Sometimes It's Good to Be Sensitive
I really love Dan Savage but sometimes even he gets it wrong. I have often thought I might write to Savage to give my two cents on his advice, but a letter about anal desensitizing wipes that ran this week made me actually get off my butt and do it. You can read the letter here Here is what I wrote back: Dear Dan: I just had to write you about your response to ASS who gave anal desensitizing wipes out to students during a sex week event. You said that you didn't think anyone could be harmed by these wipes. I completely disagree. I own a sex-positive toy shop in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. We carefully check the ingredients of all the products we sell and of all the products customers ask us about. I've looked into this product. These wipes are a bad idea for two reasons. First, your assertion that they couldn't contain a pharmaceutical-grade topical anaesthetic is not entirely correct. These wipes have benzocaine in them. Yes, it is a small amount but it is benzocaine, a drug used to numb pain. Making your butt numb, or even making it tingle, interferes with your ability to feel exactly what's going on and to know if something bad might be happening. You can do a surprising amount of damage to anal tissue before you realize it if your butt is numbed out. Second, these types of topical creams, sprays and wipes can be very irritating. Often they also contain menthol or peppermint oil. No matter how careful you are, there is likely to be some minor tearing or abrasion during anal sex. Menthol in those is a bitch! It will sting. And it will sting for a long time. It will also inflame and irritate the area preventing it from healing quickly. That inflamed and irritated area is then a great place for bacteria and viruses to find a way into the bloodstream. I do not know if this same thing happens with benzocaine, but I do know it happens with other products like this. Even when there is no menthol or peppermint oil in the product, other ingrdients in the products like oils, glycerin, propylene glycol, etc. can find their way into tears cause inflammation and infection due to the increased likelihood of you having caused damage to your anal tissue from being too numbed out to know. The best way to avoid pain and increase comfort during anal sex is exactly what you described in the previous letter. On another note, I was shocked that ASS gave these wipes to students without a clue as to what they are. It's totally unprofessional conduct to provide sex supplies to studnets before you have researched what's in them and whether they are safe. My staff and I are often asked to order in products for our customers and we will only do so once we know exactly what's in the product and can tell the customer whether it's safe and/or how to use it safely.