Lilly

May 162017
 

A topic that I’ve been really up front and vocal about for ages is my weight and how that factors into sex toy use. It can’t be overlooked (but boy can it be mocked) and many readers over the years have appreciated my candor. A lot of factors come into play when using sex toys and your body size is one of them – something most thin people don’t think about because it’s not their lived experience. The same can be said for using sex toys as a disabled person – most sex toy creators are able-bodied so the ease of use by a disabled person is usually not thought about. It’s a mostly-ignored market so when a sex toy literally is called “plus size” it feels like a game changer.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sex toy made for – or marketed specifically towards – plus size folks1.  In the absence of a specialty product, we have to try a little harder to find a product that will work better for us. There are attributes we can look for – different handles/bases on dual-stimulation vibrators, handles on dildos, or simply using a g-spot vibrator as a clitoral vibrator. There are attributes we can try to avoid – poorly placed buttons is a big pet peeve of mine along with long handles that point away from my body. But a few months ago Womanizer/epi24 started advertising their newest model, the +Size (or Plus Size, if you prefer). I don’t think it was a stretch to assume that this was a calculated move and would be marketed, in some part, towards plus size folks. This assumption is especially based on the stock images they chose – slightly plus-size femme folks alongside Womanizer’s traditional images of thin femme folks. 

Screengrab of the marketing images from the Womanizer site for the Plus Size model - 2 photos on the left show artistic photos of thin femme bodies, the product image is next, and then there are two artistic photos of plump or slightly large femme folks

The current language on their site talks about the +Size having an extended handle which measures 8.5″ long and intensity buttons at the end of the handle. This handle is 2.3″ longer than their PRO40 model and 1.5″ longer than the largest (but poorly made) Satisfyer, the Satisfyer 2. I am not certain on the measurements but it also appears that there’s more depth from the tip of the nozzle to the backside of the body.  The elongated handle has a slight curve which is more ergonomic for rounder bodies and disabled folks. With the exception of the poorly-placed power button, the buttons are in a great spot. Just by looking at the Womanizer +Size I feel like it was made more with my body type in mind than nearly all other sex toys on the market are.

The Womanizer Plus Size is disappointing me heavily in their marketing choices, though. Despite absolutely loving the Womanizer PRO40 and W100 in use and supporting the Womanizer brand over the Satisyfer brand I’ve always been turned off by the name, their prices, and the stereotype images they’d chosen originally for all their different design themes of the W100. I won’t pretend that, despite the name, the Plus Size is meant only for plus-sized people but you certainly can’t ignore the fact that it IS great for larger bodies. As a plus-sized woman, I felt, briefly, like I was finally being “seen” in this industry. Briefly. The fact is that beyond a couple of photos on their site of slightly larger femme folks they have been using thin folks in their marketing images on social media so far. The brand’s marketing seems to have completely ignored the subtly stated target market of larger folks or disabled folks. Where are the images representing those people? Where is the marketing that would give validation to people of size from an industry that largely ignores us? 

The only Womanizer + Size marketing image so far on social media shows a thin femme person

 It’s still early so epi24 can still decide to embrace a marginalized portion of the population that is grossly under-served in the sex toy market by respectfully portraying and marketing to plus-sized people AND disabled folks. I would love to feel like a legitimate person with a legitimate set of particular needs in this market rather than invisible or fetishized.  I’ve long wished for sex toy manufacturers to acknowledge the not-insignificant portion of the population that is considered “plus size” and create more ergonomic sex toys with that in mind – but like any wish you have to be specific and I didn’t think I had to specify that said sex toy would also be marketed to and portray images of the target market. I do, so I am: Epi24, please let the Womanizer Plus Size be a truly Plus Size sex toy.

To be clear, this isn’t my review of the Womanizer Plus Size and I don’t even have one quite yet. I plan to review it in the near future; this issue is something I wanted to talk about outside of the review space because this isn’t just about the Womanizer Plus Size or epi24 – it’s about the fact that 99% of the sex toys on the market ignore plus-size folks as a specific niche of end-user AND the fact that sex toy marketing is mostly devoid of larger bodies.

