Jan 142018
 

My last post was written more for creators and businesses about Facebook Pages, but this post is for you, dear reader. Just like entertainers would be nothing without their fans, bloggers (like any other type of writer) would be nothing without their readers. You literally make or break us. It’s our job as bloggers to be interesting to you, to provide you with hot/funny/smart/helpful blog posts, but it’s hard sometimes. We do our level best to write great content and promote ourselves but then one by one the places we connect best with you, the places we were told we could be, are silencing us and throttling our reach. Every post that someone writes from the depth of their soul, whispering a thing they think they’re alone in feeling/doing/wanting, someone else out there feels a little bit better knowing that they are not alone. 

The Social Media Problem

Facebook is throttling pages. Twitter has been shadow-banning. Tumblr hides adult content from the searches. Instagram, and Facebook, can decide on a whim if you’ve shared a photo they deem too revealing and suspend or delete your account. They all automatically try to tell us that we, too, can reach more people if we just give them money yet every single time they say “NOPE. You write about sex. Some of our audience finds SEX offensive. We don’t promote you in exchange for money. Good day, Sir. You lose! I SAID GOOD DAY!”

Every one of these social media platforms uses algorthyms to better determine what they think you want to see. I mean, you’ve followed us, so you know you want to see our content but these networks want proof. In triplicate. Repeatedly. 

So what can you do? Like. Retweet. React. Comment. Reblog. Share. These actions all tell that social media network that you love us, you really love us and you want to continue to see our content.

Currently, you can find me on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Google, and Facebook (but please click “Follow” rather than “Friend” if we don’t actually know each other). Follower counts mean a lot, more than I wish they did, so that would be awesome if you follow.

Instagram

An update to this post about Instagram: If you follow us on IG and feel up for it, comment (4 words or more) on our pictures. React as soon as you see something. Because Facebook owns Instagram, they are similarly deciding to throttle IG. Shit gets really complicated and it seems like there’s a lot of hoops to jump through.

The Money Problem – Advertisers and Sponsored Posts

Often you may see ad banners in your favorite bloggers’ sidebars or notice a sponsored post. If they’re good, and many are really good, that sponsored post is nothing more than a post they were going to publish anyways but someone with a business relevant to the subject matter said “hey, I’ll pay you to put a link to my porn site into that post about porn” and that’s it. The best sponsored posts aren’t written by anyone else but the blogger and don’t read like a giant advertisement, but they’re making money on what is truly a job – yes, blogging (writing) is a job.

So you notice the ads and you see the sponsored links, but maybe they don’t appeal to you. Maybe it’s for a sex toy shop that you know your favorite blogger wouldn’t really want you to shop at, because they care about supporting feminist sex toy shops that give accurate product descriptions, educate their buyers, behave well on social media, and more. But it would still be rad if you just click on the link or banner because then those advertisers feel like they got their money’s worth which means they very well may renew their ad banner or work with the blogger again on another sponsored post. Some bloggers list their advertisers as “sponsors” because companies get salty about such blatant words that convey that money changed hands and we’re not organically recommending them. If you’re ever unsure about which banners are for companies the blogger recommends and which banners are there because they paid to be there, ask the blogger for clarification. 

Another easy thing to do? Comment on our posts. Any of them – but preferably make your comment relevant and if it’s a big detailed “help me find a sex toy” thing, send an email instead. Comments on the posts are the easiest way for advertisers to know we have an engaged reader base, that people are actually coming through from social media to read our stuff. This makes them more likely to meet our rates or pay us at all. Not sure what to say? Literally the simplest things can be enough; from “Oh, cool, I didn’t know that!” to agreeing with a reviewer’s opinion on an aspect of the sex toy they loved/hated, or “This was a great post, thanks for writing it”, and even just “Sharing this!”. Your favorite bloggers may, or may not, respond to every comment so don’t go in expecting that but do know we see you, we appreciate you, we thank you.

I currently use Disqus for commenting, and hold everything for moderation because hey, it’s the internet and that means spam. You can have a Disqus account, or not, on my site. How? Click in that field that says “Sign up For Disqus” and instead, go check the box below it that says “I’d rather post as a guest”. Please still use your email address, a valid one, if you ever want a response – your email address won’t be visible to others!

The Money Problem – Affiliate Earnings Explained

Many bloggers, especially review bloggers, have affiliate links. Most bloggers are ethical and are not recommending any old thing just to get you to spend money. Most bloggers who review sex toys give you their opinion, be it good or bad. Most of us don’t want you to buy that crappy sex toy we just couldn’t like, so our review will be negative but we’ll probably tell you which other sex toy you’d like instead. My point is: affiliate links are not the devil, they’re not proof we’ve “sold out” or can’t be trusted.

