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 Existing photos most often feature outdated jelly sex toys; if there are people in the photo, they are thin/fit and white.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
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
Jun 152016
 

A telling conversation on Twitter about Lelo's feelings on our anger about partnering with Sheen for the Lelo Hex. When asked why they are working with someone who has assaulted women, Lelo responds by saying they are not endorsing his past, that this is about promoting condom usage and preventing STIs. How many new sex toys has Lelo put out in the last 3 years that have made reviewers wonder “Did they even test this on a human first?”. But hey, prototyping, that would be the smart way to go. It also costs money, so Lelo is going to avoid that. Instead, they’re going to continue to make products that are often more miss than hit; they’re going to hype them up and add gimmicks like scent or music-responsive capabilities. They’re going to angle for that celeb market that Jimmyjane tried to corner years ago with their Little Platinum and Little Gold vibrators – they’ve started offering 24K gold plated versions of their half-assed sex toys. They’ve made offensive ad campaigns but nothing has angered the sex-positive, feminist community (and, arguably, well beyond) like their Lelo Hex condom.

FYI: The links to other articles are worth full reads. I couldn’t make umpteen quotes from them all so trust me on this one: You want to read these.

Why? Because they chose to use a celebrity who has been charged with domestic abuse on partners time and time again. Sarah chronicles this well, starting off with this gem:

If you only know Charlie Sheen as a man of negligible talent whose body composition is probably 13% cocaine, you might not be familiar with the night he spent in jail after assaulting his then-wife, Brooke Mueller. This was in 2009. He was charged with felony menacing, third-degree assault, and “mischief”. He was released on $8,000 bond. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault as part of a plea bargain and never set foot in jail for this crime again.

The comments have been furious and plenty on social media. I gathered up just a very small fraction of the best tweets about the Lelo Hex debacle; it should give you a pretty good idea of the flaws people are finding with their decision to partner with Charlie Sheen AND their condom design which makes it pretty imperceptible that there’s a hole/break. Just what we all want, right?

Lelo’s response has been to basically not give any fucks about the haters and just continue on sticking their heads in the sand. As written in the New York Times

Steve Thomson, LELO’s chief marketing officer, said in an email that Mr. Sheen was “the perfect choice for LELO, a tragic reflection of the current situation in sexual health of today, but more importantly, a symbol of change with the strength and the courage to confront key issues head on.”

And that is really the heart of the problem, and my primary reason for putting them on my Blacklist. They give NO fucks about their retailers, the sex educators, the bloggers, and their customers. Don’t believe me? This comment on my post that details all of my grievances with Lelo over the years is from someone in the industry who needs to remain anonymous:

I think the thing that upsets me the most is that Lelo – or at least the individual(s) at Lelo that are in charge of creating the most recent rounds of campaigns – simply don’t care.

I don’t say that as a ‘they obviously don’t care as they’d be back tracking if they did’. I say that as someone who is acquainted with at least one individual who orchestrates these decisions, as far back as the Pino shitstorm. I watched their personal Twitter account and their interactions with their peers who were asking them WTF they were thinking. They were proud of it. They *are* proud of their Hex work, and have made that abundantly clear.

They. Don’t. Care.

Publicity is publicity to them – negative doesn’t matter. They referred to sex bloggers and educators who were rightfully questioning their decisions as ‘whiney SJWs’. Our opinions mean zero to them – and in fact, the more we tweet, the more they can say they’re the hottest topics of conversation.

They feel they are too big to fall, too trenched in the industry to lose out. The more attention, the better even if it’s folks throwing out their Lelo toys in mass droves and swearing off never working with them again.

They. Don’t. Care.

I am not supporting the Lelo Hex. As Bryan Menegus at Gizmodo aptly put it: “Safe sex is important, and everyone should wear a condom. It just doesn’t have to be this one.” I am not supporting Lelo. I’ve spent 2 years actively trying to recommend other brands to people instead of Lelo, but some items are just (unfortunately) better than the competition. Not many, but a few. However, every single review I have published for them will link to this post. Every extraordinarily reluctant and infrequent recommendation will come with this post as a warning. I am done reviewing their products; if you are a reader and want to know MY opinion on their new items….sorry. I can’t do it. I won’t do it.

2r6ft54

One more choice quote that I have to pull; from Menegus’ article at Gizmodo, linked above: [the Lelo demonstrator/employee?] also insisted on showing me that, once fully unrolled, the HEX has the word “respect” printed in some sort of latex bas relief at its base. “Respect, what?” I asked, genuinely unsure of the message’s implications. “Respect the man who wears it,” was his impromptu answer. 

Further reading: 

Molly’s Daily Kiss – Is it just a big Con dom?

Ninja Sexology- Hex no, Lelo

The CSPH – Video: Why The CSPH Store No longer stocks Lelo

A small sampling of the many people on Twitter who proclaimed outrage and/or boycotting promises when the announcement came out.

