Nov 292016
 

img_20161129_110321Recently I posted an article calling out Tracy’s Dog for being a shady, shady brand. This isn’t the first time I’ve purposely purchased a sex toy from Amazon suspecting bad results (see also: Glass safety post, Silica Gel post) but it’s the first time I took a leap of faith and committed to filing a report with Amazon. I was happy enough with the results of my chat, and saw a glimmer of hope for cleaning up Amazon. If more folks would file reports, and go beyond just leaving a 1-star customer review, we might be able to slowly whittle away at all of the counterfeit products and the incorrect material claims1. The most effective options are ones for those who have purchased the offending item from Amazon, but even non-customers can do a few things. Here are all the various ways we can start to clean up Amazon:

File an A-to-Z Protection Claim

There’s talk of this “A-to-Z” guarantee protection, and so I looked into it. I quickly hit a snag when I followed these directions:

To file an A-to-z Guarantee Claim on an eligible order:

  • Go to Your Orders.
  • Locate your order in the list and click Get help with order.
  • Select a reason code to describe your issue.
  • Select Request refund through A-to-z Guarantee.
  • Enter the required information and select Submit

Well, I didn’t see the “Get help with order” button on the order I needed to report. I saw it on a couple of other, more recent orders. My order definitely fit in the 90-days timeframe. You might see it if you try to contact the seller, though (but I never have on any order, so I’m not sure why a few showed the link and most don’t) – and you should, to see if you can get your money back. I found no way to contact the seller on my order – perhaps because it was outside of the Amazon 30-day returns? I don’t know. But the A-to-Z thing didn’t pan out. So…Now what?

Live Chat

I went to “Contact Us“. You start by choosing the order you want to report. Then in section 2 you select an issue. I selected “Problem with the order” and then “Wrong item or not as expected”. When Chat opened, I explained the situation at hand: The seller’s ad copy in their listing says silicone, the box says silicone, but it’s not silicone. They didn’t ask me to prove it; they didn’t ask me how I knew. I chose to tell them about my blog and a little about the flame test method. I could have also linked to the post where we talk about the flashlight test on clear TPR and silicone, but I didn’t need to.  They confirmed they were filing a report for me, and told me that if more customers give similar feedback, they’ll investigate the seller. 

I’ve always received good help from Amazon’s live chat, but sometimes it’s been clear that there’s been a bit of a language barrier. In the case of reporting the Tracy’s Dog vibrator, I could tell that the person I was speaking with understood the situation perfectly (and in fact asked me more about everything; she was a med student, too) and I didn’t need to further explain my links, my materials testing, etc. She appreciated the links I gave her though, and thanked me for doing research before contacting them. If others out there ever want to report this particular brand, feel free to link to my Tracy’s Dog vibrator post to give Amazon background information on the problems with the brand.

The bottom line here is this bit from my Live Chat conversation with Amazon – I was told by the Live Chat associate:

“I have submitted your claim. You may also leave feedback on the products review page for others to see. Hopefully we will get more claims and that will speed up the priority of the investigation.”

And when I asked about others reporting:

Those that have bought it from Amazon should definitely contact us as well because it brings the problem to our attention sooner than the reviews. The reviews are more for customers to have an idea as to what others think.”

Write a Customer Review

While the customer review won’t alert Amazon, it could help in deterring others from purchasing the item. Ultimately, this is what we want: we don’t want customers purchasing shady products from shady brands. You can write a customer review even if you haven’t purchased the sex toy from Amazon (but you should own the item, at least). Reviews from folks who’ve purchased though may hold more weight and will show as “Verified Review”.

