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
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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 ↩
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Silicone sex toys are heralded as the most superior sex toy material to many people. Silicone dildos can vary through a range of densities and silicone vibrators can feel plush without the potential for harm (like jelly or rubber). I picked the brain of Metis Black1, the fabulous woman behind Tantus Inc, makers of some very awesome silicone sex toys. She is one of very few sex toy manufacturers that I fully trust to tell me the truth. Get your sex geek on and find out some myths and facts about silicone sex toys!
Myth or Fact: Silicone sex toys will “melt” or degrade if they touch each other while in storage
I own a lot of silicone. Scratch that; I own a lot of quality, true silicone. And I’m not diligent about storage. So if there’s anybody who can say that this is a myth, it’s me. And Metis. I asked her about this and she said:
I think this came from so many toys that were TPR or TPE that were (and continue to be) mislabeled silicone. Thermoplastic materials melt because they are unstable (they have free electrons that try to bond to other materials). As these electrons leave the toy, the toy disintegrates. No silicone is going to melt. At 600 degrees F it turns ashy. A silicone toy like the O2, with extra soft silicone, may burn off some of the dimethicone – flaming a little and becoming sooty- but still not melting.
So in other words if your silicone sex toy has any issues in your toybox, then it’s either not truly silicone or some rogue silicone lube from another toy got on it.
Myth or Fact: Silicone lube should never, ever be used with a silicone sex toy!
99% of the time you will be told that you shouldn’t use silicone lube with a silicone sex toy. I’ve parroted that info as well because it’s all I know. However a couple of manufacturers, Fun Factory for one, used to2 advertise that you could use silicone lubes with their silicone sex toys.
The Metis quick-n-dirty science geek answer:
The only thing that links silicone molecules is silicone so that’s why you may need to avoid lubes. The quality of the silicones in the lubricant and in the toy make a lot of difference.
Let’s say you really like your silicone sex toys and you really like using them in the bath or shower. Water-based lubes will fail you here. Are you out of luck? Not quite. A higher quality silicone lubricant won’t mess up a silicone sex toy - usually (Metis recommends Sliquid and Pjur brands)
Even with these brands we recommend you do a patch test (just like you’re supposed to with hair dye): on the base of the toy put a dab of lube and see if the lube gets gummy (it doesn’t ever melt). If it does get gummy it will happen pretty quickly and with only a small patch, you can clean it off with your finger nail.
So if it’s possible that yes, the two CAN meet, why the drumbeat of “Use only water based lubes!”? Litigation.
It became a liability issue when someone claimed it “melted” the toy as they were playing with it and so the customer went to the hospital. The companies who made the lubricant and the dildo paid that hospital bill and made a settlement; they also started publicizing that their materials were not compatible.
If you purchase both high-quality lubes and sex toys3 then you should be safe to mix, but test it first. I can tell you that the Fun Factory Body Fluid was smeared all over a Fun Factory and 2 Tantus silicone items with absolutely zero reaction that damaged the toy. There was a little bit of a “machine shop” odor though (see really-long-footnote #2 if you haven’t already).
Silicone is perfect, it is non-porous and the ultimate in safety! Right?
A few weeks ago I pulled out some travel bottles called Go Toobs that are a soft, silicone body and plastic flip cap. They boast as being really great for travel. What they don’t tell you is that they’re using a lesser grade of silicone. It’s food-safe grade, which is still pretty good quality, but everything in my travel tubes dried up. I thought, how is this possible? And the woman from the company tells me that silicone is porous. Wait, what? This went against everything I’ve been told and have told others about silicone sex toys. They’re non-porous! Body safe! Yes, they are. For the most part.
Technically silicone has very tiny pores and is virtually non-porous. The pores are smaller than virus’ and bacterias- but some smells can be absorbed4. With time those smells will go away- you can try putting lemon juice on it (though I haven’t tried it) and see if that helps.
Ok so they can still be sanitized. They’re not going to hold onto larger-spored things like mildew, viruses or bacteria. This is the important stuff. An odor can be gotten rid of. Just keep an eye on your anal toys consider 10% bleach washes more often on those.
