Lilly

Nov 012016
 

Three things to know about me before we get on with it:

  1.  I suck at accepting compliments
  2. I’m competitive in some aspects
  3. Yet I prefer fairness

So today I found out I was named Kinkly’s#1 Sex Blogging Superhero 2016. In my 8 years of blogging there has been at least one “Top 100” list every year – the Top 100 Sexy Bloggers1 and Kinkly’s list. Over the two lists my rank from 1-100 has spanned 1-84 – and no, I didn’t start out at 84.

You would think that after 8 years I would be happy, nay thrilled, to be at the number 1 spot on a list like this. After all, I did ask for votes – as much as I hated doing so. And I really hated doing so. But instead, I feel….uncomfortable. Unsettled. So I have to say at this point that if you like the Kinkly list and your ranking and you don’t see any problems (and I totally respect that, absolutely), you might want to skip to the last section, “Blogger Awards”. This is my space to say my piece but you don’t have to read my words if they’re going to hurt you.

Apparently, winning the #1 spot comes with a prize. I say “apparently” because I so much didn’t expect to get #1 that I didn’t pay attention to prizes. The $500 prize money is going to be turned into two $250 “scholarship funds” for bloggers to attend Woodhull in 2017. If I had more money to do more scholarships, then I’d simply say “any educational sexuality conference” but with only 2 scholarships I’m gonna just pick my favorite conference: Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit.

Why do We Have to Compete Against Each Other?

Over the last month I’ve spoken to many bloggers who approached the Kinkly list with dread. The thought of bugging everyone, repeatedly, for votes felt off to some of us. Others didn’t want to do it, period. Some felt they had to because of the credence that ranking high can give you (especially if your blog is newer). Even I felt like “well if I don’t ask for votes and don’t make the list, will I lose the respect of my peers and those who may want to do business with me? Will my blog be less desirable?”. It was a tough internal battle to ask for votes. 

Rankings can make people sad; angry; bitter; depressed. It’s really hard if you are upset by your ranking because you don’t want to pee in other people’s Cheerios if they ranked well and are thrilled. Conversely it can feel rough (hi, it me) to be ranked high when your friends are unhappy with their own rank. There is no denying that I spoke with many people last year, and this year, who looked at the Kinkly list with confusion (on their own rank and others’). A poor ranking can be the thing that makes a blogger stop caring, stop blogging – especially when the ranking criteria is vague and they don’t understand their rank.  And it fosters this “I’m better than you” attitude2 – I feel like we need to support each other, build each other up. We need many voices. You never know what it is about your blog, your post, that may get through to a reader. No matter how new or old your blog, we’ve all reached people who are reading this for the first time. You are different than me and yet similar to someone else – and often, especially with sexuality, we need to know we’re not alone, we’re not the only one like that. Reading something where you say “Oh, wow, that’s totally me” makes you feel less alone and broken, sometimes. We need that!

So, yes. I may be ranked #1 but I don’t really like the list. I don’t like the competition. The popularity aspect. I don’t like wondering how XYZ blog is ranked so high yet these other blogs I love are ranked so low (or, not ranked at all). I hate knowing that the low ranking is making my friends feel bad about their wonderful blog. I am wondering how a blog that ranked #1 last year is #68 this year. How a blog with very few posts is ranked much higher than a very active blog. And so on. And yes, I know that there’s no point in a list like this if we all rank the same year to year. I know that a blog might be stellar to the judges one year and the next they think that others are simply better, not that you got worse. I know these things. I say we break tradition – can we change how it’s done? Can it be better?

I bet a lot of you are shaking your head right now. You think I shouldn’t be complaining. I should be happy. Right? Well, it doesn’t feel fair. I’m ranked #1 in the Sex Toy Reviews category this year, with Epiphora ranking #2. Please, tell me who thought that was accurate? Seriously if I could get that changed, I would. I would rather be ranked #2 for that one. I’m proud of my blog, I am. I know that my reviews help folks who are similar to me. But as far as the quality of writing in reviews is concerned? Epiphora is better than me. I say it objectively and subjectively. She has more traffic, more comments, and more followers than me AND crafts the most amazing sentences. I actually feel that a number of bloggers write better reviews than I – more witty, easier to read, better with the appropriate zings. I can recognize my strengths, but don’t really feel that my reviews alone are it or deserve the #1 slot. I would feel so much more comfortable if the ranking were more like “here’s the top 10, and here’s everybody else, and you’re all great” like Rory did in 2014So I’m having a hard time being happy for my success at the detriment of others, and that’s really the bottom line. That and the fact that I hate the votes and popularity contest aspect. And the vague criteria. I said that already, eh?

A New Kind of Blogger Awards

So the list fostered a lot of discussions between some of us bloggers and an idea I’ve had in the past is going to come to fruition in January. It will fully be a group effort, brought to you “by sex bloggers, for sex bloggers”. But because we don’t think that a sex toy review blog can be ranked against an erotica blog can be ranked against an essay/activist blog, our awards will be limited to the niche of sex education, sex toy reviews, and social justice as it pertains to sexuality/sexual health. If you like this idea but want other sexuality niches to be included, please borrow the idea yourself!

We don’t feel the need for another 1-100 ranking, or ranking by number at all. We don’t even really want to rank one person’s blog against another’s. But have you ever read a sex toy review that had you laughing out loud in public, enough to elicit strange looks? What about a social justice angled post that stirred great emotion? Or a review about a kink item that totally changed your opinion about that kink? Made you say “Damn, I wanna get my ass beat now!”? Is there an educational article you read that you think is really important, and everyone needs to read it? A sex toy photograph that has stood out? A bold piece about sexuality and mental health that digs deep and bares it all? A really salty/snarky review that you loved? This is what, and how, we want to highlight. We want to celebrate the little things. We want to have fun, be silly, and also be serious and reverent.  I think it makes more sense to compare like with like. I feel that removing the rankings and focusing on specifics, with a broad category range, will celebrate more people. 

I’ll be taking input from readers and bloggers and industry folks on categories, and how the list will be run. This Google Doc will allow you to comment – agree, disagree, suggest an alternative, suggest an addition. 