Leave Seller Feedback

This is again only something that customers who purchased from Amazon can do. In your Orders history next to every item is a “Leave Seller Feedback” button.  I gave the seller 1 star, confirmed that it arrived on time, said that it wasn’t as advertised, and again discussed material discrepancy in the comments section. This will be seen by both Amazon and the seller. Too many bad seller feedback reports will also cause an investigation.

amazonreport4

Report Incorrect Information

There’s a link that you will only see if you’re logged in to your Amazon account, where you can report incorrect information. You don’t need to have purchased the product, but you should be certain that the information in the listing is incorrect. The link can be hard to spot; it floats around based on the size of the product picture.  If the picture is small, the link is right up under photo or bulleted list of product highlights. If the picture is large the link may float farther over to the right. Below are two examples.

amazonreport1

amasonreport2

When I clicked on the link, because the incorrect information was everywhere and not just the bulleted points, I chose “Other product details” first, and then after some thought I went back and reported again to point out the bulleted list. The next drop down wants to know what the issue is. I put “incorrect information”, but “product quality issue” may also be valid. On listings like the items I purchased for the Silica Gel post, I would choose “conflicting information” because those items said silicone in some parts of the listing, silica gel in others, and so on. Does it help to report over and over again on the product for every issue? I don’t know. Because we could say that the Tracy’s Dog rabbit vibrator also had “conflicting information” – while all of the ad copy from the seller, Tracy’s Dog, said silicone the Product Description (which I assume Amazon writes?) said TPR. But it only ever said TPR in that one little section, and that is easy to overlook when they say “silicone” 15 other places.

amazonreport3

It would take a massive effort worldwide, really, and I feel that this reporting needs to be done across the board – not just sex toys, but all items on Amazon that you receive which seem in poor shape. Counterfeit products are rampant on Amazon, products of all kinds, and these counterfeits are killing small businesses. Maybe a change can happen; maybe Amazon will just stop selling sex toys. Until this massive change happens, though, please think twice before you buy that sex toy from Amazon.  You’ll get much better customer care and support by shopping with amazing folks like Shevibe, Early to Bed, Come as You Are, Smitten Kitten and many other small, feminist shops both online and in-store  – for more information on where to shop, go to the last portion of this article.

 

 

  1. allow me this one moment of sheer optimism
 Posted by at 12:54 pm
Nov 272016
 

Remember when I thought that “Womanizer” was the worst name for a sex toy? “Tracy’s Dog” is worse, and it’s the brand name. It might be the worst brand name I’ve ever heard. Stick with me here; I know you may be wondering if it’s April 1st already but you’ll soon see this isn’t your average sex toy review.

Tracy’s Dog – A Brand I Do Not Trust

You won’t find “Tracy’s Dog” at the retailer I trust most, SheVibe, or other retailers I trust like Come as You Are, Early to Bed, Smitten Kitten, Babeland, and more. Where will you find it? The retailer I trust least – Amazon. Tracy’s Dog has been trying to get me to review their sex toys for ages now. They’ve sent a bunch of emails. I’ve always refused because I won’t review sex toys that come from Amazon and only Amazon because reasons. Some reviewers have tried out the brand, and not everyone hated it. There was a really eyebrow-raising issue with Cara Sutra’s Pleasure Panel reviewers and their “Liquid Silicone” dildos – two people received a “Liquid Silicone” dildo with a “Materials Test” result paper which supposedly came from a testing lab and claims the material is SILICA GEL – links and photos further down. Not silicone, for they are not the same thing. And as I’ve reported before, silica gel is a desiccant – not a sex toy material!

The Tracy’s Dog Flirt Rabbit sells for $13.98 at Amazon, is not made from silicone, and is a nightmare. I bought this stupid thing from Amazon for that piece I wrote illustrating water-clear TPR and cloudy-clear silicone. I also bought this because on the Amazon listing, in amidst all the SEO words, Tracy’s Dog claims it is silicone in the title. The “highlights” bullet list calls it silicone. The fucking packaging calls it silicone. Multiple places throughout the page call it silicone. Finally way down under “Product Description”, it’s called TPR. Most people will not see this, though, and think they’re buying affordable silicone. This. Is. Not. Silicone. This is why I avoid “white label” sex toy brands, and brands that you only see on sites like Amazon, Ebay, AliExpress and Groupon. The “branding” on this piece of junk is literally a fucking sticker. So yeah, be prepared to see this godawful thing from other “brands”, too.

