Jan 142018
 

My last post was written more for creators and businesses about Facebook Pages, but this post is for you, dear reader. Just like entertainers would be nothing without their fans, bloggers (like any other type of writer) would be nothing without their readers. You literally make or break us. It’s our job as bloggers to be interesting to you, to provide you with hot/funny/smart/helpful blog posts, but it’s hard sometimes. We do our level best to write great content and promote ourselves but then one by one the places we connect best with you, the places we were told we could be, are silencing us and throttling our reach. Every post that someone writes from the depth of their soul, whispering a thing they think they’re alone in feeling/doing/wanting, someone else out there feels a little bit better knowing that they are not alone. 

The Social Media Problem

Facebook is throttling pages. Twitter has been shadow-banning. Tumblr hides adult content from the searches. Instagram, and Facebook, can decide on a whim if you’ve shared a photo they deem too revealing and suspend or delete your account. They all automatically try to tell us that we, too, can reach more people if we just give them money yet every single time they say “NOPE. You write about sex. Some of our audience finds SEX offensive. We don’t promote you in exchange for money. Good day, Sir. You lose! I SAID GOOD DAY!”

Every one of these social media platforms uses algorthyms to better determine what they think you want to see. I mean, you’ve followed us, so you know you want to see our content but these networks want proof. In triplicate. Repeatedly. 

So what can you do? Like. Retweet. React. Comment. Reblog. Share. These actions all tell that social media network that you love us, you really love us and you want to continue to see our content.

Currently, you can find me on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Google, and Facebook (but please click “Follow” rather than “Friend” if we don’t actually know each other). Follower counts mean a lot, more than I wish they did, so that would be awesome if you follow.

Instagram

An update to this post about Instagram: If you follow us on IG and feel up for it, comment (4 words or more) on our pictures. React as soon as you see something. Because Facebook owns Instagram, they are similarly deciding to throttle IG. Shit gets really complicated and it seems like there’s a lot of hoops to jump through.

The Money Problem – Advertisers and Sponsored Posts

Often you may see ad banners in your favorite bloggers’ sidebars or notice a sponsored post. If they’re good, and many are really good, that sponsored post is nothing more than a post they were going to publish anyways but someone with a business relevant to the subject matter said “hey, I’ll pay you to put a link to my porn site into that post about porn” and that’s it. The best sponsored posts aren’t written by anyone else but the blogger and don’t read like a giant advertisement, but they’re making money on what is truly a job – yes, blogging (writing) is a job.

So you notice the ads and you see the sponsored links, but maybe they don’t appeal to you. Maybe it’s for a sex toy shop that you know your favorite blogger wouldn’t really want you to shop at, because they care about supporting feminist sex toy shops that give accurate product descriptions, educate their buyers, behave well on social media, and more. But it would still be rad if you just click on the link or banner because then those advertisers feel like they got their money’s worth which means they very well may renew their ad banner or work with the blogger again on another sponsored post. Some bloggers list their advertisers as “sponsors” because companies get salty about such blatant words that convey that money changed hands and we’re not organically recommending them. If you’re ever unsure about which banners are for companies the blogger recommends and which banners are there because they paid to be there, ask the blogger for clarification. 

Another easy thing to do? Comment on our posts. Any of them – but preferably make your comment relevant and if it’s a big detailed “help me find a sex toy” thing, send an email instead. Comments on the posts are the easiest way for advertisers to know we have an engaged reader base, that people are actually coming through from social media to read our stuff. This makes them more likely to meet our rates or pay us at all. Not sure what to say? Literally the simplest things can be enough; from “Oh, cool, I didn’t know that!” to agreeing with a reviewer’s opinion on an aspect of the sex toy they loved/hated, or “This was a great post, thanks for writing it”, and even just “Sharing this!”. Your favorite bloggers may, or may not, respond to every comment so don’t go in expecting that but do know we see you, we appreciate you, we thank you.

I currently use Disqus for commenting, and hold everything for moderation because hey, it’s the internet and that means spam. You can have a Disqus account, or not, on my site. How? Click in that field that says “Sign up For Disqus” and instead, go check the box below it that says “I’d rather post as a guest”. Please still use your email address, a valid one, if you ever want a response – your email address won’t be visible to others!

The Money Problem – Affiliate Earnings Explained

Many bloggers, especially review bloggers, have affiliate links. Most bloggers are ethical and are not recommending any old thing just to get you to spend money. Most bloggers who review sex toys give you their opinion, be it good or bad. Most of us don’t want you to buy that crappy sex toy we just couldn’t like, so our review will be negative but we’ll probably tell you which other sex toy you’d like instead. My point is: affiliate links are not the devil, they’re not proof we’ve “sold out” or can’t be trusted.

We can’t exchange our vibrators for cash and our landlords and electric companies and web hosting companies won’t take a dildo as payment. We’ve tried, no dice. I got some Looks at the grocery store when I tried to feed my out-dated vibrators into the Coinstar machine. After the 9th sex toy you’ve reviewed that just doesn’t work for you and will never be used again you, as a reviewer, start to realize that the “free sex toy” isn’t compensation enough for the hours you’ve spent writing the review and testing the toy.

Here’s the thing about how affiliate links work: It doesn’t cost you anything. There’s no upcharge at the retailer for buying your stuff through our links. The retailers don’t charge more overall to make up for it1. But you do have to buy something; just clicking the link doesn’t do anything for us. If you tend to visit a lot of review bloggers looking for the review that tells you what you need to know and you’ve been clicking on a bunch of affiliate links, the best way to make sure the blogger of your choosing gets credit for the sale is to clear your cookies for that retailer’s site and then click the blogger’s link. It doesn’t matter if you click their link to the Magic Wand and end up buying the Doxy, it’ll still give them credit for the sale.

