Apr 302017
 

Sensevibe Warm with charging caseThe SenseVibe Warm had a strange advantage right out of the gate: You all know how picky I am, but did you know that there’s one thing that can pique my interest despite all jaded misgivings? 

Cool storage.

Yeah, I know, I know. But I like cases, pouches, bags and totes. I’ve been suckered into buying makeup I don’t need because it’s a kit and comes with cool storage. I’ve fallen for this marketing trick in the past with sex toys; I’d gleefully gone after the long-deceased Topco Vida line because it came with a pocketed pouch AND a mini zippered train-case-style bag only to be massively disappointed in the quality of, well, everything about the set. I even felt swayed a little by the Barbie pink Womanizer case because it was handy and functional and had pockets. Pockets make everything better, yes?? YES.

Casing the Joint

The SenseMax SenseVibe charges through a closed case for discretion – plug the case in (thankfully using standard micro-USB) and then lay the vibe inside the case and shut the lid. If I had to find a complaint about the case it would be that the magnets holding the lid shut aren’t strong enough to use this as a travel carrying case. If it gets turned upside down or jostled in your bag the vibrator will just fall out. For stationary purposes, though, it’s a good case. The vibe nestles in there perfectly, yet is easy to pluck out.

The SenseVibe Warm and open charging case

Since you’re buying a vibrator, though, and not a storage case, I hate to tell you this (spoiler alert): the case is the best attribute of the SenseVibe for me. I wanted to like this vibrator; even though I was pretty certain it wouldn’t fit my anatomy, I still could have loved it for people who aren’t me. Alas.

Shopping in the Petite Department

The SenseVibe is designed and marketed as a dual-stimulation G-spot & clitoral vibrator. Since vulvas come in various configurations there are definitely some folks out there whose clitoris is close enough to their vaginal opening for this design to possibly work. You have to know this about yourself to know if this is gonna work for you, and the Sensevibe’s clitoral nub is definitely way too short for me. Combine the shortness with a lack of flex in any way in the clitoral nub AND the fact that the nub aims away from the clitoris and it feels like it’s going to work only for a specific portion of the population – those with a clitoris close to the vaginal opening who also don’t need super-rumbly powerful vibrations externally. I was able to angle the vibe to get close-ish to my clitoris and provide the pressure I need but then the internal arm was pressing against the rear vaginal wall and away from my g-spot. Not good.

Comparing the SenseVibe to the L'amourose Denia

If you like the idea of a base that doesn’t put the buttons 2 inches away from your body but feel that the base of the L’amourose Rosa/Denia may be too chunky and cumbersome, then the design of the SenseVibe would be right up your alley if everything else lines up. There’s not much to hold on to with the Sensevibe, but it’s within easier reach. If I angled the Sensevibe so that it makes contact with my g-spot, making the clitoral nub far enough away from my body to allow for a smaller clitoral vibe to also be used, I could use this as a g-spot vibrator. I’m all for using sex toys outside of the prescribed use but only if it does the job as well as or better than other things that are otherwise designed for the job. I feel like there are better g-spot-specific vibrators on the market that won’t get in the way of whatever clitoral vibe you want to use.

Sizewise the shaft is a bit petite – larger than the Prism V, smaller than Rosa or Denia yet it lacks that obscene curve or pronounced head that my g-spot likes best. For me, it’s the very definition of “meh”. Tepid. Neither offensive or awesome.

Captain Crunch

There’s a good amount of flex at the base of the internal shaft, much like the L’amourose Rosa or Denia. It can flex in any direction. Even though I really like rigid things up against my g-spot (which makes me prefer the L’amorouse Prism V over my first love, the Rosa Rouge, for g-spot stimulation), I really like flex action for dual-stimulation vibrators to ensure a wider range of fit. However…there’s a disconcerting crinkle-y crunch-y sound when I flex the SenseVibe – and I’m certain I’m not purposely over-flexing it. It concerns me for longevity reasons, primarily. I’m worried about what exactly is causing this sound and will repeated flexings cause a wire to dislodge or break or something? I don’t know. It does have a one-year warranty, though this is a seemingly new company.