If you’d like to help out, please let me know. I want some judges who are bloggers but not sex-ed/review bloggers; I’d like some judges who are in the industry, but not a blogger. And yes, some judges will be eligible for nominations (but won’t be judging categories they’re nominated in).

I welcome comments – about your thoughts on the Kinkly list, how you feel about my critique of it, and your input/feelings on a less competitive Blogger Award set up (tentatively called The Lubies – yes, trophies will be awarded and they will be lube bottle based) – even if you think my idea is shit, tell me.  I’m nervous as fuck about this post, but this ranking has been eating me up all day. Can we all get lifted up instead of just some? Can we find a way to celebrate more folks, more equally?

As uncomfortable as I feel about being ranked above everyone else, as much as I dislike the linear ranking at all, I’m going to thank Kinkly because their choosing me means I can do something important to me: Help more folks get to a really awesome sexuality conference

  1. Started by Rory at Between My Sheets, run my Molly of Molly’s Daily Kiss starting last year
  2. Maybe you don’t have that attitude, but you can’t deny that competition creates that atmosphere
 Posted by at 6:25 pm
Oct 232016
 

Silicone sex toys have come a long way, baby. I often am asked to give someone my opinion on whether or not a sex toy is actually the silicone it claims to be. When the material is opaque it’s hard to tell visually but the proliferation of clear jelly/TPR material in sex toys gives me a leg up in making a call. I’ve frequently warned on my blog that “clear silicone sex toys won’t be crystal-clear, they’ll be cloudy-clear”. Yet earlier this year I was reassuring multiple people that a new guy on the block, Funkit, was definitely creating clear silicone sex toys. Why the panic? Probably because my differentiation between “crystal clear” and “cloudy clear” is skimmed over and the focus is on “clear”. Today I’m hopefully going to give you better tools, and a better understanding, of the differences between clear silicone sex toys and clear TPR sex toys if you don’t want to, or can’t, do a flame test.  And while Funkit isn’t the only brand to use clear silicone it is the brand people have asked me about the most lately. Other brands that have used a clear silicone include Vixen and Vamp; you’ll notice Vixen using it in their Hitachi Wand caps. Vamp uses a clear silicone but heavily infuses it with glitter. A brand that has been around awhile, quit, moved to Etsy, quit again was Jollie/Chavez Dezignz – they made the polka-dot dildo many of you would remember.

Clear As….Water?

In many past posts I’d used the terms “crystal clear” to describe what PVC/TPR/Jelly toys look like and “Cloudy Clear” to describe what clear silicone toys look like. Kenton, the ingenious person behind Funkit, graciously allowed me to pick his brain to help better explain things to y’all. According to Kenton the term “water-clear” is a better descriptor to use, and he’s right (unless your water isn’t clear…). While both materials are certainly translucent (and thin samples of clear TPR might even be considered transparent), the silicone we would want our sex toys to be made of can never be water-clear. There is water-clear silicone, something Kenton reminded me of that Metis told me a long time ago; but it isn’t a sex toy material, because it gets brittle and doesn’t hold up well, plus is very hard.

Cloudy-Clear vs Water-Clear

When it comes to a relatively thick chunk of translucent silicone, like the head of the Funkit dildo shown below, you can see that it wouldn’t be called water-clear. This is the perfect example of “cloudy clear”. Even with the Funkit silicone paddles, as thin as they are, you can still tell that it’s kinda cloudy. But as you can see below the head of the TPR vibrator is as thick as the head of the Funkit dildo – And as thick as it is, it’s still a lot more translucent than the clear silicone.

Most clear silicone sex toys will never be any less cloudy than this, which is considerably less water-clear than translucent TPR

If you’re still unsure, and you can see it in person Kenton told me about the light trick, which is pretty neat:

Visually, cloudy clear, but highly transparent silicones often lend an amber hue to light that passes through them, especially thick parts. This is true of my toys, at least, and all the silicones I’ve worked with, including many Wacker samples and Reynolds Advanced Materials. That’s a pretty good test, but flame testing is still important.

When I just held my LED light up to it I didn’t really notice what he was talking about but the moment I shone the light through the material onto a white surface, the answer was clear. Below this paragraph in the photo on the left I’m shining my light through a Funkit Swing dildo; you can see the light that passes through is very amber-yellow. The photo on the right shows the same light shining through the head of the Tracy’s Dog not-silicone rabbit vibrator. There’s no color distortion to the light as it passes through.  I don’t know how this test would fare if the clear silicone were tinted, like many water-clear TPR toys, such as this. Kenton has said that it is possible to all-over tint the clear silicone like that, he just doesn’t do it.

Shining a bright light through clear silicone sex toys distorts the white light to a warm amber Shining a light through a clear TPR sex toy won't distory the light color

Price, Brand, Feel

Price, and brand reputability, will give you many clues. The brands you will see claiming their water-clear material is silicone are nearly never being sold through reputable retailers and are almost always under-$40. One brand that I’ve only seen on Amazon, the terribly-named Tracy’s Dog, is one example. While the company does produce silicone items that are indeed silicone, they also sell items like the rabbit vibrator in my pictures – priced at $13.98, you won’t find clear silicone sex toys for that price. But what if it’s a frosty translucent material, from an Amazon brand, and cheap? Is it silicone? I think I’ll have to purchase it and do a flame test. I do know from my trials with items listed on Amazon as “silica gel” that you can have a soft, nice-feeling frosty translucent item that is NOT silicone. The “guess by looking” isn’t fool proof, obviously, but we have to start somewhere. However, the more clear the silicone is, the better the quality of the silicone, the higher the price.

Another clue is confusing listings with poorly-translated ad copy. As you’ll see from these Amazon listings the material can be described as silicone, TPR, and medical silica gel all in the same listing. “Medical silica gel” is not a sex toy material so when in doubt always assume the lesser material if you can’t tell just by the level of transparency.

I mentioned price up there when I talked about the cheap items you might find on Groupon, Amazon, AliExpress or Ebay. But not all PVC/TPR rabbit vibrators are cheap. For reasons I’ll never understand companies like Doc Johnson and CalExotics, or Evolved Novelties sometimes charge a pretty penny for TPR rabbit vibes – but at least they’re honest now in the materials description, and call it TPR – so long as you’re shopping with a reputable retailer.

