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
Dec 122017
 

For years now I’ve kept up a tradition of talking about the Best (and Worst) things I’ve reviewed over the prior year. But this year I looked at my reviews (lacking though they are) and found that there were actually very few things I reviewed and loved. I could make a list of the worst, easily. My goodness so many things let me down – whether they were loud and weak, over-promising and under-delivering, simply not worth the hype and cost, the cause of literal injury and pain or pretty okay except for some bafflingly unfortunate button placement. Many others just left me bored. But love? Adoration? Not this year. At least, not that I’ve had time to review, yet.

I dealt with a lot of personal bullshit this year, while also feeling the terror of my worst fear coming true: Trump as president. Depression, anxiety, and stress played a big role in my life this year and kept me from giving a shit about a lot of things – one being this blog. I’m trying to get back here, though. Our patience for bullshit hit an all-time low this year, collectively, so it’s no suprise my Blacklist got a little bigger. And while one sex toy brand came off of my Blacklist, another went back on it due to their heinous behaviour at Woodhull 2017 and their complete lack of understanding of consent and privacy. Fuck you, Screaming O

I can tell you that you’ll have a few good reviews to look forward to in 2018, like the Blush Real Nude dildo or the Sola Cue vibrator. I’m hoping that my reviews trend more positive in 2018, at least a little, because I really do want to be able to wholeheartedly recommend some awesome new stuff for you. Yes yes, it’s important to uncover the shitty things and I’ll never stop doing that but, yikes, it’s been bleak. You know I’m picky so let’s hope the industry ups its game!

I did manage to write a couple of articles I really like, topics that have needed to be addressed for a long while now:

You’re going to see posts between now and the new year about some of my favorite things from 2017. I’ll be updating this post as a sort of Master List but I’ll give you a little preview: I’ll be talking about my favorite apps & software that help me run my blog; my favorite “I need to chill the fuck out” place; my favorite brand rep; my favorite Twitter account; and a few more. And if I can think of anything else or YOU can think of anything else, I’ll add to it!

First up: My favorite sex toy retailer: Shevibe.com – publishing Wednesday! 

 

 Posted by at 8:19 pm
Oct 122017
 

CN: mental health, grief, weight/loss and physical health issues

“This is a call to all my past resignations, it’s been far too long.”

Every time I draft a post like this I wonder “Should I really publish this? Does it really belong here?” but then I remember that at the end of the day this is MY blog. A blog. A personal space to write whatever the fuck I want and I do not have to be perfect and be “on-brand” with every post. I never have been so why start now, right? Being authentic online is not something everyone does because, hey, we like to appear that we’ve “got this” but I’m just tryin to be me.

You may have noticed a distinct lack of posts this year, but it ebbs and flows. I’ve written half as much as I did in 2016. I’ve already discussed mental health issues earlier in the year but they don’t seem to be letting up. I’ve spent my year dealing with anxiety worrying about my partner’s mental health and our jobs. It’s eaten away at me. My depression is likely a symptom of my overall terrible mental health.

I thought for sure that attending Woodhull’s 2017 Sexual Freedom Summit would revitalize me, and the blog. But it didn’t. That same month was the 20th anniversary of my father’s death. Why is it that this anniversary hit me so hard when other years the date passed by without my even noticing? I’m not sure yet, but it wrecked me. For weeks I couldn’t stop crying. I’ve tried talking with psychics and mediums for some relief/closure, but that has opened up another can of worms. There’s really a lot more to it than that but this paragraph is all I have it in me to write about this topic.

I’ve spent a good part of this year worrying about, being anxious about, so so much: a family member, my partner, a few good friends, my health. I’ve spent a lot of time worried over politics. There’s been impatience and spinning tires. Worry. Anxiety, Tears. Anger. “Where’s the good stuff?” you’re probably asking. Well – I don’t know. I mean, it happened. There’s also been love, laughter, and support. But there’s also a big disconnect for me.