ETA:Super-soft silicones, like the outer layer on the Tantus O2 dildos, can absorb small amounts of dye depending on the situation. A few years ago it was reported that ForYourNymphomation sex toy cases had a lining with a dye that could transfer to certain toys. The more solid silicones will not take on any dyes but really soft types can. They’re still medically non-porous, however.
Myth or fact: If you see a clear (or stretchy, i.e. a cock ring) “jelly-like” sex toy that claims to be silicone, it really isn’t
This is fact.
Contact Lenses can be made from silicone so yes it can be ultra clear- however silicone that clear is really hard, brittle and about 10 times as expensive for raw materials. It’s beautiful but I’ve never been able to figure out an application in toys where I could justify charging that much. If it’s clear and super stretchy- there is no way it’s silicone. Tantus is shortly introducing the first super soft c-rings- they are nicely stretchy. Every buyer who’s seen them has been really excited- they are coming out later this month, in about a week. As you’ll see however, these rings aren’t clear.
Which leads me to the next question…..
How can the consumer tell if their sex toy is truly pure silicone, and not a blend?
Really it’s still a buyer beware situation. After we burned “silicone” in Australia a few years back, another vendor friend said his stuff was silicone- I told him it wasn’t. I saw this friend’s website recently telling me and you that all their crystal clear super stretchy cock rings were silicone. They aren’t. China told them they were though, and they seem to be sticking to China’s authority. Remember most “manufacturers” don’t manufacture anything but package design and sales strategies. Sometimes they do some engineering but often they don’t even do that. This allows companies to rapidly enter the market- all they need is a warehouse for storing boxes.
Now, Metis isn’t recommending that we all turn into pyromaniacs, but the infamous “lighter test” will work to melt TPR, Sil-a-gel, silicone blends and other silicone-look-a-like materials. I’ve recently added a post all about the flame test for silicone sex toys which includes video so that you can see exactly what happens with true silicone products vs silicone blend products (which are marketed as merely “silicone”) when you light them on fire (or try to).
What do all these words mean, isn’t silicone silicone? What makes Japanese silicone better than medical grade and what is platinum? Why do they have to confuse us??
Because they’re salesmen? Platinum isn’t just a word used for high-selling albums and expensive wedding bands. Metis said first to me, in part replying about the lube compatibility issue that “It’s about different chemistry, some lesser grades of materials bonding. Originally it was a Tin not a Platinum silicone (this refers to chemicals that are in the silicone which make the two liquids into a solid– vulcanize it).” But of course you’ll never see Tin used to describe a sex toy.
The refining process of making silicone was originally created by GE back in the 50′s and they sold the patent to Dow. Then GE apparently figured out the value of it, and created a totally separate method of processing it. There are several other raw processors who make the base materials from sand, ‘silica’. One is a German company Wacker, another a Japanese company Shin Etsu. The only reason to reassure people that it’s Japanese or German is because there is inherent quality believed by consumers to belong to products coming from those two countries.
So apparently the general public has been heavily swayed by cars. Awesome. Also? “Wacker”. *snickers* Yes, I’m 12.
But on the other side of the naming coin is the trickery used by lesser quality manufacturers to make us think that something is silicone. You may see things called TPR-Silicone, Silicone-Elastomer Blend, SEBS, Cyber-Silicone. These are all terms meant to confuse you, and are likely not real. What would be the point in adding in some (much more expensive) silicone to a cheap and porous material? It won’t suddenly make it non-porous. It won’t actually provide any benefit. Sex toy companies started to learn that many people want silicone, so they started to come up with clever ways to make it seem like they’re giving you something special, when they’re not. This material categorization is like cafeteria mystery meat, and hopefully Dildology.org will soon figure out the true nature. It should also be noted that sex toy retailers copy from each other, and that they don’t quickly update their information – so if a manufacturer was once using the false “blend” term, and then stopped, the retailer likely won’t change. I have seen a lot of sex toys on EdenFantasys labeled as “TPR Silicone” and when you look at the manufacturer’s site, they usually refer to it as “TPR”..
Is there a difference between the shiny silicone, the matte silicone, the stuff they stretch over vibrators, etc?
Yes and no. I started off comparing things like the shiny and hard Feeldoe to the matte texture of the soft-exterior Cush O2. Metis said:
Matte silicone just has a different finish on the master or the mold. Molds on the Feeldoe, for example, are highly polished. The difference with the Cush is that the super soft silicone has a different chemistry- it has more of the silicones that are in lube, making it a little less stable (with silicone lubes).