Often when you see bigger brand clear silicone sex toys, like this silicone rabbit vibe, the silicone is more cloudy (frosted?) than the stuff used by Funkit, Vixen, Vamp, etc. It could be down to a difference in shore, silicone type & quality (medical, food grade1, etc) or silicone price (the more clear, the more expensive). It could also be a difference between RTV silicone that is hand-poured and LIM or liquid injection molding.

Feel – this one is harder to put into words, for me. Often a TPR or PVC clear material can feel a bit oily, but not always. When I was trying to find a word to describe what I was feeling, what came to mind was “squeaky” but that’s a sound, not a word. I can rub my thumb over these materials and I actually kinda can hear a sound. When I’m done rubbing my hands over these materials, if they don’t feel obviously oily, my the skin on hands still is left feeling strange – like there’s a chemical residue. I don’t experience any of this with silicone. The only residue that’s been left on my hands after fondling some silicone is a silky feeling. I think that once you can feel both materials side by side, you’ll always know how to tell in the future.

Thanks Kenton!!

Kenton Johnston is the man behind Funkit, and he’s creating some pretty amazing stuff. Yes, the vivid swirls of pigment suspended in translucent silicone is different and gorgeous but he also is thinking way outside the box – from his unique suction-cup-and-butt-friendly base design to these really cool hand sex silicone texture rings he’s trying to get funded on Indiegogo – I’ve seen them in person and I definitely think they’ll work as advertised. He’s a big sex geek, like us, and fortunately was happy to let him pester him with all sorts of questions to help me easily show you how to tell if these clear silicone sex toys are really true to their advertising. For now you can buy Funkit products direct, but I hope that soon he’ll get his stuff into the hands of progressive retailers like Early to Bed, Smitten Kitten, and Shevibe.

 

Clear silicone sex toys, even when the material is thin like the base of this Funkit dildo, are still more cloudy than transparent TPR

Find Funkit on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

  1. Medical grade isn’t everything, and I feel confident now recommending other grades especially when it’s listed as food grade. Kenton told me that “Food grade silicone is tested to FDA standards for food safety, which involves submerging a sample on ethyl alcohol, water, oil, and acetone and seeing if anything leaches out in any of these. If harmful substances come out of the material, it is bad, and should feel bad. Medical grade silicone has to be able to be implanted for a certain amount of time, and is tested differently for different duration. There’s also medical silicone for prosthetics, and this has its own tests as well. Medical grade silicone is also made in cleanroom settings. The thing is, a sex toy is something that is most likely going to come in contact with mucous membranes. It is not going to be implanted into your body. Anything that is safe for food necessarily has to be safe for mucous membranes like your mouth and anus, so food grade is a perfect fit for sex toys. While medical grade sounds better, it’s really overkill for the cost it adds, considering the extra effort in testing doesn’t add anything for a simply sexual  purpose.”
 Posted by at 9:55 pm
Oct 172016
 

This might rank as one of the questions I see the most; it’s usually asked by cis men shopping for a (usually first) sex toy for their cis woman partner. If the question is asked vaguely in a more public forum the answers from others most often include the Magic Wand; if the seeker has any ideas it’s usually either a suction cup toy or a rabbit vibrator. I have great reservations about willy-nilly recommending something as high-powered as the Magic Wand for most people’s first vibrator and of course I have strong feelings about rabbit vibrators. Speaking as both a professional sex toy critic and someone whose own first sex toys were purchased by her boyfriend1, I’ve got a lot of opinions and feels on this topic as a whole so it’s time I answer this question long-form.

Who Really Wants It?

Frequently the request for advice is accompanied by “she doesn’t know what she wants, she told me to find her something” or the request is for something to surprise them. I have to admit that it’s times like these that I wonder if she has actually made the request. The only way I can imagine letting someone pick out a sex toy for me would be if I actually didn’t want one and had no intention of using it. If I wanted it then I would be the one to shop for it (or shop with my partner). I feel like if I could better understand the mindset of someone who is so laissez-faire about the topic that they give their partner carte blanche, then I could better answer the queries.

It’s Subjective

When someone asks the “I/we want a vibrator” question and starts out very vague, I run through a list of questions. I try to avoid recommending specific sex toys without knowing details about the person using them. Let’s be realistic – my favorite vibrator, the Tango, is going to be too intense/pinpoint/hard for some people. You shouldn’t be buying a sex toy for someone else unless you are absolutely certain you have the correct answers to these questions:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 5, how easily can they orgasm from manual clitoral stimulation alone? 1 being never or very rarely, 5 being easily and often.
  2. Do they know where their g-spot is? Have they successfully experienced pleasure from massaging it?
  3. What size?And no, “small” or “large” are not specific answers. If you, their partner, have a penis go measure yourself. Be sure you know if they want something the same size as you, bigger, or smaller. In the US most sex toy shops measure their insertables by telling you the diameter of the widest portion (elsewhere you’re told the circumferece) and yes, when it comes to diameter a mere 1/4″ inch can make a big difference. I can enjoy a 1.75″ wide dildo but will run away from a 2″ wide dildo. A 1.25″ vibrator is just too slender for me while a 1.5″ (or slightly bigger) is perfect.
  4. What shape? Some people do like perfectly straight toys, some really prefer a curved shaft or curved tip. Some would like a tapered shape, while some would prefer that the head is the largest part. This may be something you only learn by trial and error.
  5. What color / level of realism? Are you really sure your partner wants a heavily realistic sex toy?
  6. Have they ever owned a sex toy before and if so which one and how much did they like it? What were the pros and cons?
  7. Do they like direct clitoral stimulation? Some require pinpoint stimulation and some hate it, and would prefer a wand-style vibrator.

Champagne Wishes and Rabbit Dreams

The rabbit vibrator, a dual-stimulation sex toy, seems to be what people think is the ultimate holy grail vibrator. I can understand – it seems to do it all! It provides the internal and external stimulation simultaneously and easily while having more options than you can shake a stick at. But the rabbit vibes that many people are drawn to are, for some reason, the porous ones with the rows of plastic beads under the skin that rotate in various directions. I’ve personally never thought much of the rotating ones, but that’s just me.

