Jul 112011
 


Thanks to Teagan for the Coalition name ;)

I read something somewhere recently, an innocuous little joke-in-poor-taste, where the author (a reviewer, no less) made a comment likening the ownership of “too many” sex toys to needing to find a partner. That because they happened to own a lot of sex toys it meant they were in even more desperate need of a sex partner – Not you, dear reader, just that person (to be clear). But then again….maybe somebody read that and thought “Oh god…I have a lot of sex toys TOO! Oh no, I’m a sad, miserable person and need to find a partner, stat!”1

I am a reviewer. I own a LOT of toys (mostly because I’m a reviewer, otherwise I wouldn’t because I’m not rich). I like my variety. Some I keep but aren’t my taste anymore. Even before I was a reviewer I had a lot (relatively speaking; it was a lot to me back then, a normal amount to me now) of toys, because I was muddling my way through purchases trying to find ones that worked for me and my body. I was never embarrassed about the quantity. In fact, I have always been proud of my collection. It’s like having a big book collection – different styles for different needs, different moods, etc. Some for a solo quickie, some for a drawn-out tease, some for g-spot, some for …..you get my point. Some are just for me, some are better for use with my partner.

But never would I equate my use-frequency or quantity of sex toys to a need for having or not having human partnered sex2. There’s no fucking shame in owning your sexuality, in taking control of your own damn orgasm. Can you PREFER human contact and partnered sex to sex toys? Sure. You can prefer whatever the fuck you want. But don’t insinuate to me that owning a lot of sex toys is somehow bad or shameful.

Do I think you, my reader, are to be pitied because you do NOT own a lot of sex toys? Only if you desire to own a lot. If you have a few ones that really do it for you and that’s that, fucking awesome. If you orgasm easily and do not need them…..I am highly jealous but still, fucking awesome for you. If you want a large collection or just can’t find the right one for you then yeah, I pity you, because the right to bear orgasms is in the fucking constitution3, damn it.

Did I make a mountain out of a proverbial molehill here in my little rant? Possibly. But there ARE people who are ashamed of sex toys4 and they don’t need that shame added to and there are men who feel threatened by sex toys and women who let their men feel threatened by the toy – they hide it instead of teaching him how it can be a wonderful addition to their time together and not a replacement.

 

Sit down, have a cup of coffee and let it all out. Yell at me. Agree with me. Ask me for help in expanding your own collection. I love to help give orgasms *grin* and by that I mean helping you shop, you silly perv.

  1. maybe I’m just grumpy today but it felt a little sex-negative to me *shrugs*
  2. That comes out wrong. I’m not referring to an equine sex partner or other animal, egads. Just…not battery operated or inflatable is all
  3. whut? I read “life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” as pursuit of MY happiness which includes orgasms and sexual release
  4. to people other than their parents, I totally get that, I don’t want my mom or family members knowing about my jerk-off accessories or even that I do jerk off just….because…
Jul 082011
 

I write this post with full knowledge that I’m going to offend or at least bruise egos of many bloggers. Our blogs are our homes and how we decorate them says a lot about both us individually and the nature of our blog.

I get it. I DO. My first two blog themes were very dark and sexy and gothy and  I cringe, CRINGE, when I look back at screencaps from those days. Why? Well let’s ignore first that my original banner on my blogspot blog was fucking hideous, and admit that I did the whole all-dark-all-the-time and had white text on a dark background. With the blog design that came before this current, bright (in comparison) color scheme was yet another dark and gothic fantasy world – but I’m still proud of that design. I and CoyPink‘s hubby, Alec, worked quite hard at that and I’m still proud of that header with its clickable words. At least I’d wizened up though and made a compromise – dark on the side, white for the posts. Perhaps some things in my sidebar were still a little hard to read for some, but it was a big improvement over the first real design.

What I hate and why I hate it:

1. You can convey a sexy sex blog without all being in the black/gray/very dark jewel-tones color scheme all the time everywhere. A little goes a long way.

2. For the love of pete please realize that for many people white/light text on a black/dark background is VERY hard to read1. As is a very bright colored text on a very dark background (red and blue are the worst). I’ve actually had to stop reading a blog because the color choices hurt my eyes so much.

