From twitter and facebook pages to the down and dirty antics of characters on  teen-driven night time dramas, mainstream media relishes the very public sexuality of teenage girls. Broader society, however, isn’t as crazy about the concept of teen girls actually being sexual. This is reflected in teens’ lack of access to all things ‘adult,’ including sex toys. Some would go so far as to say the mere concept of ‘underage’ women getting mechanical delight – even if these women meet their state’s legal age of consent for having sex – threatens a patriarchal culture.

The age of consent in the United States varies by state, but is often around 16. Buying sex toys, on the other hand, is strictly limited in all states to 18 years and older. Why the contrast?

“My feeling is that it is illegal to sell sex toys to teens because legislators are largely straight, conservative men,” says Heather Corinna, founder of Scarleteen, a teen sex-ed web site; “and an awful lot of straight, conservative men are intimidated by sex toys and still claim ownership of womens’ sexuality.”

“Men introduce young women to their sexuality – on men’s terms – so experimenting with sex toys doesn’t go along with the plan to keep women sexually passive.” she added.

Amber Madison, author of Hooking Up: A Girl’s Guide To Sex and Sexuality, said she considers society tolerant of young women’s sexuality, “but only to please a male partner. If teen girls want sex for themselves because it feels good, it becomes stigmatized.” Of course, there are ways around most laws and this is no exception. “Girls can buy back massagers at any drugstore or Brookstone,” Madison added.

Consent Discontent – Take a close look at some of the age of consent laws around the country and you’re sure to find double standards. The age of consent is higher for girls in many states including Colorado, South Carolina, and Washington; girls in these states aren’t of consenting age until until they are 18, while boys make the cut years earlier.
No one carded Kelsey, a 17-year-old Californian, when she bought sex toys at a chain novelty shop, but that didn’t stop her dissatisfaction with the quality of toys available to under-agers. “Sexual exploration without a partner should be encouraged – there’s no risk of STDs or pregnancy. Aren’t we trying to reduce teen pregnancy?”

Anne Seamens, marketing director of Babeland (the high-end and woman-owned sex shop chain) said the company is eager to empower teens who want to explore their sexuality but, “the law is the law. Plenty of us were sexually active teens who would have loved a store like Babeland. But at this point it’s just as important to educate other parents about giving their kids good information and access to materials.”

Southern Statutes – In Alabama, a state where guns are sold on virtually every corner, it’s hard to imagine one could be thrown in prison for selling a sex toy. Though it’s no longer illegal to own one, selling a sex toy does fall under Alabama’s anti-obscenity law, which bans the distribution of “any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.” The law has been continually fought in the ten years since it’s inception, but remains intact. Texas and Georgia also have laws prohibiting the sale of sex toys.
Allie, a 16-year-old pro-choice activist from New York, said she wants to mobilize others around this issue but worries her protests would fall on deaf ears. “It’s one thing when we write to our representatives about young people and sex education and birth control,” she says; “but sex toys are a different story. I don’t think they’d take us seriously.”

Experts agree. “Our government is funneling more than $1 billion into sex-ed programs that have been proven not to work,” Kierra Johnson, executive director of the youth-led nonprofit Choice USA, said. “Our number-one battle is to get misinformation about sexuality out of schools and to involve teens with a sex-positive movment that discusses healthy, positive sexuality.”


  1. I remember it set off a mini-scandal when Oprah said on her show that teen girls should use vibrators so that they could realise they could feel good sexually without needing a partner.

  2. Better they should find themselves impregnated or diseased to win the approval of and contribute to a strict, patriarchal society that’s about as exciting as old wrinkled balls.

  3. i agree. men, especially men who are uh, ‘limited’ in their sexual abilities certainly are intimidated by women’s sex toys. (And they should be.)

  4. how can i buy a sex toy underage? i could go online and buy one but dont you have to have a credit card to buy stuff? and i dont want the package to come home when my moms there. that would be awkward. and i dont want to ask a random person on the streets.

    • Alyssa – just find an older friend to buy it for you. You might also try a drugstore like CVS that sells them as ‘massagers.’ And if your local mall has a Spencer, you shouldn’t have problems buying one there. 😉