There’s a lot of problems with buying a rabbit vibe:

  1. The Motors: Instead of worrying about 1 motor being the right intensity and type (rumbly vs buzzy) now you have two motors to worry about. Many rabbit vibes seem to have a more intense internal arm than clitoral arm which was always the opposite of my needs
  2. The Fit: Genitals aren’t the same; there isn’t a formula. Some have a smaller, buried clitoris. Some have larger labia. Some have a clitoris that is closer to the vaginal opening, some are farther away. Some have a g-spot that is right inside the entrance, some have one a little further in. Some prefer A-spot stimulation, and the A-spot is closer to the cervix than the G-spot is. Some people like pressure on/near their clitoris, some don’t. And while I’d like to say that there’s a rabbit vibe out there for everyone, there isn’t (or at least you shouldn’t spend the $500 it may take to find your perfect rabbit vibe).
  3. The Fit, Part 2: And then after all of that, we have to worry about the width and shape of the internal arm.
  4. They can be overly complicated or too simplistic – depending on how many buttons, options and settings there are
  5. They can be expensive – at least many of the better ones are, but there are some decent, affordable ones. Sadly many of the cheap ones are worthless.
  6. They’re more likely to break, and sooner – It’s like the old days when you could buy a TV with a VCR or DVD player built in…what happens when one part dies? The more parts, the more motors, the greater chances of an early demise.

I have a few favorites, but by and large, I hate recommending them until I’m absolutely certain that someone knows exactly what they need and we can find numerous blogger reviews of the rabbit to ensure that the motors are going to suffice. It’s just better to buy two separate toys, I think. This way you have more variety and leeway.

Dildo vs Vibrator

People who don’t understand the types of sex toys may say dildo but mean vibrator. They may think that anything you insert is called a dildo, and if it vibrates it’s a vibrating dildo. While they aren’t really wrong, it leads to confusion when you’re talking to someone who is aware of the nuances of the industry. A dildo is an insertable object that doesn’t vibrate. A vibrating dildo is a dildo that has a removable motor, like Tantus products. A vibrating dildo could also aptly describe the (rarely silicone) highly realistic, squishy things that vibrate2. But most things that vibrate that are meant for insertion are just merely called “vibrators” and left at that. They may resemble a penis or not at all. They’re usually broken down into categories: Mini vibrators and clitoral vibrators are often interachangable3; G-spot vibrators usually have a curved shaft, a curved tip or a bulbous tip; “Classic” vibrators are usually straight. Decent shops will also have an anal vibrator category, which should only feature vibrators that have a flared base or some design feature that prevents the vibrator from getting lost up inside the butt. Many brands will claim their product is an anal sex toy when it doesn’t have a flared base, but that’s a rant for another day.

I’ve also seen a lot of dudes looking to simply get a sex toy, any sex toy; and without asking their partner first they just gravitate towards a dildo – the reason may very well lay in their insecurities. A lot of people, especially cis men, believe that a sex toy will replace them, that they are in competition with a sex toy. They don’t want their partner to have a vibrator because they “can’t compete with that”. This level of controlling behavior and irrational insecurity is probably best kept for another post, but suffice to say that every person is different and some may prefer dildos while some really need a vibrator. If I can’t orgasm from cock by itself, I’m unlikely to orgasm from a dildo by itself.

The Solution

Unless you can answer all of the questions I listed above, then any recommendation will be a random guess. Even with all of the information from you/your partner, a recommendation is a guess, but an educated guess and more likely than not to be correct. I really don’t want to see you wasting your money which is why I’m writing this post and why I’m giving you the answer you don’t want which is: shop with your partner, not for your partner. There are a lot of awesome surprise gifts out there that you can buy; sex toys usually aren’t one of them. The bonus? Shopping together, whether it’s in-store or online, is really fun. It builds anticipation, sparks communication, and more.

One more reason why I’m so reluctant to make recommendations for your partner: if you choose wrong, the whole thing may backfire on you. Your partner may actually be upset if you chose something drastically different than what they would have picked for themselves.

The best way to pick out a sex toy is to make sure you both research every aspect. Start out by reading guides that introduce you to the various types of sex toys. Make sure you understand what a body-safe sex toy material really is (and what it’s not) and the issues with porosity. The last thing we want is for someone’s sex toy to cause genital itching or burning and have them be scared of sex toys after that. There are thousands of body-safe sex toys out there. And keep in mind that a sex toy is going to feel different from a penis or fingers – so just because your penis is 1.5 inches diameter doesn’t always mean that that’s the perfect size for a sex toy – because of the firmness your partner may find they want their sex toys to be slightly smaller than you. Or because a sex toy is wielded differently than a penis, it could mean that they can tolerate (and want) a sex toy larger than you. There are a lot of under-$50 body-safe dildos to choose from so before you invest in something like a high-quality dual density silicone, or high-quality metal, glass and wood sex toys, you should try out an affordable silicone dildo to get a decent idea of whether or not a size is right for you & your partner.

A few exceptions to the rule of “no surprises” come into play when the item is meant to be used by them, on you (like buying them an upgraded strap-on harness after you’ve tried pegging and you’re both into it) or when you skate from sex toys to BDSM products.

As always, I’m happy to help you find the right sex toy but needed to get into detail about why the most common request is such a difficult subject to tackle. If I’ve directed you here then hopefully this post will help you understand why I’m not just randomly suggesting a few products – let’s work towards getting your partner a sex toy they’ll enjoy, and avoid you wasting money!

 

  1. and no, I didn’t like the ones he bought
  2. And no, I don’t like recommending the ones that aren’t silicone because the material is so porous and iffy
  3. But sometimes there are vibrators that really are best just for the clitoris and not general multi-purpose use
 Posted by at 9:22 am
Oct 092016
 

Crowned Jewels - Aluminum and Titanium Sex ToysCrowned Jewels as a brand name might not make you think “sex toys” but the surprise is worth it. Gorgeous, well-made aluminum or titanium alloy1 dildos, butt plugs, cock rings and more. Njoy was probably the first brand to really bring amazing metal sex toys to the masses; the Pure Wand is so good that after I tried it very early on in my reviewing career it ended up ruining me for pretty much most other dildos – yes, it was that good for me. The problem with cult classics, though, is that they are often imitated. We’ve seen a number of Njoy knock-offs on the market2 but Crowned Jewels is an ethical company, and is creating their own designs. Yes, it’s possible to create different designs in metal! You don’t have to resort to copycat productions! There’s a lot to love about Crowned Jewels; I’m excited about their current line and excited to see what they’ll come up with next. The possibilities of their own, girthy design combined with the trademark lightness of their aluminum alloy mean that a large dildo could be had without the extreme heft of the Njoy Eleven or the glass Double Trouble.