51xasgt4mjl

“Tracy’s Dog® Flirt Rotating Bullet 36-frequency Thrusting Soft Silicone Powerful Rabbit Vibratoir G-spot Stimulation Vibe Clit Masturbation Dildo (Purple)”

*sigh*

  1. It’s not silicone.
  2. What is 36-frequency?
  3. Vibratoir?
  4. Not a Dildo
  5. SUITABLE FOR BAR FLIRTING

AND THEN. Oh because the listing gets better. We’re still up at the top here – just under the image where they bullet-list the highlights and say:

The rabbit vibrator is made of healthy senior silicone, crystal clear,vivid skin touch feeling

What, pray tell, is “healthy senior silicone”? Also, no, not “skin touch” feeling. It feels like goddamn softened plastic. I’ve felt TPR that does feel realistic-ish, but not this!

Realistic big glans,telescopic bead design, 36-frequency vibrating,adjustable power,can auto thrust to you body, direct sexual desire,like a fire burning all your passion

Oh, you’ll feel a fire, alright, after you’ve used it too many times and the itsy bitsies living in the pores give you a yeast infection.

“Rotating, Vibrating, Thrusting, knock the door of your heart.”

  • The design of this product bases on in-depth analysis of the Europe and the United States female’s sexual-mind. Its size and appearance according with human body engineering design can let a female fondle admiringly.
  • Thrusting soft silicone combined with strong power motor creates infinite fun. ..Powerful rotating bullets coupled with the unique flapping wings make you passionate.
  • Built-in the most advanced motor, provide a steady stream of power for the strong speed.

The two long cute antennas and wings vibrating with36 frequency tender massage your body, releasing all of your sexual desire and pleasure. The realistic soft big glans can thrust into your body slowly, conducting you into a wonderful happy world. Under the glans penis, the large raised silica gel points stimulate the right place, making you excited. The 101 pleasure floating-point around the stick, surrounding the passion of thread, give you a good friction.12 adjustable speed,36 frequency and 360 ° rotation can fully satisfy you.

1. For couples: This toy can satisfy curiosity and increase the newness.

2. For solo: No longer lonely with it in the night.

3. For the senior players: It helps you explore new things.

4. For beginner: It provides the instant resource for love.

tracysdogbox tracysdogbox2

Note: Text appearing in dark red is directly from the Amazon listing, and written by the brand. There’s just so much to unpack here, and this is only the fucking Amazon listing. So, it’s right there on the Amazon page, why did I copy it, you’re wondering? In case they change it – plus it’s funny (and sad).”No longer lonely in the night” – now, if we were talking about an actual dog, providing actual companionship, sure. But a vibrator? A vibrator will not ease your lonliness, nor is it meant to. Vibrators are also not there for love. The orgasms you get from a really great sex toy that makes you come harder than you thought possible, the kind of sex toy that makes you want to give them as gifts to everyone you meet – sure, those may produce endorphins that mimic love and if you try to steal my Pure Wand or Kate’s Double Trouble you will be hurt. But love? Ehhh, you’re pushing it.

Sure, we can absolutely chalk a lot of this up to “lost in translation”. After all, the vibrator is made for Asian women. Not kidding.  In amongst all of the typos and bad translation it says on the back of the packaging: “the product Dimensions boby [sic] feature based on Asian design, tailored specifically for Asian women”.  Also on the back of the package is where they say that it is “crystal clear silicone”. Um, no, no it’s not. You want proof beyond this post? It failed the flame test spectacularly.

tracysdogburn tracysdogburn2 tracysdogburn3

Anyway. Since this post is about this particular vibrator, I want to tell you a few things about it.

  1. Yes, it thrusts. Poorly.
  2. Yes, it rotates. However the rotating section of “beads” has sharp points on it and can be felt through the thin material.
  3. The only part that vibrates is the clitoral arm, which is, of course, buzzy and mediocre at best. Not powerful.
  4. It’s shit. Even if it were silicone, it’d be shit. Don’t fucking buy it!