Buy through the stores I support to support me: SheVibe, Early to Bed, and Smitten Kitten are US-based but will ship elsewhere. Come As You Are is in Canada. I’m also affiliated with GoodVibes, and, if you’re shopping at Amazon I am also an affiliate there. Naturally I would rather you not buy sex toys from Amazon but I get a bit of a commission on anything you buy. I do still have an affiliate account with Lovehoney US, even though I’m no longer supporting them.

If you can’t purchase anything, you can still comment on our reviews, and share them far and wide! This helps the shops know that our reviews are seen and anybody new who sees our review might end up buying from our links.

Support Us With Money

What if you come to me for sex toy buying advice but, due to your location, can’t buy from a website I’m affiliated with? Easy – send me a little something via Paypal, if you can. If you can’t, that’s okay too, just find the other ways here to support us. When we spend multiple back-and-forth emails with you we’re helping you because it matters to us that you find a great sex toy, but it’s also a lot of labor. It’s not mandatory but it’s definitely appreciated2. Other bloggers might use something other than Paypal and you’ll probably find a button for that in their side bar. Don’t see anything? Ask. They will happily tell you.

Have I helped you, but you couldn’t use my affiliates? Drop me a few bucks at Paypal.

If the blogger you follow has a Patreon account, support them there. If they have a wishlist someplace, buy something from it for them.

Other Ways to Let Us Know You’re Out There, For Free

At the end of the day, unless a blogger never wants to have advertisers, never cares about having many readers, never wants to make any money for their time and efforts at all, it’s important for us to have tangible proof that you like us. Ranking lists use our follower counts across all platforms to determine our popularity and therefore value. Advertisers look at our traffic and our subscribers and followers to know that they’ll be getting something for their money.

But you know what? We also just want to know that our words matter to someone. That we’re doing an okay job. I’ve seen too many bloggers who were decent and on the path to being great just quit because they simply didn’t think anybody was reading their stuff. It’s hard sometimes to put forth the immense effort (and some money) to write when it feels like you’re basically an astronaut floating in space, nobody listening to your mic, no one there to see or be seen.

**You can help by sharing the posts that you liked; many bloggers have a sharing plugin installed like mine that shows up beneath each post and lets you quickly and easily share this post in a multitude of ways.

**You can help by signing up for our newsletters, even if you already follow us on social media. It’s another measuring stick but it’s also a great way to ensure you really do see our posts. Those of us who have newsletters also often put content in them that isn’t on the website, or give you perks when it comes time for giveaways. You can also subscribe to our RSS feeds.

**Some bloggers are only on Twitter, some are on multiple social media platforms. Try sharing their stuff on a platform they don’t use! Many of us can’t stomach the harsh environment of Reddit, but it can be a really big boost to our traffic and earnings to find that someone linked to our review or our educational post, etc. I used to spend a lot of time there, helping people with their sex toy questions, but the toxic environment got the best of me. If you see someone recommending a shitty brand or a shitty material, educate them with my posts! Share responsibly, though. You never need permission to share a link but you do need permission to quote large tracks of posts or share our photos.

**Some bloggers are also educators – they’re doing workshops at stores or online, and signal-boosting their marketing for those workshops is important and helps. Their audience turn-out will determine if they get hired again, and sometimes the stores themselves don’t do a great job at promoting all workshops.

 

Many years ago we sex bloggers started getting the shit end of the stick from the free blogging platforms like Blogger and WordPress. Blogs would be deleted with no warning, no way to back up. Bloggers have realized that they need to rely only on their hosting company and own their domain, but that costs money. Nearly everybody in the sexuality spectrum online is working for peanuts – educators, bloggers, podcasters, Youtubers. The way YouTube is censoring sexuality and LGBTQIA ‘Tubers from making any ad money means these folks are working for tips (aka affiliate earnings or literal tips), often times. And I know from experience that making a video is harder than writing a blog post. We are educating you, we are supporting you, we are letting you know you’re not alone but we need your help. So make note of those bloggers you enjoy the most and do whatever you’re capable of to signal-boost or line their pockets. Every single little bit matters.

Thank you for reading, and for wanting to take care of your bloggers.

Thanks especially to those folks who’ve already purchased through my links; 2017 was a fucking hard year for me and my partner, and he missed a lot of work. A lot a lot. If we didn’t have a ridiculously understanding boss and this blog, he would be unemployed and we would have lost our house. For as hard as the year was, I still have a lot to be grateful for.

  1. How do I know? I don’t know everything about every company, sure, but I’ve worked with enough retailers in my time to see that some charge more than others while either not having any affiliate program or having one but offering a very low percentage of the sale. I’ve come across companies who don’t yet make enough consistent sales to afford giving a percentage of their profit to affiliates, but I’ve never found a company willing to charge more than other retailers simply to afford paying affiliates
  2. but please don’t let this stop you from asking us for help – we know our limits and when we have the time and ability to help
 Posted by at 5:17 pm
Jan 122018
 

Text reads: Dear Facebook, We're just no good together. It's not me, it's you. No Love, Lilly. Text is over a washed out image of a barren, cracked 2-lane highway in the middle of nowhere. As a blogger, and especially as a sexuality blogger, I’m forever frustrated with Facebook. We all are. From their “real names” policy which wasn’t just about threatened the safety of trans folx, drag performers, and even abused spouses, to how they nerfed Pages once already and how they’re so incredibly sex-negative they’ll consistently tempt you with offers of how well your post “could” be doing if only you would give them money but tsk tsk, silly sex blogger, they won’t take your money. Your money is dirty and your site offends someone! Or, gd forbid, there is the slightest hint of something that could be breast cleavage in the photos or art you used in the fundraisers you’re running at Youcaring and because of one goddamn photo and possibly, maybe, the word “sex” they won’t even let you boost a post to fucking raise money to help someone out. But today’s post isn’t focusing on how Facebook, and social media in general, is targeting the sex ed/sex toy industry (though, they are) it’s about what Facebook is going to do to all bloggers, personas, artists, and businesses.

