Sep 062017
 

If you go to any stock photography site, free or paid, you’re going to find a lot of sad, uncreative results for “sex toys”. Existing photos most often feature outdated jelly sex toys; if there are people in the photo, they are thin/fit and white. If there are any decent images they’ve probably been used a hundred times by other companies. So what is a sex toy industry business to do?

Ideally, they take their own photos. Unless your entire inventory is drop-shipped, surely you have nice sex toys readily available for a photo shoot, right? Sadly we too often see companies, especially new companies, using Google Image (or Bing, whatever) as their “stock image” pool with the mindset that “if it’s on the Internet it must be free for everyone to (ab)use”.

And before we get too far, it’s not just sex toys. We’ve seen companies grab images of people for their social media persona. We’ve seen companies use images of people on their business website! That shady, gross UK glass seller used a commercial image of Jennifer Lopez for years. Years! We’ve seen Charlize Theron’s Dior image used by the first owners of sex toy brand Dorr. 

Hot tip: Your ignorance on Intellectual Property / copyright law does not give you a free pass, an excuse, or the right to do as you please. You are a business, for fucks sake. Behave professionally! 

There are three ethical and legal ways to use images on your social media account or website:

  1. Take or create the image yourself
  2. Purchase from a stock photo site or download from a Creative-Commons free stock photo site
  3. Pay for limited use rights to an existing photo and include attribution links to the content creator

That’s it. It’s that simple.

So let’s say you just can’t find a cool photo that fits your style and you don’t have the means to create the image yourself – how about finding the owner of the image you yoinked from Google Image search and ask for their permission to use it? You should expect to pay them and/or provide an attribution link. If you are a truly ethical company you will insist on paying them and giving an attribution link. Many bloggers take amazing sex toy photos and some may be very open to an ethical business proposition!  It is not hard to find the original owner – there are a number of good Reverse Image Search tools to use – even Google will do that!

Recently one new company tried to use an image of Epiphora’s that contained a one-of-a-kind item which friends and avid readers will recognize: the sex toy bouquet Aerie made for her. When confronted on Twitter about their random use of this image they claimed that they “found this cool image as stock online and used it for a quick tweet!”. Five minutes and two reverse image sites later proved that Piph’s photo was never on a stock website and, in fact, seems to only have been on her site (and visible in Google Image search) –  I couldn’t find evidence that it was used elsewhere without attribution.

Copyright and Instagram

While we’re on the touchy subject of copyright and photo use, let’s also talk about Instagram. You see, Instagram doesn’t have a built-in feature for “re-blogging” or sharing someone else’s post the way Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr do. Yet folks have created add-on apps to break this and get around it. Some re-gram apps will add the original owner’s Insta handle to the photo itself. Some will also/instead add a link to the original account in the image description. Other apps do none of this and do not give attribution to the original owner of the image, relying on you to do that – and many of you do not. 

The simplest fix here is this: Use only re-gram apps that heavily attribute (in the decription, not a comment) AND ALSO ASK PERMISSION FIRST. When you set out to use an app in the way it was never intended it is just good ethics and good business to ask before you put someone else’s photo on your Insta profile. Ideally, though, you should just create your own content – that’s the entire point of Instagram.

If you use other people’s images and don’t obtain consent you could end up losing your Insta account and users can file takedown requests when they find their stuff being used.

Watermarks are Not Attribution

Many bloggers will add a copyright watermark to their images – I do for most of mine. This does not count as “attribution”. Unauthorized use of these images still counts as copyright violation and image theft and, if the owner reports you to your hosting company, will end in the hosting company forcibly removing the protected content from your site. If you do this too much your hosting company will shut your site down.

Attribution is Not Permission

You may be thinking here that the key to being a good, ethical company is to use our photos but tell people they’re ours. It’s not and content owners can still file (and win) DMCA takedown requests with your hosting company if they don’t consent to their photo being used for your gain.

Permission, or let’s call it a word you may hear more: consent, is crucial to ethically using other people’s work. They may say no. They request payment. But you absolutely must respect that. If you can’t respect copyright and simple consent how is a blogger or customer supposed to trust you?

Creative Commons

The idea behind Creative Commons is to have free, legal content of all types on the Internet for people to use. One key tenet of Creative Commons licenses is that the person using the thing must give proper attribution to the creator. They don’t need to ask permission, because the Creative Content license note on the person’s website acts as the permission. Many bloggers choose not to use this, however, and that is their right.

The content creator needs to go to the CC website and decide how “open” their content is going to be. CC explains it:

Creative Commons provides a range of licenses, each of which grants different rights to use the materials licensed under them. All of these licenses offer more permissions than “all rights reserved.”

Does This Apply to Me?

While the subject of my ire here is aimed at businesses the etiquette and law of copyright, attribution, and permission applies to anybody on the Internet. The incorrect assumption that because it’s “on the Internet” it’s free1 for the taking is not just wrong, it’s illegal. Copyright is real and enforceable. The copyright owner needs to do nothing but show first publishing to prove ownership. Web hosting companies are required to take this seriously and most do.

 

  1.  Quick litmus test to know if someone is an asshole: They’ll tell you a version of “If you didn’t want people to use it, you shouldn’t have put it on the Internet”.
 Posted by at 8:51 am
Aug 212017
 

16 bloggers giving Screaming O the fingerLast week The Screaming O put out a factually-incorrect press release to pat themselves on the back for an imaginary job well done with regards to a panel session at Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit 2017 titled “The Truth About Body-Safe”. In addition to falsely claiming that the “sponsored” session was a “resounding success” presented to a “packed hall” they released the full, unedited video recording of the session on YouTube and their own website. This recording included the voices of Summit attendees who were in the audience and asking questions or making comments loud enough to be captured in the audio portion of the recording.