Ok but what about the silicone that gets stretched over mechanical vibrators?
The silicone on a Lelo, or a WeVibe, etc, is an injection material that needs heat in order to cure. You can make dildos with this material too but it’s a process that is much more effective with thin small amounts than with larger amounts. You can tell a silicone toy that is injected like this because the molds have parting lines with small tolerances. Most of Fun Factories designs are made this way. Vixen and Tantus’ products mostly aren’t. The silicone again for both processes is very safe and stable.
I’ve also recently (after writing this post) read about Lelo’s silicone process. They coat their items with something called SST (Silicone Soft Touch) which aids in lending that powdery-silky feel. I know that a lot of other luxury silicone toy companies use this product (it’s basically a liquid silicone that is also body-safe) and so when you flame-test these toys you’ll get a different result than when you flame test the shiny/sticky silicone products. You can see in my video of flame testing that items coated with SST will show a scorch mark that rubs off whereas other non-coated silicone products develop a pale ash, from the dimethicone burning.
Myth: Silicone doesn’t feel as “realistic” though as Cyberskin/Jelly! Silicone isn’t as fun/sparkly! Silicone is expensive!
I hear too many people trying to defend lesser quality materials with arguments like these. Silicone doesn’t mimic a realistic feel or look? Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. Mentioned before, the Tantus O2 line is a dual-density that has a really firm core with a layer of plushy silicone over top. Vixen Creations also makes some very realistic dildos. Two things though that these manufacturers won’t have in the “realism” department that a gross rubber/cyberskin dildo will have: multiple colors for a realistic skin look (i.e. painted-on veins and a pink cock head) and/or fake pubic hair. I mean, if you really have a burning need for that dildo to fool you into thinking it is a magical, dismembered human penis then I can’t stop you. But that fake pubic hair will trap all kinds of gross shit and the painted-on realistic features? That will wear off after awhile. Where is it going???? Think about that one. Silicone might not be clear and gem-like, but they can certainly add glitter to it. I’ve seen both Tantus and the almost-defunct Jollies LLC do it.
People will also complain that silicone toys are too expensive. I know, they can be. Some manufacturers exploit the whole “luxury sex toy” angle. But there is a valid reason why silicone sex toys cost 2-4 times the prices of jelly, rubber or TPR. And frankly if after reading this whole post you don’t understand why……then I give up! But if you are on a super-strict budget, just watch for sales or keep an eye on the closeout bin at Tantus.
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So have you learned a lot or are you more confused? For me this reinforced my thoughts that when you’re buying silicone sex toys (which you always should, in lieu of jelly, rubber, cyberskin or PVC/vinyl) you should be purchasing them from a reputable company who isn’t just going to trust what China is telling them. Is China bad? Sometimes. Not all the time. It’s more on the manufacturer to do their quality checks. And, by the way, Tantus isn’t made in China. They’re made in the US, in their own shop and Metis knows everything that goes on. They are never in the hands of an unknown mass production company. Thankfully Tantus is not the only sex toy manufacturer that is knee-deep is quality checks, but sadly they’re still in the minority.
- I picked it so much that she might need a few days to re-generate; I really came close to being annoying. I might make a good reporter! ↩
- While the site has changed and they no longer recommend that, they don’t forbid it, either. Manuals on the site will say that using a silicone lube might cause an unpleasant smell when the two collide. However, I found the packet of Body Fluid, FF’s silicone lube, and it came with my Ellove vibrator. The packet lists only two ingredients: dimethicone and dimenthiconol. Currently EF lists the ingredients of Body Fluid as dimethicone and Dimethiconol Cyclomethicone. Is there a difference? I opened my packet of Body Fluid and put it on the Ellove Vibrator, a Tantus dildo that is 5 years old and a Tantus dildo that is 2 years old. Nothing happened. Other brands of silicone lube include other types of silicone in with the dimethicone, so that could be why they will react with a silicone toy since like is touching like. End longest footnote ever. ↩
- a high-quality silicone sex toy will be labeled as “platinum” and/or “medical grade” ↩
- Kitty Stryker had mentioned to me on Twitter that she had an anal plug that has started to retain an odor ↩
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Today I happened upon a sex toy reviewing blog whose mission statement proudly proclaimed that they don’t publish negative reviews. If they receive a product that has no redeeming qualities, they simply won’t write a review.