I’m currently trying, for the 15th attempt, to lose weight. My health hasn’t been good and frankly I’m worried about dying young but that could just be my health anxieties taking over. I have a few diagnosis reasons to have some concerns and that’s why I’m working so hard, again, and hoping it sticks this time. But as usual I’m being hard on myself. I’ve lost 20 pounds but that’s not good enough; it’s a drop in the bucket; it happened too slowly, etc. #noadviceplease

I haven’t been able to write, lately. That last post was something I’d actually written months ago but never published. The thought of writing a review, for the most part, makes me want to retreat. Maybe a real good salt-report hate-on review would get my attention but otherwise it’s hard. And my list is growing. I have some Blush Novelties items and a Sola vibrator that deserve attention, but I know they’re understanding. I have those new Je Joue Bullets. I have a bunch of Kegel exercise products I need to write about but I’ve been having a weird disconnect with my vagina this year and penetration/insertion isn’t on my top 30 list of things to do. Hence my using and reviewing things like the Funkit Cashew plug hasn’t happened yet. Because of the way I write my reviews, with many comparisons to other, similar items it’s been hard to deal with writing about the O Wand, those Je Joue bullets, etc. I have a lovely Doxy 3 to tell you about, and a confounding Hot Octopuss Queen Bee to figure out. There are even items I have some interest in (or feel an obligation to) but I’ve refused to be sent anything anymore until I can get through this review queue to mitigate guilt a little. 

My depression and overall mental health made me skip my blogging anniversary this year. I will admit I’ve had a few passing thoughts lately of “maybe I’m done?” but I don’t know what to do with that. A psychic told me that “this” is my career – that thing you do for passion and love, that thing that drives you. She told me I’m good at this career and that it needs to evolve. But, according to her, that evolution needs to involve me disclosing to my immediate family and being more “out”. I don’t think I have the courage for all of that, though. And really, evolve to what? Being an educator is HARD. I’ve seen the hustle and the struggle from so many of you. I don’t want to put myself through that – frankly I’m too damn old and cranky for all that. But what else is there that is “next” from this?

Instead of writing I’ve put what I could into other things – supporting friends, building a new/old project, fostering a little more community, and attempting to course-correct my poor health. So this is where I’m at. I don’t know when the next review will be, I don’t know how good it’ll be. But this confession had to be written and that’s that. Please, don’t feel the need to comment. I know folks mean well but hearing “hey it’s your blog, you can write when and what you choose” is more harmful than helpful in some odd way. This is the State of the Union and well…..we’ll see what’s next, I guess. I have things I want to accomplish here but it all somehow seems too hard.

 Posted by at 9:29 am
Nov 102016
 

Note1: This is a post about bloggers, for bloggers. Readers you can probably feel free to skip this one. Note2: The majority of this post was written prior to November 8th. As warriors and activists for underserved groups, we have our work cut out for us. We feel defeated right now. We don’t know where to put our energies. I’ll do my best to keep American politics out of this but I will say: a world where Trump is president scares the shit out of me, and I suspect many of you reading this feel the same. So let’s do our best to stand together, not apart.

Blog Squad - Truth, Justice and CaffeineI’m not the authority on this. I’m not the gate-keeper, the mafia don, or anyone of power. I’m simply the person who has chosen to write about it since I embrace the term “Blog Squad” so strongly. I’m writing this in the hopes to bridge divides and correct a lot of wrong assumptions I’m seeing amongst bloggers. I may say “we” and “us” a lot in the post, and it’s only because those of us who have been to Woodhull and are “blog squad” have had long talks about the accusations of exclusivity, the divide, and what we need to do to bring down the “wall”. If they disagree with anything I’ve said here, I’m sure they will comment and correct for themselves (please do!).  I’ve tried my best to organize my feels here, and this post is partly about Blog Squad in general, as a global thing, and it’s in part just about Woodhull. Some of this may not apply to you.

Blog Squad Origins

August 2015 – A dozen sex toy bloggers attended a new-to-them sexuality conference, some with great trepidation. Some had had bad experiences at a different sexuality conference1, some had just heard about the negativity bloggers had dealt with at another conference, and still others were just anxious little bunnies about getting out from behind their computer. In part because of our collective anxieties and in part because without each other we felt lost, we bonded and stuck together at that conference. You were fairly unlikely to see just one blogger; we mostly traveled in packs. It was because of this that an employee of Smitten Kitten dubbed us all “The Blog Squad”. We’d never had a thing like that and it felt so superhero-badass that we jumped on it. So yes, it referred specifically to those bloggers at that conference, originally. And then with SFS16 the Woodhull Blog Squad grew with at least 2 dozen of us in attendance. It was glorious and I know we made a difference. Our social media posts, blog posts, tweets – they all educated someone.

What Does Blog Squad Mean To You?