In an official statement released by Woodhull Foundation, Ricci Levy denounced multiple points of their press release:

An article appeared claiming that a recent Woodhull Summit workshop had been “sponsored” by a toy manufacturer, Screaming O, and including a link to a video of the workshop. We want to make it clear that when the workshop was selected there was no indication that it was a sponsored workshop. In fact, Woodhull does not permit sponsored workshops, and Screaming O had refused all invitations to actually be a visible sponsor of Woodhull’s 2017 Summit. We have spoken with Anne Hodder who had, unfortunately, been ill from shortly after the Summit and had no knowledge of the false sponsorship claims being made by ScreamingO.

When questioned about filming the panel, we gave permission ONLY if all attendees were notified, signed releases and were willing to be captured on film and audio. That did not happen and no one in the workshop gave permission to be filmed. Despite this violation, Screaming O posted a video of the workshop on its website.

I’ve been sharing blogger insights and information with Ricci over this past week, and have talked to Anne Hodder-Shipp, the now-former publicist who had worked with Screaming O since 2009 but resigned on Friday following their handling of this debacle. For full transparency, Ricci has shared with me (so that I, in turn, can share with you) the correspondence between herself and the COO of The Screaming O, David “Hui” Newnham. Other than the press release which was not written or discussed with Anne before its release, the public hasn’t seen any comment from Screaming O. We’ve pinged their username on Twitter and Facebook and some have emailed them. Some, like myself, left them a message on Facebook Messenger last Wednesday when it was noticed that they were listed as “online and active”. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get a response but they saw it:

Anne made a public statement on Twitter last Wednesday but has included a larger, more updated statement here:

I learned of Screaming O’s Woodhull PR at the same time Ricci did and was sidelined. It did not come from me and did not accurately reflect my involvement in the panel. At my urging, Screaming O temporarily moved the video offline but it is not clear what will happen now. I went on leave for an illness on Aug. 6 and have not been privy to Screaming O’s plans, and now I’m left reeling that months of independent research (and years of hard work) has potentially lost all credibility because of a bad attempt at PR.

This was a difficult role to play and I learned a great deal throughout. I stand by the independent research provided during the panel and am proud that I survived the stress and anxiety that came along with it. But I do not support Screaming O’s actions and feel sad and disappointed by them. To be clear: the panel was not sponsored; I was not paid to do the work, I attended the conference on my own dime, and Woodhull did not accept financial support from Screaming O this year. Screaming O was 100% removed from the process and had no involvement or influence over what was discussed during that panel.

I was responsible for Screaming O’s PR and marketing for more than 7 years; they were my first and longest-running client and a lot of positive change happened from the inside out, including the lab-testing initiative that eventually inspired me to work directly with a polymer testing lab and a molecular biologist to learn more. As a sex toy fan, industry journalist-turned-publicist, and sex educator, this subject has been near and dear to my heart for almost a decade and I was excited by the opportunity. However, it seems my intention for the panel and the video recording did not match that of Screaming O’s and, following recent events, I decided that it was time for me to move on from my role.

Ricci and Anne worked to get the full, unedited video removed on Wednesday and were successful….at the time. But because the press release contained further inaccuracies, Ricci emailed The Screaming O and urged them to ammend their press release. Ricci writes:

We appreciate that you took down the non-consensually-filmed full workshop video and replaced it with a shorter “highlights” version. I would like, now, your assurance that the longer video will never be shown or used for any purposes.

Additionally, I’d also appreciate you clarifying the fact that ScreamingO did not sponsor the workshop, both in the article and in the introduction to the video. We do not permit sponsored workshops at the Sexual Freedom Summit any more than we allow filming or live streaming without the permission and knowledge of all attendees at the workshop.

The following is the full response from Mr Newnham, COO.  This response shows absolutely no remorse. They are denying any wrong-doing and have a gross misunderstanding of “transparency”. Bold emphasis my own.

Dealing with your second point first we are more than happy to work with you and your team to issue a joint clarification as to the role of Screaming O in the presentation of the panel. If “Sponsored By” might imply that Woodhull accepted payment in consideration of including the panel in the program, which is not true; then I am sure we can clarify that while the panel was included in the program solely on its merits, Screaming O facilitated its presentation by compensating the professional panelists for their time and expenses, which is true.

On your first point alleging that the workshop was filmed without authorization, I can only deny your assertion.

You, yourself helped arrange the recording on March 20, 2017 by introducing Anne to Rick and Ted, noting that she would be arranging a videographer to videotape the workshop. All attendees in the room would have been aware the event was to be recorded by the prominent placement of 3 cameras, a microphone and by seeing Gideon working as a camera operator. Finally, Woodhull clearly anticipated that certain parts of the show would be photographed by asking each registrant to affirm or decline their authority to be included in pictures by the wearing of either an Orange or Green lanyard.

The workshop was recorded with the full knowledge of all participants and without objection.

We have, and will continue, to make a full unedited version of the workshop available online so that those interested parties that were unable to attend Woodhull might benefit from the information presented. This is entirely consistent with our values of providing open, honest, evidence based information related to body safety that will allow a better informed public to make their own decisions.

Indeed, I am completely surprised at the apparent controversy surrounding this and the inference that this transparency is somehow a bad thing. I cannot see how it could be anything but good.

The response from Ricci, part of which I’ll share here, doesn’t mask her anger and disgust at Summit policy being violated and audience consent being violated.

