May 122017
 

I don’t often have Guest Posts but sometimes I want to bring you information that I just don’t know enough about! But you know I’m picky so you’ll only see guest posts from fellow bloggers I trust. Taylor J Mace was kind enough to write up this amazing guide to BDSM toys for you – the impact toy infographics are especially helpful!

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There are so many sex toys out there to choose from, which is great! But it can also be overwhelming for those who are new to toys and don’t know what’s worth buying from lists of 500+ items. You want to make sure it’s safe, decent-quality, and worth the price tag, but you’re also exploring something novel that you might not know all the terms for.

This article aims to break down the various types of BDSM toys, include a few tips for what to look for, and also for what to avoid. It is aimed toward folks new to this kind of play, not seasoned kinksters.

By now I’m sure you know that I do not support Pipedream or their subsidiaries. This makes shopping for BDSM toys more challenging, as a few of the companies owned by Pipedream are incredibly common. BDSM brands that are owned by Pipedream include: Fetish Fantasies (Frequently listed as “FF” on websites), Anal Fantasy, Metal Worx, Jimmyjane, Pipedream, Extreme Toyz, Pump Worx, Sir Richard’s, Neon, iSex, and Icicles.

Blindfolds and Hoods

Blindfolds and hoods are used for sensory deprivation – when unable to see, folks frequently report that their other senses are more focused and that they are more sensitive to whatès going on around them. Hoods come in many different styles with any combination of mouth, nose, or eye holes being covered. Many feel that a blindfold or hood makes them feel less self-conscious – when I was new to being dominant, I always felt more comfortable when the submissive was blindfolded as they couldn’t see my face so I didn’t need to worry that I wasn’t “looking the part” of a dominant. Sleep masks or scarves tied over the eyes make great makeshift blindfolds if you’re curious about blindfolds but aren’t ready to invest in one!

Bondage

Look for soft materials – leather, nylon, silicone, neoprene, pleather, or bondage tape. Avoid handcuffs, even the fuzzy kind! These can cause serious and permanent nerve damage. Cotton or silk rope is also a fun option, though make sure to have safety scissors on hand for any rope play. Bondage tape sticks to itself and not your skin, so it can be used anywhere on the body and around any type of surface. Bondage kits are a good option if you’re looking for several items – for instance, the Complete 10 Piece Luxury Bondage Kit includes wrist and ankle cuffs, a faux leather flogger, a ball gag, a collar, leash, blindfold, feather tickler, hogtie, and rope. These kits are usually cheaper than buying each piece individually and are a great (affordable) way for people to try out a number of different types of kink play to see what works best for them. It is important to never leave someone alone in the room while they are tied up.

Clamps and Nipple Play

There are so many types of nipple clamps out there that it’s hard to know where to begin when you first want to explore nipple play.

Clothespins tend to be a good starting-point as they are a common enough find that you can discreetly buy some in order to see if you like clamps without spending much money. They can be wooden or plastic (avoid plastic ones with teeth) and are recommended for single-use only as they are nearly impossible to sterilize and therefore can harbour bacteria from one use to the next. You cannot adjust how tight they are on your nipples.

Micro-Pliered clamps have a screw used to adjust how much pressure they exert on your nipples.

Tweezer clamps tend to have a smaller surface area, thus the pressure is more concentrated and may feel more intense. Depending on your nipple size and shape, you may find that you have a very hard time making tweezer-style clamps to stay on your nipples. You can adjust the intensity of these, though not as much as micro-pliered clamps.

Clover/Butterfly clamps are probably the most advanced kind of nipple clamp. Unlike other kinds of clamps, when you pull on the end of a clover clamp it tightens on the nipple, exerting more pressure. Even when they aren’t being pulled, clover clamps are very powerful.

Weights and chains can be added to some types of clamps – these increase the pressure, pain, and intensity of the clamps. When you’re moving, chains or weights can add even more intensity through the way they pull on your nipples.

Nipple suckers can be vacuums, pumps, or suction. Unlike clamps, they aren’t painful – instead, they increase the sensitivity and blood flow to your nipples temporarily.

Collars and Leashes

When selecting a collar, pay attention to what the intended purpose is. Is it meant to be decorative, functional, humiliating, or for posture? Most collars come with an o-ring on the front for you to attach a leash to or to secure the wearer’s neck to a piece of furniture, however, some of the more decorative collars do not so make sure to keep an eye on that if it’s important to you.

Leashes can be used in conjunction to a collar to exhibit more control over the wearer by simply tugging on the leash like you would a dog. Pay attention to how long the leash is as this will impact what positions you can have your submissive in.

Gags

There are a few kinds of gags to chose from – the most common being ball, bar, or o-ring – and each type comes with their own advantages and disadvantages. It is important to not leave someone alone when gagged and to have a non-verbal safeword in place in case something goes wrong (the standard one being the submissive tapping their hand twice).