3. Fun fonts are fun. But fun fonts should be used sparingly because they can sometimes be hard to read. Especially when they’re white text on dark background. They should be limited to the blog name in the header and at most the blog post titles or sidebar heading titles. Something that is bigger than your standard 12pt font – a crazy font will be easier to read when it’s larger.

4. Not knowing and respecting the width of your theme’s sidebars and body sections. Learn how to trim down the size of YouTube embedded videos. Keep your photos in posts to half (3/4 at most) of the width of your post body section. And please pay attention to all that crap in your sidebar. You probably CAN change the size of the items, you just don’t know how or don’t think it’s a big deal. It is. At best it just looks like crap, at worst it covers up text in the post body section.

For some of you reading along I might have just inadvertently told you that your blog, your very own blog, hurts my eyes and makes me cringe. I’m not saying this to offend you personally but to offer the wisdom of someone who’s been around the blogging block a bit. Having a blog that is pleasing to the eye and easy to read visually will not only increase your readership but keep them on your blog to explore. I’ve seen some blogs recently that I’d truly like to explore more but I can’t – I absolutely can’t deal with the color and/or design. Don’t take just my word for it, I’ve not designed nearly as many websites as AAG has. I’ve added her comments in below.

My suggestions for making changes:

1. You don’t need to know much about code to make color changes in your existing theme (the only people who can’t do this are the free WordPress bloggers who aren’t able to get into the CSS stylesheet, I do believe that the newer Blogspot dashboard allows you access to the code, be it html or CSS). If you utilize the Firefox browser and then use this add-on called Firebug, you can bring up your blog, turn on Firebug and see the code. You can then go through it and start “turning off” lines of code to figure out what that line of code affects. This won’t actually change your code – just what you see. (I hear that the latest version of FireFox and FireBug make it so that if you’re self-hosted your changes in FireBug CAN be permanent but that’s not my point here). So scroll through it and try to find the sections that are usually labeled “post”. Using this helpful website, pick a new hexadecimal color and replace it (black is #000000 (zero’s, not O’s), white is #ffffff, occasionally coders will abbreviate those two to just #000 or #fff). This way you can change what the post portion of your blog looks like without having to ditch the theme that you like. You can keep the dark background on the sides and top and bottom just have the posts portion be readable.

2. Use your header and graphical design of the blog theme to express your individuality and sexuality, within reason. Also make that header clickable so that it can easily take a reader back to your home page.

AAG sez: a) Reign in the individuality just a wee bit – the header can be sexy but probably shouldn’t be, for example, a close-up lifesize image of your asshole. (yes, this was a true story)

3. Changing to a hand-writing or script-y font just to be different can lead to your blog being even harder to read visually. Sure, it’s different. It’s “you”, even. But it makes me run away very quickly.

AAG sez: a) bear in mind that not all operating systems will display various fonts (used in the body, not in images of course). Check them here.
b) keep in mind that a font that’s awesome today may be passe tomorrow. ask for feedback2
c) Pick a contrasting color for links that does something different yet recognizable upon hover. Check to make sure it doesn’t do something weird after the link is visited. Check this on various browsers as some display visited links differently.

3. Using a lot of banners & buttons and graphical wonders in your sidebar(s)? Consolidate, and change their size so that they’re all the same (or at least so that they fit into your sidebar’s size allotment and don’t spill out into posts or the outer edge). Easy size change tip: When you post the html code into the text box, erase the “height” marker and change the “width” number on them all3. Caution: only go down in numbers, never go up – it’ll look pixelated and cheap.

4. Don’t use lots of colors and/or font styles in one post. It looks high-school-ish (to me), is distracting, doesn’t flow, and doesn’t always translate very well into feeds (why not? see #5). I even run into the problem with my blog that a certain paragraph-styling looks one way on my blog but completely different in the feed.

5. If you insist on having a colored background for the posts section for all that is blog-holy please take caution in forcefully changing the font color of your writing. If the font color is hard-coded into the CSS stylesheet then it will still appear as black text on white background in your feed. However when you go and force the change in your post editor box it will show up in the feed as the color you changed it to – and guess what? Unless it’s a dark color, it’s going to be damn near impossible to read it for those who use feedreaders to keep up with your blog. You think I hate light text on dark background? Bright & light text on white background is even worse!