Once again, Facebook is tightening the reins and dictating how it’s used. They go through our photos and our names to make sure everything there would be worthy of a stamp of approval from Tipper Gore. First, they tell you that you cannot have a profile that doesn’t match the name on your government-issued ID, and they push you towards instead creating a Page. But then they throttle what Pages share and only show your stuff to a small percentage of the people who voluntarily elected to see your shit. Before we think this is just the sex industry, nay nay, even the comedic gold of The Oatmeal is throttled. At least he can buy the goddamn ads they’re tempting him with if he wanted to spend $2,000 to reach 10% of his followers. We, in the sex or sex-adjacent industry, can’t. 

Where was I? Oh yes. So they throttle our Pages and instead push advertising – repeatedly and mockingly. Facebook thrives on advertising; they’re raking in money hand over fist. Suddenly, though, the Zuck had a change of heart1 and is throwing pages (“public content”) under the bus“But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands, and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other,” he says.  Then there’s a lot of flowery prose about connections and hope and love and other bullshit and finally the hard line for us: “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. “ 

For a moment, I sighed in frustration. I was mad. But then I decided to go look and really see just how much worse it could get for me because I already know that it’s not great in the present day.

This One’s For The Numbers Geeks

At first, I did the easiest metric I could: The percentage of my readers that come from Facebook, according to my WordPress stats. I charted the number of referrals it picked up from Facebook and my visitor numbers – now, to be clear, this doesn’t limit it to my Facebook Page posts. This is all of Facebook, including my profile and whatever anybody else links to. Here’s what I found: the best and worst percentage of referrals to visitors per month didn’t line up with the actual most and least amount of referrals sent per month2. My worst was October with the percentage at 0.86% and the best was November at 2.06%.

My best was 2 fucking percent. My yearly average was 1.39%. But remember: this doesn’t represent the work of my Page alone.

January and February gave me more referrals simply due to the sheer volume of posts I had going on. The other higher-performing months were August with the I-wanna-know-the-drama effect of telling people what the Screaming O did, accompanied by an attention-grabbing collage of middle-finger-thrusting people. And November, with its 5 paltry posts? The secret there was that while all 5 posts did indeed lead to a review on my blog, the post wasn’t seen by Facebook as a “link post”. It was seen as a “photo” because when I shared the post across social media via Hootsuite I attached a photo for it to show versus letting it choose the one designated by my SEO plug-in. Those 5 posts had whopping reach numbers. Nearly all “photo” posts did considerably better than “link” posts or simple “status” posts – at least as far as number of people reached is concerned. Link clicks? They remained the same compared to posts that reached 150 people. People simply don’t want to leave Facebook, I guess. Hell, this one claims to have reached an unheard-of 13,949 people…but only 3 of them clicked my link. It was never shared but it did force 17 people to tell Facebook to permanently hide all of my future posts from their timeline. Thanks for nothing, Facebook.

In December my posts, on average, were shown to 86 people – a minimum of 18 and a maximum of 242. But I have, as of this writing, 1750 followers on that Facebook page. My posts in December were going to, at worst, 1% of my followers and, at best, 13.8% of my followers.

Here’s the kicker though: Remember how I said that my WordPress stats don’t know where on Facebook the referrals came from? I picked February – not my absolute most in referrals, but it’s up there – 1,392. Of those, it appears that only 275 came from people clicking my Facebook Page post, according to the “insights” from Facebook. It doesn’t appear that very many of those were shared, either. For all of my efforts in February- 36 posts (link posts) which supposedly were all seen by 4,797 people cumulatively, I netted a for-sure 275 site visits. That’s 5.7% of already-paltry low percentage of my followers who’ve even seen those posts. That 4,797 across February counts the same person every time they see the post. If every follower saw every post then February’s posts would have been seen 63,000 times. I achieved only 7.6% of that.

Why in the actual fuck am I even trying? No, seriously?

We know that the throttling is going to get worse because both Zuckerberg and Mosseri (Head of News Feed) confirmed it: “Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease,” said Mosseri.

I haven’t given up on the page entirely because of the idea that somewhere out there are some fans of my site that only ever get their updates about me from my Facebook page. And because, like holding onto the myth of silicone touching silicone, it’s been hard to get the industry to realize that they need to stop obsessing over how many Facebook followers we have as a metric of how “good” or “popular” or “valuable” we are. I want to stop have businesses insist that I ask my readers to follow them on Facebook for an entry in a contest. I want ranking lists to stop looking at the metric to rank our worth and popularity.

This throttling of the pages is worse for the folx who were told by Facebook that they couldn’t have a pseudonym profile and had theirs taken away, or the ones too afraid to even try thanks to the tangled web of connections where you would have to use two separate computers and smartphones to successfully have two separate Profiles that never get recommended to each other’s friends (and zero friends in common). People who can use their real name for a “business” or “fan” profile and keep their real-life friends-and-family profile locked down a little better will simply have to double down on the Profile posts to see any value from sharing their shit on Facebook. But this means we’ll have to accept “friend” requests from literally anybody and everybody just to have our stuff seen by enough people. And still, I ask: why am I even trying?? The hustle life of a blogger, I guess?

So What Now? What Can YOU Do?

Clearly, the vast majority of my traffic from Facebook doesn’t come from my Page and it will only get worse. At this point I think I’m going to close the page and direct those followers to “follow” me (not “friend” me) on my profile – they’ll probably have a bigger chance of seeing anything I share!

This is a great time to remind you that you can always thank me for the help I give my donating to my Paypal and buying from my affiliate links. If you do follow me on any social media account, sharing my posts is a great help – and free! Thanks to the way Twitter and Facebook work, simply “liking” my posts and interacting with them will help get them seen by others. Cheer me on with comments and emails. Sign up for my weekly (ish) RSS newsfeed in your inbox!