Ball Gags

These can have holes or be one solid ball. The ones with holes are easier to breathe through while using but are typically made out of a hard plastic which caused more strain on your jaw and mouth than one with a silicone or rubber ball. Silicone balls have more give and so it’s easier to relax your jaw for a bit or bite into it in the middle of a scene. Be aware that the larger the ball is, the wider you’ll need to keep your mouth and thus the quicker your jaw will become sore. Ball gags tend to pinch at the corners of your mouth after extended use. These restrict a lot of speech and also have a higher choking hazard than the bar or o-ring gags.

Bar Gags

Also known as “bit gags”, these feature a bar that is typically made out of silicone, plastic, or (less commonly) metal. They pinch your mouth less than ball gags do, are easier to speak around, and also restrict the breathing less than a ball gag.

O-Ring Gags

Usually made out of metal or silicone, this type of gag fits behind your teeth and does not restrict your breathing. They make it difficult to speak and pinch the corners of your mouth just like a ball gag does. You may be able to perform oral sex while wearing one of these gags. Keep in mind that the larger the ring’s diameter, the wider you will have to keep your mouth and thus the quicker your jaw will tire.

Impact Toys

When it comes to impact, there are “thuddy” toys and “stingy”/“sharp” toys – think of the difference between getting punched versus slapped. Many people consider stingy toys (canes, crops, whips, some floggers) to hurt more than thuddy toys (paddles, some floggers), though individual preferences vary.

Material also plays a big role in how much a toy hurts. Below is a guide to know how things will feel!

Keep cleanliness in mind – it is just as important to clean an impact toy as it is to clean something that’s going inside of you. Impact toys may come into contact with blood (even if the submissive does not seem to be cut, for example if you hit them on a pimple), sweat, spit, ejaculate or pre-ejaculate and/or lube, and they may come into contact with genitals. As such, make sure you know how to clean your toys between every use.

The above ratings are all pretty high, which can be super intimidating if you’re new or not into much pain. So…what are your options if you don’t enjoy a lot of pain?

Material, size, and force used by the top all greatly affect how intense the pain feels. The thinner/narrower an object (cane, flogger falls, paddle, etc), the stingier the sensation; thicker toys, wider falls, and/or increasing the number of falls will all make the toy more thuddy.

Floggers are one of the more customizable options, good for everyone to those who don’t like pain at all, sting-enthusiasts, or those who prefer a nice thud. The below graphic will help you pick one that’s right for you!

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I hope you’ve learned more about kink toys and gear and that this guide helps you find toys that work for you and your partner(s)!

 

This post has been sponsored by Lovedreamer, but all opinions, information, and recommendations are Taylor’s (and approved by me!). Sponsors like Lovedreamer are helping Taylor get to Woodhull SFS17.

 Posted by at 8:06 am
Apr 072017
 

For years I’ve had readers come to me with questions about their sex toys and recurring yeast infections. More than one told me that they went to their doctor for a reaction (after using a porous sex toy) and the doctor would diagnose a yeast infection, usually. But I would still wonder if it was really an infection or rather a chemical burn from toxic materials. While it could be either, I understand a lot more now about the links between porous sex toys, cheap lube, and vaginal health thanks in large part to the education of Sarah Mueller who has done years of research for Smitten Kitten / BadVibes.org.

Misinterpreting Medical Studies?

The lightbulb went off as I was trying to do research on why we’d seen more than one article from lube brands claiming silicone lubes, synthetic oils, and natural oils are bad for vaginas (hint: only one of those actually is a universal vaginal no-no). I found a medical study that talked about finding an increased rate of yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis with folks who were using an “oil lube” but it seemed that the only thing mentioned was baby oil – a synthetic oil. And yes, those folks did have vaginal health problems moreso than folks using other lubes. But that study doesn’t give us the bridge to sweeping false generalizations that anything with any oil in it is bad for all vaginas1.

It did, however, inspire what I think is a really good theory about porous sex toys.  It should be noted: I’m focusing here on porosity and the material composition, not the possibility of toxicity from mystery additives or lingering phthalates usage. Those can cause burning pain, but it’s off-topic for this post.

But first, I have to express a lot of disappointment in the doctors interviewed for articles about lube. One article I found was quoting Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical associate professor of ob-gyn at Yale School of Medicine (big title, you’re inclined to believe her, right?):

Dr. Minkin strongly advises that you keep all oil-based lubes — including vaseline — out of the bedroom. They are difficult to wash out of the vagina, and they’re usually made of glycerin, which is essentially like glucose/sugar. That means it turns your vag into a breeding ground for bad bacteria, putting you at risk for a yeast infection. To make matters worse, oil and latex don’t get along, meaning it could wreck the efficiency of your condom, landing you with an unwanted pregnancy or an STI.