You Push the Button, We do the Rest1

The travel lock on the buttons is nice, and a feature that is shared by L’amourose; there are no seams and it is 100% silicone on the exterior, so it is waterproof.

The center button only changes modes2 but there is no “rapid off” feature – you just press the minus button until the vibrations work their way down the scale to nothing. Note: According to the minimalist user manual that is literally part of the box, you should be able to press and hold either the minus or center button to get it to turn off, but this has yet to work out for me. Similar to the L’amourose Rosa Rouge, though, you CAN press and hold the center button to allow the internal shaft to warm up before you start using it.

Speaking of buttons; since they control the motor I’m gonna say that this is the best section to briefly compare and contrast the vibrations. The internal shaft is damn near as rumbly as the L’amourose Denia or Rouge motor – a hair less intense overall (but still quite powerful). It feels more rumbly than That Brand I Won’t Recommend. Like many dual-motor vibrators, there can be dissonance when both motors are running, leaving you with this weird semi-pulsating feel that can be distracting to some. Because the vibrations in the clitoral nub aren’t very strong I don’t feel much vibration in my hand when holding it.  There is one faintly glittering star in this cloudy sky: The vibrators of the clitoral nub aren’t buzzy and numbing. They may not be nearly enough for me but they’re not awful.

It Coulda Been a Contender

I admittedly have a hard time reviewing sex toys completely of their own merit and not comparing them to what I currently own. Would I be this nitpicky if I hadn’t tried the L’amourose line, or the We-Vibe Nova? Price is playing a factor here, too, because the SenseVibe starts at $129 for the “Classic” version. Many folks can only afford a couple sex toys of this cost in their lifetime.

While I know that many people feel that the dual-stimulation, or “rabbit”, vibe is the Holy Grail because it’s two sex toys in one, I hate them because each one is fairly unlikely to hit all your spots unless you have created 3D life-size cast of your vulva AND vagina and know for sure that the measurements will line up for you. So I’m really confused about SenseMax’s decision to only make a dual-stimulation vibe AND for it to have such a short clitoral stimulation section which cannot be adjusted in any way for better fit. I really enjoy the powerful, rumbling vibrations of the internal shaft and I like the button placement over the L’amourose Rosa or Denia. But these two things, plus the charging case, aren’t enough for me to love this vibrator. I can love a vibrator with some flaws, and this is not a bad vibrator but it doesn’t make me want to write poetry about it.

Comparing the SenseVibe to the L'amourose Rosa and Denia

So far SheVibe only carries one item from SenseMax, the SenseVibe (Classic or Warm). I went to the SenseMax website to find out more about their products and it seems the brand is heavily leaning towards virtual reality stuff with their masturbator, wristband (???) and VR goggles. There is an app, Sense Lovers, but it is strangely not in the Google Play app store. The company explains that “unfortunately due to the nature of the content on the app we are not able to be listed in either app store. We sincerely hope Apple and Google will soon reconsider their attitudes towards adult entertainment.” And I’m confused. There are apps for We-Vibe, Ohmibod, and more. Exactly how is the Sense Lovers App so different that not even Google Play store will allow it? I wasn’t willing to find out because I’m not a fan of installing apps outside of the app store, which is what is required here. I also don’t like using apps with my sex toys, so it’s no loss to me on this one. 

In the end, I don’t feel like I can recommend the SenseVibe Warm to most people. Sure, the SenseVibe Warm is much more reasonably priced ($149) than the L’amourose Rouge Denia ($209) BUT the L’amourose Denia has a design I can enjoy with rumbling motors on both shafts and I feel it’s likely to fit a larger percentage of folks. Since the warming feature is only present on the internal arm of the SenseVibe Warm I feel like if you’re considering this design you should just opt for the less expensive SenseVibe Classic, priced at $129. The heat isn’t enough to really feel when it’s in your vag – it didn’t earn the slang term “hot box” for nothing-  but the heat on the shaft is lovely when used externally. Again, though, it’s not comfy or logical to use it that way. SenseMax could definitely be on the map for rumbling, powerful vibrators if only they could improve and expand their designs.

Also: No, I don’t know why it’s called the SenseVibe. There is no “sensing” of anything here. There’s no AI, no VR, it’s just a vibrator and I’m really confused.

