Feb 262014
 

Disclaimers: This post is emo and ranty. Wibbly math and fuzzy logic and a fuck ton of rough estimating is involved. Sure it’s a really rough estimate, but I’m not looking to be precise here just to make my point. If you can’t handle that, don’t read this. The following rant does not apply if your name is SheVibe, Tantus, GoodVibes, Crystal Delights, Standard Innovation, and a few others not noted.

Many readers and even blogging newbies are so awed by the fact that sex toy review bloggers often get the items we review for “free”, in exchange for our honest review. A recent tweet by a fellow reviewer talking about their upcoming review on the latest version of the Revel Body got my blood boiling all over again just thinking about that fiasco.  After I found out that the unit I was sent was not the most updated unit, I became angry. Very angry. Due to the nature of that item, I spent a lot longer than usual on that review. All in all, I honestly want to say it was 20+ hours. And my anger spawned this ranty post.

“My point is that it damages my reputation and Shevibe’s if my review is pointless because of variances in product that a customer would get. And if half of my issues with the item are then a moot point because it no longer applies….I guess I don’t see why the “Version 1″ was sent to stores so soon and sent to reviewers. I spent, literally, more than 20 hours (and that is likely a very conservative guess) testing, writing my review, doing the accompanying video, and so on. I spent a huge amount of time on this…..and it was basically all for nothing?  I can certainly appreciate when a sex toy is improved upon. But the fact that we’ve all received possibly slightly different versions and no one knows what is what now equals up to something that I don’t believe I can support.”

The response to that was basically a baffled sex toy manufacturer who had no idea that someone might spend that much time on a review. And I think that MANY manufacturers (and newer retailers – or stupid retailers, like EdenFantasys, where Fred thinks we shit these out like goose eggs) have no idea what goes into it.  My average time spent on a review ranges wildly, and it depends on how much outside research I need to do. The minimum, including testing & comparison time, is about 2 hours. Hey, sometimes you just KNOW the toy sucks badly or is awesome and all you need is one or two uses – plus the really good and really bad reviews tend to (for me) fly from the fingers and get written faster. The average for me is going to be about 6-8 hours; some are more, some are less but most fall in that area.  I asked a bunch of others on Twitter what their rough estimate was, and though it varies the answer is clear: we put our backs into it. See what others had to say when I polled Twitter.

I do want to clarify that not every sex toy reviewer will go to these lengths. Some don’t. But if you look at the reviews from me and my friends you can quickly tell the difference between those who do this for reasons and those who do this to grab up free sex toys.

But let’s try and put a dollar value on this, just for the fucking hell of it because I’m curious. If we assume that it’s not just busy, grunt work that anybody can do, we should add a few dollars to the minimum wage. Let’s go for an even $10/hour. That average review time is now worth $60-80. Of course, many of the items I’m given to review exceed the $100 mark…..but wait….remember, that’s retail. I don’t know what the average shop marks up their items by – is it as much as 50%? As little as 25%? Hopefully some of you who work in stores can shed a little light. But my point is, simply the time value has probably met or exceeded the value of most of the toys we’re given to review. That’s to say nothing of the links. We’re also providing traffic and maybe even sales. It’s less about SEO these days; in the first 3 years of reviewing we were required to add in links to the site’s homepage with keywords like “vibrators” and “Sex toys”, etc. Even if there’s an affiliate ID on the link, it’s still a link. And what is that link worth? That’s harder to pin down, since it varies by the metrics of the blog.  If I were to sell a post with links (don’t worry, I don’t) I would probably charge at least $75. Now we’re up to a minimum of $135. I don’t know of any toy on the market that will set the manufacturer or retailer back by $135. 

And let’s shine a light on those affiliate links – yes, the store/site gets a sale. Yes, part of their profit goes to us. But they still make a profit from it. And if there is no affiliate program? They see even more profit. Are we sending them thousands of dollars worth of sales from that review alone? Probably not. But it’s still something, it still has value, and it needs to be considered.  Do we value the sex toy we were sent? Of course. Usually. Unless I hate the damn thing, then it’s taking up space and I can’t even fucking recycle it (Hi, Revel Body, talkin to you again).