We can’t exchange our vibrators for cash and our landlords and electric companies and web hosting companies won’t take a dildo as payment. We’ve tried, no dice. I got some Looks at the grocery store when I tried to feed my out-dated vibrators into the Coinstar machine. After the 9th sex toy you’ve reviewed that just doesn’t work for you and will never be used again you, as a reviewer, start to realize that the “free sex toy” isn’t compensation enough for the hours you’ve spent writing the review and testing the toy.

Here’s the thing about how affiliate links work: It doesn’t cost you anything. There’s no upcharge at the retailer for buying your stuff through our links. The retailers don’t charge more overall to make up for it1. But you do have to buy something; just clicking the link doesn’t do anything for us. If you tend to visit a lot of review bloggers looking for the review that tells you what you need to know and you’ve been clicking on a bunch of affiliate links, the best way to make sure the blogger of your choosing gets credit for the sale is to clear your cookies for that retailer’s site and then click the blogger’s link. It doesn’t matter if you click their link to the Magic Wand and end up buying the Doxy, it’ll still give them credit for the sale.

Buy through the stores I support to support me: SheVibe, Early to Bed, and Smitten Kitten are US-based but will ship elsewhere. Come As You Are is in Canada. I’m also affiliated with GoodVibes, and, if you’re shopping at Amazon I am also an affiliate there. Naturally I would rather you not buy sex toys from Amazon but I get a bit of a commission on anything you buy. I do still have an affiliate account with Lovehoney US, even though I’m no longer supporting them.

If you can’t purchase anything, you can still comment on our reviews, and share them far and wide! This helps the shops know that our reviews are seen and anybody new who sees our review might end up buying from our links.

Support Us With Money

What if you come to me for sex toy buying advice but, due to your location, can’t buy from a website I’m affiliated with? Easy – send me a little something via Paypal, if you can. If you can’t, that’s okay too, just find the other ways here to support us. When we spend multiple back-and-forth emails with you we’re helping you because it matters to us that you find a great sex toy, but it’s also a lot of labor. It’s not mandatory but it’s definitely appreciated2. Other bloggers might use something other than Paypal and you’ll probably find a button for that in their side bar. Don’t see anything? Ask. They will happily tell you.

Have I helped you, but you couldn’t use my affiliates? Drop me a few bucks at Paypal.

If the blogger you follow has a Patreon account, support them there. If they have a wishlist someplace, buy something from it for them.

Other Ways to Let Us Know You’re Out There, For Free

At the end of the day, unless a blogger never wants to have advertisers, never cares about having many readers, never wants to make any money for their time and efforts at all, it’s important for us to have tangible proof that you like us. Ranking lists use our follower counts across all platforms to determine our popularity and therefore value. Advertisers look at our traffic and our subscribers and followers to know that they’ll be getting something for their money.

But you know what? We also just want to know that our words matter to someone. That we’re doing an okay job. I’ve seen too many bloggers who were decent and on the path to being great just quit because they simply didn’t think anybody was reading their stuff. It’s hard sometimes to put forth the immense effort (and some money) to write when it feels like you’re basically an astronaut floating in space, nobody listening to your mic, no one there to see or be seen.

**You can help by sharing the posts that you liked; many bloggers have a sharing plugin installed like mine that shows up beneath each post and lets you quickly and easily share this post in a multitude of ways.

**You can help by signing up for our newsletters, even if you already follow us on social media. It’s another measuring stick but it’s also a great way to ensure you really do see our posts. Those of us who have newsletters also often put content in them that isn’t on the website, or give you perks when it comes time for giveaways. You can also subscribe to our RSS feeds.

**Some bloggers are only on Twitter, some are on multiple social media platforms. Try sharing their stuff on a platform they don’t use! Many of us can’t stomach the harsh environment of Reddit, but it can be a really big boost to our traffic and earnings to find that someone linked to our review or our educational post, etc. I used to spend a lot of time there, helping people with their sex toy questions, but the toxic environment got the best of me. If you see someone recommending a shitty brand or a shitty material, educate them with my posts! Share responsibly, though. You never need permission to share a link but you do need permission to quote large tracks of posts or share our photos.

**Some bloggers are also educators – they’re doing workshops at stores or online, and signal-boosting their marketing for those workshops is important and helps. Their audience turn-out will determine if they get hired again, and sometimes the stores themselves don’t do a great job at promoting all workshops.

