May 052015
 

After my recent review of an atrocious Lovehoney product, the Rockbox Finger, quite a few people exclaimed “Oh! That was the pumpkin-knife design!” so I knew I had to watch the short series on Netflix. While I watched I took notes of my reactions to various things. All episodes have one or two situations they’re dealing with but heavily pad the footage by showing the customer service gals on the phone or checking in with the returns department. 

Frisky Business, Episode 1: 

Well, it’s 3 minutes into the first episode and I’ve already spied more porous sex toys than I ever care to see for a lifetime. Sadface! Seeing the Sqweel in “action” for the first time; it looks fucking terrifying. A warp-speed wheel of slapping little tongues? How does that simulate actual oral sex?

We’re introduced to the returns department! Wow. “Upwards of 200 products are returned every day”. We’re shown the things people are returning. Roy seems like he’d be awesome to work with. 

This is interesting – If a box of toys comes in and it’s ripped (the packaging? the shipping box? they’re not clear) then the contents get gathered up and the staff gets to take home whatever they want. Rejects from the staff box that have hung around a few weeks get taken to a local charity shop. As they are saying this, the camera pans to a bunch of pocket pussies. That would be a damn interesting thrift store. 

HERE IT IS! THE FINGER! Oh my god. They weren’t kidding. The inventor basically stuck a Wet For Her brand Two Finger Extender Sleeve on a pumpkin carving blade. Lovehoney Owner Neal is shown numerous times taking it around to female employees to get their opinion. Somehow, the prototype seems to be less noisy than the real version. Many ladies say that it seems like they’re on the right track, with some changes. Some say that it’s a bit much at first; Neal tells them confidently that “it’ll be adjustable so you can start slowly”. I guess that bit of logic was trashed!

Next they show former Lelo founder Eric Kalen looking at the design, and it’s a second, more refined prototype. Every valid suggestion that the ladies in the office give is shot down for design reasons. At this point, the button isn’t on the very end like the final design, but close to it. One gal shows how she would hold it and says that the button would do better if it were closer to the insertable part, but Eric shows that there’s 4 batteries and clearly, no room for a well-thought-out button placement. Several people, even Neal, raise the point about the extreme noise being a negative to which Eric replies that it’s “part of the experience”. Shade is thrown, side-eyes are flying. It really seems that the final product is so much worse than even the prototypes.

Nobody discussed the pinching factor on camera, and it almost seems like it’s less of an issue with the prototypes. The battery cap on the prototypes is different, and seems to be easy to use. So with all the talk about “yes, we’ll change that” and whatnot, I can actually see why people would pre-order this atrocity after seeing the show. It is absolutely shameful that the final product made it out the door as it is. 

Frisky Business, Episode 2:

We see a lot of Annabelle Knight, their product video review personality, in this episode. There’s a part where she’s showing off half a dozen or so low-quality, porous dildos. They’re prepping to do demonstration videos for them. Annabelle says that she normally does video for the luxury toys but is branching out. The look of despair tinged with what I imagine to be disgust and resignation, as she looks at the small pile of disgusting dildos really tells me all I need to know. I like her. 

Also in this episode they are choosing the winner of the latest Design competition. During the final round-table meeting, we are introduced to Eric Kalen again and Tracey Cox a “sexpert” who has her own line of sex toys via Lovehoney. During the description of a toy that is meant for the g-spot she is explaining what it’s meant to do, to the camera, and then says “IF the g-spot even exists”. 

*sigh*

Frisky Business, Episode 3:

Nothing special to note, really. A trade show, some Betty Page stuff. More customer service and returns dept peeks which is clearly how every episode will go.  I’m wondering how I’ll get through all 6 episodes. My desire to watch is flagging.

Frisk Business, Episode 4:

We get to see them setting up Lovehoney Australia. In order to see how they should market, I guess, there have been polls on what each region of Australia likes. Results for Brisbane – Anal Ease. Anal Ease?!?! REALLY???? Nooooo please no! Australia, just say no to Anal Ease!!