I Won’t Trust a Brand Who Lies

Here’s the thing. Yes, there are products from this brand that are indeed silicone. There are positive reviews for these products from sex toy reviewers. But I will never endorse ANY Tracy’s Dog product, ever, despite it being affordable silicone because they lie. They’ve lied in 16 ways about this rabbit vibe; they’ve lied about those “Liquid Silicone” dildos – even though that 2016-dated product material test affidavit went out with multiple dildos they claim it was a TYPO and sent out another test report from a different lab DATED 2010. SIX FUCKING YEARS AGO.  Below you can see the two test papers that were sent to the reviewer and originally appeared at carasutra.com in this review, used with permission from Cara. At the left is the 2016 report, which doesn’t name any specific sex toy, listing the material as “silica gel”. At the right is the 2010 report, again not naming any specific sex toy. You can see what an actual materials test report looks like from a reliable lab by visiting BadVibes.org. I’ve also sent out an item for testing to a lab and received the same test report styling as BadVibes did. No decent lab would put forth such strange, vague test result papers.

Tracy's Dog material test paper from a lab reads: Sample Name - Sex toy. Sample Material: Silica Gel. Tracy's Dog Materials Test Report from a different lab, offered up as the "real" lab test. No sex toy name is defined, material is "liquid silicone rubber" and the report is dated 2010

I can’t recommend this company, at all, for any product, full stop. Even the items rated well by other bloggers can be found in similar form from more reputable companies. The brand Tracy’s Dog now live on my Blacklist. If you need an affordable sex toy, check out my list of sex toys under $35.

35under35small

 

ETA: At the suggestion of others I decided to contact Amazon. Their A-to-Z thing wasn’t activated (when looking at orders history, you should see a “help with this order” button or something, and I didn’t) so I ventured into Live Chat. I’m sharing the chat, but I want to point out: the way to get dodgy sellers/brands like Tracy’s Dog off Amazon is for CONSUMERS to file reports the way I’ve done. If enough people who’ve purchased the item report it as misleading ad copy, etc to an Amazon associate, then an investigation may be opened.  There is also a “report incorrect product information” link to click on the page, which can be done by anybody. It took me a little looking to find it, but it’s up at the top, after the item photos, on the right side. 

In my chat with an Amazon associate, once I explained what the situation is and showed them the link to Cara’s review with the shady lab test reports, etc, I was told that the person was filing a claim so that the item page can be taken down for review. I confirmed that I personally didn’t want a replacement, that I wanted to report the brand & seller. The helpful associate let me know she was asking her supervisor for any other steps that can be taken to report the problem. I was told: “I have submitted your claim. You may also leave feedback on the products review page for others to see. Hopefully we will get more claims and that will speed up the priority of the investigation.” and when I asked about others reporting: “Those that have bought it from Amazon should definitely contact us as well because it brings the problem to our attention sooner than the reviews. The reviews are more for customers to have an idea as to what others think.”

 

Nov 062016
 

Womanizer vs Satisfyer - a line up of the 3 Womanizer models and the Satisfyer Pro 2

For quite some time I regarded the Womanizer with a healthy dose of side-eye; I was quite sure that it wouldn’t work for me. I remained skeptical of the many glowing reviews. When you’ve been reviewing sex toys for 8 years, you can often get a really good feel for the facts just by reading a handful of reviews. But the Womanizer shocked me – in fact, it left me speechless. It took me months to write my first Womanizer review because I felt like I couldn’t explain why I liked it or who else might like it (or hate it). I also was having a really hard time admitting I liked something THAT ugly with THAT bad of a name and that high of a price tag1. The Womanizer W100 makes the original copper Eroscillator look damn good.

A screencap of an email I received recently from one of the many misguided Chinese plants who think I'm a manufacturer or retailer, not a blogger. They offer me low wholesale prices and the ability to put my name on their stuff. The photo shows knockoffs of the Lovehoney tongueslapper and Womanizer-like toys. Like anything popular, counterfeit / copycat products quickly flooded Amazon, AliExpress, eBay, etc.  It never takes long after “white label”2 versions of popular brands are available for the emails about them to start hitting my inbox3.  As you can see in this email screenshot there’s a knock-off of the Womanizer tech in a different body with a wholesale price of $20.