Crowned Jewels – Titanium Anodized

I wanna talk about the Titanium models first because they’re the most …vexing? Titanium is more hefty than aluminum – to compare, the exact same model in titanium vs aluminum is 4 ounces heavier (9.5 vs 5.5 for the diminutive aluminum). So for folks who like moderate weight, the titanium might be something to consider but really the biggest pull here is that the titanium models can be anodized in some pretty great colors. Unfortunately you’re paying a lot for the privilege of pretty colors – over 100 pounds more! And I have to say that the color isn’t represented well on the website – and this is my sole complaint about the Crowned Jewels products.  Uberkinky is selling Crowned Jewels on AmazonUK, and the photos used there seem to be a closer representation to the actual color. If my packaging hadn’t confirmed Magenta, I would have assumed I had the purple color.

Crowned Jewels Titanium Anodized Color Comparison

Anodizing is neat, and the colors change with your touch; I don’t understand it so I’m hoping to get feedback here on that. You can see a difference in the photo above, where it’s me handling it vs a freshly polished-with-cotton look. And lighting matters, too. Outside on bright, yet overcast, day the color is vivid. Indoors with incandescent lights the color is decidedly more purple than magenta, and quite muted. Now normally I wouldn’t make such a fuss over this color issue because even when the color looks its “worst” it’s still pretty – but if you only see the colors on their website and are specifically paying the high price to get THAT color? You may be disappointed.

Crowned Jewels Magenta Titanium Color Compare

A Luxury Experience

I’ve come across some very lovely sex toy packaging in my time, but none so posh as Crowned Jewels. First, they’re sealed up like a Christmas cracker in black tissue paper, with a logo sticker. Then there is the black tube with the metal lid, sealed with ribbon and a legit wax seal. Crack that open (reluctantly) to find more black tissue paper and a lovely satin drawstring bag, which itself is even a step or two above most included satin bags – it’s black on the outside and silver satin on the inside and feels more like the early Lelo storage pouches – no single layer of thin satin here; no crinkly weird fabric either. Unwrapping is a process and by making it 5 steps it forces you to slow down and appreciate what you’re about to see.

There are brands of sex toys that just scream “perfect gift” and Crowned Jewels is one. Your recipient will be enthralled with the unboxing.

Aluminum vs Stainless Steel

It’s a little harder to compare aluminum vs stainless steel here because the designs of Crowned Jewels are so different from Njoy. But the biggest plus to their aluminum alloy is the weight – or lack of it. The “Classic” (smaller) Shaftsbury barely scoots past the 5.5 ounce mark, while the larger Grande Mayfair is 9 ounces – the Njoy Pure Wand is nearly a full pound heavier than the Grande Mayfair 1 pound 8.5 ounces. The heft of the Pure Wand lends to its amazing qualities yet is also a hindrance for many people with grip issues, arthritis, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel, and more. I have often been in pain after a rapid-thrusting session with my Pure Wand.

Both metals are great for temperature play; I found that stainless steel was able to retain a little bit more body-warmth from use than the aluminum, but aluminum still warms up wonderfully – and chills down well, too.

Tiny Metal

Crowned Jewels Mayfair and Shaftsbury aluminum, Shaftsbury Titanium, compared to the Njoy Pure Wand for size and shape. Right now Crowned Jewels doesn’t have anything for folks who feel that bigger is better. Many may find even their Grande choices are too small – the largest one that Shevibe is stocking is 1.35″ at the widest spot. The Classics are pretty small, but this could be a good thing for a number of folks! The slick metal barely needs any lubrication for vaginal play. The gentle bloops on the smaller end of the Mayfair or the plain Eros would be great for those who have trouble with girth and friction.

I don’t feel comfortable telling you that the dildos are anal safe. With the Njoy Pure Wand, even if the large bulb isn’t acting as a semi-flared base, the sheer weight of it is likely going to prevent it from being lost to the vacuum properties of most butts. 5.5 ounces is a vast difference to 24.5 ounces and I don’t think you should use these for anal play. Luckily Crowned Jewels has made some fucking gorgeous butt plugs, and they all have a silicone base that is sparkly and looks like a gorgeous granite. And the buttplugs are called “Upminster” which I love.

How Does it Feel, Though?

In use, the Mayfair is definitely comfortable. It’s light enough that I experienced no twinges of pain and no hand cramping. But I cannot help to compare it with the Pure Wand and the shape of the Pure Wand is simply my ideal – from the drastic C curve to the prominent ball which aggressively pings my g-spot. The ball of the Pure Wand also catches on my pubic bone, but that’s okay for me – I’m well-padded there and that’s where my g-spot is. I like really firm pressure on my g-spot. My g-spot doesn’t want to be seduced, it doesn’t want a gentle lover. My g-spot needs it hard & fast, rough and aggressive. For a number of folks the Pure Wand doesn’t work because of this aggressive nature, and catching their pubic bone on a metal dildo is painful. For those folks, I point you to Crowned Jewels. The “classic” sizes are just too small for me, like the Shaftsbury.  I feel like if the Farringdon “C” Curve were made in a larger size, it would be a better match for me.

At first I was super bummed that I couldn’t honestly report the orgasmic properties of the Crowned Jewels dildo. But then I realized that orgasm doesn’t equal endorsement. I’ve wrung orgasms out of highly unpleasant vibrators. I adore the brand; their ethics, their materials, their vision. Despite how badly I’ve love to see an aluminum version of the Pure Wand, I’m delighted to see that they are above producing copycat designs. I see a lot of potential for the future but also a lot of promise for people who are not my vagina-twins.