So that’s a really big, sweeping generalization which can scare folks out of actually decent oil-based lubes like Sliquid Oil or natural, plant-based oils, or The Butters. None of those are “made of glycerin”, and glycerin isn’t “essentially a sugar”, it’s a sugar alcohol. So far in the studies Sarah has researched, it hasn’t been specifically connected to yeast infections – however, it’s usually found alongside other crap ingredients and raises osmolality, leaving you more prone to infections.

Synthetic Oils In Sex Toys

Now, we know that the cheaper materials like thermoplastics (TPE, TPR), PVC, rubber, and the trademarked materials that are probably just a formulation of TPR, can re-infect you if you’ve used it whilst in the middle of an infection, as they cannot be sanitized. We know that bacteria can live and stick around in these materials; we know that fungus can grow and bring on molds in the material’s pores. These things have been talked about at length, but this theory of mine isn’t one I’ve heard yet:

If synthetic oils in the vagina can lead to increased infections because they trap and breed bacteria, and many porous sex toys are softened with synthetic oil2, and these sex toys are not chemically stable and can leach out that oil, the end result is quite possibly a synthetic oil in your vagina. People talk a lot about the porous materials breaking down, “sweating”, and feeling greasy. Before they know enough to know what this means, though, many folks still use sex toys like this. I wouldn’t want the liquid in my jar of horrors in my vagina, that’s for sure.

To make matters more sticky, chances are pretty good that if you’re using porous materials, you’re also using lubes that are hyper-osmotic, which can leave your cells dry and sloughing off which leaves you at greater risk for…you guessed it! Infections! 

A Brief Interlude on Osmolality

There is more detail on the types of osmolality at The Big Lube Guide, but the most common situation is when the osmolality is high, i.e. hyper-osmotic. It’s the vampire situation – the lube comes in all charming at first and things seem okay. The lube feels really slippery, which is great! But it’s slippery because it’s drinking the moisture from your cells. When they have no more to give, they are dead and dry. The outer layer of cells will slough off and leave your mucus lining very vulnerable, like standing in a snowstorm without winter gear. STI transmission can increase and at-risk people are at greater risk for infections – this is the same group of people who need to use more lube than the average person.

Not many lubes on the chart over at The Guide are in the ideal range, which is iso-osmotic. And, frankly, not many lubes are listed, period. So how can we take an educated guess on the osmolality? Look at the ingredients.  The top two ingredients to avoid are glycerin(e) and propylene glycol. Both of these greatly increase the osmolality of the lube and both can cause sensitivities (and for some, yeast infections).

Yes, even if the sex toy and its oils aren’t causing the yeast infection, even if the pH isn’t causing the yeast infection, you are still at risk because of these very common ingredients. Are you side-eyeing that lube bottle, yet?

pH and You

The vagina has a pH. Water-based lubes have a pH. When the two don’t match up, you can have three scenarios:

  1. Burning – this means the pH of the lube you’re using is too low
  2. Itching – this means the pH of the lube you’re using is too high
  3. Itching AND Infection – the high pH can cause simple irritation or bring on infection especially if it’s also a hyper-osmotic lube and you’ve got some unwanted guests lounging in there

So if you’re frequently having these issues, it’s time to switch your lube. You may even need to consider that you need a few different lubes, and get to know your cycle and how it affects your pH. Vaginal pH can range from 3.5 – 7 which is a large range – it makes sense that you could do best with a lower and a higher pH lube to best match your body. The easiest way to get this nailed down is by testing your pH with test strips like these. And, while you’re at it, test your water-based lube. If you’ve had the bottle for a while, test it again, as pH can change over time.

The other way to get around this factor is to use pH-neutral lubes like silicone or coconut oil, but this isn’t an option for everyone. Some dislike the feel of silicone and plant-based oils; some rely on latex condoms3. You could also consider a hybrid lube which, due to the normally-low silicone content, wouldn’t harm a silicone sex toy. The addition of silicone makes it potentially pH-neutral, we think. Studies done on hybrid lubes and osmolality or pH were vague or few so we don’t have as much knowledge, but it would be best to avoid the problem-child ingredients regardless.  So far there are only two hybrid lubes I don’t hate: Sliquid Silk (regular or organic) and Good Vibe’s Please Cream.

A really well-rounded starter lube arsenal might look like this:

  • Good Clean Love Almost Naked, a thick lube that comes in at a pH of 4 (buy from Shevibe, Smitten Kitten, or Amazon but check the expiration date)
  • Sliquid Satin, pH of 6 (buy here or here)
  • Sliquid Silk, the hybrid for when you don’t wanna bother with osmolality/pH but don’t want an oil-based lube
  • A pack of pH test strips

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Finally, if you’re looking for more body-friendly lube recommendations, check out the Big Lube Guide. If you need affordable replacements for your porous sex toys check out my 35-under-$35 guide.