Frisky Business, Episode 5:

Coco de Mer – I somehow had no idea the two were related! Coco de Mer is their “upscale” boutique shop in the heart of London, looks like. They only carry the luxury toys; they definitely carry all of the overpriced Lelo Special Edition toys. Here one of the shop runners is showing Shiri Zinn glass dildos and talking about temperature play – they suggest putting it in the microwave. Um……no. Absolutely not. For one, that’s dangerous to the user and for two, these Shiri Zinn dildos are the silly ones with rhinestones and metal glued to them. She may have also recommended the freezer for the cold aspect, I’m not sure. I was too horrified by the microwave comment to pay attention anymore.

And another “high end” spin-off of Lovehoney is their Blue Bella home parties – basically they sell lingerie for skinny white women. No lie, there is not a single POC in their photographs. They claim to carry sizes up to 26, but when you click on 26 or 24 or even 22 you get a big ole “there’s nothing here” page. Erm. Absolutely no real plus-size options. You might find a few things that would fit US Size 16, but it’s primarily just a couple of pairs of panties.  

Frisky Business, Episode 6:

My interest is really at the bottom rung about now, since each episode has been very padded with returns department moments and customer service department moments. Every close-up shot they show in the warehouse is a cheap, porous item. Most of the returns are cheap, porous items. I’m just so sick of seeing cheap, porous toys!!! Ugh. They are talking about how they have to rename very crude products like Pipedreams “Fuck Me Silly”; well, here’s a thought: don’t fucking list this shit? They claimed to have come about as a company specifically “friendly to women” yet they carry sexist/racist products like this Pipedream line.

New Trend discussed: “Sex toys for men are on the rise”. Ha. Punny.

Final Thoughts?

Despite the fact that the episodes started to bore me after awhile, I enjoyed the behind the scenes look, overall. It reminds me that I could never actually work in a warehouse like Lovehoney because I wouldn’t be able to tolerate seeing all the manky, porous sex toys in droves. And overall, the people there mostly seem damn cool – they seem like people I’d like to work with and know. Besides seeing the tons of porous, gross toys the other thing that concerned me is their famed 1-year return policy – I’m not keen on the specifics of their return program. Unless I missed it, they never explain what their criteria are for deciding if something was used or not.  I saw many items trashed, but also a few were determined “unused” and put back on the stock shelves. I would feel better knowing the exact criteria used because honestly, if I clean something well and the packaging isn’t tamper-proof I think it could look new & unused. 

 Posted by at 2:17 pm
Feb 172015
 

I started a bit of a rant on Twitter but I really had to go beyond 140 characters. I’ve seen a lot of great sex toy shops and a lot of crap sex toy shops and often it has nothing to do with their selection – it’s how they list their selection. Shops that insist on gendering their wares are honestly baffling to me. I wonder though, do they have any idea that they’re alienating a large portion of the sex toy buying crowd?

When I come across a store that immediately makes me choose between “For Him”, “For Her” and “For Couples” I am frozen. I don’t quite know where to turn. All I am looking for is a damn dildo, why are you making me choose between only two genders??? Why are you making me choose a gender at all?? EVERYBODY loves dildos! Butts love dildos. Vaginas love dildos. Ok, maybe not EVERYBODY as in every person, but any gender or any sexuality can love a dildo. When you gender the choices right off the bat, what are saying to people who don’t fit your cookie-cutter heteronormative structure? What are you saying to that dude who likes to use dildos, for example?

Yes, there are sex toys that are fairly specific to a certain body part, like pussy pumps or penis pumps or cock rings. So why can’t the sex toys be listed this way?

  • Vibrators
  • Dildos
  • Anal Toys
    • Prostate toys
  • BDSM
    • Impact
    • Restraints
  • Pumps
  • Penis Toys (is there a better more “friendly” / less clinical way to word this without going into gender i.e. “male toys”?)

There’s more to list out, of course, but you get my point. ANY sex toy can be “for couples” if you use your imagination, really. Stop trying to put me in a box! I may be a ciswoman married to a cisman but even I am troubled by these shops.

And somewhat off-tangent but still applicable: Unless you’re a specialty/fetish store, stop equating toys with sexuality. A lesbian is going to want the same sex toys as a hetero, csigender woman, for the most part. Sure someone who identifies as a lesbian might want a harness and dildo set but….so might a hetero ciswoman and her cismale partner. A person with a prostate who enjoys butt play is just that – a person who enjoys butt play. It doesn’t make them gay. Or straight. Or a man, even. I like vegetables, but I’m not a vegetarian. You follow?