As for the video itself, we’re not going to debate with you or, in fact, even explain Summit processes, rules and agreements. The leader of the workshop was aware of our rules. And while interaction was offered with our tech people, there was no follow through from Anne Hodder or anyone at Screaming O after an initial inquiry.

Transparency? At no point during the workshop did anyone share with the attendees that Screaming O was videotaping and would be using the tape for their own purposes. Nor did anyone share that Screaming O had paid the expenses for the two experts on the panel. Transparency is a good thing, Hui, but not when you betray the words and hide behind them as an excuse to expose people and put them at risk in their personal lives.

~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~

They may have taken the video down, for now, but as of Friday showed no remorse and no intention of keeping that video out of the public eye. Whether or not they edit out audience members’ voices before they put the video back online remains to be seen and I’ll update here when that happens. 

As someone who was in the audience (and in fact right behind Gideon who was tucked away against the wall, unobtrusive) I can assure you that there was no “full knowledge” and no chance to “object”. Did some of us notice the recording cameras? Yes, absolutely. But because most of us knew Woodhull’s policy due to experiencing it already in other sessions, we assumed that the recording was happening for private use only, perhaps by Woodhull, perhaps by Anne Hodder – but certainly not by Screaming O. Their name wasn’t even brought up, and no one knew who the man in the corner was. NO ONE gave consent, NO ONE had the chance to object.

Mr. Newnham used, incorrectly, the fact that Woodhull passes out color-coded lanyards as proof that “photographs are expected” of the “show” and I can’t even tell you how infuriated that makes me. At least one person who spoke up was wearing a lanyard that meant “no photographs” and furthermore that still doesn’t absolve them from obtaining consent and alerting everyone about their intentions. He is also using the logical bullshit of “implied consent” to absolve them of any wrong-doing. My reaction to that last sentence isn’t something that I can type in words, it’s a sound akin to a really mad Howler Monkey with a face of pure thunder.

I refuse to support a company who lies and violates privacy and consent with abandon. I can’t trust them on ANYTHING anymore. I am absolutely disgusted at Screaming O’s attitude and their actions from Wednesday on. Even if they don’t publicly re-release that video, even if they remove the audience voices if they do re-release it, the point is that they don’t give a shit about privacy and don’t understand consent. As a blogger who is partially anonymous, I can’t ever work with them again due to privacy concerns and my own ethics. I can’t condemn their words and actions harshly enough. I’m frankly so disgusted and enraged that the words coming out right now come off stilted, clinical, and don’t seem to portray what I’m feeling well enough. It’s because I’m so focused right now on getting this information out there so that everyone else can decide for themselves with full knowledge, that I am not letting my own emotions fly too high.

After I suspected their material claims were false/inaccurate for years I was ready to re-think my opinion of the company after Anne and a few others got them to lab-test their “SEBS” material and then publicly “admit” that it wasn’t the “silicone blend” they’d insisted it was. Other industry people that I trust told me to trust in Anne and by extension the Screaming O. While I don’t agree with everything Anne and others said in the panel, I still have respect for her and I don’t lay any blame on her for this mess. But now my support for The Screaming O is pulled. I won’t recommend their products.

Fuck you, Screaming O. You are putting people in danger unless you obfuscate the audio of all audience members.

This post doesn’t even begin to touch on how I felt about the contents of the session. That may come later, but I can assure you it has sparked a renewed interest in the flame test. The words from one of the scientists about the flame test talked about things I’ve never even mentioned as a “result that will give you answers”. But I digress. You can read the transcript of the session here, read Ruby’s rant here, Sarah’s rant here and see tweets from the session here.

Comments from audience members are especially welcome here, as I’d like to know if I’m alone in not knowing the truth about those recording cameras.

2:00pm EST – as I’m writing this post I’m notified that TSO changed the wording on their press release, removing the wording that lists them as the sponsor. You can compare this new version to the original.

September 15th – The original press release from Woodhull has been replaced with a much more tempered, legal-sounding press release that notes that Screaming O has removed audience voices from the video and will never release that full, unedited video again. If it appears on third-party sites, they will remove it.  The press release is noted as a “joint statement” and seems to be literally all we’re going to hear from Screaming O on the matter. They do not apologize for their actions, but merely “any confusion that may have resulted” from “miscommunication”. At the bare minimum this result lays to rest most fears of outing from those who were non-consentually included in the original video but I don’t see Screaming O taking any responsibility, expressing any remorse or regret – at least publicly and that’s a big deal. This bare minimum outcome doesn’t remove them from my Blacklist.

 Posted by at 3:19 pm
May 162017
 

A topic that I’ve been really up front and vocal about for ages is my weight and how that factors into sex toy use. It can’t be overlooked (but boy can it be mocked) and many readers over the years have appreciated my candor. A lot of factors come into play when using sex toys and your body size is one of them – something most thin people don’t think about because it’s not their lived experience. The same can be said for using sex toys as a disabled person – most sex toy creators are able-bodied so the ease of use by a disabled person is usually not thought about. It’s a mostly-ignored market so when a sex toy literally is called “plus size” it feels like a game changer.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sex toy made for – or marketed specifically towards – plus size folks1.  In the absence of a specialty product, we have to try a little harder to find a product that will work better for us. There are attributes we can look for – different handles/bases on dual-stimulation vibrators, handles on dildos, or simply using a g-spot vibrator as a clitoral vibrator. There are attributes we can try to avoid – poorly placed buttons is a big pet peeve of mine along with long handles that point away from my body. But a few months ago Womanizer/epi24 started advertising their newest model, the +Size (or Plus Size, if you prefer). I don’t think it was a stretch to assume that this was a calculated move and would be marketed, in some part, towards plus size folks. This assumption is especially based on the stock images they chose – slightly plus-size femme folks alongside Womanizer’s traditional images of thin femme folks. 

