Lilly

Nov 142017
 

Hot Octopuss Queen Bee on a dark blue towel with the edge of a hair dryer in the background. The Queen Bee looks a lot like a hairbrush without bristles. I feel like I must surely intro way too many reviews by telling you how skeptical I was about a product before I even laid hands on it. I do, right? I’m kind of afraid to find the answer and search my blog. But yeah I was skeptical about the Hot Octopuss Queen Bee from the moment I saw it. Sometimes I end up being pleasantly shocked but often I find my instincts were right.

For those unfamiliar with the basis of the Queen Bee’s tech, it’s a spin-off of their flagship penis vibrator, the Pulse. The pulsating plate on the Pulse is able to deliver deep, rumbling “vibrations” to the penis and provide intense stimulation that bested a traditional vibrator for many folks – it was powerful without being numbing and gave a sensation that didn’t even require manual movement (though you could, if you wanted to). Actually I did have a moment, briefly, without so much skepticism and I thought I could like the idea of the Bee, because anything that promises rumbling sensations perks my ears up. But as you may know I’ve been having a lot of trouble with depression this year and especially these last few months. I would use the Bee now and then when I remembered my review commitment and I took strange notes every time I used it, since I wasn’t in the headspace to write any parts of a review back then.

Hot Octopuss Queen Bee Diaries: "Aug. 19, 10 p.m. - The room fills with light from  the headlights of a car sitting at the stop sign  across from my home.  They linger. And linger. I shut off the Queen Bee, worried they're trying  to parse out what that strange sound is. "

In the user manual they give you the basics in many languages. It’s 278 grams, and 229mm long. It takes 4 hours to charge for 1 hour of use. The noise level is “below 55db”. Wait, what? 55db is ….relatively quiet? Not bad, not great. Allow me to get geeky for a minute, please. I promise this has a point. Our last dishwasher was rated at 50db and once we left the kitchen we couldn’t hear it running, not unless there were pots in there. Our current maxes out at 44db and sometimes I can be in the kitchen and not be sure it’s running. Using a sound meter is tricky – how close you hold the item to the microphone affects what it registers, obviously. When I was doing the tests for the Womanizer vs Satisfyer chart I held the items within 2 inches of my phone’s mic. I should probably have held the item as far from the phone as it is from my ears, in use, and I might re-do it that way. 

When I ran the sound meter test on the Hot Octopuss Queen Bee it registered at 48-54db when I held my phone up by my ear and held the Bee at vulva-level. When I held it up to the microphone the same distance as I did with the Womanizer it topped out at 80db. You can hear the Queen Bee in all it’s noisy glory right here.

I also ran the totally-scientific partner-and-cats reaction test. I left my partner in the living room, far end of the room, playing Assassin’s Creed. Central heating was running. I went into the kitchen, two rooms away and stood behind a wall. 80 feet and a wall separating us. He heard the Queen Bee loud and clear, even on low. The cat in the living room was staring at me. The cat in the kitchen was glaring at me with her ears back. 

I shouldn’t have been so surprised that the Queen Bee is disturbingly loud – sometimes the Pulse can be loud, too, but this is a whole new level. The Pulse is nothing like this. The Queen Bee doesn’t have the high-pitched whine of the Magic Wand or the frightening chainsaw-on-speed sound of the Rockbox Finger but it’s still loud and cringe-y. Pitch has a lot to do with it, as well – it doesn’t blend in with anything for most houses so it’ll stand out more.

Hot Octopuss Queen Bee Diaries: "Sept. 3, 7 a.m. - The Bee is so loud that I worry  the noise is confusing my brain into thinking it feels  more than it does, so I put in ear buds & turn on  music - like turning off the car radio so you can  concentrate better in a tricky traffic situation.  It doesnt help. I can still hear it. "

The Hot Octopuss Queen Bee is “not a vibrator”, technically speaking. They talk about oscillation (which in my experience is side-to-side movement) and “pistons”. The plate moves more outwards than side to side – and when I put too much pressure directly down on it, it stops completely.

They also present a “feature” of a gentle “warm-up” sensation, if you will, by using the other side of the wand. This isn’t a feature, it’s a side-effect. I’ve felt more vibration-transference on handles where they didn’t intend for it to happen, than the Queen Bee. The backside sensations are so weak you may not even notice them in use.A close up of the seam along the pulse plate of the Hot Octopuss Queen Bee. It has flakes of dried fluid in it, despite being cleaned just prior to the photo being taken.

This is all accomplished by there being a separate, moving part on the Queen Bee. The pulse-plate is firm, hard TPE that is given some movement via the softer TPE ribbed sides. The downside is that this is a “seam” to beat all seams and the fluids and dust and whatnot that get caught up in there is… a lot. I’ve purposely taken the photo above before cleaning to show you how bad it can get.