Please note: this is a lay-person theory based on research and logic and opinion. I am not a medical professional and I am not saying that this will happen for every person who uses porous sex toys and/or bad lubes. However, if you frequently get urinary tract infections, yeast infections, or bacterial vaginosis and use porous sex toys and/or bad lube consider making the switch to only non-porous sex toys and vag-friendly lubes to see if that clears up your problems. This is not to replace medical treatment or advice from your doctor.

  1. After seeing the similarities between the article from Coconu and Sutil, and then a few Google searches for funsies, I found the original article that Sutil copied / heavily borrowed from – a naturalist “doctor” who misread that study about oil-based lubes and extended it to try and claim that silicone oil is toxic. I’m as baffled as you are as to why a naturalist would declare coconut oil bad for all vaginas, given its antimicrobial properties and long-document usage for clearing up certain vaginal infections, but I digress and leave you with a sharp side-eye
  2. tests show mineral oil in many of these sex toys
  3. and, as we know, latex and oil are not compatible – I don’t know how long you’d have to wait in between using a plant-based oil lube and a latex condom to ensure the oil doesn’t render the condom useless against sperm and STIs
 Posted by at 3:42 pm
Mar 132017
 

When we talk about the many benefits of body-safe silicone for sex toys, we have to talk about how folks can tell the difference between silicone and well, not silicone. There are clues if it’s a translucent material or we can do the flame test, but what if it passes all of that and you still worry? Readers come to me all the time with concerns about a chemical odor despite the material being silicone so hopefully this will lay some fears to rest.

PVC is notorious for having a bad odor right out of the package, due to the plastic softening agents used – phthalates, or not, it seems. Therefore many folks use this odor, or lack of it, to help them determine if something is, or is not, silicone. They believe that a silicone sex toy shouldn’t have any chemical odors and many folks become immediately suspicious of perfectly good silicone sex toys when they open their packaging only to be hit with a chemical scent.

It should also be noted that one way to tell the difference between a really-bad porous material like PVC and a semi-bad porous material like TPR is also odor – generally speaking, TPR/TPE doesn’t have a bad odor. But it could, for many of the reasons listed below. In my personal past experience, the stench of toxic chemicals or cover-up perfumes won’t “air out” in a day or so.  The last time I received a toxic, stinky PVC realistic dildo accidentally for review the smell never abated, never went away. I lasted a week and a half before I took it to the dumpster.

Silicone Does Retain Odors

Because silicone isn’t completely non-porous, it can hang on to odors. We’ve learned this about anal toys (and those odors linger because they’re oil-soluble), but chemical odors that are water-soluble should dissipate a lot easier with a quick wash and some airing out.  The mild soap and water wash (or baby wipes swab, followed up by a “rinse” with a damp cloth for toys not water-resistant) will remove any lingering chemicals – something you should do no matter what with a brand new sex toy – but the most important step is simply letting it air out, free from packaging.

Trapped!

Any of the odor-causing methods below will make the silicone sex toy stink if it still stinks when they package it up. Then, the odors are trapped in the airtight packaging and not releasing until you open it. Items packaged only in cardboard, that are never then shrink-wrapped in plastic, will probably have no-to-low odor because of the cardboard. But if the item is put in a plastic bag and then packaged, or the entire packaging is shrink-wrapped, a chemical odor upon unboxing isn’t something to be immediately concerned about.

The odors can also be trapped, so to speak, from inside the toy, too. Yes, that’s right, the smell is coming from inside the house. Er, toy. How? Why? Well, lubrication of interior parts is one reason, and you can read about that in the next section. Another, manufacturer-specific, reason is the squishy under-layer in Tenga Iroha vibrators. The initial line had a very strong chemical odor that took a long time to dissipate – it reminded me of latex paint. The material under the thin silicone skin was a polyurethane-based squishy foam emitting VOCs. More recent Iroha squishy lines seem to have fixed this. And let’s not forget Lelo’s cringe-worthy scented-on-purpose vibrators – the scent is under the silicone skin, and comes out through the silicone’s pores.

Common Reasons for Silicone Sex Toys Having a Chemical Smell

There are so many factors that can cause a lingering chemical odor. This is actually a lot more common than you may realize. There’s a difference in the curing style and manufacturing process of silicone sex toys between say, the hand-poured RTV platinum-cured silicone that Tantus uses for their dildos and the silicone that goes over vibrators – like HTV (high-temperature vulcanization vs room-temperature).  I’ve read that there can be more curing odors associated with peroxide-cure than platinum-cure, but I don’t know which companies may be using peroxide-cure HTV silicone.