Expand your view and be less restrictive. You won’t offend anybody this way. Okay? I realize it’s going to break your page structure but I’m more likely to browse your store or refer someone to it.

 Posted by at 8:00 pm
Feb 152015
 

packingupEverybody told me, “Buying a house is really stressful” but like the other awful club I’m part of, there’s the First-Time-Buying-a-House Club and you can’t be in it til you’re in it and other people can sympathize but they won’t understand. I DID NOT UNDERSTAND. NOW I DO. I’ve employed a few options for stress relief in the last month, and will continue to use those options liberally over the next 30 days. I’ve had more chest-pain-inducing panic attacks in the last couple weeks than my entire life. While things are not going horribly (our credit is shockingly good), there are the normal bumps; but I’m prone to expecting the worst lately. I’ve had two or so straight years of being disappointed in various life things, planning and expecting only to have hopes crushed at the last minute. From simple things like a day trip sightseeing to missing out on a concert (and the money spent on tickets) due to a root canal the same day. I keep expecting this to all blow up spectacularly in our faces.

But yet, I’m packing as best as I can1, because even though I’m glass-half-empty, the hope can’t be crushed.

For the first time in our lives, we’ll have a place that’s really our own. If want to add on, if we want to knock down a wall, or build something or paint something? Totally can do it. It’s both extremely exciting and very overwhelming. There’s a lot we’re going to need; curtains and kitchen cabinet organizers and bathroom storage and a shed and and and….etc.  I’m getting lost in Pinterest, falling in love with design and DIY ideas that are probably beyond our limited capabilities.

The brand new stove and dishwasher are still covered in their blue sticky protective stuff, which was a let down because I could really have gotten behind blue metallic appliances. To compensate, I’ll use blue elsewhere in the kitchen – I’m torn between the color of Le Creuset Marseille and Caribbean. Not that I can afford Le Creuset, beyond a salt or butter crock. No matter, I guess, we’ll be living damn frugal for at least the next year or three I suspect. I’m going to have to learn how to repurpose and reimagine cheap things I can find in yard sales to create an office for myself. I’ll have a good-sized closet in my tiny office room and I’ll be able to use at least half of it for sex toys. I’ve been contemplating this rotating dildo organizer, and this over-the-top chest of drawers. I’ll finally be able to construct a storage and organization option to suit my needs. A desk that is more functional yet resistant to clutter (that one may be a miracle) is my first task.

I wanted to give an update, because that last post was made on January 22nd and I really didn’t want to see that post up there front and center anymore. I have some sex toys to review, but I’m mired in packing and stress. I’m hoping to get a few out in the next couple weeks. I REALLY want to tell you about the new Jimmyjane Hello Touch X and show you the Rockbox Finger vibe.

Responses to emails and chats may be delayed; presence on social media might be slim. So please have patience. And buy through my affiliate links2! Because we’re going to be really, really broke for quite awhile….

  1. which isn’t really very well at all, I suck at this
  2. conveniently all located at the top of my sidebar
 Posted by at 2:37 pm
Jan 222015
 

Note that says: "You're never alone, okay? Someone somewhere cares about you and wants you to be alright. Even if it's just a random person you met on the internet. You are loved. Don't forget that."I need to preface this post. You won’t learn anything from this. I have no answers, no treatment plan, no quest. I have uncertainties and questions.  It isn’t an eloquent post. If you need a visual, I am huddled under a hoodie unable to make eye contact, I’m fidgety and exhausted. I’m skimming in some parts because I don’t have enough introspection to be able to elaborate. This is raw and uncomfortable and it’s not a pretty post. Like I told Reenie when I got her opinion on this post, this is a glimpse of me in therapy (and a clue as to why I don’t DO therapy). I’m all over the place, I skip details, yet I repeat. I’m saying all of this the best I can. This isn’t for fame or notoriety, because let’s face it, I’d like to think I normally write better than this. But if I take the time to polish it, it will never get published. Take it or leave it. 

