“Contrary to what some people seem to believe, simple writing is not the product of simple minds. A simple, unpretentious style has both grace and power. By not calling attention to itself, it allows the reader to focus on the message”
–Richard Lederer and Richards Dowis, Sleeping Dogs Don’t Lay, 1999. More Words of Wisdom
Journalists and book authors were once held to impeccably high standards in terms of grammar, spelling and content matter. Somehow our society has degraded on the whole to what feels like a 4th grade level. Sometimes it’s even worse thanks to the prevalence of “text speak” in situations where it is so very inappropriate. Hyperbole and a Half said it best (regarding coping mechanisms to avoid exploding in a ball of white hot fury): “When someone types out “u” instead of “you,” instead of getting mad, I imagine them having only one finger on each hand and then their actions seem reasonable. If I only had one finger on each hand, I’d leave out unnecessary letters too!”
Scenario 1: I decided to read Fifty Shades of Grey recently out of journalistic compulsion given all the drama and controversy surrounding it. While I can appreciate the overall sentiment to the book, the author’s absolutely horrid writing skill and dreadful lack of editing (and seeming inability to pick up a Thesaurus) ruined the promising plot and eclipsed even the awful and baffling fictional depiction of a BDSM relationship. Read the reviews on Amazon; some annoyed readers took to looking up the word count for certain things on their Kindle edition. I don’t care to do it for myself but someone else did! The repetition of words is distracting to the point of ruin. I’ve seen many media bits about this book/trilogy that laud it as “well written”. This is well written? Seriously? I have many more thoughts on this book but that is meant for another post. Jeez. Oh my…!
Scenario 2: I was reading the report on CNN about the Army nurse captain who died during a Skype call to his wife. The original story has now been fixed but when I read it it was: “(CNN) — An Army captain’s wife witnessed her husband’s die while the couple was engaged in one of their regular video chats”" Oh CNN, why? Who should be blamed here? The writer or the editor or both?
Scenario 3: I like my erotica. Let me rephrase that: I like my well-written erotica. I do not expect something to be at the level of Anne Rice or whatnot but I do expect that you’ve read through it before hitting “publish” to pick out any spelling errors. When someone relies heavily on spell-check it is obvious! There is one erotica blogger/writer that I read despite the annoying spelling errors they refuse to care enough about. I notice the errors because of the tone of the prose; each error sticks out like a sore thumb. It causes me to halt in my reading like a needle being yanked off a record to figure out what word they meant to use. Oddly enough if it were a transposed letter, like writing “soemtimes”, then I would be more likely to not notice. But when one leaves off a letter (not/no, off/of, and/an, an/a, too/to) or screws up too/to/two or your/you’re or simply uses bizarre swaps like the/that it comes across as lazy writing. Unintelligent writing.
Scenario 4: Recently I’ve been editing on-site sex toy reviews before they go live. I fully understand that everyone has to start somewhere. Even I cringe at my early reviews for the tone and my childlike enthusiasm for some things. However….some people should not be writing reviews. Of any type, in any place. In fact they should please just stop writing altogether. Some of the reviews are so bad it’s difficult to edit them for better grammar without resorting to re-writing them entirely, which I’m not willing to do. I wish now that I’d copied the original bits from some of the particularly bad ones just to show as evidence.
I realize that most bloggers are not being paid for their words. But whether it’s a blog post or a sex toy review – don’t you care about how you look to others? A spelling error or two I can forgive. I’ve done it. But when it is consistently done then I stop respecting you. If it is done to the point of distraction then I’ll just stop reading your blog altogether. I also realize that many people are purposely writing to mimic the way they speak. This is fine to a point. And I’ll admit that comma placement still confuses me sometimes but when I see people obviously abusing it to the point where even I think it’s too much, I have to wonder about their intelligence. I’m not a “grammar Nazi” and I’m not a college English professor. I’m just a reader who wants to read words that make sense when thrown together in sentences and paragraphs. I don’t expect perfection; I just expect simple readability.
Read through your blog post or product review before you publish it! If you need to, read it out loud to aid in finding typing mistakes, run-on sentences or missing words. Polish up on comma placement (you don’t have to put a comma in a sentence for every time you would pause in speech); bookmark sites that have a list of commonly misspelled words such as lose vs loose or breath vs breathe (the latter is one I always screw up); stop using “alot“; learn possessive vs plural; and for the love of Pete if you’re writing about sex toys it is SILICONE not silicon. Another bizarre mistake I keep seeing is forgetting to use a question mark to cap a sentence that was obviously started in the tone of a question. Something I personally should learn to fix is something called “writing in the passive voice“. It’s how I speak and therefore how I write. Not enough importance is placed anymore on simple things such as apostrophes in contractions or capitalizing “I”. Another trick to figuring out if your personal speaking/writing voice comes off stilted/weird/wrong to others is to read through your writing and be sure to pronounce every word fully. Example: “…the reason for that is that Mary thinks…”1. Say it the way you speak naturally. Do you change the second “that” so it sounds more like “thet” or “thit” and it rolls off the tongue quicker? Now read it again where both “that”s are the same and rhyme with “hat”. It sounds weird, right? Redundancy!
Mark Twain: “As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.”