Hot Octopuss Queen Bee Diaries: "Oct. 24, 8 p.m. -  I keep turning the Queen Bee this  way and that, trying to find the perfect angle.  Any angle, really. It’s like I can feel the insinuation  of sensation all around my clit but not directly  on it. This is no good. No good at all.  I want to hurl it."

I have the same problem with a pulsating plate as I do a thrusting vibrator: pressure impedes movement. Just like the Mona Wave and Stronic Drei and even the pinchy Rockbox Finger – the Hot Octopuss Queen Bee is dead in the water when it meets my vulva. I feel like my genitals are the Bermuda Triangle for sex toys with movement. But then I remember that physics is a thing and I stop blaming my body and instead get mad about sex toy companies who don’t think about this.

Not only do I like, and need, pressure with the Queen Bee to circumvent my issues with broad stimulation, I have fleshy labia – full. “chubby”.  This means that it feels rumbly if I’m holding it in my hand and apply no pressure but the second my labia surrounds it like an octopus1, all movement of the plate stops and I’m left with this far-away hint of something….somewhere. I can hear it, oh boy can I hear it, but I don’t feel it. Because I can’t feel anything, I can’t even accurately predict if this will work for you if you don’t have much labia, if you have a larger/more visible clit and don’t need pressure. I don’t know what it’s supposed to feel like! I’ve read a few reviews that talks about it feeling like a rapid “tapping” sensation. This hasn’t been my experience.

I have tried holding it at various angles. I have tried uncomfortably spreading my labia. I have tried numerous positions and I just cannot find any pleasure with the Queen Bee. I’m relieved that I can finally write this review and get it off my mind because I just don’t want to ever turn on, much less use, the Queen Bee again. I shouldn’t have to try this hard to get a sex toy to work for me.

I believe the only way this will work for you is if you have minimal labia and do not need pressure. The Queen Bee, despite being gendered by Hot Octopuss and prescribed for “women”, would potentially make a pretty decent alternative to the wrap-around design of the Pulse. Because of the material it seems like you’d be better able to glide the pulsating plate all around your cock2. You still can’t apply pressure and the sensations will be really localized but if you’ve been able to orgasm from vibrations alone, this could work well for you3.

I have one final bone to pick: It’s the button placement. The controls are on the “back side” of the Queen Bee. They’re all in a row, and can’t be seen in use. They take up almost the whole handle so at any given time my fingers are over them, trying to finagle the QB to my vulva while also not pressing the wrong button. I’ve accidentally hit the patterns which means the whole moment is ruined. I’ve been unable to quickly turn it off without removing it from my body and staring at the controls. It’s not intuitive, it’s not easy.

Hot Octopuss Queen Bee Diaries: "Nov. 4, 9 p.m. - Most times after a failed session with  a sex toy I hate, I go find a sex toy I love to finish myself off. But not this time. My arousal is negative  and my vulva just wants to glower at me from  the corner.  My vulva just needs to be left alone."

Like the strange iGino 1 and promising-until-it-wasn’t Revel Body, the Hot Octopuss Queen Bee will deliver different sensations from the vibrators you’re used to but it is not a sex toy for the masses. It is something that a minority of folks will love and appreciate and for $150 I just can’t recommend it. It’s a price point where most folks are going to want as much certainty as I can provide them that the sex toy will work for them and I simply can’t do that.

But wait…there’s more!

Before we go, I want to briefly talk about the materials because you all know that materials matter to me. You know I’m skeptical and use only non-porous products. Happily, the Hot Octopuss Queen Bee uses medical-grade non-porous TPE that can be sanitized. It can also tolerate silicone lube! I absolutely support this material as body-safe. I don’t know that everyone here is as fascinated by materials-talk as I am so instead I’ll link you to the materials FAQ sheet they gave me. You can ask me any question about the material in the comments or via email. If I can’t answer it, I’ll ask H.O.!

 

The Hot Octopuss Queen Bee was provided to me in exchange for an honest review from Hot Octopuss. It’s available directly from them or at my favorite retailer, Shevibe.

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  1. I see what you did there
  2. While the TPE on the backside has some minor texture and seems a bit “grabby”, the main side has no texture (just a print). It isn’t as smooth of a glide as hard plastic but with lube you shouldn’t feel any friction
  3. Yes, that whole paragraph feels a little “trying to squeeze out a silver lining” to me, too.
 Posted by at 10:31 am
Nov 022017
 

Black O-Wand on a bed of oyster shellsI might be the most skeptical reviewer around so when I read claims about the O-Wand being the “most powerful” rechargeable wand vibrator on the market, or claims of rumble, I immediately distrusted the whole thing. Could the O-Wand match the rumbling growl of the Lelo Smart Wand Large1? Would the O-Wand compete with other wand vibrators that talk about being the “most powerful”? I’ll be honest, the thing about the O-Wand that intrigued me at first glance is the handle – curved and ergonomic.  So what made my skepticism turn to distaste? 