When I saw the Satisfyer brand, it was really clear that they’re going after the Womanizer market with this non-vibrating air-pulsation technology – they went the cheap route though with the motor and design, allowing the retail price to be so much lower than the Womanizer that they were guaranteed to steal a large chunk of the Womanizer’s potential customers. The company behind the Satisfyer has denied that they’ve outright copied the Womanizer tech; Womanizer responded by slapping them with patent infringement but it won’t hold water outside of Germany.  At first glance, Satisfyer seemed to have fixed the primary complaints about Womanizer: design, name, price and waterproof abilities.  But when you use the Satisfyer Pro 2 side-by-side with any Womanizer it’s glaringly obvious that the price increase with the Womanizer will get you a product that seems to be better made. I also just have a really hard time supporting a product that is such an obvious rip-off – maybe you don’t agree, and you need to have the most affordable option which I respect. **After this post went live** two folks commented via Facebook about their interactions with Satifyer reps at SHE NYC. One said: “True story, at this years SHE Expo in Brooklyn the Satisfyer representative said flat out to my wife and I that they took the “poorly designed Womanizer and made it better” then proceeded to essentially brag about how they got away with it adding how they considered a powerful patent lawyer part of the cost of bringing the Satisfyer to market. I mean, the guy was chuckling about it.” You know, this is not how a decent company behaves. At all. Jesus fuck.

Womanizer PRO40

Womanizer PRO40Until recently, Womanizer remained an overpriced, luxury item. When you get it in your hands it doesn’t feel quite as well-made as some brands. It lacks the pretty, “classic”, refined beauty that has drawn people to Lelo, L’amourose, etc. And while $99 for the new Womanizer PRO40 still is considered luxury, out-of-reach pricing to many, it’s a bit more attainable than $159.  The Womanizer PRO40 is clearly epi24’s answer to the sales lost to the $59 Satisfyer Pro 2 – and unlike the W100 or W500, the more affordable Womanizer PRO40 is waterproof, with a plain design that is a welcome change. The PRO40 is not overtly feminine, thank god, and is in fact pretty damn plain. Somehow the PRO40 gained a feature (it’s now waterproof, like the Satisfyer) AND is priced much less. How is this possible? Well the motor is a little louder; they’ve gone with a cheaper motor that still performs well, but is less refined, I guess.  It may still be more expensive, but the PRO40 has the features that keep me coming back to Womanizer – the low settings and better navigation buttons. The PRO40 combines the best of the W100 (body, button placement) with the best of the W500 (extra power for those who need it, and up/down level navigation buttons), adds in waterproofing and takes away cost. I’m happy to have a slightly louder motor in exchange.

The lowest two settings on the Womanizers are subtle and arousing. They feel really good, and aren’t necessarily trying to yank an orgasm out of you. In fact the lower settings on the Womanizers are really great warm-up toys, and can build arousal in me in ways that the Fiera never could. Have I mentioned the buttons? Oh the buttons. You can easily toggle between lower and higher settings. I like to draw things out with the Womanizer (usually) because it feels so nice; so I don’t want to rush, I want to keep edging my orgasm. I can start out at 1 until I find some good porn; increase to 2 when I’m more aroused; tip it up to 3 to get the ball rolling; back down to 2 for a minute to keep things going. Up to 4 to pick up the pace; 3 then 2 then back up to 4 and maybe 5 if I need a boost and want to come. It’s the sex toy version of Monica’s ergoneous zones playlist.  I cannot do that with the Satisfyer Pro 2. With all Womanizer models I can quickly return to the lowest setting; perfect for just after orgasm. It’s just tolerably intense in those sensitive moments, but allows me to actually keep going and have multiple orgasms. I can’t do that with the Satisfyer because I’d have to turn it off completely to get back down to the gentle first setting (new model; old model has nothing “gentle” about it). These features are crucially important to me.

Even though the Womanizer Pro 40 is a little louder vs W100 or W500, it’s now my top recommendation over every brand and model.