For the last year or 18 months, I’ve mentally been on a downward, slow spiral. Stress and unknown other factors have made me subtly feel less awesome. It’s been so subtle that I’ve only recently thought “hmmm, maybe this is depression?”.  I want to write about this because it’s high time. My friend JoEllen has been writing about it for awhile now; plus there’s Crista’s world-famous OrgasmQuest. My angle is a bit different though. 

 The Vibrators

Despite the fact that it’s my job to use sex toys, I feel some internal guilt about having an orgasm by myself when it’s not “for work”, since I’m getting off by myself and not bringing my husband into it for something that could benefit us both. Even though intellectually I know that masturbation is healthy and there are tons of reasons that partners in very healthy relationships with great sex lives would masturbate. I know this. I still feel guilty sometimes though. Yet my orgasms, the ones from masturbation, aren’t really for pleasure. I don’t take my time and luxuriate in sensual self-play; there are no candles, no erotica, etc. Everything’s usually done in 10 minutes or less and often my pants don’t even come off. Most of the time I’m using my Tango (lately the L’amourose Rosa Rouge is helpful if a climax is being particularly stubborn) and I flip over to Tumblr for some audio and visual stimulation, enough to help with an orgasm. And then I’m done. Close out Tumblr, no more porn, no residual sexy feelings or thoughts; it’s like flipping a switch on and off. When I start masturbating through to finish, I’m not aroused. I’m not horny. So why the fuck am I masturbating, you might ask?

 For something to do. To maybe help myself sleep. To relieve some anxiety. To maybe not feel melancholy for a little while. Maybe it’ll wake me up. The reasons are varied but 99% of the time my libido is not in the deck of cards that contains my reasons. Sometimes an orgasm is not much different than brushing my teeth, as an activity.  It feels good but it’s not really registering, there’s a brain-body disconnect. 

The Sex

I’ll be honest, most of the time lately I have no sex drive. Luckily (an ironic sort of luck) my husband was going through his own lack of sex drive and issues, so while we both still love each other deeply the lack of sex bothered us only on a more cerebral level. A “shouldn’t we be bothered by this?” kind of bothered. A “it’s been HOW long??? Wow…that’s bad…we really should have sex this weekend” (and then we wouldn’t) kind of bothered. I think this past year we’ve both felt a bit of a strain due to the physical disconnect, but we both know that it’ll come back and we’re happy together regardless. But for two people who love each other dearly and still find each other attractive….the frequency of the sexing is frighteningly low. I don’t know yet how to fix it. 

The Depression

So I may, or may not, be clinically depressed 1 and I’m not being treated for it, nor am I seeing anyone. I’m not on any medication that is hampering my ability to orgasm, like Crista is dealing with on her #orgasmquest. I’ve had such awful experiences in the past 16 years with mental health drugs that I’m reluctant to go down this path again. The hazing period of newer drugs is intolerable sometimes. So I’m not actively seeking help. But I’m not happy, like overall – I mean, duh, right? And I have these weird “quirks” that I never had when I was younger – primarily, the ability to cry at the drop of a hat. Reading a book/watching a TV show where someone else cries? I cry. Happy cry, sad cry, the tears are just always there right under the surface. I also have a really hard time sticking with something I like – you know the whole typical depression question of “do you find yourself no longer getting pleasure from hobbies you previously enjoyed” thing. It’s, quite frankly, amazing that I’ve kept up with this blog for so long. I have definitely had feelings of “why the fuck am I still doing this” over the last 2 years. I tend to let my insecurities and the need to feel accepted and liked by my peers rule too much over me. When I start feeling like my peers don’t give a flying fuck about me/my writing/reviews, I consider throwing in the towel. But then I get thank you notes from my readers, the people I actually write the reviews for, and my brain returns to normal and I stop being such a pain in the ass. Needing validation is a sign of weakness for me because of past, unhealthy  experiences. 