The comments to my Tumblr post show even more people boycotting Lelo – this goes beyond educators and bloggers

The Smitten Kitten: Writing about why they won’t be stocking Lelo products

Educator Jill McDevitt with her thoughts about Lelo, and her boycott

Cara Sutra: When a Condom Fails

UK shop Sh! writes about their feelings on the launch party and the choice of Charlie Sheen as the rep

Horny Geek Girl, another blogger boycotting Lelo

The Daily Beast: Charlie Sheen’s Lelo Condom gets the shaft from sex bloggers

Because this whole thing needs a theme song:

 Posted by at 6:46 pm
Oct 072015
 

Author’s Note: This post is continually updated as things happen so please be sure to read to the bottom for the latest updates.

I’ve been accused once of being a bully, and a mean girl, on social media because I dare to stand up for myself and other bloggers. At the risk of facing more accusations like that I’m writing this piece and bringing this situation to light because the further we dug the more it went from “weird” to “predatory”.

In my research on glass sex toys I came across a scare-tactic article from “A Touch of Glass ®“, a UK glass sex toy retailer. Much of their information is correct (the cheap mass-produced China glass items are indeed cheap and can break easily) but they take it a step further, warning folks that shady companies might use “window glass” and insinuating that the glass dildo can shatter to bits while in use. That’s false, and it irks me.  Given that they sell many designs that are commonly found elsewhere in the industry from many companies, I have my doubts – one such design is known best in the reviewing circles as the Bent Graduate from Don Wands. It is replicated by EdenFantasys, SSA Glass, and dozens of no-name glass sellers on Amazon and even Etsy. Every version of that glass dildo that I have tested by polariscope has failed. Yet their company claim leads one to believe that one wouldn’t find a dildo in their shop that doesn’t pass a simple stress test: “To maintain such a venerable high standard, our glass dildo product range specifically excludes the cheap far-eastern imports of dubious origin and questionable quality, flooding the mass market these days.”1

I don’t follow this company on social media but I’ve seen them around and yesterday a photo they posted for #asswednesday, oddly enough, tweaked my Spidey Sense. I did a reverse image search and surely enough….there’s the photo they used but on The Chive, a “bro” site that frequently does round-up posts of selfies from around the ‘net. Then I did a reverse search on the avatar – and found that the unedited version is used on many adult dating sites as a “teaser” image for “some of their members”. This same avatar image is also used for “Jenny Dillar” on Facebook who is listed as the Owner/Partner2 of ‘A Touch of Glass ®‘.  On Twitter recently a new employee was introduced..yet even her headshot is fake. Why even do that? When you read the “About” pages on their website which introduces us to three lovely women (Carol, Jenny and Lauren) is it said that LAUREN is the person controlling the Twitter account….yet Jenny’s picture is used. It’s all very weird and shady, isn’t it? Now it could be that the photos that they are posting on Twitter and Facebook are really this young woman who also submits such photos to Tumblrs which causes them to get picked up and used without credit by these many adult dating sites, porn sites, and The Chive. It could be. I’ll allow that possibility to stand. But it is my opinion that that isn’t the case, that they have plucked these photos from the web and use them as their own. Their tweets and commentary on the posts when they share the photos usually insinuate that they are saying the photo is of them, “Jenny” or “Lauren” or whoever. 

TouchofGlass1 TouchofGlass2 TouchofGlass3
TouchofGlass4 TouchofGlass5jennydillar

Even if these photos are real…this is pretty unprofessional. It feels a bit odd that a retail shop would allow their social media manager or even a company partner to flirt, approach others for photos, and share personal risque photos of themselves on a company account. Of course, this might be something they think they need to do to stand out from the crowd of adult retailers. Since the website claims that Lauren is running the Twitter account they also fill us in on how Lauren is a model3.

No stranger to yoinking photos from the ‘net, ‘A Touch of Glass ®‘ is also using a random image of Jennifer Lopez on their homepage. I’ve got a feeling they’re not paying to use her likeness.

TouchofGlass6 touchofglass8

But the real owner of ‘A Touch of Glass ®‘ isn’t hard to find. When I was asking my fellow bloggers if they were as weirded out as I was, David over at The Big Gay Review did a quick web search to find that ESHOPS (UK) owns ‘A Touch of Glass ®‘ and that the owners of ESHOPS are David Mattocks and Janet Mattocks4. As David (Big Gay Review) puts it the “information is from Companies House – it’s from the UK governments business registry – so that is who owns ESHOPS, which in turn runs A Touch of Glass ®.” and this is public knowledge. Updated Info on this: It seems that they stopped doing business as A Touch of Glass last year, and now just operate as EHOPS, which Jessica pointed out to me last night. Neither place seems to show any employees, but I’m not certain one would have to report that in this manner? I’m not 100% that regular employees are shown on this site. Also note that ATOG was registered to: David Mattocks 44 Rectory Avenue Corfe Mullen Wimborne Dorset, his home address. He probably dissolved this when he ran for Town Council or whatever it’s called.