I died a little when I read that. And then I got angry. They boast this, like it makes them better people, better reviewers. To companies and products, sure. To consumers? absolutely not. I think I touched on this a bit about a year ago when I wrote about ethics in blogging, but this is a full-scale 4-alarm rant.
When I first started buying sex toys I was buying them from a couple of sites who I don’t think let a negative customer review go live. It was nothing but moderate-to-glowing. And then when I’d buy the toy with high expectations, only to be grandly disappointed, I’d be pissed. I’ve come across this phenomenon more and more. When I had 3 really bad experiences in a row with Shari’s Berries I finally went to the site and wrote out long, informative (complete with photos) comments on the items. Those comments never got published. Instead, the only comments and ratings are all glowingly positive. Bullshit.
I’ve seen arguments for the anti-negative-review people along the lines of “just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it can’t work for someone else” and I will agree to that. But when you sugar coat things in a way that would make a cupcake jealous you’re only helping out the company. You are not helping the people for whom you presumably write the reviews: the clueless mobs who are absolutely overwhelmed with all the choices1. I was one of those people. Many of us were. So please, place yourself in the shoes of the old, sex-toy-noob you and think “How would I feel if I had spent $125 of my own money on this toy after reading this wishy washy review only to find that there are faults galore?” Your opinion is valid. Your opinion matters. I want to hear your opinion in all of its bluntly honest glory before I drop the money on, well, anything really. Your review that details out just the facts, because you couldn’t like it enough to praise it, isn’t telling me anything.
There are degrees of negativity in reviews of any kind. I’ve read them all myself, not just in sex toys but in computer parts and accessories, clothing, you name it. You can always tell when someone is just pissed off at a defective item (or they didn’t read before buying) vs it’s an actual problem that should concern you before you buy. My utterly scathing reviews of items such as the Lelo Tiani or the JimmyJane Form 3 are not scathing because they didn’t work with my body. They are scathing because I’m pissed. You want me to pay WHAT for a toy that doesn’t even do what you claim it will, or do it WELL? Just like I won’t let you buy a damn jelly toy, I won’t encourage you to spend the equivalent to a week’s worth of groceries on a sex toy that feels like another brick in the wall. The Lelo Isla – is it pretty? Sure. It’s pretty. Does my vagina care about pretty? Does pretty give me an orgasm? Nope. Nor should “pretty” also equal “to get the bitch clean you’ll need 20 minutes of your life, a toothbrush, and the edge of an old credit card”. I think that I do a pretty good job of noting that my extreme dislike of the vibrations or the size or the design didn’t work for me personally and that they could work for someone else. And I feel that I can still note that and give a negative review. Because if I were the one looking at reviews to figure out what 1 sex toy out of 100 I should drop $100 on, I want the truth. Does your truth equal my truth? Not always. Not frequently, even. But if I can see that you as a reviewer have the full spectrum of reviews from “ZOMG LOVE” to “DIE IN A FIRE” with plenty in between then I trust you. And I’ll work my way through your writing and reviews to figure out if we like the same thing and whether or not I would agree with your assessment of “Wow, this baby is STRONG!”.
So let’s say that you are someone who doesn’t like to write really critical, negative reviews. Why? Who are you helping?
Are you afraid that the company you review for will get upset and not give you anything else to review? If so, fuck them. They’re unethical.
Are you not brave enough to be a dissenting voice? Stand up. Be heard.
Do you think that you won’t make any affiliate sales? Then you care more about the money than anything else and that’s sad. Here’s how to commission-perk a negative, shredding review: Suggest two or three other alternatives that you think are better.
The truth, even if it’s the awful truth, isn’t mean. Oh, sure, you can be. But for the love of orgasms, tell me the fuckin truth! Is it wimpy and mediocre and nothing special and not really worth $139? Tell me. I will have $139 worth of greater respect for you.When you hide your negative review from seeing the light of day you are doing yourself a disservice but mostly you are doing every other potential buyer a disservice. Shame on you. You KNEW it was a piece of shit and you didn’t tell me?? I’d like my money back, please, from your pocket. Yes, that’s how much it pisses me off.