But wait, I want to be fair. Yes, there is a chance that–IF there is an affiliate program–we might make more in commissions over the year(s) from that review and the balance seems to be outweighed in our favor, if your math is wonky or it’s 12:23am. Here we are again, back around the circle….if I’m making a commission, you’re making a sale. Unless you turned out to be a d-bag retailer who dropped 2/3rds of their stock from rotation and I had to change my links to another affiliate. BUT I DIGRESS.

Retail Sites1. CONSIDER ALL OF THIS before you start bugging us for the finished review when we barely received the product last week2. Consider all of this before you try to control our language and what we choose to focus on in the review.

Manufacturers. CONSIDER ALL OF THIS before you think nothing of sending us prototypes to review and then quickly launching a different version, knowing our review will have some irrelevancy. CONSIDER ALL OF THIS before you assume that we’re the ones making out like bandits and you’re always the one doing us a favor. 

And finally, to our dear readers. The ones we do this for. Consider all of this before you go shopping at Amazon. If we helped you, consider supporting our work and the places we work our butts off for by purchasing through our links. This way we get back a little of what we put in.

tl;dr – We work a lot harder at this than you may realize. Our work is worth more than you realize. And it is work. It is time consuming.

  1. Also I want it noted for the record: None of the retailers I currently work for ever fall into the “don’t be that person” camp. I work with really awesome companies and really great people, but I make it that way
  2. While I can’t personally come up with a reason why it should take me months to finish a review, and I try my best not to overstep that 30-day line, I’m not perfect. Usually if I have to, it’s because I’m waiting on someone to send me a replacement unit because mine might be defective, or I’m waiting on another, similar toy to help me do a comparison.
 Posted by at 4:10 pm
Jun 112013
 

When you review a sex toy, do you talk price? Is it just me? I feel that it’s an important point to cover, one that my readers would want to know. If I were reading a sex toy review of an item priced well over $100, I would need a fuck ton of convincing that that item is going to rock my fucking world for that price.

A potential relationship with a retailer who thought I was new to the scene back in 2012 ended quickly when we discussed the finer points of reviewing. They didn’t want me to just review one item, they wanted me to review a lot. Primarily I turned them down because they didn’t have an affiliate program (I work from home now, I need all the income I can get) but also because our views just didn’t mesh.

I’m actually not going to publicly name names here, because the point I want to make really doesn’t have anything to do with the company – my point is that it’s an aspect I care about. But in our very short discussion, as a response to me detailing that I do not sugarcoat my reviews and I am bluntly honest, always, this was mentioned:

“It’s a product review… Let the customers decide if it’s worth it.  Most all of my product are over $100, so if that’s an issue and your readers don’t want to spend that, I don’t want to be skewered because you don’t believe in buying $150 toys.  If a toy is good, and gives orgasms, or does its job, give it a good review.  Let the buyer decide if it’s worth it.  I’m a high end retailer, and carry great products.  I need good, honest reviewers, that have good audiences that might buy.  Let me know what you think.  I repost on my blog, from your blog, word for word, so no editorializing or such.”

Well, I’ve already talked about my feelings on someone re-posting my review on their site and I was not okay with that aspect of their conditions. But I had a real head-scratcher over the “let the buyer decide if it’s worth it”. Um….isn’t that what I’m doing here?? I’m presenting them with the information but also my opinion. If they wanted pure information, they’d read the copy from the website. I responded with:

“I personally expect every, single luxury sex toy to live up to the high expectations that come along with a high price tag, and from everything I’ve seen, so do my readers. I’ve reviewed so many luxury toys that were such a let-down that I fear I’ve become a little jaded. I am hard on toys though; I expect great things for the price tag. I’ve been unable to fully recommend items such as some Lelo, Je Joue, Zini, JimmyJane, etc because there are less expensive items that perform better. In my opinion, I do reviews to help the buyer decide if a toy is worth the money – be it $25 or $125. I wasted a lot of my own money (both prior to reviewing and even recently) on toys that appeared to have glowing on-site reviews. That was what led me to reviewing, ultimately – I was searching for women who’d tried the toys I was considering, to ask them a few questions, and that was how I found out about blog reviewers. There are so many items out there that I don’t think are worth the price and I don’t hesitate to tell my readers that. To me, that’s half the point of a review. They’re looking for reassurance in our reviews, reassurance that they won’t be dropping a week’s worth of grocery money on a toy that just isn’t worth it. I get disappointed with items/manufacturers but in the end I actually like all the reviews I write – I love being able to tell someone that something is awesome and I feel good about telling someone to avoid something that sucks. I don’t gloss over just for sales. In the end, I want my readers to be happy with their purchase and feel that I truly helped them.”

This didn’t go over well, I guess. I never heard from the person again. Apparently, I’m not the type of reviewer they want on their side. They clearly wanted reviewers who would drive people to buy, and it almost seems like they were angling for some sugar-coating. Thus far all of the places I review for have never taken issue with my reviews, no matter how harsh they are and boy howdy have some1 been2 harsh3.

Do you talk about price? Do you feel the need to justify super-pricey toys to your readers, assuring them it is worth it? If that same toy that you feel is decent, but not wonderful, cost half the price would you be more likely to recommend it?

  1. Hello Touch, how I hate thee
  2. We-Vibe Thrill made me angry I wasted my money
  3. Fixsation review was so harsh, the creator tried to slam me in comments by pretending (badly) to be someone else
Jun 032013
 

Many sex toy review bloggers, especially right now, got their start at EdenFantasys, a place that handles on-site reviews very differently than any other site. I actually like that aspect (it’s one of the few things about the site that still have me point people to it to help them narrow down their search for a sex toy), because it’s not a few paragraphs from Joe Schmo in Boston, it’s an entire, in-depth review from a person with a profile and a means of contact. Just like in blogging, you can go find their other reviews and see if they rate everything positively, or if they’re picky.

So the reviewers that come from EF are accustomed to their entire review being published on the site, unless they were already a blogger doing off-site reviews. Many were not bloggers and had no place else for that review to get published. Being approached by a manufacturer or retailer to do some reviewing is always nice, but dig a little deeper into their practices before you jump in.

Over the years I’ve been approached by a number of companies, both retail and manufacturer, who I turned down the opportunity to review for. Why? Well, option for an affiliate program aside, it came down to the fact that they would publish the entire review on their site and many without an attribution link. OR they stripped the internal post links and then only added one small link at the end of the review. I couldn’t tell if these were lifted from the reviewer’s site, or re-printed with the reviewers permission.  Some even used the photos the blogger took themselves. If it’s an excerpt, with a link, that’s a horse of a different color. When I first agreed to review for Lelo directly back in 2008, that’s how they did it. At some point in 2010 I discovered that they had slyly changed their tactics, now copying the entire text of the review with no outgoing links. I called them out on it, as copyright violation, and they changed it back.

Some companies may tell you up front that they’ll publish your review on their site, in full. Many don’t. I have a policy on my contact page where I state up front that if you’re asking me to review a product, that you tell me the terms of the review up front before I agree, otherwise those terms will not be tolerated after. The companies that published the reviews on their site never informed me of that “review condition” up front, I had to go poking around their site and find it out for myself.

Why do I care? Shouldn’t I let them? After all, they did “pay” me for my time with a sex toy, right? Given what that sex toy cost them to buy from the manufacturer, it’s not sometimes enough payment for the work I go through in order to review a sex toy. It’s why I usually ask to join their affiliate program. And it’s certainly not enough payment for me to allow them to put my entire review on their site. Even if there is a link (it’s always put in at the end of the review), why would someone shopping on their site click off their site to mine, when the entire review is already posted there? They won’t.