When you write in the passive voice or have run-on sentences longer than the average paragraph….with lots of ellipses….with alot of redundant phrases ….. can tick of even the most forgiving reader2. There are a lot of helpful sites3 that can make you a better writer. Letting out this rant and researching the links for common mistakes has opened my eyes to things I do wrong, too, so I’m not proclaiming to be a perfect bastion of the English language here!
I also recognize that true blogging4 contains many moments when your text is your voice – or rather, your speaking voice replacement – and that writing in your speaking voice is more acceptable there (to a point). I’ve done it a lot and I’ve seen plenty of others do it in ways that personality, dialect and humor/emphasis shine through wonderfully. But when you write a post that you want others to take seriously, you should take a moment or three before publishing the post to the public. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to showcase a blog post as my Editor’s Pick on e[lust] because of the subject matter but bypassed it because the writing was just atrocious.
And finally, remember this: we are largely an online-only community. Your written words are your clothes, your power, your voice, your facial expressions and that by which we measure intelligence, personality and even attractiveness. Does your writing portray you in the best light? Please don’t underestimate the power and sexiness of intelligence.
- Changing that to “the reason is that Mary thinks..” says the same thing in fewer words, less awkwardly ↩
- See what I did there? Ha! I kill me ↩
- the one I’ve linked to in the paragraph has many very useful, quick and easy to understand posts about common mistakes ↩
- As opposed to journalism style writing, professional writing, or sex toy / product reviews ↩
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There are two sex toy materials that seem to scare the uninitiated: Glass and wood1. It is ironic considering that the material you should be the most scared of is the one 50% of customers purchase willingly and gleefully. But glass is strong, non-porous, is not made with chemicals and is compatible with every type of lube.
The World of Glass Sex Toys
The glass we use is Borosilicate glass (often known as the trade name “Pyrex”). A 1-inch rod of Pyrex glass requires more than 3000 pounds of pressure to snap in half and has a crush strength of over 8 tons. Our glass pieces, after being formed initially, are put back into the kiln and “annealed” (heated) almost back to melting point. This gives each piece its final smoothness and brings the glass back to its full strength because all the parts have been completely fused together into a single solid work of art. This adds hours of extra time to the process and is one of the first places that will be scrimped on with the much less expensive glass products. Knowing where the glass comes from is really important to help you understand that every piece you receive is a unique handmade piece of art crafted lovingly just for you!
Shellie, owner of Crystal Delights glass dildos and plugs
Not all glass sex toys are created equal, however. I’ve certainly been disappointed in quality issues with glass dildos I’ve received (the most obvious being the ugly one) – mainly because despite the “hand-blown” buzz word, the toys were mass-produced and failed to look like the photos provided. When you buy a glass sex toy you absolutely must be prepared to receive something that is not a perfect replica down to the millimeter of the photos and specs on the retail site you’re purchasing from. But yet too much of an anomaly leads to surprises of the bad kind, disappointments, and sometimes leaves you with a sex toy you have no desire to use. I’ve owned glass dildos from Pipedreams, Joyful Pleasures, Dream Toys and SSA Glass. Joyful Pleasures was probably the best out of those but it still was a let down due to the size difference from their stats to what I actually received. The SSA Glass dildos were all huge disappointments in all aspects: quality, design and consistency. But then again the saying “you get what you pay for” is true; SSA Glass is cheap and it shows. The cheaper glass sex toys still won’t break during sexual use but they might chip more easily. They certainly won’t have the artistic beauty and careful construction like truly hand-made glass toys will.
One thing that all of the above sex toy manufacturers have in common is that their glass dildos are produced in a large plant in China. This isn’t necessarily a death sentence but it depends on how involved the manufacturer is in their quality control – I’ve dealt with companies who manufacture in China and they turn out quality products that are consistent. But what if you knew that your sex toy was made locally by a skilled artisan and that it passed through only a few hands before arriving on your doorstep?
Crystal Delights – Small Manufacturer of High-Quality Glass Sex Toys
I have talked with Shellie, the owner, a few times about sex toy businesses and her glass sex toys. Talking to her always reinforces why we should make the effort to choose small sex toy companies over the Founding 5. Shellie designs the toys, inspects them and packages them up for shipment herself. You’ll never receive a plug or dildo or paddle that she hasn’t personally looked over to make sure it meets her standards. She uses just one local glass blower who is very adept at creating consistently high quality items. While you still see minor differences in size because there is no mold to fill, you can also do something with Shellie that you can’t do with larger companies: Talk to her. I know, it’s a novel idea! But let’s say that you’re eying up her small glass butt plug and you’re still really new to anal plugs. You might feel a little nervous about the size and wish that it was a little smaller. All you have to do is email Shellie and tell her that you’d like a plug that runs a little under the normal specs. If you’d like to go even further you can contact her to make a custom piece!
I have my own glass plug2 courtesy of Shellie and I’ve seen all of her stuff in person a few times. The vintage plugs, the Swarovski crystal plugs and dildos, the , the tail plugs – it is all, without a doubt, the most stunning and sparkly glass sex toy collection I’ve ever seen. Not one piece looked weird or wonky. In fact, I don’t think I’ve even read a bad review on her stuff.
I asked Shellie a few questions because I’m a Sex Toy Geek!
How do you come up with your designs?