  1. Is there one under there?
  2. I had to ignore December’s numbers because one day in December someone – I don’t know who because they didn’t tag me – linked to my Hiky review and sent over 7800 views to that review alone – so I estimated the anomaly and deducted it from December’s totals to give a bit more accurate picture.
 Posted by at 7:09 pm
Dec 312017
 

As part of a new-to-me end-of-the-year series of posts, I’m telling you about my favorite things from 2017. When I asked folks on Twitter what “favorite things” they’d like to know about, Violet asked for my favorite tools, apps, etc. that I use for blogging.  I doubt you’ll see anything truly ground-breaking here. In fact, you might find out that I’m a stodgy old man and refuse to use the new-fangled replacement services because I can’t figure them out. I tend to stick with what I know how to use and what works for my quirks. I’m not a professional, I just pretend to be one. If you want truly professional advice on what to use to help you blog, take Epiphora & JoEllen’s class, and if you want to take $10 off their class, use code LILLY. That’s not a plug; I’m serious.

This post is light on outgoing links because I think that most of you can easily locate these services, phone apps and WordPress plugins but if you’re really having trouble ask and I’ll link to it.

Social Media

HootSuite is something I use just for manually scheduling social media posts to Facebook and Twitter, for new  blog posts. Sure, it’s also an app to display your Twitter and Facebook feeds but I’m just not into it for that, I’m old school (despite the frustrations with Facebook and Twitter’s native sites). When I have a new post I like to write the social media bits myself, make a few different ones, and schedule them here and there. The free version only lets you do 30 posts, which is 10 if you’re sharing between Twitter, Facebook profile and Facebook page. But usually that’s plenty for me for a single post.

Buffer was something I used now and then to schedule social media posts for older, existing blog posts. Now and then I’d sit down and go through the shareable old blog posts, write up something catchy, and fill up the queue. Why don’t I just automate it, you ask? Because there are plenty of older posts I don’t think are worth being re-shared, whether it’s due to it being a fluff piece, bad writing, or out-dated. I like seeing when each social media post is going to hit, what’s left in the queue, etc. Buffer also gave pretty good feedback. But you’ll notice that I’ve talked about this app in past-tense – I just haven’t had the spoons to do this sort of “ICYMI” in a while. It does take some time to think up quippy bits about each post or simply decide to use ones that have gone well in the past (it saves them all). But it does do something good for my traffic so when I’m doing a little better, I’ll be buffering up some old posts. There’s a free version which gives you limited access, but the paid version is only $105 for a year and adds on many social media profiles (sadly, not Tumblr) and lets your queue reach 100. With Buffer I tend to allow it to auto-schedule the posts based on the “ideal times” for each platform.

Wakelet is something I’m still trying to figure out as a replacement for Storify which will go the way of the dinosaurs in a few months. Storify was super helpful to curate social media posts on a certain topic or hashtag, great for conferences and more. So far, Wakelet appears to be the closest thing to Storify so if you have figured out how to use it, educate the rest of us in comments, okay?

Images

I have a Creative Cloud subscription to Photoshop CC, but I only have it installed on my desktop. If I’m working on blog stuff from my day job or literally anywhere else then I have to find new ways to create social media and blog images.

I do this with a combination of free websites like PicMonkey and Pixlr. Pixlr is similar enough to Photoshop but certain actions are clunky to perform, like easily pasting an oversized image and resizing it.  If I absolutely must do it all with my phone, then Snapseed is a nice little editor app for Android that also lets me watermark.

If my Instagram images are a sex toy or something that I think will get shared then I watermark it. Many people don’t want to do this and don’t want to ruin an otherwise great photo but a couple of apps actually allow me to add ©dangerouslilly.com and my IG name in a fairly-unobtrusive way. Why do I go through this? Because people don’t know how to use IG and often don’t attribute or ask consent. Go figure. There are quite a few apps for Android that do this and while I wanted to like Salt just for its name, it doesn’t have enough features to make up for the fact that you get a limited number of uploads/shares of your finished image for free. Snapseed makes the text look pretty and I can rotate it to fit nicely in a corner, like this. Watermark lets you put in your signature or a simplified text watermark when something basic will suffice, but has intrusive ads.

Dropbox is something I have connected to my phone which, due to laziness, is how I take nearly all of my photos for blogging these days. It syncs up my videos and images from my phone to my home computer, laptop, and the Dropbox cloud. Any cloud-storage system will work here, it’s just key to utilize one. It lets me easily have access to files no matter where I am when I’m working on a post or sharing sale images during the holidays when I may be traveling.  It also holds all my favorite EffinBird images for on-the-fly salty Twitter responses to jerks from any location.

Auxiliary Tools

Grammarly is a browser extension I use to help me catch grammar mistakes based on rules I don’t remember or know. It’s a little iffy in Firefox but works very well in Chrome. It helps me with comma placement, catching typos and more.

Rafflecopter has been my go-to contest/giveaway app after trying out a few others. I like the variety of entry methods, the ease of use, and just the whole thing in general. It’s a personal preference, really.  Gleam is my choice if I decide to utilize the “viral sharing” aspect, which I often don’t simply because I really hate excessive tweets and social media shares about giveaways, and hate contributing to that. Gleam seems to be better than Rafflecopter at verifying for you that someone has done a social media thing you’ve asked them to do.

Bit.ly is one of many link-shortening services out there but it seems to be the most popular. I don’t use it all the time but I do when I think far enough in advance to want to track the popularity of a link or know which links are doing the best. It’s also very easy to create your own custom link ending at bit.ly, so that copy/pasting these links from something like Instagram is easy. If I want to include a link in an IG post and especially if it’s something I’m cross-posting from IG to other sites, like Tumblr or Facebook, I’ll paste the entire bit.ly link starting with http. This makes the text work as a link in Tumblr.

Essential WordPress Plugins

©Feed allows me to put threatening little messages, er I mean, it allows me to put a warning message in for scrapers. Sometimes, scrapers take the entire RSS entry and never edit it – leaving the links intact. The message I can add to ©Feed helps find scrapers, at the very least.