Simply put, the O-Wand is trying too hard and not fulfilling its promises and unless you’re new here, you know how much I hate that.

Of all the Gin Joints in all the World

“You only hold me up like this ’cause you don’t know who I really am”. As with most reviews, I tend to do a lot of comparisons to other, similar products. Sometimes this need for comparisons can delay a review because it’s sooo much work. To review the O-Wand I had to drag out the giant box o’ wands; it’s the least-accessed box of sex toys; so ignored, in fact, that I found a dead bee in the box when I started pulling things out to work on this review. How utterly fucking appropriate, as I consider most wands to be irritating and buzzy. Why do I even continue to review wands, since I already know I need pinpoint stimulation and most wands just won’t work for me? The biggest reason is that I get asked for wand recommendations a LOT and folks are usually looking for something rechargeable, powerful, maybe even waterproof and sometimes rumbly. The wand I’ve liked the most over the past 9 years has been the Lelo Smart Wand Large because it is hella rumbly, but I am loathe to recommend any Lelo products for many reasons. I’m constantly on the lookout for a Smart Wand competitor. My definition of “rumbly” is also a bit more narrow/selective than some folks, especially when it comes to wands. When something is that high-powered even too strong of a hint of buzz renders the wand itchy and irritating to my vulva – it literally feels like my labia are being sanded off and oh, my god, the temporary numbess I get from these is overwhelming.

Itchy vulva aside I have other reasons for harping on the “ok but it’s really not truly rumbly” beyond just personal preference and the biggest reason is wand attachments. They simply work a fuck of a lot better on truly rumbly wands. And folks – I wouldn’t call the O-Wand “rumbly”. It’s not quite as buzzy as some wands but that’s about the best compliment I can give it.

There are some comparisons I can’t make. I don’t remember what the Sola Sync felt like, not well enough to make a definitive comparison but I remember feeling it at Woodhull this year (Sola was a Blogger Lounge sponsor one day) and being impressed. I don’t own a Le Wand, nor will I ever, but I got a chance to feel it up when Sarah and I visited a sex toy shop in Boston and the Magic Wand Rechargeable definitely felt a little more rumbly than the Le Wand.

The Patron Saint of Liars and Fakes

“And when it all goes to hell, will you be able to tell me sorry with a straight face”. The marketing copy calls the O-Wand the “most powerful, safest and stylish wand available today”. In many places they call this the “most powerful wand in the world”, and the box further clarifies with “the world’s most powerful rechargeable wand massager”. If you’re going to proclaim “best”, “the most powerful” and other comparative statements in marketing, can you at least try to make it true in some way? The claims made by O-Wand just simply are not true. The motor is really similar to the Magic Wand Rechargeable, but the MWR is a little bit more powerful. Again, I wouldn’t call either wand “rumbly”.

I also wondered about “safest”. What could possibly be more safe than some of the existing wands on the market? There are certain electrical-type tests that all vibrators have to pass if they’re sold in the EU, and pretty much every vibrator out there passes those tests. I referred back to a marketing email from the O-Wand company to see why they make this claim: “Safe: Made from the highest-grade body safe silicone, the OWAND is fully CE certified and boasts an automatic power-off to avoid overheating.” I don’t know of any that are NOT CE-certified, to be honest. And O-Wand is not the only wand to have automatic shut-off: Doxy has it, as does the Magic Wand Rechargeable. I’m pretty sure there are others.

There are also plenty of wand vibrators out there made from 100% body-safe materials. The “highest-grade” crap is just marketing weasel words. It’s silicone – it’s body-safe. You know who else uses silicone? The MWR, the Doxy Die Cast, the Smart Wand, Sola Sync – I could go on and on.

I know what you’re thinking: Who would buy anything if the marketing told the truth about sex toys? There’s making subjective claims and then there’s false advertisement and in my opinion we have the latter. Am I being picky with words? Perhaps.

Don’t You Know Who I Think I Am

“A penny for your thoughts but a dollar for your insights”. The first thing people usually ask about any wand that isn’t the Magic Wand is “will Magic Wand-compatible attachments fit the head?”. People really like attachments because it’s great to be able to turn a single sex toy into a full-on toolbox. The problem with the O-Wand is that the head is kinda egg-shaped. While it’s roughly the same size as the Magic Wand, the shape is different. The shape difference leads to a gap on the sides which causes Magic-Wand compatible caps to move a little AND not be touching all of the head so there’s vibration loss in transference. Not that it matters all that much, though…