 

Many years ago we sex bloggers started getting the shit end of the stick from the free blogging platforms like Blogger and WordPress. Blogs would be deleted with no warning, no way to back up. Bloggers have realized that they need to rely only on their hosting company and own their domain, but that costs money. Nearly everybody in the sexuality spectrum online is working for peanuts – educators, bloggers, podcasters, Youtubers. The way YouTube is censoring sexuality and LGBTQIA ‘Tubers from making any ad money means these folks are working for tips (aka affiliate earnings or literal tips), often times. And I know from experience that making a video is harder than writing a blog post. We are educating you, we are supporting you, we are letting you know you’re not alone but we need your help. So make note of those bloggers you enjoy the most and do whatever you’re capable of to signal-boost or line their pockets. Every single little bit matters.

Thank you for reading, and for wanting to take care of your bloggers.

Thanks especially to those folks who’ve already purchased through my links; 2017 was a fucking hard year for me and my partner, and he missed a lot of work. A lot a lot. If we didn’t have a ridiculously understanding boss and this blog, he would be unemployed and we would have lost our house. For as hard as the year was, I still have a lot to be grateful for.

  1. How do I know? I don’t know everything about every company, sure, but I’ve worked with enough retailers in my time to see that some charge more than others while either not having any affiliate program or having one but offering a very low percentage of the sale. I’ve come across companies who don’t yet make enough consistent sales to afford giving a percentage of their profit to affiliates, but I’ve never found a company willing to charge more than other retailers simply to afford paying affiliates
  2. but please don’t let this stop you from asking us for help – we know our limits and when we have the time and ability to help
 Posted by at 5:17 pm
Jan 122018
 

Text reads: Dear Facebook, We're just no good together. It's not me, it's you. No Love, Lilly. Text is over a washed out image of a barren, cracked 2-lane highway in the middle of nowhere. As a blogger, and especially as a sexuality blogger, I’m forever frustrated with Facebook. We all are. From their “real names” policy which wasn’t just about threatened the safety of trans folx, drag performers, and even abused spouses, to how they nerfed Pages once already and how they’re so incredibly sex-negative they’ll consistently tempt you with offers of how well your post “could” be doing if only you would give them money but tsk tsk, silly sex blogger, they won’t take your money. Your money is dirty and your site offends someone! Or, gd forbid, there is the slightest hint of something that could be breast cleavage in the photos or art you used in the fundraisers you’re running at Youcaring and because of one goddamn photo and possibly, maybe, the word “sex” they won’t even let you boost a post to fucking raise money to help someone out. But today’s post isn’t focusing on how Facebook, and social media in general, is targeting the sex ed/sex toy industry (though, they are) it’s about what Facebook is going to do to all bloggers, personas, artists, and businesses.

Once again, Facebook is tightening the reins and dictating how it’s used. They go through our photos and our names to make sure everything there would be worthy of a stamp of approval from Tipper Gore. First, they tell you that you cannot have a profile that doesn’t match the name on your government-issued ID, and they push you towards instead creating a Page. But then they throttle what Pages share and only show your stuff to a small percentage of the people who voluntarily elected to see your shit. Before we think this is just the sex industry, nay nay, even the comedic gold of The Oatmeal is throttled. At least he can buy the goddamn ads they’re tempting him with if he wanted to spend $2,000 to reach 10% of his followers. We, in the sex or sex-adjacent industry, can’t. 

Where was I? Oh yes. So they throttle our Pages and instead push advertising – repeatedly and mockingly. Facebook thrives on advertising; they’re raking in money hand over fist. Suddenly, though, the Zuck had a change of heart1 and is throwing pages (“public content”) under the bus“But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands, and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other,” he says.  Then there’s a lot of flowery prose about connections and hope and love and other bullshit and finally the hard line for us: “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. “ 

For a moment, I sighed in frustration. I was mad. But then I decided to go look and really see just how much worse it could get for me because I already know that it’s not great in the present day.

This One’s For The Numbers Geeks

At first, I did the easiest metric I could: The percentage of my readers that come from Facebook, according to my WordPress stats. I charted the number of referrals it picked up from Facebook and my visitor numbers – now, to be clear, this doesn’t limit it to my Facebook Page posts. This is all of Facebook, including my profile and whatever anybody else links to. Here’s what I found: the best and worst percentage of referrals to visitors per month didn’t line up with the actual most and least amount of referrals sent per month2. My worst was October with the percentage at 0.86% and the best was November at 2.06%.

My best was 2 fucking percent. My yearly average was 1.39%. But remember: this doesn’t represent the work of my Page alone.