 

Many thanks to SheVibe for sending me this in exchange for my very honest review. I feel like the brand is on the cusp of perhaps branching out into something really cool, so keep an eye on SenseMax.

 

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  1. Quote attributed to George Eastman
  2. You can have both motors on, or just internal or just external, and then the rest of the settings employ various patterns which I’ve naturally skipped
Apr 182017
 

Depression and #45

I never used to be very political; when I finally registered to vote in my home state, I registered as Independent because I had no real care either direction. I think I knew I was more Democrat, but I never was very bothered by elections. All politicians seemed “the same” and it felt like “choosing the lesser of two evils”. I remember feeling slight apprehension on election night for Obama, hoping he would be voted in, but I didn’t worry. I felt like his becoming President, and then staying President, was a foregone conclusion. 

And then our most recent presidential election happened, and I couldn’t not be political anymore. I stood in line to vote and felt fear. I cried pretty much the whole time in line due to fear and anxiety. Our 45th President, whose name I will not use here, scares me. Sickens me. And was the trigger for a still-ongoing season of depression for me, the likes of which I haven’t seen in a long while.

I think that I held out some warped hope in November and December; hope for a re-count, hope for the electoral college to do something historic. Or perhaps it was denial. The hope/denial was gone when he was inaugurated.

Depression and Turning 40

Two things about this year are hard for me: I’m turning 40, and this year is the 20th anniversary of my father’s death. 

This is the last year where I can say I’ve lived life without him for slightly less than the time I’ve known him. Living in a world where my father has been gone for longer than the time I’ve known him is weird, cruel, and just plain unfair. We were close, especially in what would be his last years. He was the “cool” parent, the one I got along well with, the one I was just like. His sudden death truly broke me and still has me fucked up to this day. I don’t think I would have ever wanted to show him this blog, but I’d like to think that, eventually, I would have told him about it. He would have happily helped me with my experiments; he would have gotten me equipment, or found new testing methods, or helped me research and understand. He was a chemist and fostered my love for “experiments” and learning.  His influence led to the 2 majors I tried in college that have become useful for my blog: (photo) journalism, and computer tech. Even my strange way of typing is because of him – I don’t use two fingers on my left hand, and only recently realized they are the same two fingers he was missing. I was never taught how to type the “correct” way, but learned as I grew up with a computer and learned by watching him. It’s a strange connection that I cherish.

And yes, I’m turning 40 in a month and taking it hard. I don’t feel 40. I know that my father’s death was incredibly traumatic for me and the mental repercussions are many and deep. I feel like in many ways I didn’t “grow up” and mature; I don’t feel 40. But at the same time, 40 is making me aware of my health and the fact that time is marching on. I am middle-aged. Time is slipping away. I wonder if I’ve done “enough” in my 40 years, if I’m “behind”. Should I have accomplished more, by now? My last few birthdays have been “okay”, and some have sucked. I’ve not had a birthday party since my teen years, and I don’t plan to start up again now but I also feel like 40 should get more attention, more pomp and circumstance, more … something. I don’t know if I’ll get that, though. My anxiety on turning 40 features a lot of fuzzy, unformed fears that can’t really be voiced and don’t have defined parameters.

Depression and Blogging

So, yeah. I’m depressed. To add insult to injury, I tried going back on an old medication for a little while, to get a bit of a boost. Prozac had never been a wonder drug for me but it had been the only anti-depressant that didn’t give me terrible hazing side effects – until now. I couldn’t stick with it and outlast the hazing period, so I lost nearly a month to terrible side effects from going on the drug and then going off the drug. And all of this is to explain why you haven’t seen many posts from me. I’m trying.

My ability and desire to use sex toys has gone down the drain. My ability to write about sex toys has plummeted. I have reviews to write that, when I try really hard, come out as dry and flat as toast. My depression has seeped into my feelings on blogging, on this blog, and my ability to write anything decent or relevant. My depression is telling me that I shouldn’t go to Woodhull; that I won’t enjoy it and I’ll just bring others down. I also have a lot of guilt about the backlog of review items, and there’s nothing anybody can say to erase that. Sure, I could take time off to take care of myself, and I’m sure many will continue to suggest that, but I can’t. Not really. I feel like it’s either quit or stay, nothing in the middle. I’m trying to understand/remember that Depression Lies, but it’s also a word-stealing bastard thief.