Update: A representative for Womanizer contacted me and had this to say:

I realize that our European site has not been updated with the new naming convention, but we have launched this product with being all inclusive in mind, so it is actually called Womanizer Plus (+) not Womanizer +Size as it appears online currently. 

Our intention is to offer a product with the ease of use that customers get from a wand styled item. We realize that our customers come in all shapes and sizes and want to be all inclusive with all of our products, and with all of our marketing, we use all shapes and sizes. We also want to market a product and not ignore the fact that the size and shape of Womanizer Plus(+) offers an ease of use for bigger bodied people, just like many wand style items. 

My response includes a re-iteration of my point here:

It seems that many retailers and early reviewers have been calling it +Size or Plus Size, so I imagine there will be confusion on the name for quite some time now.
 
And while I can understand that you intend for this to be for all people it’s a great marketing opportunity to be unique and gain favor by specifically creating marketing that speaks to the Plus being particularly well suited for larger bodies and disabled people.  I don’t feel that embracing niche users will alienate anyone else, especially if you have marketing that covers everything. As a plus-sized woman I’ve never seen manufacturers use images of someone my size and haven’t seen anything made with us in mind – I’ve seen a photo or two of a very slightly plump person, as on the Womanizer Plus site, but so far that seems to be it. 
  1. Please do correct me if I’ve missed any
 Posted by at 9:19 am
May 122017
 

I don’t often have Guest Posts but sometimes I want to bring you information that I just don’t know enough about! But you know I’m picky so you’ll only see guest posts from fellow bloggers I trust. Taylor J Mace was kind enough to write up this amazing guide to BDSM toys for you – the impact toy infographics are especially helpful!

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There are so many sex toys out there to choose from, which is great! But it can also be overwhelming for those who are new to toys and don’t know what’s worth buying from lists of 500+ items. You want to make sure it’s safe, decent-quality, and worth the price tag, but you’re also exploring something novel that you might not know all the terms for.

This article aims to break down the various types of BDSM toys, include a few tips for what to look for, and also for what to avoid. It is aimed toward folks new to this kind of play, not seasoned kinksters.

By now I’m sure you know that I do not support Pipedream or their subsidiaries. This makes shopping for BDSM toys more challenging, as a few of the companies owned by Pipedream are incredibly common. BDSM brands that are owned by Pipedream include: Fetish Fantasies (Frequently listed as “FF” on websites), Anal Fantasy, Metal Worx, Jimmyjane, Pipedream, Extreme Toyz, Pump Worx, Sir Richard’s, Neon, iSex, and Icicles.

Blindfolds and Hoods

Blindfolds and hoods are used for sensory deprivation – when unable to see, folks frequently report that their other senses are more focused and that they are more sensitive to whatès going on around them. Hoods come in many different styles with any combination of mouth, nose, or eye holes being covered. Many feel that a blindfold or hood makes them feel less self-conscious – when I was new to being dominant, I always felt more comfortable when the submissive was blindfolded as they couldn’t see my face so I didn’t need to worry that I wasn’t “looking the part” of a dominant. Sleep masks or scarves tied over the eyes make great makeshift blindfolds if you’re curious about blindfolds but aren’t ready to invest in one!

Bondage

Look for soft materials – leather, nylon, silicone, neoprene, pleather, or bondage tape. Avoid handcuffs, even the fuzzy kind! These can cause serious and permanent nerve damage. Cotton or silk rope is also a fun option, though make sure to have safety scissors on hand for any rope play. Bondage tape sticks to itself and not your skin, so it can be used anywhere on the body and around any type of surface. Bondage kits are a good option if you’re looking for several items – for instance, the Complete 10 Piece Luxury Bondage Kit includes wrist and ankle cuffs, a faux leather flogger, a ball gag, a collar, leash, blindfold, feather tickler, hogtie, and rope. These kits are usually cheaper than buying each piece individually and are a great (affordable) way for people to try out a number of different types of kink play to see what works best for them. It is important to never leave someone alone in the room while they are tied up.