The basic design is the easy part! You can get inspiration from almost anything, it can be the color, the shape, the attachment (crystal, medallion, tail) or even a customer request, can I have this but bend it this way or add a bump here, shorter, longer, you get the point. But that really is the beauty of glass, it is very adaptable!
Do you do a lot of testing and revamping the designs before you list them?
That is a difficult question, sometimes things just come together and its fast and perfect right off the bat, but other times it takes months to get it just right, there is testing here before it goes out to my “product testers” and then feedback from them before it is ready to launch. What I think is a brilliant idea sometimes isn’t!
What sort of “quality control” things do you do that a large manufacturer overseas wouldn’t do?
This is one of the things that I love about glass manufacturing, I touch and look at every piece of glass that goes out the door to a customer. And I am the second line that has done that, because the glass blower has already looked at it as well. We want to be able to take those extra steps to make sure we are giving you the best possible product for your money. We know that you have many choices and we want you to be glad you picked us for your business. I try to be available as much as possible via social media, email, even phone to help with anything that might come up, we want you to know we take customer service, and our products seriously.
Can you work with people to create a custom design or size?
We can and do! I have several custom pieces out there already and I often contact people when I get a special tail, or medallion in that I think they would love. Again that is part of what is special about handmade glass from a small company; I like to know my customers and what they want and ,if there is any way possible, get it to them. That isn’t a possibility from the big box manufacturers importing from China.
Glass Sex Toy Pros, Cons and Myths
- Pro: Glass is non-porous and free of any chemicals that might be harmful
- Pro: Glass is compatible with any type of lube
- Pro: Glass is easy to clean (depending on the design, of course as some more elaborate designs can require more than just a rinse to get in the crevices) and can be sterilized in boiling water or the top rack of your dishwasher. Check with the manufacturer, though, before subjecting it to high heat.
- Myth: Glass sex toys will break during use – I don’t know what people think when they think of glass sex toys but the truth is that they’re made out of a very sturdy and solid glass (borosilicate) that is resistant to cracks and damage. This isn’t like your grandmother’s antique glassware or anything. 98% of glass sex toys are solid, not hollow3.
- Myth: Glass sex toys will cut/injure you – Unless you managed to chip it, that’s simply impossible. Before you use your glass sex toys you should always inspect them for damage. While they are difficult to damage with normal use, it’s still possible to accidentally drop it on the wrong surface at the wrong angle and incur damage.
- Pro: Glass is a natural and reusable material. Have a glass toy that chipped? Safely smash it up to bits and use it in a mosaic somewhere; otherwise try to locate a recycler who takes this type of glass (Just ask if they recycle Pyrex-type glass).
- Con: Glass is very sensitive to temperature – great for temperature play if you do it correctly (warm or cool water only) but you must be careful! You know what happens when you stick out your tongue and lick a frozen lamp pole, right? Yeah. Don’t ever freeze your sex toys for sadistic play. Don’t dunk them in boiling water for cleaning without donning silicone oven mitts or having another safe method of retrieval.
- Con: One chip and you’re done for. Yes, it can chip. It’s not something that happens easily and I’m not saying that you should only use glass sex toys in a padded room but do be careful. When you’re boiling it for cleaning, have a tea towel in the pot to protect surfaces and only do one sex toy at a time. Dishwashers are fine. I’d caution clumsy people against using a glass dildo if you’re in a room full of concrete or ceramic surfaces (in case you drop it).
- Pro: You won’t need as much lube for a clear glass (i.e. non-frosted) sex toy
- Pro: Can double as art! I’ve seen some stunning pieces that could easily sit in a china cabinet. Of course you should only do this if you’re prepared for the “Ohhh that’s pretty…..what is it?” question.
Just like with any other sex toy, you should be mindful of which glass sex toy manufacturers you entrust. Not all glass toys are made from damage-resistant heat-resistant borosilicate and not all borosilicate glass toys are annealed for extra strength! This is why I personally recommend Crystal Delights and other small manufacturers like Simply Blown and Steele Malone who all use glass-blowers and keep things simple and local4. I’ve also seen some very unique glass sex toys on Etsy which are made by glass artisans and can range from the mundane been-there-done-that to beautiful, original works of art.
Do you have any more questions on glass sex toys? Ask and I will get the answers!
Already familiar with the joys and beauty of glass? Tell me in comments what your most favorite pieces are!
- If I had a dollar for every time I saw a comment about Nobessence or Hans wooden dildos saying something along the lines of “I’d be scared of splinters!!” I’d be a somewhat rich woman. Still annoyed as hell, but at least rich and annoyed ↩
- It’s fucking gorgeous, I love so many of her vintage ones but this one spoke to me, you can see it here ↩
- Actually I’ve only seen one hollow glass dildo and it was made by Don Wands. It was hollow because they painted the design on the inside. This left a small hole in the dildo where the miniscule brush went in and during use small amounts of body fluid and lube would get in. During cleaning, water would get in. It also resulted in a dildo that left a lot of people feeling nervous about its strength ↩
- I’ve never seen or tried out a Simply Blown or Steele Malone dildo, though, they’re not common at online stores and they’re too pricey for me to buy! ↩
All text and images on this site require permission before they can be used anywhere. To obtain permission click here to contact me
Everybody goes on and on about how “green” and environmentally superior rechargeable sex toys are, but I’d bet that you didn’t know this fact:
Alkaline batteries can be safely disposed of with normal household waste. Never dispose of batteries in fire because they could explode.