  1. Mold release agent – Basically, PAM for silicone. It’s a lubricant that helps get the sex toy out of the mold. This should get washed off, but cheaper companies may not do a good job of that
  2. Cleaning chemicals – Or, they did get rid of the mold release agent, but didn’t let the product air dry to release the VOCs from the cleaning chemicals
  3. The plastic packaging – if the item is in a plastic molded tray or clamshell, that plastic could be releasing VOCs as well
  4. Glue or dye in the packaging – sometimes instead of a plastic tray, your sex toy is in a foam tray. Maybe it’s dyed a color to match the packaging. Maybe there are multiple layers glued together. Again we have VOCs!
  5. Chemicals released during cure – When talking to numerous vibrator manufacturers they confirmed that during silicone cure a chemical reaction occurs and a strong odor comes with it. It’ll go away with 24-48 hours to air out, and good companies let their products air out before packaging. A cheap company will want to crank production up as much as possible and won’t give their products time to air out.
  6. Lubricants – Not the kind you’ll be using, but the kind used during production. I can’t accurately speculate what any given company would use to lubricate moving parts, but it could be anything from an alcohol-based spray to white lithium grease. If there’s no hard plastic barrier between the greased vibrator guts and the silicone skin of a vibrator, you might be smelling that odor for quite some time. One sex toy that comes to mind is this cheap bendable silicone vibrator – I had one complaint of it smelling so bad that I had to investigate and when I cut it open I noticed a little bit of a machine-shop odor and could tell it was from the lubricant used inside. Since it’s bendable, there was nothing in between the guts and the silicone.

What are VOCs?

Some of you may be wondering – VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound. When you smell a chemical odor? That’s a VOC. Paint, new shower curtains, sex toys, cleaning products – we can’t escape them. They’re trying to regulate them, but it’s going to be a tough battle. If your new sex toy has a chemical odor, try to let it air out in a non-living-space room *if possible* since many VOCs can cause headaches, or more.

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The bottom line? Fear not! A chemical odor doesn’t indicate anything bad on its own. Much appreciation to Vibratex, L’amourose, Doxy and Funkit for answering my questions in my research for this article.

 Posted by at 12:51 pm
Dec 252016
 

Due to something that was an experiment-turned-Big-Thing1, I wrote more frequently this year than I have in recent years. I’m branching out a little with this list to talk about sex toys I loved, loathed, wanted to love, and hope to love. Sometimes though I couldn’t pick one item so there’s also a few companies I want to highlight – good AND bad.  This post won’t be my only 2016 round-up though, so stay tuned for more.

Stand Out Sex Toys of 2016

Womanizer PRO40Womanizer PRO40 – The PRO40 didn’t get it’s own review, but it was part of the Womanizer vs Satisfyer comparison post. Despite me liking the PRO40 the best of all of them, I couldn’t be bothered to do a full review since, by and large, it was the same thing as before with some seemingly minor changes. But oh, the changes they were. A lower price! Waterproof! Up and Down buttons! No rhinestones! It’s the same technology as all other Womanizer versions, but it is cheaper. The motor is better than the Satisfyer Pro 2 but perhaps a little less finessed than the Womanizer W100 or W500. I first tried the Womanizer W100 last fall and was blown away. This year this type of sex toy has become my go-to clitoral sex toy. Yes, even more than the Tango. Seriously.

TengaIrohaKushiTenga Iroha Kushi– It’s squishy. It’s cute. The vibrations are fairly rumbly and have enough power to get me off. And that tip is super-pin-point in the best way. I wasn’t in love with the first line of Iroha squishy vibes, but I’m a convert now. I love the seashell look and shape, and my reservations about the grooves were erased when I saw how easy it is to clean. I’ve tried the whale (Yoru), but didn’t like the shape at all. If the shape and color of a red bird appeals to you more then try the Tori– I think it’ll be just like the Kushi.

NudeImpressions1Blush Nude Impressions 01 – I’m not a fan of Blush overall so it was hard for me to put this here. Really hard. But I couldn’t help myself with this darn good, affordable vibrator. It’s waterproof. It’s rechargeable. It has a strong suction cup. It’s silicone (of course). The vibrations are fairly strong and rumbly – it’s no We-Vibe Rave but for the price range and qualities, I think it gets overlooked. It can be used in a harness. It’s butt safe. It’s good for g-spots. It’s even good for external stimulation. Should I go on?

Favorite Sex Toy Companies of 2016

funkit2Funkit -This year I was blown away by the designs of Funkit. Yes, the first thing I focused on was the clear silicone and swirls of pigment but then I noticed the designs. I noticed how hard Kenton was working to perfect the designs and the lengths Kenton will go to to ensure that everything is as high-quality as possible. At first there were just a few dildos and a plug, but now there are paddles and hand-sex rings and even ball gags. Fancy a certain color combo? Funkit can abide. Shevibe is now stocking a few select colors/models from Funkit (including the rainbow “Crista” design)!

crownedjewelsCrowned Jewels -In a world rife with counterfeit stainless steel sex toy designs the originality and beauty of Crowned Jewels stood out.  Offering up stainless steel alternatives in either titanium (anodized for extra awesomeness) or aluminum alloys, these lightweight metal designs can be especially great for folks who worry that the heft of Njoy steel is too much. While their designs, for now, are a bit on the short and slender side, bigger (and better?) things are coming!  I’m excited to see the direction this company will take and their future designs.