Clamps and Nipple Play

There are so many types of nipple clamps out there that it’s hard to know where to begin when you first want to explore nipple play.

Clothespins tend to be a good starting-point as they are a common enough find that you can discreetly buy some in order to see if you like clamps without spending much money. They can be wooden or plastic (avoid plastic ones with teeth) and are recommended for single-use only as they are nearly impossible to sterilize and therefore can harbour bacteria from one use to the next. You cannot adjust how tight they are on your nipples.

Micro-Pliered clamps have a screw used to adjust how much pressure they exert on your nipples.

Tweezer clamps tend to have a smaller surface area, thus the pressure is more concentrated and may feel more intense. Depending on your nipple size and shape, you may find that you have a very hard time making tweezer-style clamps to stay on your nipples. You can adjust the intensity of these, though not as much as micro-pliered clamps.

Clover/Butterfly clamps are probably the most advanced kind of nipple clamp. Unlike other kinds of clamps, when you pull on the end of a clover clamp it tightens on the nipple, exerting more pressure. Even when they aren’t being pulled, clover clamps are very powerful.

Weights and chains can be added to some types of clamps – these increase the pressure, pain, and intensity of the clamps. When you’re moving, chains or weights can add even more intensity through the way they pull on your nipples.

Nipple suckers can be vacuums, pumps, or suction. Unlike clamps, they aren’t painful – instead, they increase the sensitivity and blood flow to your nipples temporarily.

Collars and Leashes

When selecting a collar, pay attention to what the intended purpose is. Is it meant to be decorative, functional, humiliating, or for posture? Most collars come with an o-ring on the front for you to attach a leash to or to secure the wearer’s neck to a piece of furniture, however, some of the more decorative collars do not so make sure to keep an eye on that if it’s important to you.

Leashes can be used in conjunction to a collar to exhibit more control over the wearer by simply tugging on the leash like you would a dog. Pay attention to how long the leash is as this will impact what positions you can have your submissive in.

Gags

There are a few kinds of gags to chose from – the most common being ball, bar, or o-ring – and each type comes with their own advantages and disadvantages. It is important to not leave someone alone when gagged and to have a non-verbal safeword in place in case something goes wrong (the standard one being the submissive tapping their hand twice).

Ball Gags

These can have holes or be one solid ball. The ones with holes are easier to breathe through while using but are typically made out of a hard plastic which caused more strain on your jaw and mouth than one with a silicone or rubber ball. Silicone balls have more give and so it’s easier to relax your jaw for a bit or bite into it in the middle of a scene. Be aware that the larger the ball is, the wider you’ll need to keep your mouth and thus the quicker your jaw will become sore. Ball gags tend to pinch at the corners of your mouth after extended use. These restrict a lot of speech and also have a higher choking hazard than the bar or o-ring gags.

Bar Gags

Also known as “bit gags”, these feature a bar that is typically made out of silicone, plastic, or (less commonly) metal. They pinch your mouth less than ball gags do, are easier to speak around, and also restrict the breathing less than a ball gag.

O-Ring Gags

Usually made out of metal or silicone, this type of gag fits behind your teeth and does not restrict your breathing. They make it difficult to speak and pinch the corners of your mouth just like a ball gag does. You may be able to perform oral sex while wearing one of these gags. Keep in mind that the larger the ring’s diameter, the wider you will have to keep your mouth and thus the quicker your jaw will tire.

Impact Toys

When it comes to impact, there are “thuddy” toys and “stingy”/“sharp” toys – think of the difference between getting punched versus slapped. Many people consider stingy toys (canes, crops, whips, some floggers) to hurt more than thuddy toys (paddles, some floggers), though individual preferences vary.

Material also plays a big role in how much a toy hurts. Below is a guide to know how things will feel!

Keep cleanliness in mind – it is just as important to clean an impact toy as it is to clean something that’s going inside of you. Impact toys may come into contact with blood (even if the submissive does not seem to be cut, for example if you hit them on a pimple), sweat, spit, ejaculate or pre-ejaculate and/or lube, and they may come into contact with genitals. As such, make sure you know how to clean your toys between every use.