Screengrab of the marketing images from the Womanizer site for the Plus Size model - 2 photos on the left show artistic photos of thin femme bodies, the product image is next, and then there are two artistic photos of plump or slightly large femme folks

The current language on their site talks about the +Size having an extended handle which measures 8.5″ long and intensity buttons at the end of the handle. This handle is 2.3″ longer than their PRO40 model and 1.5″ longer than the largest (but poorly made) Satisfyer, the Satisfyer 2. I am not certain on the measurements but it also appears that there’s more depth from the tip of the nozzle to the backside of the body.  The elongated handle has a slight curve which is more ergonomic for rounder bodies and disabled folks. With the exception of the poorly-placed power button, the buttons are in a great spot. Just by looking at the Womanizer +Size I feel like it was made more with my body type in mind than nearly all other sex toys on the market are.

The Womanizer Plus Size is disappointing me heavily in their marketing choices, though. Despite absolutely loving the Womanizer PRO40 and W100 in use and supporting the Womanizer brand over the Satisyfer brand I’ve always been turned off by the name, their prices, and the stereotype images they’d chosen originally for all their different design themes of the W100. I won’t pretend that, despite the name, the Plus Size is meant only for plus-sized people but you certainly can’t ignore the fact that it IS great for larger bodies. As a plus-sized woman, I felt, briefly, like I was finally being “seen” in this industry. Briefly. The fact is that beyond a couple of photos on their site of slightly larger femme folks they have been using thin folks in their marketing images on social media so far. The brand’s marketing seems to have completely ignored the subtly stated target market of larger folks or disabled folks. Where are the images representing those people? Where is the marketing that would give validation to people of size from an industry that largely ignores us? 

The only Womanizer + Size marketing image so far on social media shows a thin femme person

 It’s still early so epi24 can still decide to embrace a marginalized portion of the population that is grossly under-served in the sex toy market by respectfully portraying and marketing to plus-sized people AND disabled folks. I would love to feel like a legitimate person with a legitimate set of particular needs in this market rather than invisible or fetishized.  I’ve long wished for sex toy manufacturers to acknowledge the not-insignificant portion of the population that is considered “plus size” and create more ergonomic sex toys with that in mind – but like any wish you have to be specific and I didn’t think I had to specify that said sex toy would also be marketed to and portray images of the target market. I do, so I am: Epi24, please let the Womanizer Plus Size be a truly Plus Size sex toy.

To be clear, this isn’t my review of the Womanizer Plus Size and I don’t even have one quite yet. I plan to review it in the near future; this issue is something I wanted to talk about outside of the review space because this isn’t just about the Womanizer Plus Size or epi24 – it’s about the fact that 99% of the sex toys on the market ignore plus-size folks as a specific niche of end-user AND the fact that sex toy marketing is mostly devoid of larger bodies.

Update: A representative for Womanizer contacted me and had this to say:

I realize that our European site has not been updated with the new naming convention, but we have launched this product with being all inclusive in mind, so it is actually called Womanizer Plus (+) not Womanizer +Size as it appears online currently. 

Our intention is to offer a product with the ease of use that customers get from a wand styled item. We realize that our customers come in all shapes and sizes and want to be all inclusive with all of our products, and with all of our marketing, we use all shapes and sizes. We also want to market a product and not ignore the fact that the size and shape of Womanizer Plus(+) offers an ease of use for bigger bodied people, just like many wand style items. 

My response includes a re-iteration of my point here:

It seems that many retailers and early reviewers have been calling it +Size or Plus Size, so I imagine there will be confusion on the name for quite some time now.
 
And while I can understand that you intend for this to be for all people it’s a great marketing opportunity to be unique and gain favor by specifically creating marketing that speaks to the Plus being particularly well suited for larger bodies and disabled people.  I don’t feel that embracing niche users will alienate anyone else, especially if you have marketing that covers everything. As a plus-sized woman I’ve never seen manufacturers use images of someone my size and haven’t seen anything made with us in mind – I’ve seen a photo or two of a very slightly plump person, as on the Womanizer Plus site, but so far that seems to be it. 
  1. Please do correct me if I’ve missed any
 Posted by at 9:19 am
Feb 152017
 

Cadillac of Vibrators. Top of the heap. One to rule them all. Everybody needs one! If you spend enough time on Reddit boards, Buzzfeed or other online mags that talk about sex/sexuality you will soon see posts talking about the “best” sex toy. They give readers no indication of qualifiers, and yet inevitably there will be a dozen proclamations that the Hitachi Magic Wand is THE BEST and SHE WILL LOVE IT and it ALWAYS WORKS and MAKES ME CUM IN A MINUTE. These proclamations and recommendations are also often given in r/sex when someone is asking for a first-timer’s vibrator recommendation.

And I twitch. I used to end up ranting and lecturing on Reddit, but now I avoid the place for my own sanity. Yet I can’t avoid the holiday lists put out by such experts as Buzzfeed, Cosmo and retailers and every damn time they make me mad. Why? We’ll get to that in a minute.

Wherein I Dislike The Wand, Any Wand

I’m not really a wand fan. I used to be; 9 years ago it was the only thing that sometimes could “force” an orgasm out of me. I took a notoriously long time to orgasm and when I’d tried the Magic Wand I had yet to own anything that worked truly well for me. I assumed that I needed sheer power. After all, I thought I’d tried everything else the industry had to offer, it must be an issue with the intensity.