Another reason is that I take copyright seriously. And there are a LOT of scraper sites out there. Oftentimes these companies will re-publish the review to their “blog” section….which is ripe for scraping. So if I find a scraper site with my stolen review, but they scraped it from the sex toy site? I can’t do anything about it. I’ve had this happen once, and I tried to contact the host for a DMCA take down. Because the version of my review on the sex toy retailer’s site was slightly different from mine (if I talked about a competitor’s toy, they would strip that out, or some links were changed/gone), it was clear that the scraper stole from  the retailer’s site and the host said that the retailer had to contact them. They wouldn’t (they ignored my email).  It’s also a copyright issue for me because of my copyright license statement, which I have the right to enforce. The retailers or manufacturer don’t always get my permission before copying my review and putting it up on their site all while stripping out the links I had in there to other posts on my site.

Has this happened to you? Did you mind? If you found out that a company did this, would it change your mind about snagging that “free” sex toy from them?

Feb 042013
 

About 3 or 4 months ago I was looking up something on the We-Vibe website and I noticed that while some of the icon links to the Salsa/Tango still existed, you couldn’t see the Salsa on their page anymore. Just the Tango. I had my suspicions that this meant they were discontinuing my beloved Salsa. I reached out to them first on Twitter for confirmation, and didn’t get a response. After about a week, I tried Facebook, I posted my question on their page. No response. I let it go for another month or so and decided to try asking again. Yet again, both inquiries on Facebook and Twitter were just flat-out ignored. What is the point of having social media accounts if you ignore people? Last week then I decided to contact them directly, and sent an email via the site.

Hello. I have tried numerous times to reach out to your company on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. All 4 times I’ve been ignored. I see on your site here that you do not show photos of the Salsa anymore, you just talk about the Tango. Since the shape of the Salsa is the one I recommend slightly more (it is versatile in replacing anything that uses an RO-80mm bullet, for example), I am wondering if you have discontinued it and if so, why. The colors are great!! Many users are not feminine and appreciated the gender-neutral color scheme.  I’m a sex toy reviewer/blogger and  I’m probably one of your loudest supporters of the Salsa & Tango. I recommend them to nearly every person who contacts me for sex toy help; I tell retailers who want to work with me to carry them, and I compare every other clit vibe (and sometimes even internal vibes) to the Salsa & Tango. They’ve quickly become my only vibrator needed and Holy Grail. Suffice to say, I’m quite disheartened that my simple questions about product discontinuance are consistently ignored on social media. I’d like to properly alert my readers to purchase Salsa wherever they see it if my assumptions are correct. Can you please respond and let me know?? Thanks Lilly

Their response was quite….lackluster.

Dear Lilly, Thank you for contacting We-Vibe Customer Care. We have consolidated our product line and as such the Salsa is no longer in production, though it is still widely available in many retail stores. The Tango and the Salsa are virtually identical with the only discernible difference being the shape and the colour. The Tango proved more popular than the Salsa, though the decision to stop producing the Salsa was not based on gender preferences but rather on sales. Best Regards,  Customer Care

*blinks* No apologies for the lack of response time and again on social media sites, not even a “Thanks for recommending our product, glad you like it” half-hearted attempt at giving a shit. Call me naive but I’m surprised. Hell I’ve had a more personal and heartfelt response from Doc Johnson. I think Tantus is likely a bigger company than We-Vibe but Tantus goes out of their way for superb customer service. I’ll still continue to recommend the Tango, although it will be with a tiny bit less enthusiasm than the Salsa (even though, yes, they are virtually identical, the only difference being color and tip shape). However I will recommend the Tango only because I love the vibrations, not because I love the company.  I’m so damn sick of “girly” shades of blue, pink and purple – the red, black and white of the Salsa were such a welcome change.  So buy up the Salsa when you see it if you think you prefer the color and/or tip shape. RIP, Salsa. On that note, I’d love love love to giveaway a Salsa or two to my readers as a proper send-off for my most-loved vibrator ever. If anyone would be interested in sponsoring such a thing, please contact me ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Update:  Standard Innovations Marketing has contacted me and apologized for the lack of response on social media sites and has said that they will be improving their online presence drastically. I really do hope so; in this age, social media is huge and it’s often the place where many people go to first for customer service.  Unfortunately our collective sadness over this discontinuance can’t stop the ‘wheels of progress’, we can’t save it like a petition for a TV show. SI said: “With regards to the Salsa, we too are sad to see it go, but as our brand evolves we needed to make space in our line up for future products. We also appreciate your feedback with regards to colour. This is something we will seriously consider when developing new products.” So I do hope that they continue to expand into more gender-neutral colors. In regards to the Salsa, I will be sent a whole case to give away as I see fit! I’m still sad that I won’t be able to recommend it to all my lovely readers BUT I’m thrilled that at least a few more people will be able to own one. I just need to figure out how best to go about doing it. I’d really like to see the Salsas end up with people who are like me, who have been searching and searching for a clitoral vibrator that has the power and depth we need. I’ve reviewed or owned over 100 vibrators and the Salsa/Tango wins, hands-down, above everything that I’ve tried.