The above ratings are all pretty high, which can be super intimidating if you’re new or not into much pain. So…what are your options if you don’t enjoy a lot of pain?

Material, size, and force used by the top all greatly affect how intense the pain feels. The thinner/narrower an object (cane, flogger falls, paddle, etc), the stingier the sensation; thicker toys, wider falls, and/or increasing the number of falls will all make the toy more thuddy.

Floggers are one of the more customizable options, good for everyone to those who don’t like pain at all, sting-enthusiasts, or those who prefer a nice thud. The below graphic will help you pick one that’s right for you!

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I hope you’ve learned more about kink toys and gear and that this guide helps you find toys that work for you and your partner(s)!

 

This post has been sponsored by Lovedreamer, but all opinions, information, and recommendations are Taylor’s (and approved by me!). Sponsors like Lovedreamer are helping Taylor get to Woodhull SFS17.

 Posted by at 8:06 am
Apr 302017
 

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

Cool storage.

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

Casing the Joint

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

The SenseVibe Warm and open charging case

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

Shopping in the Petite Department

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

Comparing the SenseVibe to the L'amourose Denia

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

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

Captain Crunch

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

You Push the Button, We do the Rest1

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

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

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

It Coulda Been a Contender

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

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

Comparing the SenseVibe to the L'amourose Rosa and Denia

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Depression and #45

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

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

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

Depression and Turning 40

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

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

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

Depression and Blogging

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

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

 

 Posted by at 10:28 am
Apr 072017
 

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

Misinterpreting Medical Studies?

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

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

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

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

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

Synthetic Oils In Sex Toys

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

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

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

A Brief Interlude on Osmolality

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

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

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

pH and You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. After seeing the similarities between the article from Coconu and Sutil, and then a few Google searches for funsies, I found the original article that Sutil copied / heavily borrowed from – a naturalist “doctor” who misread that study about oil-based lubes and extended it to try and claim that silicone oil is toxic. I’m as baffled as you are as to why a naturalist would declare coconut oil bad for all vaginas, given its antimicrobial properties and long-document usage for clearing up certain vaginal infections, but I digress and leave you with a sharp side-eye
  2. tests show mineral oil in many of these sex toys
  3. and, as we know, latex and oil are not compatible – I don’t know how long you’d have to wait in between using a plant-based oil lube and a latex condom to ensure the oil doesn’t render the condom useless against sperm and STIs
 Posted by at 3:42 pm
Mar 132017
 

When we talk about the many benefits of body-safe silicone for sex toys, we have to talk about how folks can tell the difference between silicone and well, not silicone. There are clues if it’s a translucent material or we can do the flame test, but what if it passes all of that and you still worry? Readers come to me all the time with concerns about a chemical odor despite the material being silicone so hopefully this will lay some fears to rest.

PVC is notorious for having a bad odor right out of the package, due to the plastic softening agents used – phthalates, or not, it seems. Therefore many folks use this odor, or lack of it, to help them determine if something is, or is not, silicone. They believe that a silicone sex toy shouldn’t have any chemical odors and many folks become immediately suspicious of perfectly good silicone sex toys when they open their packaging only to be hit with a chemical scent.

It should also be noted that one way to tell the difference between a really-bad porous material like PVC and a semi-bad porous material like TPR is also odor – generally speaking, TPR/TPE doesn’t have a bad odor. But it could, for many of the reasons listed below. In my personal past experience, the stench of toxic chemicals or cover-up perfumes won’t “air out” in a day or so.  The last time I received a toxic, stinky PVC realistic dildo accidentally for review the smell never abated, never went away. I lasted a week and a half before I took it to the dumpster.

Silicone Does Retain Odors

Because silicone isn’t completely non-porous, it can hang on to odors. We’ve learned this about anal toys (and those odors linger because they’re oil-soluble), but chemical odors that are water-soluble should dissipate a lot easier with a quick wash and some airing out.  The mild soap and water wash (or baby wipes swab, followed up by a “rinse” with a damp cloth for toys not water-resistant) will remove any lingering chemicals – something you should do no matter what with a brand new sex toy – but the most important step is simply letting it air out, free from packaging.