Due to concerns about mercury in the municipal solid waste stream, we have voluntarily eliminated all of the added mercury from our alkaline batteries since 1993, while maintaining the performance you demand. Our alkaline batteries are composed primarily of common metals—steel, zinc, and manganese—and do not pose a health or environmental risk during normal use or disposal.
It is important not to dispose of large amounts of alkaline batteries in a group. Used batteries are often not completely “dead.” Grouping used batteries together can bring these “live” batteries into contact with one another, creating safety risks.
Proven cost-effective and environmentally safe recycling processes are not yet universally available for alkaline batteries. Some communities offer recycling or collection of alkaline batteries—contact your local government for disposal practices in your area.1
So the typical AA and AAA batteries you go through fast enough to warrant purchasing them in bulk from Costco are actually not that damn bad for the environment! I did not know this. However, rechargeable batteries – both the AA kind and the ones permanently lodged in your luxury sex toy – should be recycled. I’m betting a lot of don’t do this.
Due to the chemicals in them, you should recycle rechargeable, lithium, lithium ion, and zinc air batteries.
In addition to “traditional” rechargeable batteries like AAs or AAAs, rechargeable batteries like the ones found in everyday household items such as cameras, cell phones, laptops, and power tools should also be recycled. Look for the battery recycling seals on rechargeable batteries.
As part of our commitment to the preservation of the environment, we help fund the nonprofit Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) and its Call2Recycle® program. To find a rechargeable battery recycling location near you, visit www.call2recycle.org.2
Sex toy recycling sites have started disappearing. I read about one guy based in Tampa, Florida who had a site and the article (from 2009) stated that he was currently operating at a loss. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise then that the website named in that article is now gone. Another sex toy recycling site that seemed to be active, also around 2008-2009 appears to be defunct. LoveHoney does still run their “Rabbit Amnesty” program where they’ll give you points towards future purchases for sending them in sex toys (for some reason turning in a rabbit vibe gets you more points) to recycle. Unfortunately this is a UK site and I’m having trouble finding anything like it in the US. Of course, there’s always going to be idiotic media bloggers who are all “Ewww recycled sex toys?? That’s so gross!!” because they’re fucking idiots who don’t even know what an anal toy is, but I digress.
So here’s the section of my post wherein I don’t have an answer and I look to geeks who are geekier than me to tell us: Let’s say we can’t find an actual sex toy recycling program. But can we remove the rechargeable battery from our high-end sex toys if we decide that they’re taking up space and we hate them and no longer use them and just want to be rid of them? I have to be honest I wouldn’t even know how to go about breaking open something like a Lelo vibrator. As much as we are given the argument that all these rechargeable sex toys are greener and better for the environment, I have to wonder about that given that 98% of the sex toy owning population doesn’t recycle their expensive toys. Let’s face it: You’re going to buy a rechargeable sex toy that you hate at some point if you haven’t already. Fuck, most of my rechargeable sex toys I’ve ended up hating or just not liking enough to use. But then again, I keep half of them for comparison purposes for future reviews and the other half of them go to new homes via the ToySwap network. But if I didn’t have those two reasons, I would most likely just toss it. And that is not green.
As I quoted from Duracell up there, the alkaline batteries actually aren’t that bad for the environment but some of those rechargeable ones really can be. Lithium-Ion/Polymer batteries are not toxic but *should* be recycled3. Upstanding companies like Lelo4, Fun Factory and Swan/Leaf etc use Li-Po batteries. NiCad rechargeable batteries though are bad for the environment and really must be recycled and disposed of properly. But with shady companies making sex toys out of “silicone” when it’s really a porous silicone blend, can I trust them that they’re not using a cheaper rechargeable battery on their $125 sex toy? I actually looked at the CalEx site and there are no specs there that tell me what kind of rechargeable battery is in their toys. I couldn’t find out anything on my Topco brand Climax Twist rechargeable toy. I don’t know what Vibratex is using either.
I could go on and on about more aspects of “green” and sex toys, but that’s a topic for another day. Really though I just wanted to point out that your Energizer or Duracell standard batteries are not going to turn our earth to a manky, gooey pile of decay and if you think you’re being green just by trying to choose rechargeable sex toys…..think a little harder about green aspect beyond just the battery. While no electronic item is truly green, there are varying levels of “green” and it all comes down to how the sex toys are produced. Technically if you want the greenest vibrator, you could choose a Tantus sex toy. The pure silicone is chemically inert; the vibrator portion is small and can be removed easily and replaced when the motor dies (instead of replacing the whole sex toy); the Tantus toys that use an N1 style bullet, the bigger ones that resemble the RO-80mm style, take an alkaline battery.
Want to recycle your batteries, no matter what? Go here.
- Courtesy of Duracell ↩
- Also courtesy of Duracell ↩
- Unless of course you feel like purchasing a Li-Po battery drainer thingie and soaking the battery in salt water THEN you can throw it out ↩
- I might not think much of their products anymore from a cost vs quality aspect but I do respect that they are using the better type of rechargeable battery and that they appear to be running a more conscientious China factory ↩
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Or rather….my husband has. For the first decade of our sex life his penis alone managed to hit my g-spot over and over during sex to varying degrees of bliss. In more recent years he and I have done more exploring both with his fingers and both of us using toys. I never doubted my husband’s ability to locate my g-spot and stimulate the hell out of it; combining his skill in the last few years with a vibrator on my clitoris gave me intense orgasms which would be immediately followed up with vaginal sex that was then even more pleasurable for me since the g-spot would be even more sensitive and swollen after a clitoral orgasm.