It took me years to figure out that it wasn’t a need for power that was the key, it was a combination of rumbling, penetrating vibrations and pinpoint clitoral stimulation. I have one spot on the right that responds the most to sensations and the more precisely I can target that spot, the better off I am.

Even so, I’ve reviewed many wands because hey, people like them. Many people enjoy them, many people need them and I want to be able to give my thoughts on the quality and buzz vs rumble so that I can accurately give advice. But I don’t like reviewing wands, really, because I know they’re not what I need and it will be even harder to please me. I think most are ugly (but some are beautiful). I think they’re over-rated sometimes. I’ve notoriously hated wands that others have adored. I think that the Magic Wand and similar wands are buzzy, numbing, overkill for many folks and not really the best “first vibrator”. I don’t think they’re bad, and I don’t discredit that, for many folks, they are The Key to Orgasm. And, for others, they’re not the Only Key, but they can be a fun tool to hammer out an orgasm in a minute or two. I’m definitely in neither camp, so I feel obligated to often rally for the Not A Wand Lover camp because if you’re Not A Wand Lover and you read all about these thousands of people who can come in a minute, and you can’t, you might feel broken.

Wherein You Dislike The Womanizer

There’s another sex toy that is leading to fans (and companies) making orgasm guarantee claims: The Womanizer (or Satisfyer). I delayed trying the Womanizer but eventually had to settle my own skepticism. I thought for sure I would be the first review of dissent.  It’s a rare occurrence but I was wrong and the Womanizer ended up working for me, with one caveat: Others talked about coming in under a minute. It took me sometimes as much as 15 minutes, but usually more like 5-10. Regardless, I find that it’s a unique sex toy and if I can use the right model then sometimes I can keep going and have another orgasm in the nearly-immediate future. Are the multiple orgasms that some boast about with the Satisfyer or Womanizer the norm? Probably not. So don’t expect it.

Womanizer, or epi24, literally has an orgasm guarantee. If you buy their overpriced Womanizer Deluxe Pro Super Spectacular W500 and it doesn’t work for you, they’ll give you your money back if you contact them within 30 days. They haven’t put the same guarantee on their Womanizer PRO40, which baffles me, but what are you gonna do.

The Womanizer, or any other sex toy similar to it, is not going to work for everybody. It can’t possibly. Do I know who is more likely to enjoy it? I think so. I think you have to like clitoral stimulation – direct clitoral stimulation – versus broad vulva stimulation and have extreme difficulty with orgasm via manual stimulation. I think there are other factors, but this is one of the only common threads I’ve seen amongst folks who hate the Womanizer and it doesn’t work for them. I was talking to JoEllen after re-reading her piece about how the Womanizer doesn’t work for her, and we had a really hard time putting things into a short “sound bite” but came away from the conversation understanding that there’s no normal, there’s no standard, there’s no best. JoEllen likes wands; in large part, because direct clitoral contact is painful and wands allow for broad areas of the vulva to receive vibration as an indirect method of clitoral stimulation. If that’s you? Ignore what they say about how it’s “touchless” clitoral stimulation because touchless doesn’t matter if you don’t like direct clit stim.  I talked to Sarah who also hates pinpoint vibrators, loves wands, and definitely cannot orgasm without a sex toy. She talks here about how a much-loved small vibrator doesn’t work for her at all, and has told me that the Satisfyer simply doesn’t feel like anything to her. Her body just doesn’t register it.

There’s No Best Sex Toy

Yep, I know, I have a page titled “The Best Sex Toys“. To be honest? SEO is a big reason for it. But I also wanted a place to list out all of the sex toys I personally love mixed with some stand-out sex toys I always recommend in the right circumstances. Not all are perfect for me, but I think they’re all top in their class.

I can’t just recommend a sex toy to someone without knowing a lot about them, and I tend to think it’s a bit reckless to toss out promises that are as hard to keep as a wriggly puppy. When someone1 polls the mob and just says “I need a sex toy recommendation” and people start shouting out names and promises, I can’t handle it. I need to know what body part they want to use it on; what sort of stimulation they’ve liked so far; how difficult it is to orgasm manually; if they’re tried other sex toys; and a few other key questions. Only then will I give a mostly-confident recommendation, with the heavy caveat that if it doesn’t work, they shouldn’t despair.

This need for clarifications and questions and caveats and if-then statements leads to a burning rage when places like Buzzfeed list out “sex toys you can’t live without”, or uncontrollable twitching when someone (anyone) claims that XYZ sex toy will work for everyone. It’s why I can’t give a singular recommendation when a place asks me to tell them my favorite sex toy recommendation for a Valentine’s Day piece. It’s why it took me so long to even write the review for the Womanizer W100 – because I couldn’t figure out why I liked it, or who might agree/disagree with me. I am caught between this high-strung desire to not let you waste money and to assure you you’re not broken and you may not find your Holy Grail sex toys until the 12th try. “Try, try again” and “let’s not waste money here” are kind of at odds with each other, but I subscribe to both.

Works For You? Great!

A lot of folks who go around insisting that their holy grail will be your holy grail sex toy are missing a crucial point: everybody is different. I’m so glad that you found a sex toy that works for you, without fail, and to your desired degree of swiftness. I know the frustration of owning many sex toys yet not having any that work truly well. So in your enthusiasm, there is a bit of blindness. If you love a certain sex toy, try explaining why you love it when you recommend it. Talk a little about your level of sensitivity or ease of orgasm without sex toys. Give an example of something that was absolutely terrible for you, and tell them why.

I’m not trying to take away your well-deserved love of your favorite sex toy. I have them, too. I fucking adore the Tango and Womanizer equally, but I know they’re not the best for those who are more sensitive and it’s a bit much to spend until someone knows for sure that they like pinpoint, intense stimulation.