For those who want a smaller, more gentle metal dildo experience, I cannot recommend Crowned Jewels enough. If you’re in the UK, you can purchase directly from Crowned Jewels and if you’re in the US you can find select models at Shevibe.com.  Crowned Jewels sent me these items in exchange for my honest opinion.

  1. They can’t be JUST aluminum or titanium but their site does specifically say “nickel free” – if you have other metal allergies, please email them first and they’ll happily let you know if their alloy is safe for you
  2. Some, like Pipedream, are made from an easily-noticed lesser grade of metal but others are unknown- that’s the problem with metal, there’s no easy at-home test to understand if you have a body-safe hypo-allergenic metal or if the alloy will contain something irritating or if it will be prone to rusting
Oct 072016
 

Things That Happen When a Small Pack of Sex Toy Reviewers Descend Upon a Sex Toy Store

2016-10-01-14-12-41If you have a nice store that carries only body-safe products, like Sexploratorium in Philadelphia, then we slowly walk around as we point at the things we own and love, pet the things we don’t own but want, and talk with more authority than any regular customer would ever display. We get extraordinarily excited by a clear silicone dildo infused with a billion ruby red sparkles and wish our wallets could afford it. We purchase an item and if you seem like you might “get it”, we admit that we’re only buying it to burn it later For Science. Your customer overhears us in our excited babbling about vibrators and asks our opinion on deciding between a set of Palmpower attachments and at least one of us (ahem) Has Feelings and strongly advises for & against. We stand at your lube station and discuss ingredients and our various sensitivities. We are happy to see our favorite brands on your shelves, and are so over A Certain Brand that we don’t even notice its absence on your shelves until days later. We turn things on, not hiding our reactions. We confirm that a vibrator is shit and confirm that we might really need to review others.

We are not your average customer.  Hopefully we’re fun?

We also might walk into Condom Kingdom and do a very good Grumpy Cat impression at the entire section of Basix (toxic) dildos, which are slightly offset by silicone brands on the other side of the row. But we’ll still feel the need to escape quickly and leave the kitsch behind.

I wish we could have made it to other cool sex toy shops but by 4:30 I was in extreme pain from the walking and the standing. My body did not cooperate and just simply failed me, and failed me hard. It took days to recuperate – but honestly it was worth it to have 24 hours with some blogger pals – Sarah, Sugarcunt, Caitlin and Rose, as well as the amazing Sarah from Smitten Kitten. You can see more tweets here about our weekend, if you wish.

Satisfyer Pro 2 Update

True to their word, the company behind the Satisfyer did revamp their Pro 2. This new model has the word Satisfyer in script on the handle, has a few levels of much more subtle-feeling “pulsations”, and is indeed a lot more quiet on those lower levels. But they stated that the new Pro 2 would be “90% more quiet” – sure, on the lower few levels. Once you’re up in the upper levels (5-11) which match the original Pro 2, the noise level is identical. So overall the Satisfyer Pro 2 is still noisy, because you still cannot simply avoid those super-intense upper levels due to their lack of up and down buttons (unless you never go past the first few levels and never need to back off the intensity during use, or, if you do, you turn it off completely and start over). They kinda pulled a fast one on us with that “90% more quiet” claim, because it’s really only partially true.

Many has asked me how they will know if they’re buying the new or old model of the Pro 2: unless the retailer you buy from has updated the photos recently and notes in their information copy that it is the new version, you’ll have to ask. I can tell you that if you buy it from Shevibe (and you should), you’ll definitely get the updated Pro 2.

I will admit though that their lower levels of intensity now feel a lot more like the Womanizer, and are much more comfortable to start out with.  I’ve had a lot of requests for information on the new Womanizer Pro40 and I hope to review that in the coming weeks. Do I like the Satisfyer Pro 2 more now that it has those more-subtle less-intense levels added in? I do. And the price is hard to beat, at $59.99. I still have extreme Feelings about how they yoinked the air-pulsation technology from Womanizer but until now the Womanizer has been a full $100 more. Even with the lower-priced Pro40, at $99, Womanizer is more expensive.

Perfect Fit Silaskin

So yes, when I was in Philly last weekend I bought the Buck Off to burn. Now, I don’t want y’all to think I’m picking on the Buck Off – it just happened to be there and be the only Perfect Fit item the store carried. If they’d carried something else from that brand, I’d have picked it. But here we are, and I think I’d like to see if we can raise funds for silicone testing.  The first lab I used (same lab that BadVibes.org used) has refused to respond to me the last few times, so I’ve found another lab. But testing is expensive. Just an FTIR test is $475 (other, more in-depth options are thousands of dollars and well out of our range).  You may be wondering why I care – it’s in part because they list “Silicone” first when they talk about their proprietary blend on the packaging, and for some online stores this might mean that lazy employees will pick one material or the other when they have to check off attributes to load an item onto their website store and they’ll pick the first thing listed: silicone. This blend might give unsuspecting consumers a false sense of security and safety. The company doesn’t get into the details of porosity when they talk about their material. I also just simply have deep reservations that a TPR and silicone blend can be done. With this Silaskin getting attention because of the Buck Off, I had a renewed curiosity and again reached out to trusted industry contacts. A manufacturer (who makes both TPR and silicone products) asked around their R&D department for me and found that the vast majority of their material engineers said that TPR and silicone couldn’t be blended; a couple conceded that maybe a company could add a little silicone powder, but that that would take a lot of pricey research & development, and to what end?

Perfect Fit has responded to one direct request for information with a response that tries to minimize porosity, insinuate that silicone is over-rated, and more. 

If you’re interested in getting a lab analysis of this “Silaskin” and can contribute to the funds, get in touch with me via email, my contact form, or social media. If I can raise enough funds then I will get it done, but I can’t afford to even pay half at this point.