Trapped!

Any of the odor-causing methods below will make the silicone sex toy stink if it still stinks when they package it up. Then, the odors are trapped in the airtight packaging and not releasing until you open it. Items packaged only in cardboard, that are never then shrink-wrapped in plastic, will probably have no-to-low odor because of the cardboard. But if the item is put in a plastic bag and then packaged, or the entire packaging is shrink-wrapped, a chemical odor upon unboxing isn’t something to be immediately concerned about.

The odors can also be trapped, so to speak, from inside the toy, too. Yes, that’s right, the smell is coming from inside the house. Er, toy. How? Why? Well, lubrication of interior parts is one reason, and you can read about that in the next section. Another, manufacturer-specific, reason is the squishy under-layer in Tenga Iroha vibrators. The initial line had a very strong chemical odor that took a long time to dissipate – it reminded me of latex paint. The material under the thin silicone skin was a polyurethane-based squishy foam emitting VOCs. More recent Iroha squishy lines seem to have fixed this. And let’s not forget Lelo’s cringe-worthy scented-on-purpose vibrators – the scent is under the silicone skin, and comes out through the silicone’s pores.

Common Reasons for Silicone Sex Toys Having a Chemical Smell

There are so many factors that can cause a lingering chemical odor. This is actually a lot more common than you may realize. There’s a difference in the curing style and manufacturing process of silicone sex toys between say, the hand-poured RTV platinum-cured silicone that Tantus uses for their dildos and the silicone that goes over vibrators – like HTV (high-temperature vulcanization vs room-temperature).  I’ve read that there can be more curing odors associated with peroxide-cure than platinum-cure, but I don’t know which companies may be using peroxide-cure HTV silicone.

  1. Mold release agent – Basically, PAM for silicone. It’s a lubricant that helps get the sex toy out of the mold. This should get washed off, but cheaper companies may not do a good job of that
  2. Cleaning chemicals – Or, they did get rid of the mold release agent, but didn’t let the product air dry to release the VOCs from the cleaning chemicals
  3. The plastic packaging – if the item is in a plastic molded tray or clamshell, that plastic could be releasing VOCs as well
  4. Glue or dye in the packaging – sometimes instead of a plastic tray, your sex toy is in a foam tray. Maybe it’s dyed a color to match the packaging. Maybe there are multiple layers glued together. Again we have VOCs!
  5. Chemicals released during cure – When talking to numerous vibrator manufacturers they confirmed that during silicone cure a chemical reaction occurs and a strong odor comes with it. It’ll go away with 24-48 hours to air out, and good companies let their products air out before packaging. A cheap company will want to crank production up as much as possible and won’t give their products time to air out.
  6. Lubricants – Not the kind you’ll be using, but the kind used during production. I can’t accurately speculate what any given company would use to lubricate moving parts, but it could be anything from an alcohol-based spray to white lithium grease. If there’s no hard plastic barrier between the greased vibrator guts and the silicone skin of a vibrator, you might be smelling that odor for quite some time. One sex toy that comes to mind is this cheap bendable silicone vibrator – I had one complaint of it smelling so bad that I had to investigate and when I cut it open I noticed a little bit of a machine-shop odor and could tell it was from the lubricant used inside. Since it’s bendable, there was nothing in between the guts and the silicone.

What are VOCs?

Some of you may be wondering – VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound. When you smell a chemical odor? That’s a VOC. Paint, new shower curtains, sex toys, cleaning products – we can’t escape them. They’re trying to regulate them, but it’s going to be a tough battle. If your new sex toy has a chemical odor, try to let it air out in a non-living-space room *if possible* since many VOCs can cause headaches, or more.

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The bottom line? Fear not! A chemical odor doesn’t indicate anything bad on its own. Much appreciation to Vibratex, L’amourose, Doxy and Funkit for answering my questions in my research for this article.

 Posted by at 12:51 pm