6. Don’t use a font that is too small. I’ve been to a couple of blogs where the font size is small even for my 21″ widescreen monitor – ok, it was also white on black, so that added to it. But find the Goldilocks Font4 for your theme – again this is a change that can be made utilizing Firebug and changing the CSS stylesheet – not too big, not too small, not too hot and not too cold.

I could have screencapped or linked to examples of some of the things I’ve mentioned above in a “don’t do this” sort of way but that’s not the angle I’m going after here – I’m not doing this to be mean or pick on a person. This is just about good intentions turned into bad designs. And just because you have violated my personal font/color mantra doesn’t necessarily mean that your blog design is terrible. It might be really awesome in every other way….just hard to read. If your answer to this is a shrug and “hey subscribe to the RSS feed, it’s plain black text on white background, just like you like it” then you’re missing the point. Don’t you want your readers to interact with you and each other? Don’t you want someone to pour through your archives and become a fan or friend? That won’t happen if they get to your site and their eyes bleed.

Comments are wide open. You can tell me to go to hell and why. You can tell me that you agree with me and give some other helpful suggestions or “Don’t”s. You can say “hey I think I might fit a bunch of these Do-not-do things, can you look at my site and give me your honest feedback?” and I will be happy to do so tactfully. I’d suggest a feedback site that at one point helped me really tweak this current layout and design thanks to honest & anonymous feedback on the design, but I got yanked for being “porn” as did another blogger; you can certainly try your hand and see how long it takes you to get flagged (given how easy they’ve made it to flag for adult content, don’t expect to last long): Feedback Roulette. You look at other people’s sites and tell them what you honestly think, good and bad, and then others do the same for you. Or….just ask me here.

 Go for it.

 Resources:

Color Scheme Designer – This tool allows you to input your primary preferred color and get many options. Various hues of the color, complimentary color, and a whole coordinating color scheme. For best use, enter in the Hex value of your primary color on your blog (next to the RGB work lower right of the wheel).

Colorzilla – An add-in to Firefox that allows you to find the Hex color (or RGB values) of any color on any web page.

Firebug – The most important add-on for Firefox to help you tweak your CSS stylesheet (if you need any help figuring out how to use it, please feel free to email me)

How to make your Header/banner clickable – This tutorial is geared towards WP users (self-hosted). For Blogger users I believe you can set that attribute in the Design Dashboard.

  1. Please note that I did not say everybody. And I’m sure someone will comment and say that one group of people or they personally prefer what I am saying is hard to read. That’s fine, go ahead. But when the majority of websites are primarily light-colored, that is when it becomes really hard on the eyes – switching from the contrast of the two.
  2. She’s on Twitter, if I were you I’d show it to her first. Just never Papyrus or Comic Sans.
  3. Why erase the height and only change the width? By doing it that way you are allowing the html to automatically proportionally re-size the height to match up to the new width. Otherwise you need to figure out on your own what is height-weight proportional and no I’m not talking about swinger club and adult dating site body requirements ;)
  4. And no I don’t mean the actual font named Goldilocks, sheesh!
Jul 072011
 

This post is part of the Gender Celebration Carnival. Check it out and consider joining in the next one! Be sure to also visit Ellie Lumpesse my predecessor in the carnival (and curator) and then on the 9th will be something from Curvaceous Dee.

Once long ago I wrote up a post about navigating genderqueer identities for the cis/hetero/suburban person.  In my post one scenario I referred to was a person who worked in my building and was currently transitioning from male to female. I assigned the term, for ease and speed of speech/wording “MTF”. Or maybe it was an already-transitioned (if it weren’t for the feminine name plate on the cubicle you’d not have known) FTM where I worded it so that one single person took great exception to my using that label/term. They said it was offensive to all who are in some stage of transitioning from cis-female to male and that I should have used the (lesser known to me, a clueless cis-female) term “female assigned at/before birth”. To be honest I had never once heard that term and I do read blogs (and interact with on Twitter) a few people whose gender is not necessarily what meets the eye. But boy, that last line just smacks of “I’m not homophobic, one of my best friends is gay!” oye.