Before I continue on with thoughts on accusations, cliques, inclusion/exclusion, and more, I want to include some words from Woodhull folks. I explained my post to them and asked them what “Blog Squad” means to them; who is the blog squad, etc. Ricci Levy is the Head Founding Honcho, and blog squad mama – her effusive inclusion of us at SFS15 made all the difference.

The #BlogSquad is a group of bloggers who were all at Woodhull together and who adopted a twitter hashtag and name to describe themselves. It’s not a formal group, there’s no application process, no membership dues, no real requirements.  In fact, anyone who wanted to say they were a member could – because there’s no governing body to say “nay.” It is our strongest hope that our bloggers and social media warriors will expand every year – both in terms of diversity and in terms of focus.

Metis Black of Tantus is on the board of Woodhull and created a Bloggers Lounge for us starting with SFS15.

The blog squad was so spontaneous in its becoming. I remember at other events, bloggers questioning if they were really sex educators, if they were just toy reviewers. Whatever it was at Woodhull SFS – respect and acknowledgement from the Executive Director (Ricci) and staff; sessions that had larger human rights themes; or just the battle scars from earlier events that made the camaraderie binding, the bloggers bonded in a unique unifying way. It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t exclusive, no one coordinated it- it just happened. And the content for those initial writings also changed. There was more reflection of society, more consent issues, more writing about illnesses, more talk of personal journeys that brought the writers to bigger cultural issues.

Sandra, of SheVibe, (my sponsor) for SFs16 did her best to help bloggers feel at home by sponsoring a PJ Party. The SV crew also drew a Blog Squad design which gave me such sheer joy I don’t even have words. The original superhero trio is included in this post, and their comic-book cover for SFS16 is shown here.

Blog Squad did not (and does not) at all seem exclusionary to me. Any blogger in good standing (and I don’t know any who aren’t) is part of the Blog Squad. In good standing means to me: respected within the community who is working hard at their craft, contributing and learning. Someone who is producing quality work that is meaningful to sexual health and justice.

On Feelings of Exclusion

Over the last year, but particularly recently, we’ve seen folks complaining about the name “the blog squad”. They have felt that it’s purposefully exclusionary, and wonder if they’re a member, or assume they’re not. I’ve seen folks getting salty about it on social media.  But here’s the thing: It wasn’t a name we came up with ourselves, it wasn’t a thing created to exclude – it was created to celebrate. It was not born of malicious intent; quite the opposite. Yet it’s being used against us. Maybe you’ve never had the privilege of attending a conference, or maybe you have but it was just a different one. Maybe you have, or have not, felt the camaraderie that comes from spending the weekend learning, hearing uplifting words, and being around Your People. Woodhull wasn’t the first time I felt it, but it was the first time it was felt so strongly.

There seems to be this bizarre divide, a growing divide, and I don’t know what started it. There seems to be the Blog Squad who is willing to include anyone and then there are folks who are almost anti-blog-squad, who complain that we are a “clique”, who assume there is purposeful exclusion. If you were to talk to us and really listen, without prejudice or paranoia, you would understand that it wasn’t something we named ourselves but it IS something we’ve embraced because we needed the community and support. We needed each other to lean on. I would love to see it be a unifier, not a divider.

How to Be Part of the Blog Squad

There will still be the Woodhull Blog Squad, but I think that the term is important and very descriptive of what so many of us do – unrelated to the Summit. It’s not a club, with dues or criteria, really. It was born out of Woodhull but doesn’t require an invitation. Maybe you live far outside the US and will never be able to afford to come to Woodhull. Well, SFS16 Blog Squadders are working on a way to extend the education from Woodhull to everyone, but there’s not much we can do to extend the in-person experience and I’m sad for that. I really am. I wish you could experience this bonding. It’s so life-changing. But I think we can find other ways to bond and relate.

So you want to know who is blog squad, who isn’t? How to be part of it? Embody the Spirit of the Blog Squad. That’s it. You’re in. As I’ve said before, as a group we get shit done. We’re loud. We are mighty. We can accomplish so much more if we just support each other. This doesn’t mean everybody will be chummy friends; disagreements will happen and personalities will clash. But overall we can support each other in so many ways and elevate the community to a true Force To Be Reckoned with.  Also? The Woodhull Blog Squad isn’t limited to American bloggers. Firstly, there’s a number of Canadians that attended Woodhull. Poor overlooked Canadians! You definitely don’t have to attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit to call yourself “Blog Squad”, but you’d better believe that the moment you step foot inside the Summit bounds, you’re Blog Squad. You will be thanked, you will be honored, you will be mentioned as part of the mighty group of social media warriors.