Public Post Preview lets you share a secret link with friends or colleagues or collaborators to see the same sort of preview that you can from WordPress when you click on “preview this post”. It shows how it looks on your blog, in other words, rather than just sharing a document.

Yoast SEO allows me to do everything from setting a social-media-only featured image to making sure my keyword count is half-decent.

The WP Front Notification Bar is as far as I’ll ever go with “pop-up” messages. It hovers up there at the top of your screen, visible as soon as you start scrolling. It takes up very little screen real estate on a laptop or desktop and is easy to dismiss – or not. Unlike a traditional pop-up, you can easily continue to read my post without any annoying intrusions. I hate pop-ups and know that you probably do, too.

Shareaholic is the social-media sharing bar I’ve liked the most over the years. There are many, but I just like this one. I find it essential to allow folks an easy way to share my posts via their preferred social media account with the click of a button rather than expecting them to copy, paste and ping me all on their own.

Fast Secure Contact Form lets me create a contact form but also lets me create an auto-response email. This can simply be something to let people know they’ve successfully sent you a message, but I prefer to let the auto-response act as a quick FAQ, something that answers a fair amount of questions all on its own.

FD Footnotes is something I use a lot because I really love footnotes. It lets me go off on slight tangents or babble a little more.

Wordfence is a security tool that helps block hackers trying to access your blog’s backend to infect it with a virus.

And finally, Search Regex is a tool that allows you to find-and-replace words or phrases easily across your blog. This is useful for changing affiliate codes or links easily en masse or one at a time.

 

Hope this helps! Bloggers, what are some of your favorites?

 Posted by at 12:46 pm
Dec 222017
 

As part of a new-to-me end-of-the-year series of posts, I’m telling you about my favorite things from 2017. There are so many bloggers and blogs out there that I love and admire but I simply couldn’t list everyone in this year’s post. I’ve focused on those who’ve influenced and inspired me the most this year be it through their blog, their social media, or their presence elsewhere.

Ducky DooLittle’s inspiring role-model status exceeds far beyond her scope as a blogger. As you may remember from earlier in the year it was my trust in her judgment and ethics, and her insider knowledge and assurances, that led me to remove Blush Novelties from my Blacklist and start promoting their silicone products. One of my favorite Ducky Things was a video she did for Tantus where she read off (and showed examples of) a list of shocking things people have put into their butts, and lost. I can’t tell you how many times I tell someone “if a bottle of pancake syrup can get lost, so can that plug and its paltry base”. This year Ducky has also battled cancer – opening up publicly on her blog about it – and is now battling the health insurance company for the coverage she deserves. She was one of the biggest supporters of a fundraiser I created this year to help a fellow blogger recover from the devastating floods in Houston, offering up everything she could to get more donations. Even with health insurance Ducky’s bills are astronomical so I’m working on a YouCaring fundraiser to help her out – so please watch this space. Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

Ruby’s inspiring role-model status also far exceeds beyond her scope as a blogger. On social media and off she is fighting alongside other bloggers against sexist, misogynistic, racist, ableist, body-shaming folks and companies in the sex toy industry. She uses her platform to help make the industry better while working for a company, Doxy, who aligns with our views and ethics. It makes me appreciate Doxy as a company even more that they’ve never tried to silence her on her personal blog and social media accounts. I mean, that shouldn’t be a rare thing but it seems to be. Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

If there’s a community project that needs to find a new home, just ask Molly. Or, maybe don’t, because she’s got enough on her plate! Serving platter might be a better term. Or kitchen table.  She’s taken on hosting numerous memes and blogging challenges; she took over e[lust] for me when I ran out of spoons to keep it going. She took over the Top 100 Sexy Bloggers list from another blogger who had to quit. She helps run Eroticon, a UK event for sex writers. And she has a family! She does things outside of blogging! Truly awe-inspiring, but I secretly think she has a time turner. Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

Kate has been blogging at GirlyJuice for years now and her writing just keeps getting better. Every time I don’t know how she’ll top herself – she does. I have such a crush on her writing! She is eloquent and funny, able to evoke solidarity and empathy in her posts about mental health just as easily as evoking affection and compersion for her sexual escapades. Not only is her writing consistently good, but it’s consistent. It’s abundant. She has endless ideas and nothing seems half-assed. AND she can sing beautifully. AND she is half of the dynamic podcast duo, The Dildorks. AND she writes a lot for publications outside of her blog. AND she keeps a spreadsheet of her sex life. What can’t Kate do?? Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

Another busy dynamo is Girl On the Net who has maintained a popular sex blog that is updated very frequently, has a gift for writing filthy words, has time for the blogging community and her readers, works with Eroticon and probably more – she’s kinda mysterious sometimes so you never know quite what’s up her sleeve. She’s supportive and helpful, funny and crude, and is a joy to know. In addition to the writing on her blog, she’s published a few books! Her views and opinions, while not always mimicing my own, always inspire me to give something a second look. Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

I can’t forget friends like Sarah, my saltner-in-crime who teaches us all so much about social justice and trauma-informed pleasure. Her posts this year about mental health and combining pleasure with political resistance are timely, necessary and empathetic. She is brave and bold and I can’t imagine our niche (or my life) without her, or her love of bread. Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

Then there’s Indigo, who has been an anchor for me in many ways from mental health to working out the nuances of gender & sexuality and how this cis queer person can be the most respectful. I first met Indigo at SFS17 because they were one of the volunteers for my Content Creator Meet n Greet, an event that really stressed me out. But Indigo was like a calming beacon of help and I would have had a lot less sanity by the end of the event without them. Their baby blog is growing wonderfully and I’m so excited to see where it goes. Follow their blog, or on Twitter.