“Tranny” is offensive, “shemale” is offensive (is it? I mean, it’s used SO much in porn, but I personally find it offensive). I get that, I accept that. There is a huge spectrum of gender roles at work here and so many, many labels that can/should be used. What about the butch woman who is so very masculine and butch that they “pass” as male? Or the cis-male who simply likes dressing up as a woman sometimes, and has no intention of living full time as a woman or transitioning in other ways to being female? What about the transitioning woman I used to work with who was visibly male-to-female transitioning? And there really is a whole spectrum of trans, from those who pursue no medical interventions to help them appear physically as the gender they are to those who use hormones, cosmetic surgery and even sexual reassignment surgery.

Am I being offensive by even using the terms MALE and FEMALE no matter how I try to be PC and GC and sex-positive and sensitive? I’m trying to throw in the “cis” to be more accurate and such but I feel like that’s almost disingenuous. Or is it? I was born female, I was raised female, I identify as female. “F” is my gender, through and through. “F” is my sex.

Is there proper terminology? Is there something that offends no one? And in case it even matters, the person who was offended by my original post was a straight, cis-gendered female who admitted that she “in no way speaks for trans people”. Enlighten me, everybody, is “FTM/MTF” really that fucking questionable or offensive? And if one person doesn’t think so but another does, how am I to write to appease everybody? I don’t like offending people but yet there has to be a line drawn somewhere where enough is enough and can’t context and intent be taken into account? Not a single person could dare claim that in my aforementioned post I used the terms in a derogatory manner, meant to offend. I just simply did not have the exposure/knowledge to know all 16 other abbreviations and terms (and even if I did, would I have had to trot them all out with an apology to those offended by one of the 16 terms?). Why do I care? Because I do. Because, as difficult and frustrating as it might be, I don’t want to leave out anybody the few times I dare to branch out and write about a gender other than the two I’m most familiar with.

I have a lot of question marks in this post. I’m hoping that my confusion and questioning sparks dialogue and opinion and maybe some answers. I encourage discussion and comments here and if something sparks enough in you to write your own post about it please come back and tell me.

 

Jul 022011
 

It seems that my rants lately are being spurred by a deluge of emails from various and sundry companies all looking for a hand-out of some kind. Thing is….I’m not stupid. And I’m not about to be walked all over, either. Let me just get this out of the way right now, in case it’s not been made clear before:

I will NEVER post content that I didn’t write or don’t 100% believe in/support. I am all for supporting causes and sex-positive people and companies and “the little guy” but I will not post shit just because I was asked in a mass email. There’s helping out a worthy cause and then there’s being taken advantage of. If I post here about something you better damn well believe I’ve done my research, that I fully support it, that I’m not spouting off random shit and getting paid for it (either money or “in kind” i.e. a link at some site). I mean you’ve all seen my sex toy reviews – I’m picky (can we use the term “connoisseur” instead? It sounds less negative) but you’d better believe that if I say a sex toy is good I fucking mean it and mean it hard.

So what are some things that have been coming down the pike that I feel go against ethical blogging/respectable blogging/ sex-positive blogging / real-person blogging? All of these are real:

Scenario 1. “Hi,I wrote an Ebook about penis size and vagina size importance in heterosexual intercourses.” He’d like a review. Um, has he READ my site?

Scenario 2. “I’ve visited http://dangerouslilly.com/ today, and really like it. I run a site with similar content, and I was wondering if you would like to trade links with me? You can see my site at “a#dult-c#raft.c#om”. SIMILAR CONTENT??? Dude, for reals, I’m offended. No srsly. The graphics alone make my eyes hurt and it’s all SEOtastic content that god knows who wrote. Once I emailed back about my “no link trades” policy and said that if he truly meant it that he’s already linked to my site because he genuinely likes it, then thank you (guess what? my link is gone, he doesn’t like me, lol)

Scenario 3. A man using a gmail address sends me a generic sales pitch to join his unnamed affiliate programs. It’s a sales pitch, alright. Why so cloaked, dude? But you’ve already read my rant about these types of unknown sites wanting me as an affiliate just so they can get free advertising, right? Right.