I’ve already seen so much Blog Squad Spirit from many of you. When you write posts about companies who fat-shame in their marketing. When you call out a company on social media for shitty behaviour of any kind. When you educate others against toxic toys and irritating lube. When you feature interviews with other bloggers on your site. When you share each other’s important posts on social media.  When you review a sex toy and talk about flame testing, or encourage silicone over porous materials.  Really, it’s pretty open-ended. Take the name, freely, if you feel it suits you and be fucking proud of yourself because you’re awesome. The name has begun to evolve, to be synonymous with Bad Ass Blogging and Taking No Bullshit.

On Friendship, Anxiety, and Assumptions

I don’t know WHY this is the case, but man a lot of us are anxious bunnies. A lot of us, and by us I mean the bloggers in general, sometimes assume the worst of other bloggers. We are scared they dislike us; this is sometimes easy to assume when you’re in the context of text-only social media. If your mentions timeline is always busy, you don’t have the time to reply to every person who @s you. Maybe you just have time to favorite their tweet. Maybe their reply doesn’t really need a response. I can’t speak for everyone about everyone, but as someone accused of being part of the exclusionary clique, I can tell you that most of the time my non-response isn’t a signal of my exclusion of you – it just means I didn’t have a good response or didn’t see your tweet.

However, something that comes from meeting in person and hanging out is a bond – I’m sure that some of the UK bloggers have experienced this with ETO or Eroticon. There’s simply a stronger bond of friendship that forms, and it’s not against others, it’s not to hurt them. But it’s a fact of life. I feel that I can speak for those viewed as blog squad when I say that we are not closed off to making new friends, but out of comfort we can be more likely to talk to each other. That’s normal. But when folks starting making jabs to each other publicly on social media about the blog squad, accusing us of exclusionary tactics, of being a clique, of being this or that….take a moment to think of how that feels for us. How hurtful that is. It is tiring to frequently be told you’re a bad person for having some friends closer than others. For embracing a bonding, unifying “code name”. It is tiring to constantly assure people that there’s no evil clique, merely varying levels of kinship. If we were to send out engraved invitations, I feel that that still would not help some folks. Yet here I am, trying regardless. The very definition of the word “clique” means that those in it put up walls and refuse to let others in. We may not be handing out roses but that isn’t a good definition. We are friends. Some of us are close friends. Some of you are close friends. But purposeful exclusion on a large, group level? That’s simply not the case.

So many folks said “I wasn’t sure if I was part of the Blog Squad, you guys were this little group” after Woodhull. Or even, that they didn’t feel as much camaraderie or felt on the fringes. Confession: I had a mini break-down to Sugarcunt on Saturday before dinner. I had no dinner plans; I wasn’t sure if anybody wanted to spend more time with me. Yes, I felt like Everybody Disliked Me for a little bit. Why? No real reason, actually. Just my anxious, paranoid brain sticking it’s nose where it doesn’t belong. That doesn’t mean that it was right, though, you see? You may get worried that you’re being excluded but I feel I can speak for us all when we say “it was never intentional, we were doing our best which maybe isn’t all that good”. And I know that unintended hurts don’t erase hurts. Which is a great segway to this next topic…

Assume Good Intentions

Speaking here mostly for myself (they’ll chime in if I’m wrong) but when you’re anxious, nervous and feeling really overwhelmed by being around more people than you usually are – is it not normal to seek out a friend, use the buddy system? We often say we’re socially awkward – yes, around folks we don’t know well. Not around those we’ve already bonded with. But because we’re all up in our own heads, trying to read other people’s faces and words, trying to figure out where we’re going next, battling a lack of sleep, battling our introversion….it’s damn hard to be A Good Host. It’s really fucking hard to remember to find people and purposefully include them if they’re not right there. If you stand on the very outskirts and don’t introduce yourself? I’m not going to come talk to you. That sounds horrible, but I’d probably vomit if I had to do that. I saw a number of folks at SFS16 that I know by sight because they aren’t anonymous online, but they may not remember what I look like. And a bunch of them never spoke to me. I didn’t take it personally; how could I? I didn’t have the guts to go say hi and tell them who I am. I’ve been told that some folks at SFS16 felt that I gave them the cold-shoulder. I can assure you that I didn’t on purpose. Maybe I wasn’t as socially confident and proper as I should have been, but I was doing the best I could. Maybe I had somewhere to be next. Maybe I just had to fucking get out of that loud room, NOW. There’s plenty of reasons and I can pretty much promise – it wasn’t you.