And finally, maybe most sex toys aren’t your thing, and you don’t see the fuss. You prefer your hand or your lover’s mouth. That’s completely valid, and while it’s foreign to me, no one is superior. Needing a vibrator is absolutely okay, and so is NOT needing one.

Bloggers, Not Magazines

Want to avoid the pitfalls of hearing that something is “the best” without them knowing you at all? Not everybody does, but if you do, if you want to get a recommendation on a great sex toy for YOU, don’t read those listicles from Buzzfeed, Cosmo, or hundreds of other online magazines. Avoid the reviews on such magazine sites, too. You’ve got the best, most experienced, most critical squad to call on when you need answers: reviewers. Don’t be afraid to ask multiple reviewers their opinions, and read enough of their blog to get a good understanding of what works for them. Find someone who seems to be similar to you in needs, likes and dislikes. And if you see those dreaded words “every woman needs one”, run for the hills.

Let’s love it, but let’s stop trying to make “the best sex toy” happen. It’s never gonna happen.

  1. Whether they’re a dude looking for something for their girlfriend, or a person overwhelmed with the choices in general
 Posted by at 12:14 pm
Jan 222017
 

The most popular session I attended at #SFS16 was #SFSMedia or ‘Navigating Social Media Practices for Adult Businesses’ and as you’ll see, this post is drawing heavily on the tidbits of wisdom dropped by panelists Sandra Bruce (Shevibe), Metis Black (Tantus), and JoEllen Notte (Redheadbedhead.com). While I was taking notes and tweeting as best as I could I realized during that session that it would spawn a blog post or two but I didn’t realize that every month thereafter I would be reminded by others‘ social media fuck-ups that this post needs to be written.

Today I’ve partnered with Formidable Femme, Red Hot Suz, and marvelous darling to create a multi-post guide to sex industry social media. Hopefully, through these guides, new and old companies can be educated on how to maneuver through marketing sexuality in a professional way. I plan to pull this post out like your mother pulls out that annoying pamphlet on whatever health condition she is sure you have or will have. I will present this to companies and hope they have the sense to read the whole thing.

As more and more adult-industry companies are created, or simply joining social media, the occurrence rate for social media fuck-ups is also rising. It seems like every month on Twitter the blog squad will notice new1 companies saying things that fly in the face of everything our side of the industry2 stands for: sex-positivity, body-positivity, inclusivity & tolerance, and correct education. As a business, your social media posts go beyond fun & marketing – they are your reputation. Reputation is currency. Reputation can be the difference between being named someone’s favorite company of the year and living on their Blacklist; between being recommended consistently to readers & customers or never mentioned. Reputation is currency. Understand this and you’re on your way to understanding how to handle your fuck-ups. It’s easy to make mistakes – listen to the community and take heed when we tell you you’ve fucked up.

Alright, so you’ve fucked up. Your mentions/comments are filled with people calling you out on your fuck-up. What’s the first thing you should do?

Step 1: STOP. Remove yourself from this equation, and don’t take it personally. I say that to prepare you for this: It doesn’t matter what you think right now. It doesn’t matter what your intent was. What matters is how it was received. Full stop, the end. Sit with this for a minute or ten and repeat it like a mantra until you fully believe it – and don’t you dare respond to folks until you believe it. So many companies make the storm worse by getting offended and upset, by doubling down on the bad behavior we’re calling out or throwing us a half-hearted fauxpology.

When you’ve done wrong, every hour that ticks by, from the moment the river of hate floods your screen, is affecting the perception of your business. As a business, a brand, the longer you take on damage and stay silent, the worse it will be for you and the harder it will be to come back from it.

Step 2: Delete the offending post(s). They’re terrible, offensive and hurtful. The post that got you into hot water is not going to do you any good by leaving it up. By bringing it down and quickly following up with Step 3 you will hopefully stop the bleeding. Stop the bleeding, and start the mending.

Step 3: Apologize and tell us you were wrong, we were right. Because no matter what is in your head our reaction is what is correct right now. Apologize publicly, apologize privately, apologize to individuals and acknowledge the validity of their complaint to them. However, and this is very important, make sure your apology isn’t a fauxpology. A fauxpology shifts the blame – to the complainant for their feelings or that they saw something you didn’t, for example. A fauxpology is “We’re so sorry you found this offensive, it was never our intent” which can be re-written as: “I’m very sorry; I didn’t see it that way but understand my error”.  Crafting a good apology is as simple as expressing regret/remorse, admitting you’ve done wrong, and promising that it will never happen again.

Actually, there’s one aspect I left out but it needs a little mention: a blanket “sorry, we did wrong” can feel empty if you don’t seem to really understand what you did wrong.  Months after this post went live a perfect example has occured. Godemiche put up a quick personal video to a social media account which showed the company owner discussing how he thinks a “hairy vagina” is “disgusting”. Many folks with pubic were offended and enraged, and rightfully so. The company put up a written apology that seemed sincere but vague. They later did a periscope video where they talked about their error in conflating vagina with vulva. Nowhere did they talk about how it was incredibly wrong to shame body hair like that or acknowledge that they crossed a line on their professional account. This left many folks feeling skeptical and unsatisfied that the company actually understands what it is they did wrong.

Step 4: Sit there and take the beating.  This doesn’t mean you need to engage in discussions about it and reply to every single tweet in your mentions. It’s a delicate balance; a dance of sensitivity. Apologize, make it look heartfelt but understand that more angry tweets will follow. When a tweet is popular, it will show up in someone’s timeline later on – 9 , 18, 24 hours later. And that may be the first time they’re hearing about Your Awful Thing. And maybe they’re so disgusted/incensed/hurt by what you did that they need to jump in and be another voice telling you. This may come hours, or a day, after your apology. Let it happen. Take it.