 

 

 Posted by at 6:37 pm
Sep 232016
 

shevibe_blog_squad_woodhullIt’s been (way) more than a month now since Sex Blogger Christmas aka Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit. I expected to write about this sooner but got hit hard with a cold-turned-infection the day I was driving home from the Summit; I missed a lot of work, have spent weeks exhausted and have had a lot of brain fog. The brain fog has clouded a lot of my memories, making writing about the weekend pretty difficult. I realized at one point during writing this (with its 14 edits) that I’ve been procrastinating on publishing this post because I’ve been afraid – afraid that it’s not good enough, that it’s missing important things, that I can’t do justice to my gratitude for Shevibe (my sponsor), Tantus, and Ricci Levy and the entire Woodhull Board. Because really, nothing short of a ticker tape parade would do justice to their greatness.

The Sessions

I absolutely plan to write up a separate post dedicated to what I learned during the Sex & Depression + Side Effects May Vary sessions. I don’t feel like there was enough for me to write about from Likes and Liberations, and #SFSMedia may not appeal to some of you – but if you are running the social media for your company, then you absolutely need to know what was said in that session. So many companies that want to work with me have atrocious social media accounts – some are so offensive they start a tidal wave of backlash, some are boring, some are dangerous and predatory. I do plan to write a post just dedicated to what was discussed in the #SFSMedia session.

There were sessions I missed, and it kills me to have missed them. I wanted to learn from Sarah Mueller again and understand more about bacterial vaginosis. I wanted to be inspired and educated about the intricacies of consent, but something happened. Both of those sessions were first thing Saturday morning and I slept in due to a few nights of getting less sleep than I need. I read these few tweets from the session on consent and promptly lost my shit. The tears wouldn’t stop flowing so I finally collected myself slightly and headed off to the Tantus Blogger Lounge to get some hugs and eventually put on my makeup when the tears dried up. The fact that there were so many sessions I missed (in part due to their early hour or happening at the same time as another session or my lack of spoons) that I made the suggestion that Woodhull consider selling audio recordings of the sessions next year, somehow. The #blogsquad is going to work on making this happen, and sponsoring it. Tweets are amazing but they don’t tell the whole story. There are little points missed in between sound bites – plus when you’re the one live-tweeting with such skill you too may miss something.

Group Hangs

Thursday night’s group events didn’t work out for me entirely; they felt a little too loud or contained too many people I didn’t know. I ended up sitting them out for the most part. I was sad to have missed Crista’s thing at Bedpost Confessions but the popularity of that event led to a crowded room of people. There was a number of bloggers congregating in a circle in the parking lot, because reasons – Due to the collective anxieties of the group, I basically spent the weekend being some sort of fairy-godmother-Nancy-Botwin person. I remember showing Sugarcunt and….. I forget who else (ugh) the Rockbox Finger that evening and having to preface it with “Don’t. Scream.” before I handed it over. I went to bed, but not before catching a few Magikarp from my room!

Friday night’s Blogger PJ Party was amazing (and loud). Shevibe really did a fantastic job and we had so much fun. There were a few poetry readings from people braver than I; there were tunes playing that I didn’t really hear; and frequent pilgrimages to the parking lot (door! side door!). I have a photo I’ll treasure from the end of the night of a not-very-sober group hug between myself, Sandra (SheVibe), Metis (Tantus) and Ruby (Doxy), which I would love to share (but can’t).  And hey we got a bunch of cool stuff from the party sponsors! Tantus, Doxy, Fun Factory and Sliquid, to name a few. This isn’t to brag – I want to share! There were a number of things that I already have one of and I think one of you should have it instead. How can you win it? Simple: Donate to Woodhull. I’ll have more details about this at the end of the post.

Saturday night was the fancy party and even though I bought a dress, I didn’t have the spoons to get fancy and femme and attend a loud group gathering so first, Epiphora, Sugarcunt, April and I had some dinner. Then I remembered this alcove dining area in the “retreat wing” of the hotel that had large, round tables and we took over with the plan of snacks and card games. The problem was we quickly discovered we couldn’t learn a new game when we weren’t sober (and we were definitely not). It was a fun attempt though and soon other bloggers in their fancy garb came from one party to another and in short order we had an official Cackle of bloggers spread out over a few tables. And hey, no noise complaints this year! Score! There exists a group photo of most of us from Saturday night that I love, but next year we need to get a proper photo of the entire blogsquad, all together.

The Best People on Earth

I have so many little and big memories of moments with the #blogsquad. For example, Thursday, Sarah helped me navigate the deceptively short (and enormously frustrating) drive from the hotel to Union Station to fetch Artemesia and Caitlin. I couldn’t have made the drive without the collective help of everyone and their maps because my GPS is a sadist. I will do my best to avoid driving in the heart of DC ever again, though. Anxious little bunnies just need to avoid gridlocked traffic with directions that include the phrase “From the right-most lane, make a left turn” and a train station without a goddamn pick-up lane/parking area to wait in.

Once again, the Tantus Blogger Lounge saved me. I crashed there for a bit on Thursday while I waited for a room to be ready; I hid there on Saturday morning to recover from a large case of The Feels brought on by reading tweets from #sfsconsent. There were amazingly geeky conversations there with Lorax and Mary as we talked about how best to swab porous dildos to detect bacteria or how to soothe burning genitals. There were discussions galore in that blogger lounge, and there were stories of horrific DIY sex toys. There were hugs and coffee and the Best Fucking Chocolate delivered to me. I left out my Jar of Horrors so that it could educate people all weekend. And yes, at one point I opened it up and made people poke it with a stick. I’m not joking. The orange-y bits which used to be cock extenders (and therefore pretty soft and pliable, right?) are now rock solid. All of the plasticizers have “leaked” out into the jar. Next year I’ll have to tie an information tag around it so that there’s a bit of a “guided tour” of important info readily available.

I reveled in Girl on the Net‘s accent (we Americans are often easily impressed with accents, but she’s lovely to listen to – and talk with!); I finally met Polly who I’ve “known” for about 8 years online. Bex was the first face I saw, and my first of many hugs that weekend.  I soon met others I have only known online like Rebecca and Sammi, April, Taylor, Suz, Sarah and Sugarcunt – who all lived up to all my expectations (and then some). After many Facebook moments, I got to meet Ashley. I briefly chatted with Avery, had a little time with JoEllen, got in some amazing low-key chats with Epiphora, Bex, Girly Juice, Mandi, Rose and more. A bunch of us bloggers descended en masse to the hotel Dildo Factory as Kenton was creating a few things (and I even bought a Rainbow dildo!) after we’d spent more time fawning over Lunabelle‘s collection. I missed Penny, Lena and Reenie, though, who I spent a lot of time with last year. I met the lovely Rizzo from Tantus, and got to hang out and chat with Sandra, Thor, and Alex of SheVibe – they are a joy to be around and breakfast with them and Piph on Sunday morning was such a perfect cap to the weekend. I believe there are a few other bloggers who attended but an introduction/path-crossing didn’t happen.