January and February gave me more referrals simply due to the sheer volume of posts I had going on. The other higher-performing months were August with the I-wanna-know-the-drama effect of telling people what the Screaming O did, accompanied by an attention-grabbing collage of middle-finger-thrusting people. And November, with its 5 paltry posts? The secret there was that while all 5 posts did indeed lead to a review on my blog, the post wasn’t seen by Facebook as a “link post”. It was seen as a “photo” because when I shared the post across social media via Hootsuite I attached a photo for it to show versus letting it choose the one designated by my SEO plug-in. Those 5 posts had whopping reach numbers. Nearly all “photo” posts did considerably better than “link” posts or simple “status” posts – at least as far as number of people reached is concerned. Link clicks? They remained the same compared to posts that reached 150 people. People simply don’t want to leave Facebook, I guess. Hell, this one claims to have reached an unheard-of 13,949 people…but only 3 of them clicked my link. It was never shared but it did force 17 people to tell Facebook to permanently hide all of my future posts from their timeline. Thanks for nothing, Facebook.

In December my posts, on average, were shown to 86 people – a minimum of 18 and a maximum of 242. But I have, as of this writing, 1750 followers on that Facebook page. My posts in December were going to, at worst, 1% of my followers and, at best, 13.8% of my followers.

Here’s the kicker though: Remember how I said that my WordPress stats don’t know where on Facebook the referrals came from? I picked February – not my absolute most in referrals, but it’s up there – 1,392. Of those, it appears that only 275 came from people clicking my Facebook Page post, according to the “insights” from Facebook. It doesn’t appear that very many of those were shared, either. For all of my efforts in February- 36 posts (link posts) which supposedly were all seen by 4,797 people cumulatively, I netted a for-sure 275 site visits. That’s 5.7% of already-paltry low percentage of my followers who’ve even seen those posts. That 4,797 across February counts the same person every time they see the post. If every follower saw every post then February’s posts would have been seen 63,000 times. I achieved only 7.6% of that.

Why in the actual fuck am I even trying? No, seriously?

We know that the throttling is going to get worse because both Zuckerberg and Mosseri (Head of News Feed) confirmed it: “Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease,” said Mosseri.

I haven’t given up on the page entirely because of the idea that somewhere out there are some fans of my site that only ever get their updates about me from my Facebook page. And because, like holding onto the myth of silicone touching silicone, it’s been hard to get the industry to realize that they need to stop obsessing over how many Facebook followers we have as a metric of how “good” or “popular” or “valuable” we are. I want to stop have businesses insist that I ask my readers to follow them on Facebook for an entry in a contest. I want ranking lists to stop looking at the metric to rank our worth and popularity.

This throttling of the pages is worse for the folx who were told by Facebook that they couldn’t have a pseudonym profile and had theirs taken away, or the ones too afraid to even try thanks to the tangled web of connections where you would have to use two separate computers and smartphones to successfully have two separate Profiles that never get recommended to each other’s friends (and zero friends in common). People who can use their real name for a “business” or “fan” profile and keep their real-life friends-and-family profile locked down a little better will simply have to double down on the Profile posts to see any value from sharing their shit on Facebook. But this means we’ll have to accept “friend” requests from literally anybody and everybody just to have our stuff seen by enough people. And still, I ask: why am I even trying?? The hustle life of a blogger, I guess?

So What Now? What Can YOU Do?

Clearly, the vast majority of my traffic from Facebook doesn’t come from my Page and it will only get worse. At this point I think I’m going to close the page and direct those followers to “follow” me (not “friend” me) on my profile – they’ll probably have a bigger chance of seeing anything I share!

This is a great time to remind you that you can always thank me for the help I give my donating to my Paypal and buying from my affiliate links. If you do follow me on any social media account, sharing my posts is a great help – and free! Thanks to the way Twitter and Facebook work, simply “liking” my posts and interacting with them will help get them seen by others. Cheer me on with comments and emails. Sign up for my weekly (ish) RSS newsfeed in your inbox!

  1. Is there one under there?
  2. I had to ignore December’s numbers because one day in December someone – I don’t know who because they didn’t tag me – linked to my Hiky review and sent over 7800 views to that review alone – so I estimated the anomaly and deducted it from December’s totals to give a bit more accurate picture.
 Posted by at 7:09 pm
Dec 222017
 

As part of a new-to-me end-of-the-year series of posts, I’m telling you about my favorite things from 2017. There are so many bloggers and blogs out there that I love and admire but I simply couldn’t list everyone in this year’s post. I’ve focused on those who’ve influenced and inspired me the most this year be it through their blog, their social media, or their presence elsewhere.