So when we start tweeting pre-conference about how excited we are to see our friends but also all the anxiety, maybe try believing us? Try assuming that we’re sitting there unsure if YOU dislike us. That we’re terrified we’ll say something dumb. We all have battle scars, we’re all trying to support each other. Come sit with us in the Blogger Lounge. Throw your cents into a conversation. Put your name on the list next year for lunch buddies2. But mostly, understand that we’re individuals, not a mob. We may have a lot of similar views, but we are not the same. We don’t all agree on everything, and we don’t expect to.

Assume. Good. Intentions.

Stand together. Be kind to each other. Understand that friendships take time and many times need more than just tweets. If we support each other and ask as often as we offer, can you imagine the changes we can be part of for sexual health justice? To better the industry? Assume good intentions, and have good intentions.

  1. I won’t go into that whole story here, in part because it would take 1000 words, but if you really want to know, feel free to contact me
  2. yes it’s a thing we’re gonna try to do
 Posted by at 2:49 pm
Nov 012016
 

Three things to know about me before we get on with it:

  1.  I suck at accepting compliments
  2. I’m competitive in some aspects
  3. Yet I prefer fairness

So today I found out I was named Kinkly’s#1 Sex Blogging Superhero 2016. In my 8 years of blogging there has been at least one “Top 100” list every year – the Top 100 Sexy Bloggers1 and Kinkly’s list. Over the two lists my rank from 1-100 has spanned 1-84 – and no, I didn’t start out at 84.

You would think that after 8 years I would be happy, nay thrilled, to be at the number 1 spot on a list like this. After all, I did ask for votes – as much as I hated doing so. And I really hated doing so. But instead, I feel….uncomfortable. Unsettled. So I have to say at this point that if you like the Kinkly list and your ranking and you don’t see any problems (and I totally respect that, absolutely), you might want to skip to the last section, “Blogger Awards”. This is my space to say my piece but you don’t have to read my words if they’re going to hurt you.

Apparently, winning the #1 spot comes with a prize. I say “apparently” because I so much didn’t expect to get #1 that I didn’t pay attention to prizes. The $500 prize money is going to be turned into two $250 “scholarship funds” for bloggers to attend Woodhull in 2017. If I had more money to do more scholarships, then I’d simply say “any educational sexuality conference” but with only 2 scholarships I’m gonna just pick my favorite conference: Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit.

Why do We Have to Compete Against Each Other?

Over the last month I’ve spoken to many bloggers who approached the Kinkly list with dread. The thought of bugging everyone, repeatedly, for votes felt off to some of us. Others didn’t want to do it, period. Some felt they had to because of the credence that ranking high can give you (especially if your blog is newer). Even I felt like “well if I don’t ask for votes and don’t make the list, will I lose the respect of my peers and those who may want to do business with me? Will my blog be less desirable?”. It was a tough internal battle to ask for votes. 

Rankings can make people sad; angry; bitter; depressed. It’s really hard if you are upset by your ranking because you don’t want to pee in other people’s Cheerios if they ranked well and are thrilled. Conversely it can feel rough (hi, it me) to be ranked high when your friends are unhappy with their own rank. There is no denying that I spoke with many people last year, and this year, who looked at the Kinkly list with confusion (on their own rank and others’). A poor ranking can be the thing that makes a blogger stop caring, stop blogging – especially when the ranking criteria is vague and they don’t understand their rank.  And it fosters this “I’m better than you” attitude2 – I feel like we need to support each other, build each other up. We need many voices. You never know what it is about your blog, your post, that may get through to a reader. No matter how new or old your blog, we’ve all reached people who are reading this for the first time. You are different than me and yet similar to someone else – and often, especially with sexuality, we need to know we’re not alone, we’re not the only one like that. Reading something where you say “Oh, wow, that’s totally me” makes you feel less alone and broken, sometimes. We need that!

So, yes. I may be ranked #1 but I don’t really like the list. I don’t like the competition. The popularity aspect. I don’t like wondering how XYZ blog is ranked so high yet these other blogs I love are ranked so low (or, not ranked at all). I hate knowing that the low ranking is making my friends feel bad about their wonderful blog. I am wondering how a blog that ranked #1 last year is #68 this year. How a blog with very few posts is ranked much higher than a very active blog. And so on. And yes, I know that there’s no point in a list like this if we all rank the same year to year. I know that a blog might be stellar to the judges one year and the next they think that others are simply better, not that you got worse. I know these things. I say we break tradition – can we change how it’s done? Can it be better?