But the last few times we’ve fucked he suddenly changed his fingering technique and he knew right away that I approved. It was more intense and amazing as evidenced by my even louder moans and screams and gibberish. His manipulations have frequently left me with the sort of orgasm that jacks up all the right hormones and chemistry to leave me euphoric (and sometimes to the point of uncontrollable giggling right after). But this? All I could say (after I came down from the breathless high) was: What the FUCK did you just do there because holy crap it was amazing.
Every woman’s g-spot is a little different, like a snowflake sort of. And just like we all like different types of clitoral stimulation, we all like different types of g-spot stimulation. So what works for me might not be a euphoric nirvana trip for you, too. But his description of his new technique and what he’s feeling has left me certain that the g-spot is not a “spot”, it is not a zone, it is more than just a differently-textured spongy spot of sensitive tissue in the vaginal wall. Whatever he’s hitting there is a thing, an object, and 3-D…. much like the prostate.
The first time he tried his new trick he “had it” for a bit and then “lost it”1. Both g-spot massage techniques were pleasurable and aided in me achieving a blended orgasm fairly quickly but this new, intense treatment was just cranking up the pleasurable sensation to HOLY SHIT FUCK OMG ITS AWESOME^Y#~%@^(*^. I cannot duplicate what he’s done via my love, the Pure Wand. If I were smaller of body and longer of arm and generally more flexible perhaps this is something I would have discovered on my own but I think his position lends him a more unique angle of assault. For me personally my G-spot is right next to my pubic bone, therefore fairly shallow in the vaginal canal. He can use this location to a distinct advantage now2 by changing his digital manipulation from a 3-finger massage (which I loved because it provided both a filling sensation and spot stimulation) to a 1-finger massage aided on the sides by 2 other fingers. He’s extending his middle finger to do more precision stimulation right on the g-spot. He’s going above and beyond that “come hither” motion to a more twisting, side-to-side-and-all-around intense high-pressure attack. I’ve used words that sound harsh like assault and attack but that is because this is no slow and easy massage; this is an intense treatment but in the most awesomely pleasurable way. He does this because he knows I can take it and I like it, but I wouldn’t recommend that every person try this on their g-spot-owning partner without a build-up and knowledge in existence that the person enjoys “rough” sex and intense stimulation.
Perhaps something else that is adding to this newly awesome mix is that I’m using a vibrator that doesn’t overpower the g-spot stimulation sensations. In the past when I’ve used the Wahl or the Hitachi with the Pure Wand I almost couldn’t really feel the g-spot stimulation. I knew it was going on because the pleasure factor had tripled but I could only discern clitoral stimulation. The balance has shifted a bit now that I’ve started using my We-Vibe Salsa on my clit while he’s doing this. Yes, it is a powerful and intense vibrator but it’s not as overwhelmingly intense as the big, electric massagers. The deep-tissue rumbly factor to the We-Vibe Salsa hits the external clitoris and the internal portion of the clitoris, while his fingers are ramping the g-spot stimulation up to 11 and probably also getting a bit of the internal legs of the clitoris which leads to me floating on a motherfucking rollercoaster climbing cloud of things beyond words. I truly can’t even come up with the words, that’s what it’s all like.
Don’t be afraid to try new things and go a little outside of your box. This g-spot thing might be hard to find since it can’t be mapped, but believe me it is real and with time, exploration, a good clitoral orgasm and a willing set of fingers and/or dildos you CAN find it. Oh and no, this new technique didn’t make me squirt. I don’t really give a crap about squirting anymore since it doesn’t correlate at all to the intensity of my orgasm. It’s not a goal, it’s not a thought to us, it’s not a checkbox on the list. And there is no “right” or “wrong” way to achieve orgasm or stimulate your clitoris or g-spot – you do whatever feels good to you.
Yesterday I purposely opened up a box of phthalates. Inspired by a video from Jennifer Pritchett, owner of The Smitten Kitten, I opened up a box that had been languishing in my 2nd-floor storage room for over a year with camera in hand to show you all what I might find.
Back story: A year or so ago when I first thought up my idea of sex toy education workshops I realized I had no manky jelly sex toys to trot out like the sideshow horror they are so I went to ToySwap to see if anybody had any they’d send me. had a big box full of things waiting to go to a sex toy recycle center, which included dead rabbit vibrators, dismantled sex toys and some nasty jelly/pvc toys. I didn’t open up the box right away because we were due to move in less than a month. Then I didn’t get around to it because of life and no workshops planned.The box sat upstairs in our storage room, which had no A/C for the first 2 months we lived here. The box of items had also been sitting in her house for a few months before it was sent to me.
As I went through the big box of dead sex toys I encountered various results…none of them good. The star of the show was a horrid-looking tentacle dildo from a company called Zeta Paws and who knows what the material is, but there’s definitely phthalates. It behaved just like the dildos that Jennifer describes in her interview – sweating, greasy and gross. I opened the zip-lock bag and the odor was even stronger.
Then I touched it.