Step 5: Do better. Don’t let this happen again. Learn. If this happened because you handed your social media accounts over to someone who doesn’t understand the language of sex-positivity and inclusiveness, who has never run a social media account for a sexuality company? That’s on you for letting them go unchecked. At the end of the day, this is your company and you shouldn’t be hands-off on something so important. Hire someone better and make sure you have the login information for all of the social media accounts others are handling. Make sure you’re logged in so that notifications are seen immediately by you.

If this happened because you, the owner, are running your social media accounts then you need to consider handing them over to someone else who has experience running social media for sexuality companies. Otherwise you could be damaging your own business.

Educate yourself and your employees, specifically on the topic you were called out for. Understand the nuances of consent, shame, gender, sexuality, and more. And if you read up on these topics and still feel that you were right, we were “over-reacting” or being “too politically correct”? Then you have no business being the voice of your company. Hire someone to do it for you.

What Not To Do

DON’T block the people who are complaining. That’s literally never a good idea. It does absolutely nothing but make you look like shit. It earns you a bad reputation amongst the folks who are giving voices to your brand; the folks who might have considered forgiving your fuck up.

DON’T ignore us. The apologies are necessary. You can’t just delete the offending post(s) and be done with it. No response will land you in hotter water than you started in. It signifies that you don’t give a shit and/or don’t care to understand your mistakes.

DON’T insult us. Don’t get defensive. We’ve seen too many folks lash out at the people doing the call-out. Again, this is only going to make your situation worse and pretty much ensure that most bloggers won’t recommend your brand.

DON’T assume that the followers who are vocal are the only ones who care. I can assure you that there are other brands, companies and important people following you who also care but couldn’t say anything. If you are a retailer, consider if you’re prepared to have brands pull their stock from your shelves because you fucked up and handled it poorly.

And finally, get over your belief that any publicity is “good”. Sure you may be getting attention for your bad behavior but remember this: bloggers have influence. On their readers, on other bloggers, and sometimes on the retailers they work closely with. In addition to never shutting up, we don’t forget.

This Could Be You

Let’s say you don’t believe me and don’t think there will be a lasting impression. Let’s look at a few examples of companies who fucked up and didn’t fix it:

Lelo – They never took responsibility for naming Sheen as the face of their terrible condom. They’ve never acknowledged our anger (about multiple issues). Instead, they tossed out some condescending responses and look where we are now – many bloggers finally gave up on supporting them and recommending their products. Many retailers who were already half out the door before this catastrophe finally decided to stop carrying their products.

Blush Novelties – Many bloggers are reluctant to recommend their products. I’m still blocked by their Twitter account; I’m still pissed off at how they reacted when we called them out on blatant copycat reproductions of Tantus designs. When I do reluctantly recommend a product of theirs I never fail to also educate my readers on my reluctance and will continually mention their treatment of bloggers and their too-casual attitude on Intellectual Property.

Kiiroo – They offered up a half-hearted fauxpology on a rape joke and have had multiple complaints from freelancers – including tales of how they want to commission blog posts about decidedly un-feminist, not-sex-positive topics. When esteemed company Standard Innovations (We-Vibe) announced their pairing up with Kiiroo the blogger reaction on social media was loud and swift. Numerous bloggers have said they won’t review any We-Vibe products that are a Kiiroo partnership.

To close, I need to add this: This post is about dealing with companies – not individuals. You may notice tweets from #sfsmedia where JoEllen talked about “blocking early & often”, or see where someone said it’s okay to wait out a social media shitstorm by going silent. Those comments were about dealing with individuals as an individual or dealing with a shitstorm based on lies from a troll. My post is dealing with the very simple and straight-forward multi-platinum hit: You Done Wrong. It’s often re-mixed and covered but the song remains the same.

 

It’s been said by some that instead of, or in addition to, calling out companies for their bad behavior we need to be educating them. Consider this your education.

 

 

  1. or old, because most of us had muted/blocked the companies for posting graphic porn
  2. some would call it a utopia but this Pollyana believes in what we can become
 Posted by at 7:05 pm
Sep 082016
 

I Gave Up Vibrators for 4 weeks (just to see what would happen)Despite this being 2016; despite the enormity of the sex toy industry; despite the amount of tech, pomp and circumstance that is being shoved into all manner of vibrators… for many people, vibrators are “naughty”. They’re inferior to “natural ways”. They offend teh menz who think that, thanks to porn, people with vaginas can come easily, often, and loudly with just some vigorous thrusting of objects into the vagina. Some people can. I envy them! Many can’t, and for that we have the work of many many scientific things and people and polls to thank: It’s a much-trotted out fact that most people with a vagina actually need clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm.

My sexual history pre-vibrators is rocky. I found vibrators in 2005. I probably found my clitoris roundabout oh…..2000? 1 But I didn’t know what to really do with it. I knew that things felt nice, usually, but then it would stop feeling nice and I’d be left hanging….So when I found vibrators, and found one that actually brought me to orgasm – not as efficiently as maybe I would have liked, but finally an orgasm I FELT and KNEW what was happening and could say YES I CAME! – it was a change that marked a turning point for me. I’d not often faked feeling intense pleasure from sex, but I faked the climax for a long time because well, enough is enough at some point. It did take me awhile though to start incorporating a vibrator into my partnered sex life. Flings and one-timers? Nah. They never saw the vibrators. But when I did bring it into my committed partnered sex life, my husband embraced it thoroughly.