 

 Posted by at 10:28 am
Apr 072017
 

For years I’ve had readers come to me with questions about their sex toys and recurring yeast infections. More than one told me that they went to their doctor for a reaction (after using a porous sex toy) and the doctor would diagnose a yeast infection, usually. But I would still wonder if it was really an infection or rather a chemical burn from toxic materials. While it could be either, I understand a lot more now about the links between porous sex toys, cheap lube, and vaginal health thanks in large part to the education of Sarah Mueller who has done years of research for Smitten Kitten / BadVibes.org.

Misinterpreting Medical Studies?

The lightbulb went off as I was trying to do research on why we’d seen more than one article from lube brands claiming silicone lubes, synthetic oils, and natural oils are bad for vaginas (hint: only one of those actually is a universal vaginal no-no). I found a medical study that talked about finding an increased rate of yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis with folks who were using an “oil lube” but it seemed that the only thing mentioned was baby oil – a synthetic oil. And yes, those folks did have vaginal health problems moreso than folks using other lubes. But that study doesn’t give us the bridge to sweeping false generalizations that anything with any oil in it is bad for all vaginas1.

It did, however, inspire what I think is a really good theory about porous sex toys.  It should be noted: I’m focusing here on porosity and the material composition, not the possibility of toxicity from mystery additives or lingering phthalates usage. Those can cause burning pain, but it’s off-topic for this post.

But first, I have to express a lot of disappointment in the doctors interviewed for articles about lube. One article I found was quoting Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical associate professor of ob-gyn at Yale School of Medicine (big title, you’re inclined to believe her, right?):

Dr. Minkin strongly advises that you keep all oil-based lubes — including vaseline — out of the bedroom. They are difficult to wash out of the vagina, and they’re usually made of glycerin, which is essentially like glucose/sugar. That means it turns your vag into a breeding ground for bad bacteria, putting you at risk for a yeast infection. To make matters worse, oil and latex don’t get along, meaning it could wreck the efficiency of your condom, landing you with an unwanted pregnancy or an STI.

So that’s a really big, sweeping generalization which can scare folks out of actually decent oil-based lubes like Sliquid Oil or natural, plant-based oils, or The Butters. None of those are “made of glycerin”, and glycerin isn’t “essentially a sugar”, it’s a sugar alcohol. So far in the studies Sarah has researched, it hasn’t been specifically connected to yeast infections – however, it’s usually found alongside other crap ingredients and raises osmolality, leaving you more prone to infections.

Synthetic Oils In Sex Toys

Now, we know that the cheaper materials like thermoplastics (TPE, TPR), PVC, rubber, and the trademarked materials that are probably just a formulation of TPR, can re-infect you if you’ve used it whilst in the middle of an infection, as they cannot be sanitized. We know that bacteria can live and stick around in these materials; we know that fungus can grow and bring on molds in the material’s pores. These things have been talked about at length, but this theory of mine isn’t one I’ve heard yet:

If synthetic oils in the vagina can lead to increased infections because they trap and breed bacteria, and many porous sex toys are softened with synthetic oil2, and these sex toys are not chemically stable and can leach out that oil, the end result is quite possibly a synthetic oil in your vagina. People talk a lot about the porous materials breaking down, “sweating”, and feeling greasy. Before they know enough to know what this means, though, many folks still use sex toys like this. I wouldn’t want the liquid in my jar of horrors in my vagina, that’s for sure.

To make matters more sticky, chances are pretty good that if you’re using porous materials, you’re also using lubes that are hyper-osmotic, which can leave your cells dry and sloughing off which leaves you at greater risk for…you guessed it! Infections! 

A Brief Interlude on Osmolality

There is more detail on the types of osmolality at The Big Lube Guide, but the most common situation is when the osmolality is high, i.e. hyper-osmotic. It’s the vampire situation – the lube comes in all charming at first and things seem okay. The lube feels really slippery, which is great! But it’s slippery because it’s drinking the moisture from your cells. When they have no more to give, they are dead and dry. The outer layer of cells will slough off and leave your mucus lining very vulnerable, like standing in a snowstorm without winter gear. STI transmission can increase and at-risk people are at greater risk for infections – this is the same group of people who need to use more lube than the average person.