I also think about Taryn, for bringing her SEO knowledge to us and creating a hell of a great blog on asexuality, sex toy reviews and other essays plus being an all-around awesome person to know. She’s inspired me to brush up the back end of my blog and do better with it. It’s hard to believe her blog is just shy of a year old because it feels like she’s been with us for awhile now. She’s just so easy to adore! Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

I have endless admiration and awe for Lunabelle, in general and especially for things she has gone through in her personal life this year. She is strong and brave, a fighter and a fabulous friend. She advocates loudly for large dildos, strange dildos and large and strange dildos. She is hilarious and helpful and is doing all this while raising three smart, funny feminists. Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

And I can’t forget the respect and reverence for Epiphora as she hit a huge milestone this year with ten years of reviewing. She’s probably the most professional, hard-working reviewer I know. I was super proud to share the SheVibe cover with her a few months ago. Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

Last, but almost certainly not least, is Bex. They’ve been transitioning this year and blogging about that, their mental health, and their kinky relationships with such eloquence and intelligence and wit all while being the other amazing half of the podcasting duo The Dildorks. Bex is an amazing person and I’m so thankful to know them. I have learned so much from them this year. Follow their blog, or on Twitter.

 

 

 Posted by at 2:21 pm
Dec 182017
 

This is a photo of Kenton wearing a giant plushie vulva, and his head is where the clitoris would be. He's emulating Zach of Buzzfeed who wore a similar costume in a Buzzfeed video and adorably realized his head was the clitoris and was very excited. As part of a new-to-me end-of-the-year series of posts, I’m telling you about my favorite things from 2017. Today I’m talking about my favorite dildo maker of 2017 – Kenton Johnston, the singular person behind Funkit Toys. Regular readers may be scratching their heads at this point because I named Funkit Toys as one of my favorite brands of 2016, but even though Kenton is the brains and creator and talent and silicone-pourer-and-puller of Funkit Toys, Kenton is also just…Kenton. a lovely human. Yes, the sex toys he creates a fabulous but today I wanna talk about the person.

My reasons for picking Kenton are varied and sundry but many can be condensed to: go look through his tweets. He’s engaged with the community in the best, most respectful way. He is an ally and a fighter for causes. He’s quick with the puns and the deeply-geeky science-y answers. He is always down to answer my science questions and then re-answer them so that my brain understands them. He is humble, kind, ethical, punny and engaging. He understands that a sex toy does not need to be created or prescribed “for women” or “for men”, but for body parts – and often, not even then! As he explains here the same design can often work really well for stimulating g-spots AND prostates, or creating a fullness sensation desired by both butts and vaginas. 2017 has, overall, been a trash fire of a year but so many times this dude had me laughing my stress away.

Kenton has battled alongside the social justice warrior bloggers and helped behind the scenes. His creativity with sex toys knows few bounds. Sure, he was the first person to create clear silicone dildos with vivid swirls of color buried below the surface, but have you seen these bases? Fucking genius design. He is creating unique items and doing SUCH a good job.

The personal is the political and 2017 has seen my tolerances for bullshit from companies/brands/creators at an all-time low. I want to spotlight and support the people and brands who have gone above and beyond simply “not fucking up”, but catapulted into allies, friends and folks that the rest of the industry should model themselves on. While I will avoid recommending that you, dear readers, spend your dollars supporting companies run by jerks, I will also be purposely pointing you towards good humans making good things. Supporting the good humans is good for the world.

Don’t take just my word for it, here’s what others have to say about Kenton:

Lunabelle, Ninja Sexology: “I love his relentless drive to Do Better, in the realms of both education and product development. The NoFrillDo project is an example…he saw a need, figured out a way to fill it AND spread the word about body safe materials. And he does it all in a way that’s fun and engaging. Also, he plays pun/song lyric games with me and I will love that forever.”

Sandra of SheVibe: “Kenton is a wonderful amalgam of Artist, Scientist, Activist and Storyteller. His heart is pure and his aim is true.”

Ruby Goodnight, blogger and US brand rep for Doxy: “Kenton just GETS what it’s like to be a small scale manufacturer when you’re up against the mega-corporations. He doesn’t try to compete with them, but he does try and be better than them. He KNOWS his market – and he listens. He doesn’t try to create the ‘better version of this dildo that everyone is doing’ – he makes his own path.”

Logan, blogger at TheNotice: “Oh my god. Don’t even get me started. I have a huge Internet crush on Kenton LET US NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN. He’s just such a genuinely good bean and he’s so funny and committed and it does Things to my brain.”

Sugarcunt writes: “He’s so fun! Our impromptu duets at SFS17 are a super fond memory”

Kate, lover of puns and blogger of GirlyJuice states: “He takes genuine delight in a good pun. I love connecting with fellow punny weirdos.”

Caitlin who writes at Sexational said: “Kenton is a hilarious goof but also one of the most earnest people I know. He’s always trying to be a better person, a better friend, a better creator. Always considering how what he brings into the world can effect it, whether that’s being a goof with his friends or designing new things.”

Indigo says: “I love that he is really willing to engage customers. Email, Twitter, etc are all open for folks. And on top of that, he is human. Like he clearly has compassion, isn’t a robot or in it for money, etc.”

Taryn eloquently summed it up with “SAME” because, yeah. Same.

Do you know Kenton? Do you also love him? TELL ME WHY IN THE COMMENTS!

We’ve seen one-person dildo makers come and go, but I really hope Sir Kenton of Funkit sticks around. He is creating the most unique stuff AND it is modular – meaning it all works together, solidified as a Kit, a very Fun Kit, by that unique base he’s created. To check out his work visit his site or the items SheVibe is stocking. You should also check out his Patreon where you can sign up for cool extras, discount codes and more. And for fuck’s sake, follow him on Twitter. You will not be disappointed!

Image above courtesy of Kenton.

 Posted by at 8:40 am
Dec 132017
 

SheVibe's cover art featuring themselves! As part of a new-to-me end-of-the-year series of posts, I’m telling you about my favorite things from 2017. And while SheVibe has been a Favorite Thing for years now they upped their game this summer with a site redesign that prompted my interview below. You may see them as just another sex toy retailer so I wanted to share with you a little insight on the many reasons I love SheVibe. I’m so privileged to know these folks, and to have gotten to know and understand so much about the way they operate on a personal and professional level which isn’t something we get with many companies. We don’t get to peek behind the curtain. Consider this your peek!