Four black O-Wand attachments on a bed of oyster shellsWhen a vibrator is buzzy the buzzy vibrations just don’t travel through any protrusions on the head cap very well – case in point: the Tantus Rumble (which is too mild and buzzy) or the PalmPower (which has multiple issues). The same applies to the O-Wand attachments. The ridiculously-named O-La-La clitoral stimulation cap attempts to give you choices of broad or pinpoint stimulation but so much of the vibrations are lost in translation. Very little activity is felt in the protruding nub inside the cup, and the cup edge’s vibrations are moderate, buzzy, and easily killed with just a little pressure. The O-Spot, their insertable, transfers very little vibration. When I put the same cap on the Smart Wand Large the difference is staggering. The O-Gasm cap, for penises, transfers the most vibrations out of the three caps but again, it’s kinda buzzy. When you put that same cap on the Lelo Smart Wand Large it becomes a powerhouse, penetrating penis vibrator to rival the Hot Octopus Pulse but with vibrating wings.

So Magic Wand compatible attachments will sort of fit the O-Wand and vice versa. There is about a half-inch gap on the very top of O-Wand attachments when I put them on the Smart Wand Large but the protrusions are on the sides so it doesn’t matter. If you do decide to brave it and get the Lelo Smart Wand Large know that there are a few attachments from O-Wand that will work pretty well!

I’m Like A Lawyer With The Way I’m Always Trying To Get You Off

“Last year’s wishes are this year’s apologies”. Let’s get back to the original thing about the O-Wand that intrigued me: the handle. I loved the curved handle of the Lelo Smart Wand but the vibrations travel too well – what’s good for the head isn’t good for the hand and vibrations transfer up the handle fairly intensely. Not so with the Magic Wands or Doxy Wands but their bodies are all straight – great for use in a wand-compatible Liberator mount but not good for me to hold during lay-on-my-back positions. The only good aspect about the O-Wand is the handle and the button placement. The curve of the handle fits my body and the opening in the handle means I don’t need any real grip – I just need to slide my hand in. The buttons are within easy reach for my thumb – of course, that can bite you in the ass if they’re accidentally hit but I find that because I don’t need my thumb to grip, it happens less often. What if these features of the handle don’t matter to you? What’s it got goin for it, then, over the competition? Not much.

The handle is simply not “enough”for me to recommend this over other wands. Yes, it’s waterproof but so is the Smart Wand, the Sola Sync, the Dorr Avond, the Jimmyjane Iconic Wand, and more. Until a recent price drop the O-Wand was the most expensive wand vibrator on the US market – it used to retail at Shevibe for a whopping $249, a full $50 more than even the overpriced Smart Wand. It’s now on par with the Smart Wand, price wise, at $199. At $249 I would never have recommended it. The Magic Wand Rechargeable, which is slightly more powerful and rechargeable, is only $124; if you really want the broad AND the waterproof, you’ll have to pick the Smart Wand. If you want the power and the waterproof you can try the Sola Sync priced at $149.

I don’t hate the O-Wand. But what if I had never been poisoned by the need to prove/disprove their sensationalistic claims, would I be griping so much? I would definitely be bitching about the useless caps, yeah, but overall I would still be bored with the O-Wand. Meh. Salty about the price. I would still say “buy the Magic Wand Wand rechargeable”. A really great, versatile wand is somewhere out there on the sex toy horizon. The O-Wand isn’t it.

 

My thanks to SheVibe for sending me the O-Wand to check out, in exchange for my honest review. Thanks also to Bex, fellow FOB fanboy, for input on the section titles because I needed something to motivate me to write this.

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  1. Hereafter if you see any references in this post to the Smart Wand, please know I mean the Large – the medium is fucking useless
Oct 122017
 

CN: mental health, grief, weight/loss and physical health issues

“This is a call to all my past resignations, it’s been far too long.”

Every time I draft a post like this I wonder “Should I really publish this? Does it really belong here?” but then I remember that at the end of the day this is MY blog. A blog. A personal space to write whatever the fuck I want and I do not have to be perfect and be “on-brand” with every post. I never have been so why start now, right? Being authentic online is not something everyone does because, hey, we like to appear that we’ve “got this” but I’m just tryin to be me.

You may have noticed a distinct lack of posts this year, but it ebbs and flows. I’ve written half as much as I did in 2016. I’ve already discussed mental health issues earlier in the year but they don’t seem to be letting up. I’ve spent my year dealing with anxiety worrying about my partner’s mental health and our jobs. It’s eaten away at me. My depression is likely a symptom of my overall terrible mental health.

I thought for sure that attending Woodhull’s 2017 Sexual Freedom Summit would revitalize me, and the blog. But it didn’t. That same month was the 20th anniversary of my father’s death. Why is it that this anniversary hit me so hard when other years the date passed by without my even noticing? I’m not sure yet, but it wrecked me. For weeks I couldn’t stop crying. I’ve tried talking with psychics and mediums for some relief/closure, but that has opened up another can of worms. There’s really a lot more to it than that but this paragraph is all I have it in me to write about this topic.