I haven’t had tests run on their glass pieces yet5 but my suspicions are strong that their glass isn’t what they represent it to be. And them using fake photos and creating what I speculate is a fake persona for social media isn’t criminal or anything more than weird, but things make a quick turn into predatory when I am told by no less than four reviewers that they were privately asked to send over explicit video of them using the product, in exchange for being sent the product for review. Luckily the bloggers who revealed this did NOT send this person their explicit video but I fear that others might, or already have. Here is the account of one blog reviewer who would like to remain anon for now, and I’m sharing this with her permission:

I was messaged via Twitter asking if they could send me products… in exchange for a VIDEO for the ‘VIP section’ on their site. I have no idea what or WHERE this ‘VIP area’ is. I said no and avoided them for a while. I have since reviewed for them (quite recently in fact) with no issues, but I know they are still (over a year on) unsolicitedly asking people for videos in exchange for toys and I just think it’s kind of, well… icky.

TouchofGlassTweet

This “VIP Section” is referenced when you view the “About Lauren” page on their site, they say that Lauren is running it. But it sounds like they have been asking this of reviewers for many months now with no VIP section coming to fruition. I don’t take kindly to my troupe being taken advantage of, and that’s what this seems like. It’s my opinion that the UK glass sex toy retailer ‘A Touch of Glass ®‘ selling at theglassdildoshop.com cannot be trusted by reviewers OR customers. A Touch of Glass ® appears to be misrepresenting the identity of the person running their social media networks, causing people to assume they’re speaking with (or sending photos to) a young woman when it fact it could very well be they’re sending them to an older man. When they use this misrepresentation of identity to make other people feel more comfortable about sending them explicit photos, this feels predatory. This feels wrong. It doesn’t feel like a company I could ever recommend you to trust, and that’s why I’ve decided to write this post. I can’t not tell you what I’ve found, so that you can make up your own mind based on that, versus the smoke and mirrors the company has apparently laid out.

I have not approached the company privately, because we are not connected on social media. If the company would be interested in replying and clearing the air here, they are welcome to do so. If my speculations and opinions are wrong, and there is a more honest situation going on here, I’m very willing to publish their story. I would have gone to them first if it were merely about the fake photos but once I found out that they had asked many reviewers to send explicit video (something I have never had ANY company ask me for) I decided that my speculations and opinions, and the information from other reviewers who may comment here and share, warranted public light. You can make up your own mind if you want to do business with this company, whether you are a reviewer or customer. I wouldn’t, and that’s my opinion. The image just below is a screencap of the account runner offering a mere dildo as payment for an explicit video.

TouchofGlasssolicitation

Readers and bloggers, does this information change your level of trust of this company, or any company that might do this? Have you ever seen these actions elsewhere by another company? Have you had any interaction with this company that strikes you as unprofessional, or troublesome? If you’d be willing to share your story but do not want to do so under your blogging identity feel free to use Disqus anonymously and I will make sure it’s published, and your identity won’t be shared by me.

 

UPDATE: Shortly after this post went live the @eroticglass Twitter account was made private. Those who are Twitter friends with the account say that some of the photos I called out above as being fake are now gone. The Jenny Dillar fake Facebook account is gone, however Jenny lives on still (for now) on Google Plus and Linkedin. The actual website for the shop used to list David Mattocks as the site designer and linked to his personal page, but they removed that as well, you can see the image below though that shows it was there. There is also a screencap of a little interview talking about “Carol” and her “friends Jenny and Lauren” starting A Touch of Glass. The entire story seems to be a fabrication. I wouldn’t expect this company to last much longer, as David seems to sell his businesses all the time. The detail someone else commented about below, matching car photos both about being in Colorado on the same day from David’s personal FB account (the post is public, btw, but I obfuscated details just because I’m wary at this point) and the ToG picture is shown, screencapped before they locked their account down. Speaking of Jenny’s G+ account – I can’t see much, but I can see two other photos that, judging by the filename (Jenny250) and their use on her page seems like they’re claiming it’s Jenny…despite that face looking nothing like her profile picture. A reverse image search found it being used by a Mary Thompson from Michigan on a Moms page; later on someone named “Jenny D” used it on a moms group page when the talk turns to “sex toy testers” re: Lovehoney.