Well, yeah. Pretty much. I touched it on purpose. I wanted to show the shiny grease on my fingertips. And yes, I wanted to see if my skin would have a reaction. Others had reported many various reactions to me such as peeling skin on their hands (from a sex toy store worker), bad chemical burns of the vulva and vagina, or milder reactions such as itchy skin. I only touched the dildo for a minute and only with my fingertips. I purposely didn’t wash my hands for awhile. DAREDEVIL, I know.
My contact was minimal so the skin reaction isn’t some big, obvious deformity. Keep in mind that this happened because I directly “fondled” a dildo that was sweating out toxic chemicals for only about 2 minutes followed up by not washing my hand for an hour. This photo was taken after the 1-hour mark and then I promptly washed my hands for like 5 minutes. But the damage was done. You’ll note in the larger photo that my skin shows some mottled, pink irritation but also note that my skin on the left is both shiny (from the greasy chemicals) and dry – the dryness another sign of chemical irritation. The skin on my fingertips was also stinging from the chemical irritant.
The side-effects from my brief phthalates exposure were not limited to just the skin on my fingers. I developed a headache a few hours later and chalked it up to needing more caffeine. Hours pass by after two cups of coffee and I still have a headache. Fast-forward to 18 hours later and I wake up feeling….hungover. I still have a headache and I’m in the trenches of a fibromyalgia flare-up – triggered by the phthalates. There’s no other reason for a fibro flare-up – the weather isn’t doing anything funky, I’d been sleeping well this week and generally taking it easy because of the back injury. I am tired and achey and my brain is fogged.
Please, think twice before you use that jelly, vinyl, pvc or cyberskin sex toy. I know that many manufacturers like CalEx and PipeDreams and Topco and the like are all reprinting their packaging to proclaim their toys are phthalates-free but are you really going to trust them?? I don’t. Throw out your greasy, stinky sex toys and stop buying these questionable materials from questionable manufacturers.Read More
Update: Major developments in the Flame Testing and Sex Toy material testing world have occurred. “Updates” are added throughout the post.
What is Flame Testing and What Does it Prove in Regards to Silicone Sex Toys?
Flame testing a silicone sex toy is neither unheard of or common. Where did it originate, I wonder? Was Metis Black the first to do it and the sex toy reviewers followed suit, eager to seek truths where we were skeptical? In my opinion, a fair number of sex toy reviewers are reviewing for one primary reason: as a means to get “free” sex toys and perhaps earn a little affiliate money. They will rarely dig deep into faulty toys and will rarely have a strong negative review posted. However there is a smaller circle (which is happily growing) who actually care about what you, our readers, purchase because we were once the buyer and burned too many times and wasted too much money on shitty toys or toys that were harmful to our health. I will slap you silly1 if you buy a jelly dildo.
You’ll hear a lot of manufacturers putting it down but the basic fact is this: Flame testing isn’t perfect but 8 times out of 10 it will properly reveal that a sex toy is or is not pure silicone 2. Since the government will not regulate adult products, and the manufacturers can literally say anything they want on their packaging, there is a lot of distrust floating around in the sex toy industry. Unless you are buying your sex toy from a trusted manufacturer, I’d suggest that you perform the flame test on your sex toys. Update: However, the flame test is not, I must underscore again, 100% accurate. We knew this, yet we did not know to what degree. In April of 2013 a new organization was created – Dildology - after I managed to secure funds to get a definitive lab test done on my latest “failure” in flame testing. The lab test revealed that despite the reaction to the flame (showing some material destruction, however, still a lot of telltale ash), the item in question was actually true silicone with no other vinyls/other polymers added in for elasticity.
Why flame test? “Pure” silicone, be it food grade or medical grade, shouldn’t melt or deform under the heat of an open flame from a disposable lighter or match – a fact you’ll see demonstrated in the video below. I discussed this a little bit with Metis Black of Tantus in my interview with her. I’ve seen numerous blog reviews on various sex toys where the reviewer did a flame test. I’ve also had scared manufacturers try to tell me that the flame of a Bic lighter will melt anything, even silicone (hint: that’s not fully true – silicone won’t melt and it won’t burn like an oil torch, but it can smolder and flame and it will produce ash) and that it is an inaccurate test. Ok, fine. But who the hell has access to fancy machines and labs? Not us reviewers. Update: Now we do! Dildology has been formed and will be running tests on toys so long as we can continue to be funded via donations.
Here was my logic: If a flame from a match or lighter, held directly to a silicone sex toy, will melt said sex toy – then what the fuck is Tantus using? Because their silicone products do not melt. In fact, neither does Lelo or Jollies3 or Fun Factory or We Vibe4.
What can you expect from a flame test if the material actually is silicone?
A number of things, depending on the oils (softeners) in the silicone. Tantus products have varying levels dimethicone mixed in that will burn and you will see a very pale ash left behind. This ash can then be brushed off and you will see virtually no damage to the silicone. It will not be sticky, there will not be a chunk missing from the product. Products from manufacturers like Lelo, Je Joue and other “luxury” silicone sex toy makers use something called SST:
“We [Lelo] use certified “body safe food-grade phthalate-free silicone” which is coated in SST (Silicone Soft Touch). It’s used to enhance the silicone, otherwise silicone will not be as smooth to touch or pleasant in the body. It’s completely safe for use in the body (liquid silicone) and we have the FDA certificate to prove that, but it may be causing the carbon marks you are talking about.”5.