Scenario 4. “I’ve recently written a 5-part series titled “Be the Best Lay She’s Ever Had”, and am currently working the hustle to try and scrape up some links and traffic. You know how it is. While your site is mostly female facing, I figured it never hurts to drop a line and ask for a link, worst case scenario is you say no.” I give him half a point for honesty. A fellow blogger replied with her ad rates which he, of course, turned down saying he was making no money off his site – so he’s relying on the kindness of bloggers to read his Cosmo-magazine-esque crap and just give him a shout-out for shits n giggles? He offers nothing in return, not even a link like Scenario 2 guy. This guy is a real taker, not to mention that what he wrote is not anything I’d ever promote or support, it’s somewhat misogynistic and really just feels too much like a site trying to get good rankings so that THEN he can start making money. I don’t see this guy’s site/”articles” as a philanthropic effort to hetero women.

Scenario 5. “My name is [redacted], PR person with [redacted], and work with P#aris I#ntimates, a sex toy blogger and retailer. I’d love to do some cross-promotion with your site. I can write a free articles (redacting the example links) for your blog on almost any topic and also have 10,000 Twitter followers if you are looking for new visitors. I’m all about spreading the love!” Ok so he might have something to offer but in the end….I’ve seen the articles. Some aren’t what I’d call entirely sex-positive; many are the same yawn-worthy drivel that you can find on hundreds of sex-tip sites, and all are littered with SEO links to their sex toy store. Guess what that’s called, folks? Free Advertising. If you are really that hard up for content on your site then put out a call for guest bloggers – real bloggers, fellow sex-blogging-community bloggers. Share the love within our own community, not handing over your dignity and respect for an article that might get you some search engine hits and possibly some traffic from their Twitter account. I would so much rather you take a break or hell even re-post something from your archives than to ever post this kind of shit. It will make me never trust your recommendations and advice.

New! Scenario 6. “I would like more information about advertising on a minimal budget as we are still in the “guerilla marketing” stage of our company.”  I can appreciate that it’s difficult and a catch-22 for small companies to advertise when they may not yet be bringing in much profit but really….how do I know that to be true? In this particular case, judging by the product itself it’s probably quite true that they’re not making much but you’re going to ask me to lower the rates that I give to everyone else just to appease you and your tight budget? Honey, everybody has a tight budget. I have a tight budget. Would you go to a stripclub and ask the dancer for a private dance for half-price because you just lost your job? Let’s envision how that would work out for ya.

I’ve also had offers from places who will pay me for a post they write, unlike Scenario 5 guy. Again, I adamantly refused them and told them I never post opinions that are not my own or support ideas/sites/products that I don’t believe in. Will I take advertising money for places that I wouldn’t shop at? Yes. (unless it’s s$ext$oy.com, who couldn’t pay me enough to link to) They’re unobtrusive and I make it clear that they are a site supporter. You all know the places I recommend sincerely because I review for them.

The real you, your real opinions, are so fucking valuable. Please don’t throw out that value.

 

Seriously now, what would you think of me as a blogger, as a person, if I posted about all that shit? I want to know, I really do. I get a lot of people asking me for advice on sex toys and other things and I don’t take that role lightly. I will NOT recommend something I don’t fully back up. And really….I can’t respect a blogger who would. But that’s just me, that’s just how I feel. Am I being bitchy? Am I being too harsh, too rude, too stingy, too snobby? I stand by Ethical Blogging and Sex-Positive Blogging; I’ve earned the trust of many and I intend to keep it.

Please excuse the less-than-eloquent nature of this post. I’m ranty and I’m in a shit-ton of pain with a fucked-up wrist. I shouldn’t even be typing, given how much it hurts to do so but something sparked me today and this just had to come out.

Also, the weird characters in site names? That’s only because I don’t want to give them any Google Juice or whatever you want to call it :)

ETA: those who comment are wondering who I think I’m going to offend with this post – why, the bloggers who do these things, of course. ;)