wevibesyncpositionsWe-Vibe – “Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a g-spot vibrator with the motor of the Tango?” is probably something many many folks have said over the years. So We-Vibe listened, and created the Rave. Then they listened to the many complaints and downfalls of the typical rabbit vibe, and fixed that too by adding the motor of the tango. And making a unique and powerful clitoral arm. Nova is my number 2 favorite dual-stim sex toy (the L’amourse Denia is the top, but it was on last year’s list). And even though the flagship We-Vibe, that c-shaped couples vibe, has never been something I needed or loved, I have to give props to their new Sync. They fixed the “fit” issue so that it would accommodate the genitals of more people2, and made the motor more rumbly and powerful. It’s not perfect, of course – the Bluetooth doesn’t work when surrounded by flesh because of the position of the antenna3. Because of that it’ll probably never work for me, or others with large full labia, but who knows – maybe they’ll listen, and change that, too. I continue to look forward to their future vibrators! 

DoxyvDoxywideDoxy – While I love the Doxy Don (it used to be the Skittle), I don’t use it much these days. And while I appreciate the Doxy Wands, I never use them because I’m not a fan of broad stimulation or vibrations that aren’t deeply rumbly.  So why are they here? Because they are a stand-up company. Their products are high-quality, their customer service is superb and they’ve managed to hire a stellar manager for their US-based operations; Ruby is an amazing human. AND they sent Girl on the Net to us for Woodhull’s SFS16. Doxy has a few products coming down the pike for 2017 that I am 98% certain I’m going to fall in love with, so be EXCITED.

Problem Child Sex Toy Companies of 2016

lelohex22Lelo fell out of my favor years ago but it’s been getting worse. They started the year with a useless piece of fabric called the Penis Tuxedo, and took up the rest of the year on their even-more-useless condom, the Hex. They partnered with Charlie Sheen, a celeb known for abusing women, to act as their spokesperson and liaison to breaching Civilian Land as they try to fancy themselves a condom maker and sex toy maker. The promotion of a condom that can break and users don’t even know it broke is dangerous, ironic (Sheen is HIV+) and plain stupid. Any sex educator who promotes the Hex as a good condom has earned my distrust, and I’m done recommending Lelo products, period.

tracys-dog-burnTracy’s Dog – I loathed the company for a long time based on the brand name and the fact that they only sold their products on Amazon. Then I saw that they were including fake lab test reports on suspect dildos sent to reviewers; they lied about the lab tests and lied about the material. So when I was searching for a cheap, clear sex toy to use in my clear silicone post I couldn’t resist the purchase of the Tracy’s Dog rabbit, especially since 90% of the Amazon listing called it silicone. It’s not. I wouldn’t recommend buying anything from this brand; there are other brands to support instead, and Tracy’s Dog doesn’t have anything truly unique.

meoMEO.de – What happens when a sex toy retailer puts out a line of house-branded Njoy steel knockoffs, sells house-brand silicone lube mispackaged as water-based lube4, and labels a TPR-headed wand vibrator as silicone because they believe silicone is a “concept”? “We mainly use the concept of “silicone” in the German-speaking world. Our customers understand the term “silicone” a plastic, which is soft and moldable.” I get mad. Other bloggers get mad. And I realize that I can’t recommend them to my readers.  I don’t have a way to test which grade of stainless steel a company may be using and if it’s truly the most body-safe choice, so when I see something priced much lower than njoy, it is highly suspect in my eyes. MEO isn’t the worst ever but have made enough mistakes to cause me concern.

Worst Sex Toys of 2016

Fiera Arouser for HerFiera Arouser – The Fiera “don’t call it a sex toy” Arouser was only given to me for review by the company because I demonstrated the apparent ability to make them feel that I wouldn’t be mad in my review that it didn’t give me orgasms, because it’s not for orgasms, and also because I’ve been dealing with a very low libido. It’s a $200 (or $249 depending) item that is meant as a “warm up”. By combining some suction and light vibration, this sex toy is supposed to basically get you in the mood for sex, or something. But it won’t give you an orgasm, they don’t want it to, and insist that’s not the point. Your husband should give you the orgasm – and please read that bit with the incredulous sarcasm that is in my head. Also, the silicone head has to be replaced every few uses and they’re about $5 each.  It is gendered, hetero, and frankly – insulting. Try literally any other sex toy to achieve the same results. Yes, sex toy, because that’s what this IS.