Dangerous Lilly and SheVibe – The Love Story Begins

After working with a lot of retailers in my earliest years of reviewing I slowly grew to be somewhat of an anomoly in the reviewers circle – I had a “primary partner” for a retailer, who would supply most of my toys and get most of my affiliate links. This started to really pay off with drastically increased sales at my first primary partner, EdenFantasys. Yes, they’re terrible and we know that now but I’d stuck by them despite early issues because, at the time, there were so many features of the site I liked for my readers – plus their site was responsible for 75% of my earnings, earnings I badly needed in 2011 and 2012 due to being out of work. But shit went down in 2013 that I couldn’t abide; I made the decision to hitch my wagon to SheVibe for supplying most of my review items and I started slowly changing my EF links to SV links. 

I first worked with SheVibe briefly towards the end of 2010 when they reached out for me to review the Vamp Greta. I wouldn’t review again for them until 2013 with my second Fucking Sculptures (RIP) glass dildo and I’m pretty sure the SheVibe team had reached their wits end with me on that review – I kept bringing up the fact that the FS items were so unique that a stock image of each style wouldn’t exactly work, that they might sell more if each item was shown off and measured. They eventually took my suggestion, though, and seemed to not dislike me too much because a few months later Sandra and I had lunch1 and a bond was cemented. Her passion and compassion shone through as we traded horror stories and insider tips. I knew immediately that I would grow to love her more – she was like the ultra-cool older sister I’d always wanted.

Let Me Count the Ways

My SheVibe avatar as their image for "silicone dildos" I’ve written a lot in the past about why I’m so devoted to SheVibe and my devotion only grows stronger, in part because I know and love the owners as friends. I know how they run their business and I know their ethics. I understand their business decisions and still recommend them over anybody else despite the fact that they carry a (relatively small) number of porous, realistic dildos and vibrating dildos. Although, happily, they have changed their business model over time to drop a large number of porous material internal vibrators. Their stock is very different from many other larger retailers who literally carry everything the distributors offer. SheVibe curates their stock while being open to supporting up-and-coming brands, indie brands, and adding – and removing – products to the site based on customer and reviewer feedback. One recent example is the HIKY – All it took was my bad experience and a confirmation experience for SheVibe to drop the dangerous HIKY2. They act quickly to remove dangerous or painful sex toys and lube.

In the four years I’ve been sending most of my readers to SheVibe I have never had a single complaint about customer service, shipping, returns, product issues, etc. Not a single complaint. I know the SheVibe staff – I know who is dealing with the customers, and this hasn’t changed over the years. They don’t have high staff turnover like so many sex toy companies.  I know the lengths they will go to to help their customers have the best experience possible and get them the most accurate answers. While there are other small feminist shops who also have great ethics, customer service and education – shops I also highly highly recommend3, these shops lack the large variety of stock online that most of my readers usually want. 

This year SheVibe did their first truly major website design overhaul which has incorporated ideas I’ve long nudged for, like the ability to filter by size and material. Their art has expanded to be more intersectional and diverse; something they’re still expanding and improving – personally and professionally. No matter what the topic or issue I know, without a doubt, that Sandra, Thor and the rest of the SheVibe team truly and honestly gives a fuck. Lots of fucks. I have never felt so heard and valued when dealing with a sex toy retailer as I do with them, and I know I’m not alone. They’re the type of company, and friends, you want in your back pocket when life deals you lemons. They’re generous with everything they have to give.

Whether it’s their above-and-beyond customer service, their support for smaller brands, their support of the blogging and sex ed community or their simple willingness to take advice or critcism and create positive change, the SheVibe team shines like a beacon. In a world where literally every month this year some company has made an egregious error in ethics or judgment I have the utmost faith that SheVibe will never be out of my favor. Empathy, humility, generosity, sincerity – these are the traits that come to mind when I think about Sandra and Thor.

SheVibe’s Origin Story

Lilly: Why THIS business? What convinced you to start up a sex toy retail site?

Sandra: When Thor and I met, we immediately started experimenting with sex toys. At that time – 14 years ago now – most of the sites were kind of hinky; lots of jelly, misleading descriptions, mistakes with our orders and widespread misogyny. We thought we could make a better go of it. We had both run small businesses and figured we could vastly improve the sex toy business model.

L: Do you remember what your first sale was for?

S: Yes! It was for a weight loss supplement called Lipodrene on July 4th 2006. The site started out much differently than it is now – there are so many products and categories that we have ditched along the way (including brownies, shoes, mainstream movies and vitamins).

L: Let’s talk about the early years especially the magazine. That seemed like a LOT of work with all the advice columns. How did you get people to write in with questions? What made you decide to create all those different characters!

S: Ugh, the magazine was a beast. We had no idea what we were doing, but Thor and I fancied ourselves decent writers and thought we could create interest and indexable content for the site by having the companion “magazine”. MySpace helped a lot back in those days – we are still friends with some of those folx. We would get questions from them, some from our immediate circle of friends, and some questions were our own – meaning we wanted to learn about specific situations relating to our own experiences and decided answering those questions would be fun and interesting. The characters were the backbone for the theme of the site which was Superheroes (before Superheroes were cool, ahem). We wanted each of them to have diverse backgrounds and we really tried to make their stories relatable. We cringe looking back on it now, but at the time it felt really forward thinking and progressive.