When a flame is taken to these matte-finish silicone toys the material won’t burn at all like the Tantus dildos (and there will be little to no ash) and it won’t melt like silicone blends. The most you’ll see here is some brownish-blackish scorch/carbon marks. These marks will mostly or completely wipe away and the material will be unharmed. Again, there is no stickiness or material loss. The product is not ruined. You may see a change in the material that Metis called “petrified” (think Death Valley-esque texture) but in the cases I’ve had that happen, I was able to scrape that portion off using my fingernail – what was left behind had no visual or “structural” damage and no discernible loss of material.
Silicone items CAN burn but will NOT melt as a result of a flame test. There is a difference. Ash will be produced. As I found when flame testing the JimmyJane Hello Touch in April 2013, there actually can be material loss and destruction and stickiness, and the product is still pure silicone – this was not previously thought to be true, but a lab test verified the product as being silicone.
Update: I’ve done a newer flame test video – watch it for more info:
What can you expect from a flame test if the material is not pure silicone?
Elastomer, TPR, TPE and of course jelly/rubber WILL MELT to various degrees. I put flame to a SinFive Pikilo dildo because I knew what the material was (a non-porous type of TPE called WTP) and simply wanted to see what would happen. It would not burn no matter how long I held the flame. There was no ash. However, the material was extremely hot to touch and was shiny; it was also then pliable and could be deformed sort of like putty. The material did not disintegrate though like TPR blends have. The softer portion of the dildo had the most obvious melting. The bottom portion which was extremely solid and unyielding didn’t show as much damage but it did change the texture and it was sticky.
Update: I have held a flame to materials known as NOT being silicone, and they did actually melt. There was no ash. Another product which was acquired and flame-tested more recently than this original post, a Screaming O cock ring which the company likes to call silicone, did not melt, but it did not product ash, either. In fact it burned like an oil lamp – a hot, bright flame that did not smolder and did not die out.
Flame Test Failure #1: Hold On To Me Kegel Exerciser from Bedroom Kandi, a line from OhMiBod
I spoke at length with Brian, founder of OhMiBod, regarding my flame test and the material of the kegel ball holders for Hold On To Me but at the end of the day he said that his labs say it is pure food-grade silicone and that his own flame tests did not have the same results as mine (mine are pictured below and shown in the video). Be that as it may, I waited until MomentumCon where I could show my results in person to other people who are experts: both retailers and manufacturers. Every single person immediately said without question: “This doesn’t appear to be silicone”. Brian had told me that flames from a lighter were too hot (incorrectly listing a Bic lighter as 1900 degrees; that isn’t the case, that’s a butane torch not a diffuse flame of a disposable lighter), that instead I should be heating up my oven to about 450 degrees and placing the black holster for the beads directly on the oven rack. Given what had happened during my flame test I simply was not willing to risk having this material burning and sticking to my oven racks. It’s a good thing I didn’t try that. I recently did a similar test while cooking dinner; I had roasted chicken in a 400 degree oven in a metal roasting pan. A few minutes after I pulled it from the oven I reached for the already-very-ruined Hold On To Me holster and simply pressed it to the hot pan. While it was no longer hot enough to deform the material and produce ash, it was hot enough to slightly melt it and make it sticky. That did not happen to my food-grade silicone kitchen utensils. While a pure silicone toy will burn a little bit after the flame is removed, it was never more than a glowing smolder. The HOTM went up in serious flames. Update: Due to the results of the lab test of the JimmyJane Hello Touch, it may not be the case that the HOTM is not pure silicone.
Flame Test Failure #2: Studio Line Vibrating Makeup Brush from Screaming O
The other product is the Screaming O Studio Line Makeup Brush; it was subjected to a flame test and it failed in exactly the same way as the Bedroom Kandi HOTM. There was destruction of material, flames, and in the end it *melted* – I had sticky, gooey black material on my fingers that reminded me of what happens to bike tires on a really hot summer day. Screaming O admitted via email that their product is not 100% silicone. A fellow EdenFantasys reviewer commented on my EF review of the Studio Line Brush telling me that
“the toy is made from “latex and phthalate free SEBS silicone, which is a silicone elastomer blend.” So, they don’t claim it’s medical silicone or 100% silicone. Elastomer will melt if a flame is held to it. But, even silicone toys should only be tested with a match, anything hotter may actually burn or melt 100% silicone.”
Um yeah, they do imply/”claim” it’s pure silicone simply by not saying that it isn’t. Right there on their website, as I noted in my review, it says “Phthalate-free soft silicone”. I, as the consumer, therefore assume they mean true silicone and that it is non-porous. But it’s not. Why? According to Screaming O:
“Our government says that a company can label a toy as “silicone” if at least 10% of the product is silicone, which is how we originally came up with “what” the products were made of on our packaging. After some thought about this, we too think that this needs to be defined a bit further. We are actually in the process of updating all of our products to offer detailed information on what they are made of. We realize that our consumers are becoming more savvy and educated about things like that and want to make sure everyone has complete information. Please bear with us as we compile this information, update our packaging and websites, and get it all out to our customers.”
I called them out on it personally saying that it’s troubling and does not breed respect or trust in the brand, hence the response above.