JimmyJane Intro 4 and 6 with the Form 4 in the backgroundJimmyJane Intro Collection – I tried to give it a chance. I even psyched myself up and expected to enjoy it – rather than expecting to hate it like most Jimmyjame products I’ve tried and verbally (or literally) lit aflame. And boy was I sorely disappointed. I said in the review that I don’t hate the Intro pieces but I’m far from loving them, however as time has marched on I’ve gotten more salty over it especially after reading more about the Intro 2. There are plenty of other affordable sex toys that are better than anything in the Intro Line so please, do not waste your money on these buzzy, half-ass vibrations covered in lint-attracting silicone with some strange shapes.

missvvMiss VV’s Mystery / Miss On The Go – I couldn’t even give this one a proper review because this crappy product requires an app to be useful. And the app never worked for me, an Android user with the latest Samsung phone. First, the app claimed my Bluetooth wasn’t compatible5, and then the app just kept crashing. They don’t anticipate a fix for months, apparently. Good fucking thing I didn’t actually pay for this! To boot, the kegel exerciser is painful to wear as there is no “bend” or give in between the two sections. And that tail! So long! I couldn’t keep it in my pants. Even more strange was the fact that I kept getting notifications on my phone saying that “pillowprincess has canceled the invitation to play”. This means that someone supposedly was allowing me to chat with them and control their useless vibrator. How could this happen though with an app that has never worked? Maybe it’s the Ashley Madison syndrome – not enough users, so bots are available to control or be controlled to make you feel like the experience isn’t totally worthless.  And at $169, with buzzy, weak vibrations, Miss VV’s (real) Mystery is that someone thought this was a good idea. Raise a glass to yet another crowd-funded failure, folks.

Sex Toys of 2016 I Expected to Love More

tantusrumbleTantus Rumble – I wanted to love it, because Tantus. The body design is wonderful – ergonomic and lightweight, with removeable silicone heads for easy cleaning and sanitization. The let-down lay in what many of felt the name implied: rumbles. We admittedly all expected powerful, strong and rumbling vibrations due to words used in marketing. What we have are more gentle vibrations that are somewhere in between buzzy and rumbly. I can recommend it for folks who like broad stimulation and gentle-to-moderate vibrations, but for myself I just don’t love it.

vibratex mystic rechargeable wandMystic Wand Rechargeable – With a motor that felt just a bit buzzier than the original and construction problems making my wand not safe for further use, I was underwhelmed. Even if the silicone were glued on better, the vibrations are just not as amazing as the battery-powered version. It’s such a disappointment because otherwise I adore the body design. Another lightweight, ergonomic wand – albeit with vibrations more powerful than the Tantus Rumble.

swanwandSwan Wand – Fellow lovers of rumbling vibrations urged me to try the Swan Wand, and my few sessions with it left me a little disappointed. The larger end is the rumbly end and boy is it powerful and rumbly, but it’s too large for me to insert. No problem, it could just as easily be an external, broad stimulation vibrator – except I don’t prefer broad stimulation. The Swan Wand is dual-sided and nice, and it clearly is a favorite of many bloggers….just not my favorite. But I don’t hate it, either. I hope to get my full review up soon. The lovely Nashville-based Friction sent it to me and if you are in the Nashville area, contact RoseMarie!

Sex Toys I Look Forward to Trying in 2017

cravebulletCrave Bullet – I got to feel the vibrations when I visited Sexplorations in October, and liked it but I need more use time. I know that the world doesn’t really need another bullet, and I know it can’t best the Tango but something in me needs to try it. Despite the higher-than-Tango price tag on some colors. Hell I’d also like to try other Crave products, like the soft Crave Flex or Crave Solo – although the $139 price tag on the Crave Solo has kept me away all this time and it may prove to keep me away for good.

funkitFunkit CashewCashew is their plug, which can be for vaginal or anal use but I think it was designed to be a vaginal plug. I’m lazy and usually don’t like to thrust dildos anymore so a plug sounds dandy. Ages ago I used a particularly short and curvy wood dildo as a vaginal plug and loved it; then I tried a plug version of the defunct Jollie and hated it because it lacked an exterior base, so removal was a real bitch – it was like a silicone potato. But the Funkit base reportedly won’t get in the way, much, keeping the path for clitoral stimulation open while giving an easy out. The blue-green color of Cashew is at Shevibe now! Bonus!

bswishBswish Wand – Historically I’ve hated every Bswish thing I’ve tried; their motors were always weak as fuck as super buzzy. But the buzz on the street is that the wand is equal to or slightly better than the Mystic Wand so I’m intrigued! Given the price point on this, $31.99, I’m having conflicting feels. I can’t judge anything by the required 4 AAA batteries, since my beloved-and-now-departed Mystic Wand also took batteries.

lumberjillLumberjill Leisurecrafts – Soon to be stocked at Shevibe, I’m interested in trying out more wood sex toys. The designs of Mr Dick Carver have proven to be unique and interesting, without looking anything like Nobessence or, worse, a table leg. Wood is an amazingly beautiful material that is safe when coated properly, and no…..no splinters. It’s probably the least-understood and appreciated safe sex toy material. When coated in a permanently-slick waterproof coating, wood is as slick as glass but les fragile.

 

Hopefully you’ve found things to buy, things to avoid, and know where to spend your holiday money now. Did you have a favorite (or awful) sex toy this year that is notable? Let us know in comments!