Sunday, as many people were leaving, we all casually gathered (loitered) in the hotel lobby. This slow seeing-off helped me mitigate the worst of con-drop. We had fun; there were more hugs, so much conversation, and some fun pics. Sunday was really the perfect way to end the weekend.

I have Feels about these people. My people. Spending time with them, and being in the environment of a conference created with love and joy (a conference that celebrates everyone, including bloggers), was such a gift. I may not remember every conversation in detail anymore (thanks, sickness-brain-fog) but I remember laughter. Hugs. I felt heard, appreciated, respected. I may still have felt awkward, unsure and weird 1 at times but it all evened out.  I might be a lot older than most of these people but I still feel like many things in my life had to happen this way to find these people, to be changed for the better by these people and this community has changed me. The blogsquad is a rock for me; collectively they are my soulmate and I don’t know what I’d do without them. I’m a better person for knowing them.

Dear friends: If you have a memory that in any way involves  me from that weekend, please comment and share. It may help jiggle my brain fog. I’m writing this post in part to help me with my memory issues (which is why I write many things, tbh).

Next Year, Though…

My wish for SFS17 though is to fly a little less “seat of the pants” and plan a little more. A lot of us were able to talk in the week after Woodhull about our social experiences, others social experiences, anxieties, issues and more and it’s basically going to be even better next year. We’re going to get better about planning things for ourselves in groups and doing better at being inclusive with each other and those who are newer to Woodhull and the #blogsquad.

I want more small-group time to chat with people. I want to spread my time out so that I don’t leave and think “ugh I didn’t get enough time to REALLY connect more with that person!”, but also because I just personally do better in smaller groups vs 15 + people all at once.

If you are a blogger, or educator, or sex toy shop owner then you need to find your way to Summit 2017. If you are a company/manufacturer/etc looking to support one of the best sexuality conferences in the US, then you need to support Woodhull – both the yearly Summit and the Alliance. If you’re a sex toy company and want to connect with a ton of bloggers all at once, this is the conference to attend.  Supporting this conference means you’re supporting an essential non-profit that fights for our sexual freedom.

Thank Yous and Thank YOU

My biggest thanks and endless gratitude goes to Shevibe – for being the best sex toy shop I’ve ever worked with; for being amazing people; for being supporters of the crusaders and bloggers; for sponsoring my ass. Without them, I would be lost. My thanks to Metis and Tantus for the blogger lounge (which needs to be bigger next year!!). I have such gratitude to Crista for her hard work behind the scenes, and Mandi. And all the volunteers who ran around with seemingly endless energy to make this conference the best it can be.

And a ginormous thanks to Ricci and the Board for creating the best sexuality conference, where everyone is taken care of, honored, celebrated and no stone is left unturned. In 2014, after some unpleasant events, I wished for a true home for the bloggers – a conference to bring us together, not push us apart. A conference to welcome us, and foster true community. Ricci Levy made that happen in 2015.  Just like last year, the bloggers were thanked and treated with kindness and appreciation. For a number of us, this sort of treatment is still a bit alien (which is sad) but I feel safe in saying that for many of us, our heart is with Woodhull, firmly. The Summit is our superhero home base; it is where we gather to recharge ourselves and each other. Last year there were about a dozen of us attending and this year there was at least 2 dozen – safe to say this is the biggest gathering of bloggers in one space, ever. The Woodhull Summit – Ricci, the Board, the sessions, the volunteers all feed our souls in a way we’ve never experienced.  It really is like Blogger Christmas – our reunion with part of our chosen family. I will forever be grateful to those who make this happen for me.

~      ~       ~       ~

woodhullraffleAnd now, a little more about this Swag Bag package for ya. I have to thank all of my readers because without you reading and buying things and following me I wouldn’t have a sponsor and I wouldn’t get to go to Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit. Since you couldn’t go, the next best thing is reading about the things all us bloggers have learned, and getting some cool swag for yourself. Fun fact: I asked on FB if anybody else had a few items to throw in; Crista is now sending me a couple more items and Njoy, well….they took this from a mishmash bag o’ swag to a big grand prize.

You’ll get: A copy of the #NSFW coloring book from Shevibe, curated by Elle Chase. I have one, so you get my second copy! Bottles from Sliquid of their new coconut-and-plant-based oil lube, and their O Gel, plus a few packets of H20. A Mad Toto blindfold mask. A metal Doxy keychain! A literal dozen Tantus “tinies” and a bunch of Tantus stickers; a Shevibe logo sticker and Shevibe condoms. There’s also a Fun Factory logo pin and courtesy of me you’ll get a vulva/vagina pin and testicle pin from I Heart Guts and a couple of my Shevibe-designed sticker business cards. And not pictured, because it’s all en route to me, is Njoy swag. A small Pure Plug …. and an Eleven. Yep, an Eleven. Since the Eleven is such a big deal (and I know that people will want it who either went to Woodhull themselves or just don’t care about the swag bag stuff), it will be a separate raffle. The Pure Plug will be included with the Swag Bag.

How to be entered to win this pack? Donate $5 to Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit – every $5 you donate is a “raffle ticket” – plus there’re ticket bundles – using rallyup. The money goes directly to Woodhull2, not me. It’s open to everyone; I’d thought about limiting due to shipping costs that I have to pay, but fuck it. Anybody in the world can enter and I’ll happily pay shipping. You can buy a few tickets for each raffle, if you’re interested in both, and 1 winner for each prize pack will be chosen.

click here to enter the raffle (or just donate)

  1. despite attempts to rectify that with various helpful things like Girl Scout Cookies, Snow Dawg, and Blue Dream
  2. except for a teeny per donation fee of 5% which goes to rallyup
 Posted by at 2:49 pm