Ducky DooLittle’s inspiring role-model status exceeds far beyond her scope as a blogger. As you may remember from earlier in the year it was my trust in her judgment and ethics, and her insider knowledge and assurances, that led me to remove Blush Novelties from my Blacklist and start promoting their silicone products. One of my favorite Ducky Things was a video she did for Tantus where she read off (and showed examples of) a list of shocking things people have put into their butts, and lost. I can’t tell you how many times I tell someone “if a bottle of pancake syrup can get lost, so can that plug and its paltry base”. This year Ducky has also battled cancer – opening up publicly on her blog about it – and is now battling the health insurance company for the coverage she deserves. She was one of the biggest supporters of a fundraiser I created this year to help a fellow blogger recover from the devastating floods in Houston, offering up everything she could to get more donations. Even with health insurance Ducky’s bills are astronomical so I’m working on a YouCaring fundraiser to help her out – so please watch this space. Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

Ruby’s inspiring role-model status also far exceeds beyond her scope as a blogger. On social media and off she is fighting alongside other bloggers against sexist, misogynistic, racist, ableist, body-shaming folks and companies in the sex toy industry. She uses her platform to help make the industry better while working for a company, Doxy, who aligns with our views and ethics. It makes me appreciate Doxy as a company even more that they’ve never tried to silence her on her personal blog and social media accounts. I mean, that shouldn’t be a rare thing but it seems to be. Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

If there’s a community project that needs to find a new home, just ask Molly. Or, maybe don’t, because she’s got enough on her plate! Serving platter might be a better term. Or kitchen table.  She’s taken on hosting numerous memes and blogging challenges; she took over e[lust] for me when I ran out of spoons to keep it going. She took over the Top 100 Sexy Bloggers list from another blogger who had to quit. She helps run Eroticon, a UK event for sex writers. And she has a family! She does things outside of blogging! Truly awe-inspiring, but I secretly think she has a time turner. Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

Kate has been blogging at GirlyJuice for years now and her writing just keeps getting better. Every time I don’t know how she’ll top herself – she does. I have such a crush on her writing! She is eloquent and funny, able to evoke solidarity and empathy in her posts about mental health just as easily as evoking affection and compersion for her sexual escapades. Not only is her writing consistently good, but it’s consistent. It’s abundant. She has endless ideas and nothing seems half-assed. AND she can sing beautifully. AND she is half of the dynamic podcast duo, The Dildorks. AND she writes a lot for publications outside of her blog. AND she keeps a spreadsheet of her sex life. What can’t Kate do?? Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

Another busy dynamo is Girl On the Net who has maintained a popular sex blog that is updated very frequently, has a gift for writing filthy words, has time for the blogging community and her readers, works with Eroticon and probably more – she’s kinda mysterious sometimes so you never know quite what’s up her sleeve. She’s supportive and helpful, funny and crude, and is a joy to know. In addition to the writing on her blog, she’s published a few books! Her views and opinions, while not always mimicing my own, always inspire me to give something a second look. Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

I can’t forget friends like Sarah, my saltner-in-crime who teaches us all so much about social justice and trauma-informed pleasure. Her posts this year about mental health and combining pleasure with political resistance are timely, necessary and empathetic. She is brave and bold and I can’t imagine our niche (or my life) without her, or her love of bread. Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

Then there’s Indigo, who has been an anchor for me in many ways from mental health to working out the nuances of gender & sexuality and how this cis queer person can be the most respectful. I first met Indigo at SFS17 because they were one of the volunteers for my Content Creator Meet n Greet, an event that really stressed me out. But Indigo was like a calming beacon of help and I would have had a lot less sanity by the end of the event without them. Their baby blog is growing wonderfully and I’m so excited to see where it goes. Follow their blog, or on Twitter.

I also think about Taryn, for bringing her SEO knowledge to us and creating a hell of a great blog on asexuality, sex toy reviews and other essays plus being an all-around awesome person to know. She’s inspired me to brush up the back end of my blog and do better with it. It’s hard to believe her blog is just shy of a year old because it feels like she’s been with us for awhile now. She’s just so easy to adore! Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

I have endless admiration and awe for Lunabelle, in general and especially for things she has gone through in her personal life this year. She is strong and brave, a fighter and a fabulous friend. She advocates loudly for large dildos, strange dildos and large and strange dildos. She is hilarious and helpful and is doing all this while raising three smart, funny feminists. Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

And I can’t forget the respect and reverence for Epiphora as she hit a huge milestone this year with ten years of reviewing. She’s probably the most professional, hard-working reviewer I know. I was super proud to share the SheVibe cover with her a few months ago. Follow her blog, or on Twitter.