Hi, I’m Lilly, and I write nothing but no-holds-barred honest sex toy reviews. I call a spade a spade, and name it out for being crap no matter if it’s $39 crap or $139 crap. Crap is crap and you shouldn’t have to buy it. You, the person who is searching Google for reviews and information on sex toys in general, on dildos for beginners, on Fleshlight vs Tenga, on the We Vibe 2 vs the We Vibe 3….. YOU ARE THE PERSON I REVIEW FOR. Nobody else.
okay maybe my clitoris a little bit.
- not at all dissimilar to the experience you get when you’re sick and you’re standing in the cold remedy aisle looking at 60 products that are all somehow nearly identical but totally different and you just want to sit down and cry. No? Just me? ↩
This past week I’ve been rounding up my sex toys and reorganizing everything so that when I reach for something in my hutch, 6 sex toys don’t come crashing down on the desk top. And so that I know where my favorites are. I noticed later as I tended to my virtual toybox that whoa….I’ve owned/reviewed over 115 sex toys since I started this blog. Not all of these have been reviewed at all or published here; a number are waiting for my review. Some purchases I think I’ve even forgotten about and aren’t on the list. My count isn’t including books or massage oils/lubes; I don’t review porn or condoms or lingerie, and I’ve taken several “Every sex toy sucks or I’m jaded” breaks from reviewing.
I’ve learned a lot since I started reviewing sex toys. That’s a very obvious statement, though, because I’d really only discovered sex toys a few years prior. My old collection was kinda sad. Before I started my first reviews I wrote about the sex toys I did own and what was tossed prior to the photo being snapped. I wish I’d taken a pic of everything first, then pitched, because I read the post and I’m not sure what dildo I was referring to. I also read that post and cringe at what a NOOB I was. Ah well. We all are at some point. But when I look back at the first post I did after I’d been reviewing for a little while, while I still didn’t have the experience under my belt that I do now, I can see that many things changed as newer, better sex toys arrived on my doorstep but one constant has remained: my undying love for the Njoy Pure Wand.
The most important things I’ve learned since being a reviewer:
2. Silicone = Good!
4. Before you buy, research and read. It helps if you can get a sense of what other things the reviewer has liked & disliked to see if their opinions will be useful to you. It’s like trying to judge for yourself if that Italian restaurant would be a good place to go if the only review is from someone who hates Italian food.
5. Yes, the g-spot IS all it’s cracked up to be if you have the right tools.
My favorites used to include the Hitachi Magic Wand, and old Silver Bullet and a few others that have been retired. I quite honestly have only brought out the Hitachi 6 times in the last year and that was merely to use it as a comparison point for other reviews. I have a page up where I keep a running list of my favorite sex toys but even now I can see that the update as of 4 months ago could use another update. Current favorites include: Mystic Wand, Pure Wand of course, Black Magic bullet, e-sensual usb bullet, the Wahl original for when my body is being stubborn, Nobessence Seduction, Evolved Sweet Embrace, Vanity VR6 and the Tantus O2 Cush.
A question I’ve asked of other reviewers is “How many of the many sex toys saw much use past the review phase?” and for me that’s a difficult number to tally up. On my virtual toybox page each item is listed in the order it was reviewed, broken down by category. I look at the vibrator section, the largest, and only 8-10 of those are used these days. A few of the rechargeables might get used more often if I didn’t keep losing the chargers and finding a dead vibrator in my drawer. The first 20 things listed, I only own 5 of now – the rest were tossed or swapped – and I’ve kept them purely for comparison reasons. However in the first 6-8 months of reviewing I’d say that most items, unless I outright hated them, were used after the review period quite a bit. Of course that was all I *had* so there’s that.
Stay tuned for short interviews with other sex toy review bloggers who will answer these same questions!Read More
A Guide to Sex Toy Reviewers: Stop Using Achievement Levels When Recommending a Sex Toy as Good or Bad
It seems all too common in the reviewing community to label a crappy/weak vibrator as being “great for beginners”. I’m sure I even did it at some point when I first started reviewing, but that doesn’t excuse it.
STOP DOING THIS.
