We live in a culture where sex is rarely spoken about and self-pleasure is shamed rather than celebrated. So it's not surprising there are a lot of questions and uncertainties when it comes to adult toys and any other items designed to enhance the sexual experience. But while the social taboos surrounding these products remain complex, our regulations and rules towards them are thankfully a little more straightforward. Still, the question remains: are sex toys illegal?
The short answer is no, at least probably not where you are.
Countries Where Sex Toys Are Prohibited
The long answer is that, despite sex toys now being a $35 billion dollar global industry that is growing rapidly, there are still a few countries where they are seen as obscene, and thus prohibited. Whilst this doesn't mean they can't be found in these places and punishments vary, we don't recommend possessing adult products if living in or traveling to these countries.
With strict anti-pornography laws that can land people who view porn in the country in jail for up to four years, Indonesia is not the most sex-friendly country. While sex toys are not outright banned, these vaguely worded laws are often considered as covering vibrators and dildos too, and officials take the very matter seriously, conducting regular raids and in 2022 burning over $60,000 worth of prohibited goods.
Possession of "sexual instruments", such as sex toys, is illegal in Saudi Arabia. Anyone found to own or bring toys into the country can be fined and have the items confiscated.
United Arab Emirates
Under Section III, Article 362 of the UAE Penal Code, items that violate public morality are banned, and that includes sex toys. This law extends to Dubai, a popular holiday destination, and if found to own one, it can lead to confiscation, fines, and even detention.
As a matter of fact, in 2021 Geordie Shore star Charlotte Crosby had to plead with authorities at Dubai Airport, as she was nearly arrested for having a sex toy in her luggage whilst traveling.
While sex toys were previously banned for charges of obscenity under the Indian Customs Act of 1962, this law was overruled in 2011, with a court declaring that just because toys bring out sexual desires, does not mean they are obscene.
Nowadays, while there is no explicit ban on sex toys, India's Penal Code does state that under Section 292, any book, drawing or object deemed to fuel overtly sexual thoughts can be found to be prohibited. Because of this, sex toys that are sold in the country are often marketed differently, with retailers avoiding use of promiscuous claims, wording and images. In addition, whilst you should have no issues with non-phallic toys like our Lili egg vibrator, realistic dildos should be steered clear of.
While the laws in some countries can include areas of gray, Malaysia's Penal Code is quite to the point. Anyone who sells or possesses an "obscene object", which includes sex toys, can be fined and imprisoned for up to three years.
The Maldives is a popular holiday destination, but sex toys are one item you should leave out of your suitcase. Classed as pornographic material, which is banned within the country, those found to be in possession of these items will have them confiscated, with some locals even facing jail time.
In 2011, Vietnam banned the importation of sex toys, with visitors finding their products confiscated if caught. Thankfully, according to the General Department of Vietnam Customs, the items can be returned to travelers when leaving the country.
While Thailand's thriving sex tourism industry brings many people to the country, adult products remain illegal there, with those caught selling or possessing these items risking fines and up to three years in jail. Despite this, sex toys remain popular in Thailand and are even sold openly in the country's red-light districts.
Closer To Home
Ever wondered why some sex toys are listed as being for "novelty use" only?
This is because in some US states, such as Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia, the sale of "obscene" items is banned, which can be interpreted by some law observers as covering sex toys. Thankfully this doesn't relate to the owning of these products, and for shops who want to steer clear of any trouble, they can simply avoid the outright promotion of the device's sexual nature, hence "novelty".
One outlier to all of this, however, is Texas. In a state where it's legal to carry a gun in public without a license, consumers are actually banned from owning more than six sex toys, as to do so assumes you have the intent to sell them. Of course, the enforcement on this one is questionable, and prosecution is even rarer.
What About Age Limits?
While there are no laws prohibiting the purchase of sex toys based on age, it is an offense in most places to expose minors to pornography or X-rated material. For this reason, many online and brick-and-mortar retailers will restrict the age of their customers. However, as sex toys continue to find a place for themselves on the shelves of popular department stores like Walmart and Target, they will become increasingly more accessible for people of all ages.
Unregulated = Unsafe
There are thankfully very few restrictions on sex toys in the western world, but this is actually a double-edged sword. Normal product regulations that usually protect us from hazardous materials and dangerous designs are not present in the sex toy industry, which means consumers have to stay vigilant to keep themselves safe. One example of this is phthalates, a chemical linked to adverse health effects and banned in children's toys, but still widely available in sex toys.
So next time you shop, remember to first ask yourself these three questions:
● What is it made of?
The material a sex toy is made out of should be the first thing you look at when choosing a product, as the use of toxic and unsafe materials is one of the biggest problems facing the industry today. Your best option is always going to be silicone, which is body-safe, non-porous, latex- and phthalate-free, hypoallergenic, and everything else a sex toy should be. Other safe materials include metal, glass, and plastic, although the quality of these can differ.
● Where is it going?
If the answer is your anus, this question is important. Whilst the vagina and other holes can expel anything that's placed inside of them (to a safe degree, of course), the anus doesn't play by the same set of rules. It can act like a vacuum, and once inside, you may need a visit to the local ER to get it back out. It's for this reason that you need to ensure your sex toy is safe for anal insertion before using it, and for most dildos and anal plugs this means a wide flared base.
● Who am I buying it from?
The easiest way to ensure you are buying a safe product is to get it from a reputable retailer, such as our own store here at Honey Play Box. Marketplaces like eBay and Amazon should be avoided, as not only may items be counterfeit, but because sex toys aren't regulated, they can get away with lying about their answers to the above questions, listing toxic toys as silicone and vaginal-only toys as anal-safe.