Last, but almost certainly not least, is Bex. They’ve been transitioning this year and blogging about that, their mental health, and their kinky relationships with such eloquence and intelligence and wit all while being the other amazing half of the podcasting duo The Dildorks. Bex is an amazing person and I’m so thankful to know them. I have learned so much from them this year. Follow their blog, or on Twitter.

 

 

 Posted by at 2:21 pm
Dec 132017
 

SheVibe's cover art featuring themselves! As part of a new-to-me end-of-the-year series of posts, I’m telling you about my favorite things from 2017. And while SheVibe has been a Favorite Thing for years now they upped their game this summer with a site redesign that prompted my interview below. You may see them as just another sex toy retailer so I wanted to share with you a little insight on the many reasons I love SheVibe. I’m so privileged to know these folks, and to have gotten to know and understand so much about the way they operate on a personal and professional level which isn’t something we get with many companies. We don’t get to peek behind the curtain. Consider this your peek!

Dangerous Lilly and SheVibe – The Love Story Begins

After working with a lot of retailers in my earliest years of reviewing I slowly grew to be somewhat of an anomoly in the reviewers circle – I had a “primary partner” for a retailer, who would supply most of my toys and get most of my affiliate links. This started to really pay off with drastically increased sales at my first primary partner, EdenFantasys. Yes, they’re terrible and we know that now but I’d stuck by them despite early issues because, at the time, there were so many features of the site I liked for my readers – plus their site was responsible for 75% of my earnings, earnings I badly needed in 2011 and 2012 due to being out of work. But shit went down in 2013 that I couldn’t abide; I made the decision to hitch my wagon to SheVibe for supplying most of my review items and I started slowly changing my EF links to SV links. 

I first worked with SheVibe briefly towards the end of 2010 when they reached out for me to review the Vamp Greta. I wouldn’t review again for them until 2013 with my second Fucking Sculptures (RIP) glass dildo and I’m pretty sure the SheVibe team had reached their wits end with me on that review – I kept bringing up the fact that the FS items were so unique that a stock image of each style wouldn’t exactly work, that they might sell more if each item was shown off and measured. They eventually took my suggestion, though, and seemed to not dislike me too much because a few months later Sandra and I had lunch1 and a bond was cemented. Her passion and compassion shone through as we traded horror stories and insider tips. I knew immediately that I would grow to love her more – she was like the ultra-cool older sister I’d always wanted.

Let Me Count the Ways

My SheVibe avatar as their image for "silicone dildos" I’ve written a lot in the past about why I’m so devoted to SheVibe and my devotion only grows stronger, in part because I know and love the owners as friends. I know how they run their business and I know their ethics. I understand their business decisions and still recommend them over anybody else despite the fact that they carry a (relatively small) number of porous, realistic dildos and vibrating dildos. Although, happily, they have changed their business model over time to drop a large number of porous material internal vibrators. Their stock is very different from many other larger retailers who literally carry everything the distributors offer. SheVibe curates their stock while being open to supporting up-and-coming brands, indie brands, and adding – and removing – products to the site based on customer and reviewer feedback. One recent example is the HIKY – All it took was my bad experience and a confirmation experience for SheVibe to drop the dangerous HIKY2. They act quickly to remove dangerous or painful sex toys and lube.

In the four years I’ve been sending most of my readers to SheVibe I have never had a single complaint about customer service, shipping, returns, product issues, etc. Not a single complaint. I know the SheVibe staff – I know who is dealing with the customers, and this hasn’t changed over the years. They don’t have high staff turnover like so many sex toy companies.  I know the lengths they will go to to help their customers have the best experience possible and get them the most accurate answers. While there are other small feminist shops who also have great ethics, customer service and education – shops I also highly highly recommend3, these shops lack the large variety of stock online that most of my readers usually want. 

This year SheVibe did their first truly major website design overhaul which has incorporated ideas I’ve long nudged for, like the ability to filter by size and material. Their art has expanded to be more intersectional and diverse; something they’re still expanding and improving – personally and professionally. No matter what the topic or issue I know, without a doubt, that Sandra, Thor and the rest of the SheVibe team truly and honestly gives a fuck. Lots of fucks. I have never felt so heard and valued when dealing with a sex toy retailer as I do with them, and I know I’m not alone. They’re the type of company, and friends, you want in your back pocket when life deals you lemons. They’re generous with everything they have to give.