We adapted our sex to fit around vibrators, instead of expecting to find a vibrator that seamlessly fit into how we have sex. But that’s a rant/discussion for another post….

So. I’ve known for quite some time now that instead of vibrators “ruining” me for non-vibrator playtime, they actually made manual orgasms easier. Of course, when you’re talking about “easier” being it moves from a 0.5 to a 3 on a scale of 0-10….it’s relative. But still, I learned a lot about my vulva and clitoris thanks to vibrators. I learned about my spot, and that when I can repeatedly ping that spot correctly, over and over, I don’t need extreme power. I learned that I dislike broad vibrators, and buzzy vibrators. I learned that my impossible-to-please clitoris o’steele was maybe just finicky and a bit Goldilocks. But could it be “reformed”?

I Sent My Clitoris to Reform School

I took advantage of my time away at Woodhull and then my weeks-long illness2 to put this to the test. I left everything alone, untouched, for 3 weeks. Then I tried masturbating “manually” over the next week; I even tried three times, thinking there could still be outside factors. It simply felt the same as it’s always felt – decent, but the stars weren’t aligned and my wrist wasn’t up for a 40 minute session so there was no orgasm. There may not have been even with 40 minutes to spare (I gave it 20 – what can I say, my attention span is shit).

When I did use a vibrator again I didn’t even need less – at least not the first time. I didn’t magically become more sensitive. I still needed a higher intensity setting and about 10 minutes. The second time (2 days later) I did need less intensity, but who knows why. Even when I’m using vibrators daily sometimes I can come in minutes, and from a lower intensity setting. Some days I need more time, more intensity. It’s just the way it is, and depriving MY body isn’t going to change this. And I don’t want to.

Might as Well Face it You’re Addicted to…

No. I don’t buy into the “vibrator addiction” rhetoric thrown about by people who feel threatened by vibrators. In talking with other bloggers about this post a number of them have said that before vibrators, they had few problems getting off – and it’s still the same after vibrators. They don’t need to take a break.

Many people are under the incorrect assumption that vibrators will desensitize you, numb you, so that you keep needing more and more and more. SOME vibrators can temporarily numb you – like the Magic Wand Original. It’s super powerful and kinda buzzy. You only need to take a little break (a few hours) and you’re back to normal. But that’s a topic I’ve written about before because I kept getting a lot of hits from the search term “are vibrators dangerous” 3. A number of sex ed professionals have agreed that vibrators are not a bad thing – in fact they’re great because guess who just went from anorgasmic to gleefully enjoying solo and partnered sex? You did, my friend.

And a survey has been done, by Debby Herbenick, who found (among other facts): “Most women (71.5 percent) reported having never experienced any side effects associated with vibrator use. Those side effects that were reported were typically rare and of a short duration.”

Embracing My Vibrators

My experience isn’t your experience. Or maybe it is. Maybe some will hold fast to their “natural ways are better” viewpoint and insist I didn’t abstain from vibrators for long enough. But didn’t I already in my life? Didn’t I already spend years without a vibrator and then years without a decent vibrator to “prove” my need? Why the fuck do I need to prove my need? Why is this a thing? Why is needing vibrators a bad thing? Can’t I just fucking orgasm the way I want to, the way I feel I need to without someone telling me I’m “doing it wrong”?

If you feel “broken” because you need a vibrator to orgasm, I see you. I felt that way for quite some time myself. I see it as kind of equal to refusing to wear glasses because hey, you were born with this bad vision! Embrace it! Rawr! I’m just curious – Do you also wash your clothes on a scrub-board and hang them outside to dry? Do you use the broom and dustpan in place of a vacuum? I get it. Society (porn…doctors?) hasn’t quite embraced it all just yet. Ever is the quest to find a vibrator that can be used during sex that remains invisible, silent and requires no hands because let’s not talk about that, we don’t talk about these things, ignore the pink elephant. Let’s sweep it under the rug. OR! Now here’s a novel idea: We can all accept that every body is different and you know – a little helping hand is great.

But What About ME?

If you’re the partner of a person who needs a vibrator, you’ve probably had a whine-fest at some point about how their need of a vibrator makes you feel less than. Less needed. Like a failure. Because, after all, you’re supposed to be your partner’s everything, amirite? I mean you do provide them with every single possible other thing they need in life, 24/7.

Seriously though, what’s the difference between supplying the pleasure that results in orgasm from your tongue/fingers/penis and a vibrator? No, you can’t vibrate. You’re right. You can’t do that. So. Fucking. What. Would you rather effectively lock up your partner? Or get to watch as they have an intense orgasm? You can participate. There’s plenty you can do that is invaluable. You can be an extra set of hands and spread the pleasure around; nipples, g-spot, neck, lips, etc. You get the idea. You are just as much as active part of the whole thing as you were before but with the added bonus of watching something amazing. An orgasm from a vibrator is a lot better to watch/hear than a faked orgasm.

So jealous cis men, tell me this: would you turn down partnered sex for your own hand or even a sex toy of your own?

Just sayin.

~ ~ ~ ~

If you have personally found that your body prefers not to use vibrators, great. Good for you. You’ve found what works best for you, and hey congratulations on not needing expensive things to orgasm. But if you do need these marvels of technology? Well hallelujah, you’ve got options. You’ve got options coming out your ears. And if my body’s requirements don’t meet yours, I’m sure there’s a blogger out there who is your vulva-twin.

  1. For reference, I’m nearing 40
  2. it’s impossible for me to give a fuck about masturbation when I’m in pain, exhausted, and then sick as hell
  3. This is a rant we’ve all probably had before, but Piph had a great one from a few years ago
 Posted by at 7:50 pm