TouchofGlassJennyGTouchofGlassJennyLTouchofGlassfooter TouchofGlassStory

TouchofGlassCar1 TouchofGlassCar2JennyMomsTouofGlassJennyG+

Update 2:

Day 2 after the post went live, there are new “closings” and changes. The Google + page for Jenny Dillar no longer has that fake profile photo.  The Twitter account that was made private in the hours after the post went live is now completely gone. The “About Carol/Jenny/Lauren” pages on theglassdildoshop.com site have been taken down, but we have screenshots. Other websites and Twitter accounts also owned by David Mattocks, like “Amelia of Mayfair” are now gone.  Kara found this page which talks about the businesses that David Mattocks runs; judging by this I wouldn’t be surprised if they close down A Touch of Glass and start a new one up in a few months or a year. Below are more screenshots of things now missing, or just more information as it’s found.

Also, David Mattocks has yanked his personal davidmattocks.com site which was pretty much just a page of pompous bullshit, no major loss. He seems to not understand that 1. The cat is out of the bag and 2. Erasing Twitter accounts, web sites, and pages from websites doesn’t erase them from the Internet Archives, doesn’t negate our screencaps, and doesn’t hide the fact that he runs the business and ran with this predatory deception for so long with A Touch of Glass.

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12162337_10153792491134683_670442011_o 12077271_10153792546494683_217176053_ndavidmattocks1davidmattocks2

UPDATE 3: I received an email from a very shaken-up UK woman who wanted to remain anonymous, as she no longer is a sex blogger, but she grew to trust the person running the Twitter account. She was talked into sending them video, and she did. She received video too, claiming to be Jenny, but she never viewed it. She was sent nude photos and sent photos in return, until one day when David Mattocks slipped up pretending to be Lauren: “I swapped some photos over DM again just last month but then a couple of weeks ago she messed up, I then realised I had been sending photos to someone who was lifting photos from sites after a photo was sent to me with a message and then the same photo but cropped and the same message was sent again, they obviously didn’t realise that they could delete the photo and message but I would still see it. I saw the Uncropped photo which was from porn hub of a Caity Minx. I felt thoroughly used, disgusted at myself and like a total idiot now I feel more of one. I spent so long tweeting this account in a normal way that I wasn’t suspicious when things were approached in a business way with a bit more of a fun twist shall we say.”

Another blogger tried to email Lauren and has received back an error message that indicates the email account for Lauren has been deleted.

Becks sent me her Moody Blue glass dildo to run my home polariscope test on. While the upcoming glass test post is a bit of ways off, this much I can tell you now: You do NOT want to see rainbows. Rainbows means not annealed. Not annealed means it was made cheap and fast, and most certainly in a China plant. They tried to claim to one person that the glass dildos they source are hand made in Germany. I think not!!! A Touch of Glass / theglassdildoshop.com specifically has warnings all over their site about cheap China glass, with assertions that THEIR products are not. Are we surprised that they’ve outright lied? Customers, you have overpaid.

ToGwarning ToGwarning2 2015-10-10 09.23.49

Update 4:  Another blogger contacted Jenny, Lauren and Support emails to request their affiliate balance be paid out – emails to Jenny and Lauren bounced, naturally, but the Support email went through. They did not receive any response, but DID receive a payment of the balance of their account. If you are an affiliate of A Touch of Glass and would like to cease your relationship with them, it seems they are honoring requests to pay out and close out accounts – albeit silently. Any attempts at emailing David Mattocks have gone unanswered.

Update 5 / November 8th: It was brought to my attention on Twitter that A Touch of Glass is BACK on Twitter as @PleasureGlass now and is right back to trying to solicit videos this time under the guise of instruction girls to be “information” rather than “pornographic”….but still explicit. Right. ALSO: Within mere hours the Twitter account went from private (but not before blocking all bloggers involved in this post) to deleted.

ATOGblocked ATOGPLeasureGlass1

  1. from their “About” page: http://www.theglassdildoshop.com/about-us/
  2. whereas in the About Jenny section of their website, Jenny is listed as Commercial Manager and Carol is listed as the person who started the company
  3. From their site, the About Lauren page: “Also – if you hadn’t already guessed it – before corporate life, Lauren was a model. Well, she is drop-dead gorgeous. And go take a look at our Twitter page and guess who’s picture that is. The one on the left. Yep! See what we mean now? Mind you, the stunning shot here is nothing short of eye-watering don’t you think? Lauren is currently busy with setting up our VIP Club that will include restricted member-only access to our exclusive Connoisseur Collection of glass dildos – which we’d rather refer to as ‘dilettos’ – plus a portfolio of photographs and videos which we consider to be far too racy for unrestricted public access. More details coming soon, but if you can’t wait, please contact Lauren for an update.”
  4. Who are no strangers to owning businesses, as was found here: http://www.endole.co.uk/company/04080498/sunbelt-solent-limited
  5. This will happen shortly, I have an item on its way and two other reviewers will be testing from afar – this will be listed in my large post about glass testing that will be live sometime later this month
 Posted by at 2:12 pm