I bet a lot of you are shaking your head right now. You think I shouldn’t be complaining. I should be happy. Right? Well, it doesn’t feel fair. I’m ranked #1 in the Sex Toy Reviews category this year, with Epiphora ranking #2. Please, tell me who thought that was accurate? Seriously if I could get that changed, I would. I would rather be ranked #2 for that one. I’m proud of my blog, I am. I know that my reviews help folks who are similar to me. But as far as the quality of writing in reviews is concerned? Epiphora is better than me. I say it objectively and subjectively. She has more traffic, more comments, and more followers than me AND crafts the most amazing sentences. I actually feel that a number of bloggers write better reviews than I – more witty, easier to read, better with the appropriate zings. I can recognize my strengths, but don’t really feel that my reviews alone are it or deserve the #1 slot. I would feel so much more comfortable if the ranking were more like “here’s the top 10, and here’s everybody else, and you’re all great” like Rory did in 2014So I’m having a hard time being happy for my success at the detriment of others, and that’s really the bottom line. That and the fact that I hate the votes and popularity contest aspect. And the vague criteria. I said that already, eh?

A New Kind of Blogger Awards

So the list fostered a lot of discussions between some of us bloggers and an idea I’ve had in the past is going to come to fruition in January. It will fully be a group effort, brought to you “by sex bloggers, for sex bloggers”. But because we don’t think that a sex toy review blog can be ranked against an erotica blog can be ranked against an essay/activist blog, our awards will be limited to the niche of sex education, sex toy reviews, and social justice as it pertains to sexuality/sexual health. If you like this idea but want other sexuality niches to be included, please borrow the idea yourself!

We don’t feel the need for another 1-100 ranking, or ranking by number at all. We don’t even really want to rank one person’s blog against another’s. But have you ever read a sex toy review that had you laughing out loud in public, enough to elicit strange looks? What about a social justice angled post that stirred great emotion? Or a review about a kink item that totally changed your opinion about that kink? Made you say “Damn, I wanna get my ass beat now!”? Is there an educational article you read that you think is really important, and everyone needs to read it? A sex toy photograph that has stood out? A bold piece about sexuality and mental health that digs deep and bares it all? A really salty/snarky review that you loved? This is what, and how, we want to highlight. We want to celebrate the little things. We want to have fun, be silly, and also be serious and reverent.  I think it makes more sense to compare like with like. I feel that removing the rankings and focusing on specifics, with a broad category range, will celebrate more people. 

I’ll be taking input from readers and bloggers and industry folks on categories, and how the list will be run. This Google Doc will allow you to comment – agree, disagree, suggest an alternative, suggest an addition. 

If you’d like to help out, please let me know. I want some judges who are bloggers but not sex-ed/review bloggers; I’d like some judges who are in the industry, but not a blogger. And yes, some judges will be eligible for nominations (but won’t be judging categories they’re nominated in).

I welcome comments – about your thoughts on the Kinkly list, how you feel about my critique of it, and your input/feelings on a less competitive Blogger Award set up (tentatively called The Lubies – yes, trophies will be awarded and they will be lube bottle based) – even if you think my idea is shit, tell me.  I’m nervous as fuck about this post, but this ranking has been eating me up all day. Can we all get lifted up instead of just some? Can we find a way to celebrate more folks, more equally?

As uncomfortable as I feel about being ranked above everyone else, as much as I dislike the linear ranking at all, I’m going to thank Kinkly because their choosing me means I can do something important to me: Help more folks get to a really awesome sexuality conference

  1. Started by Rory at Between My Sheets, run my Molly of Molly’s Daily Kiss starting last year
  2. Maybe you don’t have that attitude, but you can’t deny that competition creates that atmosphere
 Posted by at 6:25 pm
Feb 192016
 

A few of the thank-you emails I've received over the years, they keep me going when the voice in my head doubts what I doI’ve been writing here for a long time now, nearly 8 years. My blog has changed drastically from that first year. My writing style is different, my topics are changing, my soapbox is growing to immense proportions. I didn’t start this blog to have a voice in the war against the toxic chemicals we put into our body in the name of pleasure, but that’s what it’s become.