At this point I cannot trust that anything Screaming O packages as “silicone” (as opposed to SEBS, if they even package anything that way) is true silicone and non-porous. I’d advise you to assume the same from this company until they change their shady practice. I’d expect such loop-hole marketing from the likes of Pipedreams, CalEx or Topco or even Doc Johnson but I was surprised to see it with Screaming O since I had heard good things about them.
Products shown in the video below are listed in the order they’re shown: Pleasure Dome Hitachi cap from DownUnder Toys; Lelo Tor II cock ring; Bedroom Kandi Hold on To Me kegel ball holster; Silk Small dildo from Tantus; Super Soft Stretchy C-Ring from Tantus; Fun Factory Ellove. The Pleasure Dome was chosen because the material is thinner and stretchier than the dildos. The Tantus items chosen as “control group” pieces. The Lelo and the Fun Factory were chosen to show what happens to silicone coated with the silky, matte-finish liquid silicone product.
So I’ve now had two companies scoff at the Flame Test, claiming it is unreliable and impossible to achieve similar results every time (except…I did) and these two companies have both said that the flame is too hot (except that one company’s product didn’t melt and one did, and the Tantus didn’t). Metis still stands by the flame test but admits that there are more accurate tests – they’re just not available to consumers, however. I can get a little bit Aspy in my logical thinking skills, I’ll admit, but logic here is telling me:
1. The products known to be true silicone (medical grade like Tantus or food grade like Lelo) simply did not melt or disintegrate. I couldn’t make them melt. I tried!
2. A product known to be a silicone-elastomer blend, the Screaming O Studio Vibrating Makeup Brush, looked and felt just like the Bedroom Kandi Hold On To Me holster. The flame test results were identical there, melting and material destruction and flames.
I believe in the flame test, and not just for “anecdotal” purposes as Lelo deemed it. I recognize that it’s not perfect and when an item appears to fail, I will add it to the “test” list over at Dildology.
How to perform a flame test if you suspect that a sex toy is not a pure silicone item
For safety’s sake you should have a bucket of ice water nearby. Be aware that lower quality silicone and blends will retain more heat, as will food grade vs medical grade (my Tantus items didn’t retain much heat but the food-grade ones like Lelo did). Use either (both if you’re feeling geeky) a match or a simple Bic style / disposable lighter. I’m not sure if a standard Zippo (the refillable kinds) would be too hot, but the “windproof” lighters most certainly are too hot and should not be used.
As explained in a “further reading” link below, the temp of the flame of a lighter or match is about 600-800 degrees. By only applying the yellow/orange part of the flame to the sex toy you’re safely staying around that 600 (or less?) mark. The blue/white portions that are closest to the ignition source are potentially too hot. Apply the flame for about 5-8 seconds to a portion of the toy as close to the base as possible if it is a toy you would want to continue using. Let it cool off a few seconds and then view your results. If you see ash, wipe it off.
I’d suggest that you document the results. If you find that an item fails the test and the manufacturer is calling it merely “silicone” (since as Screaming O said, they’re allowed to do that by law even if it’s a blend) and not labeling it as a blend you should be ready to back up your public claims with photos and/or video. If you’re reviewing the toy, be it on a blog or as a consumer, and you have a flame test failure it would be helpful to the sex toy community if you’d let us all know! Blends lack the properties that we hold dear to silicone: Bacteria-resistant, non-porous, sanitizable .
Update: On April 26, 2013, we received back the official lab test results of a product that we believed failed the flame test. It had been assumed by others in the industry that, due to the material destruction/loss and stickiness, the material was not pure silicone. Lab tests showed that it was, in fact pure silicone. Does this mean that the flame test is a complete failure to us all? Not exactly. But it means that we need amend our definition of pass/fail and understand that a failed result may not truly be a failed result (depending on the results).
Update: If you find an item that you believe is not pure silicone, or not at all silicone, please contact Dildology. We can add it to our list of sex toys to submit for lab testing. We are also working on other “kitchen” tests to help the Home Dildologist better determine silicone purity.
- What is the hottest part of a flame? (I applied only the yellow/orange part of the flame to these toys.)
- What is the temperature of a Bic lighter flame? (Those looking things up online and confusing “butane” temps with a simple lighter will refer to this for accurate information)
- Healthy and Green Sex Toys (Metis Black writes about her take on Tantus silicone and the adult industry)
- With that nasty jelly dildo you stupidly bought, and I won’t just slap you with the jelly dildo I will shove it in your mouth so you can taste the sweet stench of phthalates. Ok maybe that’s going a little far. But I’ll still slap you with it! ↩
- as opposed to a “blend” – once you mix silicone with Elastomer or TPR, it no longer retains the non-porous properties of true silicone ↩
- Yes they’re still available for sale, the offspring of the original designer were selling them on Etsy and now have a site, but I won’t link to it because not even if you were higher than a kite is the design acceptable or less likely to cause seizures. Google ChavezDezignz (yes, with all the fuckin z’s) ↩
- This is not an exclusive list, these were simply the only other manufacturers I tested ↩
- This quote comes from my rep at Lelo – while the stuff Lelo uses is called SST, it’s possible that the other companies use a very similar but differently-named formulation that achieves the same results. I don’t know if there’s a Lelo-only patent on the SST ↩