I don’t know what I’m going to do. The thought of finding a psychiatrist/psychologist that doesn’t annoy the crap out of me feels too daunting. But I think I owe it to my husband to try and get my sex drive back. I’d say I owe it to myself, too, but my brain is like “pffft don’t care” so that thought doesn’t even occur to me. And yes, a tiny part of me feels like a fraud of a “sex blogger” for having no libido and reviewing sex toys. Thank goodness I dropped the whole “sexy” sex blogger thing years ago or I’d be feeling double the pressure. 

I guess all this rambling is to say that there is no normal, we need to talk more about sex & depression and masturbation & depression and depression in general, and I’m just as nutty as the next squirrel. I expected that writing this would be like therapy, but you know what? I feel twitchy. I feel like I’m in a therapy session with the therapist staring me down and after 10 minutes asking a “how do you feeeeeeel about that” question and my only response is “I dunno”. Oh hey….it IS just like therapy. Ha.

So uh……yeah. I think I need that orgasm right about now.

 

Links to help:  ADAA page on Depression  –  1-800-273-TALK  – NAMI

  1. But I absolutely do have ADD-Inattentive type and fibromyalgia, and I’m not really on anything for either and both of those, left untreated, can cause depression
 Posted by at 10:59 am
Jan 152015
 

Update: This post has been edited with information I’ve been given that completely changes the narrative; information that hadn’t been made as public as their lab tests. It changes the story from one of me being angry, to me feeling like the industry is actually, slowly, getting better and getting somewhere. Update at the bottom. 

 

For a long while now I’ve been a big critic of The Screaming O brand for one big reason:

They lied about their materials.

This misrepresentation of material content has continued to perpetuate firstly the myth that there is such a thing as a TPR/Elastomer/Silicone “blend” and secondly it perpetuates the myth that silicone will melt and degrade or that silicone can look crystal clear.

I’ve put their basic rings to a flame test before and they created such immediate, hot flames that I had to pour water over them to die down – a simple wave in the air wasn’t enough. Consistently, Screaming O has claimed that the material of their cheapie rings is “SEBS silicone“. The SEBS part confuses retailers, so they’ll just omit that and call it silicone. I’d strongly suspected prior to a flame test that these cheap rings are not silicone because they are so soft, so stretchy and crystal clear. This has not been a hallmark of pure silicone. Flame test revealed no grey and material destruction that was like it liquified in the heat.

ScreamingOburnt

A few months ago there was a dust-up on Twitter between Screaming O and some bloggers and part of this stemmed from a few of us talking about sex toys that are labeled silicone when they clearly are not. Of course, Screaming O came up and made this bold bullshit call:

Tweet that says:  "@sex_ational @dangerouslilly @RaavynnDigitaL Our products that are silicone are labeled and the ones that are not, are not. #wedontfakeit"

Product packaging, and the website, has always listed these as “SEBS Silicone”, and the language I’ve taken issue with is “silicone”

ScreamingOSEBS5

 

TO BE CLEAR: My problem with Screaming O is that they’ve been misrepresenting their material for ages. I do recognize that some of their products are silicone, like  their Primo line. They look completely different. They look like they could actually be silicone, unlike their cheap jelly products.  So you can imagine how rankled I got with their tweet claiming they don’t lie. The products have been sent out for  independent lab tests:

“I think we can finally put to rest the critics with our data that shows our products are what we say they are,” Hodder said.

Polymer Solutions Incorporated, a material analysis laboratory in Virginia, conducted tests on the Screaming O Original Ring, made from clear SEBS (styrene-ethylene/butylene-styrene), and the PrimO Apex, which is purple silicone. Since there are no standardized tests in place for pleasure products, the lab conducted tests that fall under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which covers baby products and other children’s items.

The tests proved that the PrimO Apex is made from silicone, that the Screaming O Original Ring is made from SEBS.

Let me clarify: “made from clear SEBS (styrene-ethylene/butylene-styrene)” FULL STOP. That’s  it. That’s all. No silicone.

 

UPDATE: I have been informed that Screaming O DOES plan to update their information to reflect the lack of silicone in the SEBS products. So, my apologies for my anger this morning, Screaming O. The information that they “get it” and are making changes wasn’t included in that press release, and I think that’s the most important information of all. Hopefully all retailer sites will be told to update their product listings, and stop calling them silicone and confusing people. I want to thank the warriors behind the scenes who prompted this re-evaluation on their wording, geting the test done, and making the changes. I’m under the impression that the site will be updated soon, and slowly product packaging will change.

