consumers, though, have found an alternative to snapping up pricey products — and it may be more taboo than any toy on the market: Enter the world of sex toy thrifting. 

Yes, we’re talking about used sex toys. When I found Squeaky Clean Toys (SCT), a platform for buying and selling pre-owned sex toys, my first instinct was to think, Ew. But when I read about SCT’s strict sterilization, sanitizing (yes, there’s a difference, and more on that later), and safety policies, I wondered if this concept could make options for sexual wellness more widely available. 

Sure, used sex toys are also up for grabs online through forums, groups, and private sellers on sites such as Facebook, Craigslist, Reddit, and Etsy, but none of these places have any sort of guidelines to help protect the buyer from scams or safety issues. Squeaky Clean Toys, an established website with strict policies to protect buyers and sellers, hopes to put these devices within the reach of anyone who wants them. 

“We wanted to create something professional,” says Lisa, a cofounder of SCT who prefers to use a pseudonym for privacy. “Many knock the adult marketplace for being full of scams — and it is — but our goal was to bring professionalism into it and strip out the innuendos and misinformation to promote sexual aids as functional and beneficial items.”

The potential health implications of buying pre-owned vibrators are obvious: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can easily be spread from person to person, as well as from toy to person if not cleaned properly. When done the right way, however, might sex toy thrifting and resale actually make the industry more accessible?

A Case for Used Sex Toys

The lofty price tags on today’s most innovative and durable sex toys potentially exclude a large swath of the population who deserve access to them. For instance, such toys are incredibly important in enabling sex for some people with disabilities who use toys to adapt. But many people with disabilities live below the poverty level. Or, take someone like me, who’s looking to explore on their own for the first time: It can be daunting to drop so much money on something that may not be enjoyable. 

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