I’ve spent a good part of this year worrying about, being anxious about, so so much: a family member, my partner, a few good friends, my health. I’ve spent a lot of time worried over politics. There’s been impatience and spinning tires. Worry. Anxiety, Tears. Anger. “Where’s the good stuff?” you’re probably asking. Well – I don’t know. I mean, it happened. There’s also been love, laughter, and support. But there’s also a big disconnect for me.

I’m currently trying, for the 15th attempt, to lose weight. My health hasn’t been good and frankly I’m worried about dying young but that could just be my health anxieties taking over. I have a few diagnosis reasons to have some concerns and that’s why I’m working so hard, again, and hoping it sticks this time. But as usual I’m being hard on myself. I’ve lost 20 pounds but that’s not good enough; it’s a drop in the bucket; it happened too slowly, etc. #noadviceplease

I haven’t been able to write, lately. That last post was something I’d actually written months ago but never published. The thought of writing a review, for the most part, makes me want to retreat. Maybe a real good salt-report hate-on review would get my attention but otherwise it’s hard. And my list is growing. I have some Blush Novelties items and a Sola vibrator that deserve attention, but I know they’re understanding. I have those new Je Joue Bullets. I have a bunch of Kegel exercise products I need to write about but I’ve been having a weird disconnect with my vagina this year and penetration/insertion isn’t on my top 30 list of things to do. Hence my using and reviewing things like the Funkit Cashew plug hasn’t happened yet. Because of the way I write my reviews, with many comparisons to other, similar items it’s been hard to deal with writing about the O Wand, those Je Joue bullets, etc. I have a lovely Doxy 3 to tell you about, and a confounding Hot Octopuss Queen Bee to figure out. There are even items I have some interest in (or feel an obligation to) but I’ve refused to be sent anything anymore until I can get through this review queue to mitigate guilt a little. 

My depression and overall mental health made me skip my blogging anniversary this year. I will admit I’ve had a few passing thoughts lately of “maybe I’m done?” but I don’t know what to do with that. A psychic told me that “this” is my career – that thing you do for passion and love, that thing that drives you. She told me I’m good at this career and that it needs to evolve. But, according to her, that evolution needs to involve me disclosing to my immediate family and being more “out”. I don’t think I have the courage for all of that, though. And really, evolve to what? Being an educator is HARD. I’ve seen the hustle and the struggle from so many of you. I don’t want to put myself through that – frankly I’m too damn old and cranky for all that. But what else is there that is “next” from this?

Instead of writing I’ve put what I could into other things – supporting friends, building a new/old project, fostering a little more community, and attempting to course-correct my poor health. So this is where I’m at. I don’t know when the next review will be, I don’t know how good it’ll be. But this confession had to be written and that’s that. Please, don’t feel the need to comment. I know folks mean well but hearing “hey it’s your blog, you can write when and what you choose” is more harmful than helpful in some odd way. This is the State of the Union and well…..we’ll see what’s next, I guess. I have things I want to accomplish here but it all somehow seems too hard.

 Posted by at 9:29 am
Sep 062017
 

If you go to any stock photography site, free or paid, you’re going to find a lot of sad, uncreative results for “sex toys”. Existing photos most often feature outdated jelly sex toys; if there are people in the photo, they are thin/fit and white. If there are any decent images they’ve probably been used a hundred times by other companies. So what is a sex toy industry business to do?

Ideally, they take their own photos. Unless your entire inventory is drop-shipped, surely you have nice sex toys readily available for a photo shoot, right? Sadly we too often see companies, especially new companies, using Google Image (or Bing, whatever) as their “stock image” pool with the mindset that “if it’s on the Internet it must be free for everyone to (ab)use”.

And before we get too far, it’s not just sex toys. We’ve seen companies grab images of people for their social media persona. We’ve seen companies use images of people on their business website! That shady, gross UK glass seller used a commercial image of Jennifer Lopez for years. Years! We’ve seen Charlize Theron’s Dior image used by the first owners of sex toy brand Dorr. 

Hot tip: Your ignorance on Intellectual Property / copyright law does not give you a free pass, an excuse, or the right to do as you please. You are a business, for fucks sake. Behave professionally! 

There are three ethical and legal ways to use images on your social media account or website:

  1. Take or create the image yourself
  2. Purchase from a stock photo site or download from a Creative-Commons free stock photo site
  3. Pay for limited use rights to an existing photo and include attribution links to the content creator

That’s it. It’s that simple.

So let’s say you just can’t find a cool photo that fits your style and you don’t have the means to create the image yourself – how about finding the owner of the image you yoinked from Google Image search and ask for their permission to use it? You should expect to pay them and/or provide an attribution link. If you are a truly ethical company you will insist on paying them and giving an attribution link. Many bloggers take amazing sex toy photos and some may be very open to an ethical business proposition!  It is not hard to find the original owner – there are a number of good Reverse Image Search tools to use – even Google will do that!