I was so upset at what appeared to be a compete “they don’t get it” moment because I was going by the press release information, that I didn’t take the time to ask before I got angry and ranted. I need to do that more, and now I feel like an asshole!

 

 

 Posted by at 10:35 am
Jan 112015
 

A few weeks ago I received a lovely note that reminds me why I do what I do, why I’ll never back down and shut up and why I keep on researching and thinking, testing and theorizing, why I geek out about sex toy materials.

This may sound silly, but I wanted to thank you for all the information you share on your blog and on /r/sextoys. My husband asked for a BBD (big black dildo) for Christmas. I knew from previously buying plugs that we needed a good quality silicone, but was nervous about getting something online that I couldn’t really gauge the size of. So, I went to the local toy shop and asked for help picking out a silicone dildo. The lady there confidently directed me to Doc Johnson, ensuring me that Sil-a-gel was even better than pure silicone and that of course it would be fine with the coconut oil we use for lube. :/

A few days later, I found /r/sextoys and your blog. I’m so glad I did before I gave my husband that gift and we used the Doc Johnson! I tossed that stinky pvc thing and went shopping. Because money is tight, I settled on the Tantus Vamp grab bag, knowing I couldn’t pick the color. Well, it showed up today (just in time for the holiday!) and it’s perfect! The size is great. There’s no smell. Best of all, it’s black with just a hint of purple sparkle in the right light!

So, thank you. You’ve made one woman very safe and very happy this Christmas! …and I’m sure I’ll have a very happy husband when I give him his gift tonight!

And with this note, I’m both happy and pissed. Why pissed? Because for every one of us, in this army fighting against unsafe sex toy materials, there are 5, 10, 15 other retail sex shop employees spouting off bullshit like “sil-a-gel is better than silicone and it’s fine with coconut oil for lube”. A: it’s porous AND whatever sil-a-gel is has been known to cause skin reactions in some people and 2: using coconut oil on a PVC toy would destroy it super quick, because like attracts like and oil will cause the toy to melt like these. So this shop employee bluffed and lied their asses off at the expense of the buyer’s health and wallet (I say wallet because sure it’s cheaper to buy that POS Doc dildo but they would have had to replace it after one time using coconut oil on it).

It’s a fact that you’re not going to get the safe sex toy education in your average store, yet it still pisses me off; just like it pisses me off when people leave their shopping cart in the parking space rather than walking 9 feet to the cart corral. I can’t help it.

There’s only one answer here: We can’t stop. We need to keep educating other people, all the time. We need to educate to the point where our readers are then going to their local shops and educating the employees. We need to find a way to educate without judging and without scaring them away from all sex toys or thinking we’re trying to “upsell”. I’m not trying to force everyone to buy expensive silicone toys; if they know the dangers and choose to use a PVC stinker, that’s them. Yes the porous stuff is gross and the toxic ones have bad chemicals but not everybody believes it’s a problem for their body. They’ve had no reactions and no problems thus far and they’re not going to change. Okay, fine. But so far for every one of them I’ve encountered, I’ve educated at least 5 more who happily want to use only body-safe, non-porous sex toys. And I feel like I have to stress one thing here: even though many sex toy companies are going the phthalates-free route (even if we don’t believe them, some really did achieve this) not all companies are doing this; not all are non-toxic as advertised. And we can’t overlook the potential harm and pitfalls of porous sex toy materials. It’s a real problem.

Affordable, even cheap, silicone sex toys are coming on the market all the time. Reviewers need to look at these and try them out; flame test and look under the hood. Because the day when we have the ability to recommend more than a few under-$40 sex toys made from safe, non-porous materials is the day we can start winning the war. They choose the porous crap often because it’s cheaper. When companies see how well the silicone is selling and when (dare I dream?) the silicone outsells the cyberskin, the PVC, the rubber, the jelly – then they’ll change their tack and their product line-up.

I’m interested in hearing from sex toy shop workers who have managed to educate a customer without scaring them off; and those of you who have been educated. What has been the best tactic?

 Posted by at 8:35 pm