Jan 022013
 

A reader pointed me to this article on Salon.com by an author I know and like, Rachel Kramer Bussel. Said reader thought that the topic was relevant to me and my site. Sure. It is.

But then all thoughts of writing up something about what she wrote went out the goddamn window when I made that tragic, tragic error. You know that error. When you read sex-based articles outside of our blogging bubble and actually read the comments:

A clip from theoatmeal.com
image courtesy of theoatmeal.com from this comic

And then it all went off track. I actually can heavily relate to a lot of the comic that I’ll be borrowing images from, “Some thoughts and musings about making things for the web“. You see, I thought about leaving a comment. And then I found that I have to have an account on salon.com and log in and frankly, I’m too lazy for that shit half the time. So I read the comments, and immediately regretted it.

saloncomment1

Really. Really?? You make assumptions about the writer and THIS is what you assume???

saloncomment3

Again. They don’t even read, do they….

saloncomment4

I think Willie99 is a straight man who likes vibrating buttplugs and is ashamed to admit it for some reason.

saloncomment5

*headdesk*

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

I know. I asked for it. But Mr. Oatmeal was right.

oatmeal2

All of this is why I decided a few weeks ago to turn off commenting on a Youtube video I posted. I made up a clip with some introduction text about the rabbit vibrator scenes years ago from Sex and the City. Holy mother of pearl the COMMENTS. The women that I wanted to pet and take under my wing, who said in all honesty something along the lines that they would like one but their husband/boyfriend won’t let them. To which my inner feminist goes “what do you mean ‘LET’ you??? YOU own your body!!! [insert rage here]”. And the men trolling for fights, saying the things that I don’t have to repeat, you already know.  I know that sites like Salon.com think that having open season on the comments like that increases their traffic and shit. Who knows, maybe it does. But it doesn’t mean people aren’t going to talk about it and link to it. However, it now means that (as depicted above) the experience of just reading the article for itself has been tainted, nay, ruined, for the other people who succumb to comment-reading.

The article in question, after all of this? Oh, it was fine. I have no issue with it. The title does come off a bit misleading but I blame Salon for that, not the author. It’s a little hard for me to be completely unbiased though on the contents of the article simply because the author, and her boyfriend, are acquaintances of mine. Although I have to admit that my go-to reaction is still “Seriously? A vibrator is making him feel insecure? *sigh*”. It’s a touchy subject with me. I usually do try very hard to see both sides and I have done my level best to see it from the jealous person’s point of view. After all, I used to feel the same way about my partner watching porn, years ago. But really it boils down to something that needs to be talked about and worked out, and keep this in mind: The problem lays with the person who thinks that the vibrator is a threat. The problem isn’t the person who wants/needs the vibrator. The problem isn’t the vibrator. Are you (the trolls, not you lovely readers of mine) really going to tell me that I AM A BAD PERSON, or that I am addicted to vibrators, or that I ruined my own clitoris because I rarely can climax without a vibrator???? Yes, I’m sure they will say that and truly think it. But when we judge a person for anything, we usually don’t know their path or their story. Learn their story and go beyond the surface, and you’ll find truths that shame you for your judgment. To judge me for my need of a vibrator is to tell me that my body is broken; I spent years almost never having a clitoral orgasm until I found vibrators. Do you really think I’m not worthy of something as base as an orgasm?