Recently one new company tried to use an image of Epiphora’s that contained a one-of-a-kind item which friends and avid readers will recognize: the sex toy bouquet Aerie made for her. When confronted on Twitter about their random use of this image they claimed that they “found this cool image as stock online and used it for a quick tweet!”. Five minutes and two reverse image sites later proved that Piph’s photo was never on a stock website and, in fact, seems to only have been on her site (and visible in Google Image search) –  I couldn’t find evidence that it was used elsewhere without attribution.

Copyright and Instagram

While we’re on the touchy subject of copyright and photo use, let’s also talk about Instagram. You see, Instagram doesn’t have a built-in feature for “re-blogging” or sharing someone else’s post the way Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr do. Yet folks have created add-on apps to break this and get around it. Some re-gram apps will add the original owner’s Insta handle to the photo itself. Some will also/instead add a link to the original account in the image description. Other apps do none of this and do not give attribution to the original owner of the image, relying on you to do that – and many of you do not. 

The simplest fix here is this: Use only re-gram apps that heavily attribute (in the decription, not a comment) AND ALSO ASK PERMISSION FIRST. When you set out to use an app in the way it was never intended it is just good ethics and good business to ask before you put someone else’s photo on your Insta profile. Ideally, though, you should just create your own content – that’s the entire point of Instagram.

If you use other people’s images and don’t obtain consent you could end up losing your Insta account and users can file takedown requests when they find their stuff being used.

Watermarks are Not Attribution

Many bloggers will add a copyright watermark to their images – I do for most of mine. This does not count as “attribution”. Unauthorized use of these images still counts as copyright violation and image theft and, if the owner reports you to your hosting company, will end in the hosting company forcibly removing the protected content from your site. If you do this too much your hosting company will shut your site down.

Attribution is Not Permission

You may be thinking here that the key to being a good, ethical company is to use our photos but tell people they’re ours. It’s not and content owners can still file (and win) DMCA takedown requests with your hosting company if they don’t consent to their photo being used for your gain.

Permission, or let’s call it a word you may hear more: consent, is crucial to ethically using other people’s work. They may say no. They request payment. But you absolutely must respect that. If you can’t respect copyright and simple consent how is a blogger or customer supposed to trust you?

Creative Commons

The idea behind Creative Commons is to have free, legal content of all types on the Internet for people to use. One key tenet of Creative Commons licenses is that the person using the thing must give proper attribution to the creator. They don’t need to ask permission, because the Creative Content license note on the person’s website acts as the permission. Many bloggers choose not to use this, however, and that is their right.

The content creator needs to go to the CC website and decide how “open” their content is going to be. CC explains it:

Creative Commons provides a range of licenses, each of which grants different rights to use the materials licensed under them. All of these licenses offer more permissions than “all rights reserved.”

Does This Apply to Me?

While the subject of my ire here is aimed at businesses the etiquette and law of copyright, attribution, and permission applies to anybody on the Internet. The incorrect assumption that because it’s “on the Internet” it’s free1 for the taking is not just wrong, it’s illegal. Copyright is real and enforceable. The copyright owner needs to do nothing but show first publishing to prove ownership. Web hosting companies are required to take this seriously and most do.

 

  1.  Quick litmus test to know if someone is an asshole: They’ll tell you a version of “If you didn’t want people to use it, you shouldn’t have put it on the Internet”.
 Posted by at 8:51 am
Aug 292017
 

I’ve finally made it?

I’m taking a few days off social media (unrelated to this) so my hope is that prospective retailers do their legwork. There is an Australian person claiming to be me, writing to retailers using the email address “dangerouslillyreviews@gmail.com”. This isn’t my email address, I’m not the person contacting you. 

I cannot do anything on my end; I can’t get Google to get rid of the Gmail account. They’re trying to scam YOU, not me, so please report them for that to your local authorities.

 Posted by at 10:33 am
Aug 212017
 

16 bloggers giving Screaming O the fingerLast week The Screaming O put out a factually-incorrect press release to pat themselves on the back for an imaginary job well done with regards to a panel session at Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit 2017 titled “The Truth About Body-Safe”. In addition to falsely claiming that the “sponsored” session was a “resounding success” presented to a “packed hall” they released the full, unedited video recording of the session on YouTube and their own website. This recording included the voices of Summit attendees who were in the audience and asking questions or making comments loud enough to be captured in the audio portion of the recording.

In an official statement released by Woodhull Foundation, Ricci Levy denounced multiple points of their press release:

An article appeared claiming that a recent Woodhull Summit workshop had been “sponsored” by a toy manufacturer, Screaming O, and including a link to a video of the workshop. We want to make it clear that when the workshop was selected there was no indication that it was a sponsored workshop. In fact, Woodhull does not permit sponsored workshops, and Screaming O had refused all invitations to actually be a visible sponsor of Woodhull’s 2017 Summit. We have spoken with Anne Hodder who had, unfortunately, been ill from shortly after the Summit and had no knowledge of the false sponsorship claims being made by ScreamingO.