You see, I’m the sort of person who gets mad when people are too lazy to walk their shopping cart to the cart return. I’m the sort of person who is enraged at the people who continue on through the intersection well after their light has turned red. I get angry and I let it show because somehow, something in my brain says that if they know it’s wrong (thanks to my horn and my middle finger) they’ll eventually stop1. Toxic and porous sex toys (and poisonous lubes) make me mad. And so I never shut up about it. I kept on finding ways to research and write about it. I eventually stopped working with shops that carried mostly porous sex toys. I do my best to continually tell people “hey…you know that’s porous, right? Do you know what that means for you?”. I spend my words fighting the myths that seem to keep spinning around. And eventually other reviewers started talking about it too. I don’t believe I was the first and I don’t believe I was the catalyst, but I think I had some influence on a few. And then those few had influence on a few more, and so on.

Over the years we reviewers have grown more and more vocal about safe sex toy materials. We send a message when we refuse to give our time to porous and toxic sex toys. We are sending a message to the manufacturers who, in recent years, have exploded with under-$75 (even under $50!) sex toys made from truly body-safe materials. With our honest reviews we are giving some assurance to people that when they spend $100 or more on a sex toy, we’ve thoroughly vetted it as best as we can. When we review the affordable toys we are helping people find safe, decent sex toys that fit their budget – our role is not only to make sure the high-end sex toys are worth their price tag, but to make sure the affordable sex toys are still as decent as they can be. After all, what’s the point of buying any sex toy, no matter the cost, if it doesn’t perform well? And when we continually reassure our readers that their pleasure is important, their bodies matter and that yes they need to care about the materials of their sex toys and the ingredients of their lubes we are validating that these items are important. They are not just for the lonely, the celibate, the single. They are tools for every body. And every person deserves access to safe pleasure tools.

I can’t tell you how many readers have assumed that because an item is for sale, because an ingredient is in a lube, it must be safe. After all who would sell us unsafe things like that? Who would so blatantly disregard common sense and decency to make a buck even if it is at the expense of our health?

If you’re comfortable, talk about your body and your orgasms and your sex life on your blog. We’re a society of grown ass adults who were never taught a thing about pleasure, who were taught the location of fallopian tubes but not the clitoris, who grew up believing the porn narrative of what orgasms look like. For years as a teen and young adult I did not know where my clitoris was. I didn’t know, and I couldn’t orgasm; I thought I was broken. We need sex-ed, and we need pleasure-based sex ed….who else will teach it, but us? We are blessed with some amazing educators who are allowed to talk to teens on college campuses; along with sites like Scarleteen and places like the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health we are slowly spreading the education. But never doubt the power of your blog to reach the people not attending seminars and classes.

I’m writing this to remind you how important it is to speak up on the matters of safe sex toy materials, safe lube ingredients, and to research your information. If you feel comfortable, write about these things. Remind your readers in your reviews that this is a non-porous material and why that matters. If you, our readers, also understand how crucial this education is then share our posts with your circle, even if your social media circle doesn’t expect you to be sharing things about sex toys. When I see people on Tumblr sharing my posts about materials, people who normally would never reblog something about sexuality, I then see other people who also wouldn’t normally reblog things about sexuality reblogging and commenting. Learning. Sharing the knowledge. Small ways of “preaching outside the choir” and not just waiting for them to find our blogs when they search “dildo burning me” or “black spots on dildo”. Learn about the issues with big name brand lubes; for some people this is the only “sex toy” they will have and they will suffer through years of irritation without knowing any better. Hell, bring up the conversation with your doctor when they reach for the KY or Surgilube during your next exam. Talk to them about the bad ingredients and how detrimental it can be to the vaginal health of at-risk people. Bring your own damn lube! Anywhere you feel comfortable, teach someone something that may end up impacting their sex life forever simply by opening their mind a little.

Pictured above is just some of the thank-you letters I’ve received over the years. I have them printed and filed, to be pulled out on the days where my own anxieties and insecurities threaten my sanity. When my brain says “you’re not doing anything important”.

We are mighty. As a group we are loud; we are getting shit done, and we are not shutting up. Please, keep writing. Your voice is important, your story is important. Somewhere out there is another hundred people with the same tastes, problems and worries as you – you are helping others. You are teaching. 

  1. My husband assures me I’m wrong on this logic, and they will never learn. I can’t help it, though.
 Posted by at 3:31 pm