Whether it’s their above-and-beyond customer service, their support for smaller brands, their support of the blogging and sex ed community or their simple willingness to take advice or critcism and create positive change, the SheVibe team shines like a beacon. In a world where literally every month this year some company has made an egregious error in ethics or judgment I have the utmost faith that SheVibe will never be out of my favor. Empathy, humility, generosity, sincerity – these are the traits that come to mind when I think about Sandra and Thor.

SheVibe’s Origin Story

Lilly: Why THIS business? What convinced you to start up a sex toy retail site?

Sandra: When Thor and I met, we immediately started experimenting with sex toys. At that time – 14 years ago now – most of the sites were kind of hinky; lots of jelly, misleading descriptions, mistakes with our orders and widespread misogyny. We thought we could make a better go of it. We had both run small businesses and figured we could vastly improve the sex toy business model.

L: Do you remember what your first sale was for?

S: Yes! It was for a weight loss supplement called Lipodrene on July 4th 2006. The site started out much differently than it is now – there are so many products and categories that we have ditched along the way (including brownies, shoes, mainstream movies and vitamins).

L: Let’s talk about the early years especially the magazine. That seemed like a LOT of work with all the advice columns. How did you get people to write in with questions? What made you decide to create all those different characters!

S: Ugh, the magazine was a beast. We had no idea what we were doing, but Thor and I fancied ourselves decent writers and thought we could create interest and indexable content for the site by having the companion “magazine”. MySpace helped a lot back in those days – we are still friends with some of those folx. We would get questions from them, some from our immediate circle of friends, and some questions were our own – meaning we wanted to learn about specific situations relating to our own experiences and decided answering those questions would be fun and interesting. The characters were the backbone for the theme of the site which was Superheroes (before Superheroes were cool, ahem). We wanted each of them to have diverse backgrounds and we really tried to make their stories relatable. We cringe looking back on it now, but at the time it felt really forward thinking and progressive.

Stock the Stock

SheVibe Lumberjill coverL: You are known for carrying “indie” or smaller single-person company creations where many other online-only retailers do not. How do you decide what to carry (be it from their line, or deciding on a business, period)

S: Most often, we select indie brands after they reach out to us or have been recommended by a trusted blogger. We practice due diligence by checking out their social media culture and their website to see how they are presenting themselves to the world. If we like what we see, we’ll bring in a small run and see how it does. It’s very rare that a brand takes off quickly; it can often take years for a newbie brand to take hold. But if we have to re-order even just once within a year, we’ll stick with them. It’s not easy and it’s a tough business to navigate. Very often, these are artisan pieces that are pricey (and worth every penny) so the public needs a gentle education on why they’re worth it. The blogging community has been invaluable in conveying how important these brands are.

L: Question from a reader: “how can small brands position themselves without losing the plot trying to get into retail?”

S: There’s no magic bullet. The long (and short) answer is: you do everything yourself and you do it well. SheVibe grew as a company by consistently keeping down costs while slowly building a loyal following. To this day we do EVERYTHING in house. We don’t outsource. From accounting to marketing to coding to photography and beyond, we do it all ourselves. Yes, it’s a ton of work – and it’s how you build a brand. We’re probably the poster child for “if you want something done right…”. Chances are, if you’re lacking in any of these significant skill sets, you’ll have a more challenging go of it.

L: You carry so many things I love and have requested but I’ve noticed some brands come and go over the years. What makes you decide to stop carrying a toy or line?

Thor: A few things: It doesn’t sell. We can’t source it reliably. The quality is consistently compromised. The manufacturer is cutting corners. Frequent customer dissatisfaction. It’s that simple.

L: You’ve been in business a long time and have seen many changes – so what are the next trends you expect to see in sex toys?

T: You’re going to see a more prominent focus on penis toys. Virtual reality, air pulsation, variances on the “stroker” format. Technology will play a big role, somewhat awkwardly at first. Silicone will continue to dominate and we’re hoping body safe toys will become more and more affordable.

Behind the Art

That glorious time when SheVibe featured Epiphora and I on their coverL: Your monthly cover art ideas seem unending! How do you decide on the monthly art?

T: The SheVibe team has a creative meeting every Wednesday. Covers are selected from a variety of source material. We’ll promote a manufacturer or a new toy. We’ll pull from pop culture. We’ll also do covers paying homage to those we love and/or respect in our industry. Once in a while, it’s a mini-operetta! Multiple covers will tie-in to each other. It really varies. This year, there’s a consistent element that runs through every cover… Can anyone guess what it is?!

L: The comic strips in each category are also something unique to you – what gave you that idea?