Womanizer vs Satisfyer – Comparison Chart *

  Womanizer PRO40 Womanizer W100 Womanizer W500 Satisfyer Pro 2 (old) Satisfyer Pro 2 (new)
Power button brings you back to level 1 Y Y Y N N
Easy-to-hold Design  Y Y  — Y Y
Multiple color offerings Y Y Y N N
Gender-neutral colors/designs Y N N Y Y
Motor decibels 50-74 50-62 50-72 72-75 63-75
# of intensity levels 8 6 8 11 11
Plus & minus level navigation Y N Y N N
Multiple sized nozzle heads Y Y Y N N
Waterproof Y N N Y Y
Perceived Intensity, scale of 1-10 9 8 9 10 10
Price $99 $159 $219 $59 $59
Warranty 2 yrs ?* ?* N N
Use Time 240 mins 90 mins 240 mins ?* ?*
Charge Time 2 hours 4 hours 2 hours 2 hours 2 hours
Storage N Case Pouch Pouch Pouch

Womanizer W100

Womanizer W100It’s ugly, but it works – One thing that the Womanizer W100 has that the others lack is a really nice storage case. Sure, it’s baby-pink and has “Womanizer” emblazoned on it, but it’s really nice to keep the extra head, and charging accessories, all together.  The W100 is the quietest model because it lacks the more intense levels. I feel that when the Womanizer W100 is pressed against your vulva, it’s nearly silent. Even when you break contact, it’s not that loud – 62 decibels. The Womanizer W100 has only one button but the power button can be tapped during use to bring you back down to the first intensity level. And of course the W100 line is the most gaudy, with a big faux-rhinestone button to boot. Shevibe carries it in Pink Croc, Black Leopard and Red Roses; for a little more money Lovehoney carries it in Black “Tattoo” or Pink Leopard.

Womanizer W500

Womanizer W500One word: Awkward – For as much as I loved the Womanizer W100, I thought I’d love the W500 even more. Sure, it introduced the necessary plus and minus buttons to easily navigate the increased levels, but the power button was harder to press. The buttons are now located on the back side of the body, facing away from you, and are located in a place that is very awkward for me during use. The short, fat stature also makes it harder for me to hold.  The designs of the Womanizer W500 are a little more classy, but still very femme with the exception White Chrome design – but even that has a Swarovski crystal “element” as the power button.  The W500 is priced way, way too high at $219. It’s absolutely ridiculous and I can’t recommend this model with the other choices available. The W500 comes in the aforementioned White Chrome; Black Leopard, Red Roses, and Magenta Lace.

Satisfyer Pro 2 – The Old and The New

Satisfyer Pro 2Affordable? Nah, Cheap – Rather than rename the Satisfyer Pro 2, the company made two changes and kept the name and design the same. This means that with most retailers you won’t know which model you’re buying, because they’re priced the same, too. You’d only know to see it in person – the new version has “Satisfyer” in raised lettering along the handle (shown below). Satisfyer boasted that the new Pro 2 was “90% more quiet” than before. Where do these companies come up with this stuff? Using my amateur decibel meter the difference is only 9 points – the loudest rating on the lowest setting is 63dB on the new model vs 72dB on the old. It’s definitely noticeable, but not 90%. And the high levels? Identical when not pressed against the vulva – when pressed against the vulva, the new Pro 2 is a bit more quiet.  While Satisfyer does have a few more models and designs, most retailers don’t carry them right now.  If I test them, info on those will be updated here.  The Satisfyer Pro 2 comes in one color that is very gender-neutral, even if the packaging isn’t4.

satisfyerpro2-old-vs-new

*  A few things to note about this comparison chart:

  1. As new similar products are available to retailers, and I try them, I’ll add them to the chart. By similar I mean no vibrations, just this air pulsing whoosiewhatsit.
  2. Womanizer W100 and W500 previously had warranties, but things have changed and now I’m not sure. On Shevibe the “warranty” icon is not displayed for these two products. I’m waiting on confirmation.
  3. The decibels were tested with my phone and a sound meter. Due to the idling-engine type sound that the motors make on low, the sound meter jumped around a lot. The lower numbers then represent the loudest that the first settings will get. Also, I tested the sound levels without the nozzle being completely covered, like it would be in use. When the nozzle is completely covered the sound is dampened a lot.
  4. Charge and use time reports are varying from retailer info to manufacturer website / product manual info.  One reports the Satisfyer has 120 minutes of use, while their web-version user manual reports only 30 minutes. When I can get an accurate number, I’ll add it.
  5. I feel that the fat & short design of the Womanizer W500 is awkward to hold and more awkward to press buttons. Womanizer boasts it being more comfortable to hold. We’ll agree to disagree, I guess.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~ 

While some folks are so turned off by the Womanizer name that that alone will make them buy the Satisfyer, if you didn’t know the names then you’d see that the Womanizer is the best. They pioneered this new type of sensation and while they’ve started off with designs that make most folks cringe and a name that you are loathe to utter, the Womanizer motor is superior. If Womanizer would lower the price on the Pro40 to $79, I feel they’d have the market cornered again. But for now my vote is with Womanizer Pro40 and Shevibe is naturally the retailer I’ll direct you to.