When questioned about filming the panel, we gave permission ONLY if all attendees were notified, signed releases and were willing to be captured on film and audio. That did not happen and no one in the workshop gave permission to be filmed. Despite this violation, Screaming O posted a video of the workshop on its website.

I’ve been sharing blogger insights and information with Ricci over this past week, and have talked to Anne Hodder-Shipp, the now-former publicist who had worked with Screaming O since 2009 but resigned on Friday following their handling of this debacle. For full transparency, Ricci has shared with me (so that I, in turn, can share with you) the correspondence between herself and the COO of The Screaming O, David “Hui” Newnham. Other than the press release which was not written or discussed with Anne before its release, the public hasn’t seen any comment from Screaming O. We’ve pinged their username on Twitter and Facebook and some have emailed them. Some, like myself, left them a message on Facebook Messenger last Wednesday when it was noticed that they were listed as “online and active”. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get a response but they saw it:

Anne made a public statement on Twitter last Wednesday but has included a larger, more updated statement here:

I learned of Screaming O’s Woodhull PR at the same time Ricci did and was sidelined. It did not come from me and did not accurately reflect my involvement in the panel. At my urging, Screaming O temporarily moved the video offline but it is not clear what will happen now. I went on leave for an illness on Aug. 6 and have not been privy to Screaming O’s plans, and now I’m left reeling that months of independent research (and years of hard work) has potentially lost all credibility because of a bad attempt at PR.

This was a difficult role to play and I learned a great deal throughout. I stand by the independent research provided during the panel and am proud that I survived the stress and anxiety that came along with it. But I do not support Screaming O’s actions and feel sad and disappointed by them. To be clear: the panel was not sponsored; I was not paid to do the work, I attended the conference on my own dime, and Woodhull did not accept financial support from Screaming O this year. Screaming O was 100% removed from the process and had no involvement or influence over what was discussed during that panel.

I was responsible for Screaming O’s PR and marketing for more than 7 years; they were my first and longest-running client and a lot of positive change happened from the inside out, including the lab-testing initiative that eventually inspired me to work directly with a polymer testing lab and a molecular biologist to learn more. As a sex toy fan, industry journalist-turned-publicist, and sex educator, this subject has been near and dear to my heart for almost a decade and I was excited by the opportunity. However, it seems my intention for the panel and the video recording did not match that of Screaming O’s and, following recent events, I decided that it was time for me to move on from my role.

Ricci and Anne worked to get the full, unedited video removed on Wednesday and were successful….at the time. But because the press release contained further inaccuracies, Ricci emailed The Screaming O and urged them to ammend their press release. Ricci writes:

We appreciate that you took down the non-consensually-filmed full workshop video and replaced it with a shorter “highlights” version. I would like, now, your assurance that the longer video will never be shown or used for any purposes.

Additionally, I’d also appreciate you clarifying the fact that ScreamingO did not sponsor the workshop, both in the article and in the introduction to the video. We do not permit sponsored workshops at the Sexual Freedom Summit any more than we allow filming or live streaming without the permission and knowledge of all attendees at the workshop.

The following is the full response from Mr Newnham, COO.  This response shows absolutely no remorse. They are denying any wrong-doing and have a gross misunderstanding of “transparency”. Bold emphasis my own.

Dealing with your second point first we are more than happy to work with you and your team to issue a joint clarification as to the role of Screaming O in the presentation of the panel. If “Sponsored By” might imply that Woodhull accepted payment in consideration of including the panel in the program, which is not true; then I am sure we can clarify that while the panel was included in the program solely on its merits, Screaming O facilitated its presentation by compensating the professional panelists for their time and expenses, which is true.

On your first point alleging that the workshop was filmed without authorization, I can only deny your assertion.

You, yourself helped arrange the recording on March 20, 2017 by introducing Anne to Rick and Ted, noting that she would be arranging a videographer to videotape the workshop. All attendees in the room would have been aware the event was to be recorded by the prominent placement of 3 cameras, a microphone and by seeing Gideon working as a camera operator. Finally, Woodhull clearly anticipated that certain parts of the show would be photographed by asking each registrant to affirm or decline their authority to be included in pictures by the wearing of either an Orange or Green lanyard.

The workshop was recorded with the full knowledge of all participants and without objection.

We have, and will continue, to make a full unedited version of the workshop available online so that those interested parties that were unable to attend Woodhull might benefit from the information presented. This is entirely consistent with our values of providing open, honest, evidence based information related to body safety that will allow a better informed public to make their own decisions.