Stock the Stock

SheVibe Lumberjill coverL: You are known for carrying “indie” or smaller single-person company creations where many other online-only retailers do not. How do you decide what to carry (be it from their line, or deciding on a business, period)

S: Most often, we select indie brands after they reach out to us or have been recommended by a trusted blogger. We practice due diligence by checking out their social media culture and their website to see how they are presenting themselves to the world. If we like what we see, we’ll bring in a small run and see how it does. It’s very rare that a brand takes off quickly; it can often take years for a newbie brand to take hold. But if we have to re-order even just once within a year, we’ll stick with them. It’s not easy and it’s a tough business to navigate. Very often, these are artisan pieces that are pricey (and worth every penny) so the public needs a gentle education on why they’re worth it. The blogging community has been invaluable in conveying how important these brands are.

L: Question from a reader: “how can small brands position themselves without losing the plot trying to get into retail?”

S: There’s no magic bullet. The long (and short) answer is: you do everything yourself and you do it well. SheVibe grew as a company by consistently keeping down costs while slowly building a loyal following. To this day we do EVERYTHING in house. We don’t outsource. From accounting to marketing to coding to photography and beyond, we do it all ourselves. Yes, it’s a ton of work – and it’s how you build a brand. We’re probably the poster child for “if you want something done right…”. Chances are, if you’re lacking in any of these significant skill sets, you’ll have a more challenging go of it.

L: You carry so many things I love and have requested but I’ve noticed some brands come and go over the years. What makes you decide to stop carrying a toy or line?

Thor: A few things: It doesn’t sell. We can’t source it reliably. The quality is consistently compromised. The manufacturer is cutting corners. Frequent customer dissatisfaction. It’s that simple.

L: You’ve been in business a long time and have seen many changes – so what are the next trends you expect to see in sex toys?

T: You’re going to see a more prominent focus on penis toys. Virtual reality, air pulsation, variances on the “stroker” format. Technology will play a big role, somewhat awkwardly at first. Silicone will continue to dominate and we’re hoping body safe toys will become more and more affordable.

Behind the Art

That glorious time when SheVibe featured Epiphora and I on their coverL: Your monthly cover art ideas seem unending! How do you decide on the monthly art?

T: The SheVibe team has a creative meeting every Wednesday. Covers are selected from a variety of source material. We’ll promote a manufacturer or a new toy. We’ll pull from pop culture. We’ll also do covers paying homage to those we love and/or respect in our industry. Once in a while, it’s a mini-operetta! Multiple covers will tie-in to each other. It really varies. This year, there’s a consistent element that runs through every cover… Can anyone guess what it is?!

L: The comic strips in each category are also something unique to you – what gave you that idea?

T: We are geeks. One of the partners is a comic book artist. We wanted to be different and make people feel comfortable. Comic panels seemed relatable and fun. That’s really all there was to it.

L: How did you decide on the style of art you wanted?

T: It all comes down to Alex Kotkin. He’s a very talented comic book artist and we went with his expertise in this area. In the end, it just worked!

L: Many retailers use, at most, bland photos or over-the-top sexy images that feel like they could appear on any random adult site, but your art stands out (as I’m sure it was meant to). What made you focus on art so much throughout the site?

T: The art allows us to present ideas, promotions and subject matter without the graphic (and sometimes grating) visuals many adult sites rely on. We wanted to make people comfortable shopping with us. The art is disarming and it seems to make people smile.

Respect and Karma

L: What terms do you like and dislike for sex toys? (pleasure devices, sensuality hardware, etc)

T: We try not to employ terms that “dumb down” or disrespect the user. Sandra hates “naughty” and we all dislike vulgar product descriptions. We can’t always rewrite product copy but we always try and modify the especially egregious. Sometimes specific terminology indexes better with search engines and in those cases, we’re at the mercy of the web…

SheVibe Blogsquad posterL: Another reader question: “There are some sketchy sex toy retailers out there. What methods do you use to get customers to trust you? “

T: That’s easy. We always do right by our customers. We never lie. It’s part of our corporate culture. SheVibe practices Karma. That’s the best you can do and so far, we think we’ve built a great deal of trust with our customers. If we’re wrong – we own it, but we work hard at not being wrong.

L: This year’s overhaul was huge – what prompted it and what will folks see as the biggest and best changes?

T: A few reasons: Accessibility was a primary factor. We now present the same way regardless of the device you’re using to access our site. We wanted to incorporate faceted search. This gives our customers more options when trying to find that perfect toy. We wanted to utilize modern technologies to increase speed, security, reliability and customer experience. We feel we’ve accomplished all of these objectives with the new site, but we’re always making improvements.

L: What has been the best part of this adventure over the last 11 years? The worst?

S & T: SheVibe has always considered “the worst” to be a gift and part of our learning experience, we try not to dwell on the negatives. Yes, we’ve had challenges and heartache but we don’t let those events define us.

The best? Hands down – it’s the human experience and culture at our company. We were lucky enough to form a partnership of creative energy. Combined, our small staff incorporates expertise in graphic design, photography, original art, web coding, advanced technologies and years of business management. Most significantly, we are all like-minded social justice warriors and share in our triumphs and defeats with equal measure. We all love each other and that’s rare in the workplace.

~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~

Thanks for reading, folks. I realize that some of this was incredibly effusive and mushy but when I love something, I love it. I’m as generous with my words of love as my words of loathing. I hope this gives you a little more understanding on why I refer you so much to SheVibe. There is no absolutely perfect retailer, I’ve found, but the SheVibe team has a level of compassion that is rarely matched; I have no doubts about the longevity of their success and I have no doubts about the level of care you’ll get as a customer. I believe in supporting businesses that are run well by decent people and SheVibe gets that hard-earned stamp of approval.

  1. I live a few hours from SheVibe Central and drive past it in my travels to my homestate
  2. They’ve decided against a sex toy based on my one bad experience before, and only didn’t this time because I wasn’t certain that the incident wasn’t related to the fact that the battery died mid-suction. Once we all thought about it for a little bit, knew that that could happen to someone else, and then sure enough quickly were told about another person’s evil experience, they dropped it from the line-up
  3. To name just a few: Smitten Kitten, Sugar of Baltimore, Early to Bed, SheBop, Come as You Are, Self Serve, Vibrant
 Posted by at 9:49 am