  1. At first the Womanizer W100 was priced at $189 at Shevibe, $199 many other places. In recent months Womanizer has dropped the price and now Shevibe sells it for $159 – this is the lowest price it should be sold for. Womanizer has a VERY stringent MAP agreement that any retailer must follow. If you see someone who isn’t, approach with caution
  2. White label is when a manufacturing plant makes a product, but they are not necessarily a brand – they offer to make things for your brand. You, the brand company, don’t really design anything, you just slap your brand name on the packaging and maybe pick a slightly different color scheme. This is why you can often see a dozen nearly-identical sex toys on the sub-par retailer market
  3. Side note: why the hell do these companies think bloggers are retailers?
  4. features a white femme person
 Posted by at 4:00 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
Sep 082016
 

I Gave Up Vibrators for 4 weeks (just to see what would happen)Despite this being 2016; despite the enormity of the sex toy industry; despite the amount of tech, pomp and circumstance that is being shoved into all manner of vibrators… for many people, vibrators are “naughty”. They’re inferior to “natural ways”. They offend teh menz who think that, thanks to porn, people with vaginas can come easily, often, and loudly with just some vigorous thrusting of objects into the vagina. Some people can. I envy them! Many can’t, and for that we have the work of many many scientific things and people and polls to thank: It’s a much-trotted out fact that most people with a vagina actually need clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm.

My sexual history pre-vibrators is rocky. I found vibrators in 2005. I probably found my clitoris roundabout oh…..2000? 1 But I didn’t know what to really do with it. I knew that things felt nice, usually, but then it would stop feeling nice and I’d be left hanging….So when I found vibrators, and found one that actually brought me to orgasm – not as efficiently as maybe I would have liked, but finally an orgasm I FELT and KNEW what was happening and could say YES I CAME! – it was a change that marked a turning point for me. I’d not often faked feeling intense pleasure from sex, but I faked the climax for a long time because well, enough is enough at some point. It did take me awhile though to start incorporating a vibrator into my partnered sex life. Flings and one-timers? Nah. They never saw the vibrators. But when I did bring it into my committed partnered sex life, my husband embraced it thoroughly.

We adapted our sex to fit around vibrators, instead of expecting to find a vibrator that seamlessly fit into how we have sex. But that’s a rant/discussion for another post….

So. I’ve known for quite some time now that instead of vibrators “ruining” me for non-vibrator playtime, they actually made manual orgasms easier. Of course, when you’re talking about “easier” being it moves from a 0.5 to a 3 on a scale of 0-10….it’s relative. But still, I learned a lot about my vulva and clitoris thanks to vibrators. I learned about my spot, and that when I can repeatedly ping that spot correctly, over and over, I don’t need extreme power. I learned that I dislike broad vibrators, and buzzy vibrators. I learned that my impossible-to-please clitoris o’steele was maybe just finicky and a bit Goldilocks. But could it be “reformed”?

I Sent My Clitoris to Reform School

I took advantage of my time away at Woodhull and then my weeks-long illness2 to put this to the test. I left everything alone, untouched, for 3 weeks. Then I tried masturbating “manually” over the next week; I even tried three times, thinking there could still be outside factors. It simply felt the same as it’s always felt – decent, but the stars weren’t aligned and my wrist wasn’t up for a 40 minute session so there was no orgasm. There may not have been even with 40 minutes to spare (I gave it 20 – what can I say, my attention span is shit).

When I did use a vibrator again I didn’t even need less – at least not the first time. I didn’t magically become more sensitive. I still needed a higher intensity setting and about 10 minutes. The second time (2 days later) I did need less intensity, but who knows why. Even when I’m using vibrators daily sometimes I can come in minutes, and from a lower intensity setting. Some days I need more time, more intensity. It’s just the way it is, and depriving MY body isn’t going to change this. And I don’t want to.