Indeed, I am completely surprised at the apparent controversy surrounding this and the inference that this transparency is somehow a bad thing. I cannot see how it could be anything but good.

The response from Ricci, part of which I’ll share here, doesn’t mask her anger and disgust at Summit policy being violated and audience consent being violated.

As for the video itself, we’re not going to debate with you or, in fact, even explain Summit processes, rules and agreements. The leader of the workshop was aware of our rules. And while interaction was offered with our tech people, there was no follow through from Anne Hodder or anyone at Screaming O after an initial inquiry.

Transparency? At no point during the workshop did anyone share with the attendees that Screaming O was videotaping and would be using the tape for their own purposes. Nor did anyone share that Screaming O had paid the expenses for the two experts on the panel. Transparency is a good thing, Hui, but not when you betray the words and hide behind them as an excuse to expose people and put them at risk in their personal lives.

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

They may have taken the video down, for now, but as of Friday showed no remorse and no intention of keeping that video out of the public eye. Whether or not they edit out audience members’ voices before they put the video back online remains to be seen and I’ll update here when that happens. 

As someone who was in the audience (and in fact right behind Gideon who was tucked away against the wall, unobtrusive) I can assure you that there was no “full knowledge” and no chance to “object”. Did some of us notice the recording cameras? Yes, absolutely. But because most of us knew Woodhull’s policy due to experiencing it already in other sessions, we assumed that the recording was happening for private use only, perhaps by Woodhull, perhaps by Anne Hodder – but certainly not by Screaming O. Their name wasn’t even brought up, and no one knew who the man in the corner was. NO ONE gave consent, NO ONE had the chance to object.

Mr. Newnham used, incorrectly, the fact that Woodhull passes out color-coded lanyards as proof that “photographs are expected” of the “show” and I can’t even tell you how infuriated that makes me. At least one person who spoke up was wearing a lanyard that meant “no photographs” and furthermore that still doesn’t absolve them from obtaining consent and alerting everyone about their intentions. He is also using the logical bullshit of “implied consent” to absolve them of any wrong-doing. My reaction to that last sentence isn’t something that I can type in words, it’s a sound akin to a really mad Howler Monkey with a face of pure thunder.

I refuse to support a company who lies and violates privacy and consent with abandon. I can’t trust them on ANYTHING anymore. I am absolutely disgusted at Screaming O’s attitude and their actions from Wednesday on. Even if they don’t publicly re-release that video, even if they remove the audience voices if they do re-release it, the point is that they don’t give a shit about privacy and don’t understand consent. As a blogger who is partially anonymous, I can’t ever work with them again due to privacy concerns and my own ethics. I can’t condemn their words and actions harshly enough. I’m frankly so disgusted and enraged that the words coming out right now come off stilted, clinical, and don’t seem to portray what I’m feeling well enough. It’s because I’m so focused right now on getting this information out there so that everyone else can decide for themselves with full knowledge, that I am not letting my own emotions fly too high.

After I suspected their material claims were false/inaccurate for years I was ready to re-think my opinion of the company after Anne and a few others got them to lab-test their “SEBS” material and then publicly “admit” that it wasn’t the “silicone blend” they’d insisted it was. Other industry people that I trust told me to trust in Anne and by extension the Screaming O. While I don’t agree with everything Anne and others said in the panel, I still have respect for her and I don’t lay any blame on her for this mess. But now my support for The Screaming O is pulled. I won’t recommend their products.

Fuck you, Screaming O. You are putting people in danger unless you obfuscate the audio of all audience members.

This post doesn’t even begin to touch on how I felt about the contents of the session. That may come later, but I can assure you it has sparked a renewed interest in the flame test. The words from one of the scientists about the flame test talked about things I’ve never even mentioned as a “result that will give you answers”. But I digress. You can read the transcript of the session here, read Ruby’s rant here, Sarah’s rant here and see tweets from the session here.

Comments from audience members are especially welcome here, as I’d like to know if I’m alone in not knowing the truth about those recording cameras.

2:00pm EST – as I’m writing this post I’m notified that TSO changed the wording on their press release, removing the wording that lists them as the sponsor. You can compare this new version to the original.

September 15th – The original press release from Woodhull has been replaced with a much more tempered, legal-sounding press release that notes that Screaming O has removed audience voices from the video and will never release that full, unedited video again. If it appears on third-party sites, they will remove it.  The press release is noted as a “joint statement” and seems to be literally all we’re going to hear from Screaming O on the matter. They do not apologize for their actions, but merely “any confusion that may have resulted” from “miscommunication”. At the bare minimum this result lays to rest most fears of outing from those who were non-consentually included in the original video but I don’t see Screaming O taking any responsibility, expressing any remorse or regret – at least publicly and that’s a big deal. This bare minimum outcome doesn’t remove them from my Blacklist.

 Posted by at 3:19 pm