T: We are geeks. One of the partners is a comic book artist. We wanted to be different and make people feel comfortable. Comic panels seemed relatable and fun. That’s really all there was to it.

L: How did you decide on the style of art you wanted?

T: It all comes down to Alex Kotkin. He’s a very talented comic book artist and we went with his expertise in this area. In the end, it just worked!

L: Many retailers use, at most, bland photos or over-the-top sexy images that feel like they could appear on any random adult site, but your art stands out (as I’m sure it was meant to). What made you focus on art so much throughout the site?

T: The art allows us to present ideas, promotions and subject matter without the graphic (and sometimes grating) visuals many adult sites rely on. We wanted to make people comfortable shopping with us. The art is disarming and it seems to make people smile.

Respect and Karma

L: What terms do you like and dislike for sex toys? (pleasure devices, sensuality hardware, etc)

T: We try not to employ terms that “dumb down” or disrespect the user. Sandra hates “naughty” and we all dislike vulgar product descriptions. We can’t always rewrite product copy but we always try and modify the especially egregious. Sometimes specific terminology indexes better with search engines and in those cases, we’re at the mercy of the web…

SheVibe Blogsquad posterL: Another reader question: “There are some sketchy sex toy retailers out there. What methods do you use to get customers to trust you? “

T: That’s easy. We always do right by our customers. We never lie. It’s part of our corporate culture. SheVibe practices Karma. That’s the best you can do and so far, we think we’ve built a great deal of trust with our customers. If we’re wrong – we own it, but we work hard at not being wrong.

L: This year’s overhaul was huge – what prompted it and what will folks see as the biggest and best changes?

T: A few reasons: Accessibility was a primary factor. We now present the same way regardless of the device you’re using to access our site. We wanted to incorporate faceted search. This gives our customers more options when trying to find that perfect toy. We wanted to utilize modern technologies to increase speed, security, reliability and customer experience. We feel we’ve accomplished all of these objectives with the new site, but we’re always making improvements.

L: What has been the best part of this adventure over the last 11 years? The worst?

S & T: SheVibe has always considered “the worst” to be a gift and part of our learning experience, we try not to dwell on the negatives. Yes, we’ve had challenges and heartache but we don’t let those events define us.

The best? Hands down – it’s the human experience and culture at our company. We were lucky enough to form a partnership of creative energy. Combined, our small staff incorporates expertise in graphic design, photography, original art, web coding, advanced technologies and years of business management. Most significantly, we are all like-minded social justice warriors and share in our triumphs and defeats with equal measure. We all love each other and that’s rare in the workplace.

~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~

Thanks for reading, folks. I realize that some of this was incredibly effusive and mushy but when I love something, I love it. I’m as generous with my words of love as my words of loathing. I hope this gives you a little more understanding on why I refer you so much to SheVibe. There is no absolutely perfect retailer, I’ve found, but the SheVibe team has a level of compassion that is rarely matched; I have no doubts about the longevity of their success and I have no doubts about the level of care you’ll get as a customer. I believe in supporting businesses that are run well by decent people and SheVibe gets that hard-earned stamp of approval.

  1. I live a few hours from SheVibe Central and drive past it in my travels to my homestate
  2. They’ve decided against a sex toy based on my one bad experience before, and only didn’t this time because I wasn’t certain that the incident wasn’t related to the fact that the battery died mid-suction. Once we all thought about it for a little bit, knew that that could happen to someone else, and then sure enough quickly were told about another person’s evil experience, they dropped it from the line-up
  3. To name just a few: Smitten Kitten, Sugar of Baltimore, Early to Bed, SheBop, Come as You Are, Self Serve, Vibrant
 Posted by at 9:49 am
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 hair (and even those without) 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. Only after many months and many assurances from a trusted representative have I, and other bloggers, returned to supporting Blush.

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.

FiFi – For ages in the beginning of their existence on social media, the owner of the company apparently gave carte blanch to some douchebro of a social media manager. Fat-shaming memes kicked us off, but it didn’t end there. The company ignored the hundreds of tweets and gave a bland apology many months later. Not to mention, reviews of the item aren’t really positive. Many feminist, sex-positive retailers who had previously been considering stocking their product changed their mind based on the social media shitstorm and blogger boycotting.

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
Nov 102016
 

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

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

Blog Squad Origins

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

What Does Blog Squad Mean To You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Feelings of Exclusion

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

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

How to Be Part of the Blog Squad

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

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

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

On Friendship, Anxiety, and Assumptions

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

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

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

Assume Good Intentions

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

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

Assume. Good. Intentions.

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

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