Might as Well Face it You’re Addicted to…

No. I don’t buy into the “vibrator addiction” rhetoric thrown about by people who feel threatened by vibrators. In talking with other bloggers about this post a number of them have said that before vibrators, they had few problems getting off – and it’s still the same after vibrators. They don’t need to take a break.

Many people are under the incorrect assumption that vibrators will desensitize you, numb you, so that you keep needing more and more and more. SOME vibrators can temporarily numb you – like the Magic Wand Original. It’s super powerful and kinda buzzy. You only need to take a little break (a few hours) and you’re back to normal. But that’s a topic I’ve written about before because I kept getting a lot of hits from the search term “are vibrators dangerous” 3. A number of sex ed professionals have agreed that vibrators are not a bad thing – in fact they’re great because guess who just went from anorgasmic to gleefully enjoying solo and partnered sex? You did, my friend.

And a survey has been done, by Debby Herbenick, who found (among other facts): “Most women (71.5 percent) reported having never experienced any side effects associated with vibrator use. Those side effects that were reported were typically rare and of a short duration.”

Embracing My Vibrators

My experience isn’t your experience. Or maybe it is. Maybe some will hold fast to their “natural ways are better” viewpoint and insist I didn’t abstain from vibrators for long enough. But didn’t I already in my life? Didn’t I already spend years without a vibrator and then years without a decent vibrator to “prove” my need? Why the fuck do I need to prove my need? Why is this a thing? Why is needing vibrators a bad thing? Can’t I just fucking orgasm the way I want to, the way I feel I need to without someone telling me I’m “doing it wrong”?

If you feel “broken” because you need a vibrator to orgasm, I see you. I felt that way for quite some time myself. I see it as kind of equal to refusing to wear glasses because hey, you were born with this bad vision! Embrace it! Rawr! I’m just curious – Do you also wash your clothes on a scrub-board and hang them outside to dry? Do you use the broom and dustpan in place of a vacuum? I get it. Society (porn…doctors?) hasn’t quite embraced it all just yet. Ever is the quest to find a vibrator that can be used during sex that remains invisible, silent and requires no hands because let’s not talk about that, we don’t talk about these things, ignore the pink elephant. Let’s sweep it under the rug. OR! Now here’s a novel idea: We can all accept that every body is different and you know – a little helping hand is great.

But What About ME?

If you’re the partner of a person who needs a vibrator, you’ve probably had a whine-fest at some point about how their need of a vibrator makes you feel less than. Less needed. Like a failure. Because, after all, you’re supposed to be your partner’s everything, amirite? I mean you do provide them with every single possible other thing they need in life, 24/7.

Seriously though, what’s the difference between supplying the pleasure that results in orgasm from your tongue/fingers/penis and a vibrator? No, you can’t vibrate. You’re right. You can’t do that. So. Fucking. What. Would you rather effectively lock up your partner? Or get to watch as they have an intense orgasm? You can participate. There’s plenty you can do that is invaluable. You can be an extra set of hands and spread the pleasure around; nipples, g-spot, neck, lips, etc. You get the idea. You are just as much as active part of the whole thing as you were before but with the added bonus of watching something amazing. An orgasm from a vibrator is a lot better to watch/hear than a faked orgasm.

So jealous cis men, tell me this: would you turn down partnered sex for your own hand or even a sex toy of your own?

Just sayin.

~ ~ ~ ~

If you have personally found that your body prefers not to use vibrators, great. Good for you. You’ve found what works best for you, and hey congratulations on not needing expensive things to orgasm. But if you do need these marvels of technology? Well hallelujah, you’ve got options. You’ve got options coming out your ears. And if my body’s requirements don’t meet yours, I’m sure there’s a blogger out there who is your vulva-twin.

  1. For reference, I’m nearing 40
  2. it’s impossible for me to give a fuck about masturbation when I’m in pain, exhausted, and then sick as hell
  3. This is a rant we’ve all probably had before, but Piph had a great one from a few years ago
 Posted by at 7:50 pm