 

Dec 122012
 

The number of articles written about the insipid and unfortunate trilogy, 50 Shades, is staggering. But at least most of them are better written than the actual books. Just look at the 1/2 star reviews on Amazon to see what I mean if you’ve managed to miss out on that aspect. This article I stumbled across today points out that while the actual sex is indeed a ridiculous fairy tale, the relationship is a tale of caution.

Much of the media attention thus far has focused on the BDSM relationship between the two main characters. What’s missing, though — in the media, probably in our book clubs and certainly in our conversations with our teenage daughters — is a discussion of a serious and dangerous aspect of their relationship.

Let’s be clear: We’re not talking about BDSM. Our concern is that the interaction between the characters outside the bedroom has been ignored.

From the beginning of the series, Christian Grey’s need to control Ana Steele is unmistakable. He gives her a laptop and BlackBerry so she can be instantly available and shows up at her house when she doesn’t respond quickly enough. He flies thousands of miles to her mother’s house, unexpected and uninvited. The examples go on and on. These events are explained away as romantic, as products of Christian’s intensity, his wealth, his need to control, his childhood abuse. But they are not romantic, nor are they justifiable. They are hallmarks of intimate partner violence (IPV).

And it touches on the stalker aspects of Mr. Grey:

Intimate partner stalking includes repeated and unwanted contact or attention that causes the victim to fear her own safety or the safety of others. Over 16 percent of women have experienced stalking during their lifetimes, and two-thirds of those have been stalked by an intimate partner, such as a boyfriend, spouse or girlfriend. Although alarming, these rates likely underestimate the actual prevalence, as most instances of IPV are not reported to the police. The most common form of stalking is repeated and unwanted phone calls or text messages; Christian’s first gifts of a laptop and BlackBerry may not be coincidental.

Millions of women are romanticizing the entire book series, skimming over the IPV and focusing on the unrealistic sex and the “romance”. Women who are in the position of Ana Steele likely do not recognize it at first. Even when they do recognize it, they feel that there is nothing that can be done. After all, what will the cops do about phone and email stalking and harassing? Not much until the perpetrator threatens harm or shows up in person. Yet to live with that kind of stalking is terrifying, sickening and is a life filled with despair.

What’s worse though is reading the comments on this article. There are a few people who are still unable to see Christian’s actions as “stalkerish” and still see it as “romantic”. Too many people are going to think that because “oh he had good reason”. There is never good reason to behave this way.

’50 Shades of Grey’: Expanding the Conversation from Sexy to Safety by Peggy Andover, PhD and Colleen Jacobson

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

This great post, written well before the 50 Shades bullshit, is very useful for not just kinksters but anyone who is dating. Remove the BDSM aspects and you still have a creepy, unhealthy person: A Field Guide to Creepy Dom.

The Creepy Dom isn’t just a character in a Dungeon or sex club, he (or she) can be the predator next door, the sweet person you develop an online relationship with, or the guy you meet through the vanilla dating site. Sadly, the ability to recognize and run away isn’t something gained with age. The writer of the post linked does talk about the propensity for young girls in the kink scene to be fooled by “Doms” older than their father but I assure you the ability to be conned and believe the con is not bound by age. It can happen to anyone, be they 18, 34 or 52. I wish I had seen this post years ago and memorized it like a doctrine. 

The anatomy of a Creepy Dom, according to Asher (explanations available in the post, so read it):

1. He comes on too strong, too fast

2. He’s consensually challenged

3. He has “connections” and is “experienced”

4. He “essentializes” dominance and submissions

5. He manipulates your desire to be a good bottom

6. He’s usually doing something wrong

I’d like to add in one of my own:

7. He seeks out submissives who have little to no real life experience, for they are easier to manipulate

Read it. Memorize it. Live it. And be careful out there.

Do you have any to add to the list, after reading Asher’s post?