Not many lubes on the chart over at The Guide are in the ideal range, which is iso-osmotic. And, frankly, not many lubes are listed, period. So how can we take an educated guess on the osmolality? Look at the ingredients.  The top two ingredients to avoid are glycerin(e) and propylene glycol. Both of these greatly increase the osmolality of the lube and both can cause sensitivities (and for some, yeast infections).

Yes, even if the sex toy and its oils aren’t causing the yeast infection, even if the pH isn’t causing the yeast infection, you are still at risk because of these very common ingredients. Are you side-eyeing that lube bottle, yet?

pH and You

The vagina has a pH. Water-based lubes have a pH. When the two don’t match up, you can have three scenarios:

  1. Burning – this means the pH of the lube you’re using is too low
  2. Itching – this means the pH of the lube you’re using is too high
  3. Itching AND Infection – the high pH can cause simple irritation or bring on infection especially if it’s also a hyper-osmotic lube and you’ve got some unwanted guests lounging in there

So if you’re frequently having these issues, it’s time to switch your lube. You may even need to consider that you need a few different lubes, and get to know your cycle and how it affects your pH. Vaginal pH can range from 3.5 – 7 which is a large range – it makes sense that you could do best with a lower and a higher pH lube to best match your body. The easiest way to get this nailed down is by testing your pH with test strips like these. And, while you’re at it, test your water-based lube. If you’ve had the bottle for a while, test it again, as pH can change over time.

The other way to get around this factor is to use pH-neutral lubes like silicone or coconut oil, but this isn’t an option for everyone. Some dislike the feel of silicone and plant-based oils; some rely on latex condoms3. You could also consider a hybrid lube which, due to the normally-low silicone content, wouldn’t harm a silicone sex toy. The addition of silicone makes it potentially pH-neutral, we think. Studies done on hybrid lubes and osmolality or pH were vague or few so we don’t have as much knowledge, but it would be best to avoid the problem-child ingredients regardless.  So far there are only two hybrid lubes I don’t hate: Sliquid Silk (regular or organic) and Good Vibe’s Please Cream.

A really well-rounded starter lube arsenal might look like this:

  • Good Clean Love Almost Naked, a thick lube that comes in at a pH of 4 (buy from Shevibe, Smitten Kitten, or Amazon but check the expiration date)
  • Sliquid Satin, pH of 6 (buy here or here)
  • Sliquid Silk, the hybrid for when you don’t wanna bother with osmolality/pH but don’t want an oil-based lube
  • A pack of pH test strips

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~ 

Finally, if you’re looking for more body-friendly lube recommendations, check out the Big Lube Guide. If you need affordable replacements for your porous sex toys check out my 35-under-$35 guide.

Please note: this is a lay-person theory based on research and logic and opinion. I am not a medical professional and I am not saying that this will happen for every person who uses porous sex toys and/or bad lubes. However, if you frequently get urinary tract infections, yeast infections, or bacterial vaginosis and use porous sex toys and/or bad lube consider making the switch to only non-porous sex toys and vag-friendly lubes to see if that clears up your problems. This is not to replace medical treatment or advice from your doctor.

  1. After seeing the similarities between the article from Coconu and Sutil, and then a few Google searches for funsies, I found the original article that Sutil copied / heavily borrowed from – a naturalist “doctor” who misread that study about oil-based lubes and extended it to try and claim that silicone oil is toxic. I’m as baffled as you are as to why a naturalist would declare coconut oil bad for all vaginas, given its antimicrobial properties and long-document usage for clearing up certain vaginal infections, but I digress and leave you with a sharp side-eye
  2. tests show mineral oil in many of these sex toys
  3. and, as we know, latex and oil are not compatible – I don’t know how long you’d have to wait in between using a plant-based oil lube and a latex condom to ensure the oil doesn’t render the condom useless against sperm and STIs
 Posted by at 3:42 pm