Just because someone is new to sex toys doesn’t automatically mean that they need or want a weak, surface-buzzy vibrator. Stop using this as a means to sugar-coat a crappy toy. You can surely say that someone who is very sensitive to vibrations and prefers subtle, gentle sensations would like that vibration that feels like a fairy blowing in the vicinity of your clit from a distance. That’s valid. But a beginner to sex toys is not always (frequently not) a beginner to sex or masturbation. In fact I might be so bold as to say that many women who are buying their first vibrator are looking for something to help them get off because they’ve not had great luck on their own. That was definitely the case with me. I purchased a few shitty, weak vibes back then and I’m so glad that they weren’t they first vibrators or else I might have given up totally, thinking that what I needed wasn’t out there. Because, of course, those shitty, weak vibes were heaped praises on the sites I bought them from for their strength and “perfect for everyone!” weasel words.
As a reviewer you also should not assume that every slim/slender vibrator is great for beginners. Again, they’re new to sex toys. Not necessarily penetration. And of course even the most well-honed sex-loving person doesn’t necessarily love/want/need girth. Many simply don’t. Conversely, many do. Base your recommendations not on someone’s “skill” level or familiarity with sex toys – instead, base it off reality: word it as “If you are sensitive to vibrations, this would be good for you” or “If you prefer slender insertable toys, this is good for you”. You can and should talk about the size of the toy in relation to how easy it would be to hide it or simply warn them that it’s a beast – are some people intimidated by big honkin toys? Sure. But let’s not lump everyone together like that.
I mean, is there some secret RPG-esque ranking that I’m not aware of? Is there a level 1 Beginner, a level 4 Beginner, after which you’re a level 1 Intermediate user and finally after the purchase and/or use of X number of sex toys you hit the much-lauded rank of Advanced User?
What should a “sex toy for beginners” recommendation look like?
- It should have multiple speeds/intensity levels so that they can figure out what they like and need
- You should always do your best to differentiate between surface-buzzy and deep-rumbly vibrations and know what the difference is – once someone knows that the vibrator they hated was considered surface-buzzy they know to then look for a deep-rumbly one next
- We should be steering them towards affordable yet body-safe materials – Jelly is not ok for beginners, it is not ok for anybody
- We should not be advising them to plonk down over $150 on a singular toy if they own 2 or less toys. They don’t know yet what they need and what works best for them in terms of size, shape and vibration type/intensity
- Ignore the size: Never say that a small or medium size toy is “good for beginners” just because of the size.
And for the love of holy sex toys, just stop sugar-coating reviews: call a spade a spade. It doesn’t help you as an affiliate because once you recommend a shitty toy to someone they won’t trust you in the future. And wouldn’t you want someone to steer you away from a vibrator that should not even be on the market, just like you’d want your friend to be honest and say “Honey, that pair of pants isn’t really flattering to you, let’s find something else”? I would. In fact that’s why and how I found sex toy reviews in the first place. I was so jaded and skeptical and wary of buying a toy that looked ok but I couldn’t tell what the vibrations were like and so I just started asking around in random places and it all led me to finding the blogger reviews (which were so much less saturated back then). And while a seasoned buyer eventually learns to take every review with a grain of salt and realize that what one person thinks is heaven inside silicone will be a piece of shit to someone else, that knowledge takes time, patience and a willingness to keep buying sex toys until they find The One. Or, The Five, whatever your heart desires.
All of this is why I have become unafraid to call out Lelo on their half-assed ventures their last two lines. They were the darling of the sex toy world in the beginning and everyone wanted one or seven of them. That reputation still exists. I think it still exists, in part, because we’re still inundated with too many shitty manufacturers and toys and we want, no need, to call a company Good. Worth It. We don’t have enough Good Eggs in the basket so when one starts to stink a little we perfume it up and try to believe – for ourselves and the sex toy world at large – that it’s still ok. It’s just one bad egg, right? When a company starts riding the coattails of their initial success then we need to pay attention and call that out.
What would I recommend as a good sex toy for beginners? First of all, a good bullet. And by “good” I don’t mean expensive. I mean something that has a variance in intensity levels, is deep and rumbly and isn’t so expensive that replacing it in a year is a hardship or hating it isn’t a waste of money. And then probably some sort of curved, insertable vibrator of silicone or plastic that is moderately priced, can be pull double duty and doesn’t require strange batteries.Read More