  1. It turns out that by offering my RSS subscribers the chance to win not one $50 gift card, but three $50 gift cards, with the link to the gift card entry page only published in the weekly RSS newsletter, I felt compelled to write enough to have at least 3 RSS newsletters go out per month. Many years I would have months in which I only wrote a single post, but not 2016
  2. but like any sex toy, it won’t work for everyone
  3. on the side, under the serial numbers – if that spot is not “seeing the light of day”, Bluetooth won’t really work well and for me and my labia, that will never happen
  4. Causing toy damage with users – they recalled via emails
  5. if the latest phone isn’t compatible….then what is??
Nov 292016
 

img_20161129_110321Recently I posted an article calling out Tracy’s Dog for being a shady, shady brand. This isn’t the first time I’ve purposely purchased a sex toy from Amazon suspecting bad results (see also: Glass safety post, Silica Gel post) but it’s the first time I took a leap of faith and committed to filing a report with Amazon. I was happy enough with the results of my chat, and saw a glimmer of hope for cleaning up Amazon. If more folks would file reports, and go beyond just leaving a 1-star customer review, we might be able to slowly whittle away at all of the counterfeit products and the incorrect material claims1. The most effective options are ones for those who have purchased the offending item from Amazon, but even non-customers can do a few things. Here are all the various ways we can start to clean up Amazon:

File an A-to-Z Protection Claim

There’s talk of this “A-to-Z” guarantee protection, and so I looked into it. I quickly hit a snag when I followed these directions:

To file an A-to-z Guarantee Claim on an eligible order:

  • Go to Your Orders.
  • Locate your order in the list and click Get help with order.
  • Select a reason code to describe your issue.
  • Select Request refund through A-to-z Guarantee.
  • Enter the required information and select Submit

Well, I didn’t see the “Get help with order” button on the order I needed to report. I saw it on a couple of other, more recent orders. My order definitely fit in the 90-days timeframe. You might see it if you try to contact the seller, though (but I never have on any order, so I’m not sure why a few showed the link and most don’t) – and you should, to see if you can get your money back. I found no way to contact the seller on my order – perhaps because it was outside of the Amazon 30-day returns? I don’t know. But the A-to-Z thing didn’t pan out. So…Now what?

Live Chat

I went to “Contact Us“. You start by choosing the order you want to report. Then in section 2 you select an issue. I selected “Problem with the order” and then “Wrong item or not as expected”. When Chat opened, I explained the situation at hand: The seller’s ad copy in their listing says silicone, the box says silicone, but it’s not silicone. They didn’t ask me to prove it; they didn’t ask me how I knew. I chose to tell them about my blog and a little about the flame test method. I could have also linked to the post where we talk about the flashlight test on clear TPR and silicone, but I didn’t need to.  They confirmed they were filing a report for me, and told me that if more customers give similar feedback, they’ll investigate the seller. 

I’ve always received good help from Amazon’s live chat, but sometimes it’s been clear that there’s been a bit of a language barrier. In the case of reporting the Tracy’s Dog vibrator, I could tell that the person I was speaking with understood the situation perfectly (and in fact asked me more about everything; she was a med student, too) and I didn’t need to further explain my links, my materials testing, etc. She appreciated the links I gave her though, and thanked me for doing research before contacting them. If others out there ever want to report this particular brand, feel free to link to my Tracy’s Dog vibrator post to give Amazon background information on the problems with the brand.

The bottom line here is this bit from my Live Chat conversation with Amazon – I was told by the Live Chat associate:

“I have submitted your claim. You may also leave feedback on the products review page for others to see. Hopefully we will get more claims and that will speed up the priority of the investigation.”

And when I asked about others reporting:

Those that have bought it from Amazon should definitely contact us as well because it brings the problem to our attention sooner than the reviews. The reviews are more for customers to have an idea as to what others think.”

Write a Customer Review

While the customer review won’t alert Amazon, it could help in deterring others from purchasing the item. Ultimately, this is what we want: we don’t want customers purchasing shady products from shady brands. You can write a customer review even if you haven’t purchased the sex toy from Amazon (but you should own the item, at least). Reviews from folks who’ve purchased though may hold more weight and will show as “Verified Review”.

Leave Seller Feedback

This is again only something that customers who purchased from Amazon can do. In your Orders history next to every item is a “Leave Seller Feedback” button.  I gave the seller 1 star, confirmed that it arrived on time, said that it wasn’t as advertised, and again discussed material discrepancy in the comments section. This will be seen by both Amazon and the seller. Too many bad seller feedback reports will also cause an investigation.

amazonreport4

Report Incorrect Information

There’s a link that you will only see if you’re logged in to your Amazon account, where you can report incorrect information. You don’t need to have purchased the product, but you should be certain that the information in the listing is incorrect. The link can be hard to spot; it floats around based on the size of the product picture.  If the picture is small, the link is right up under photo or bulleted list of product highlights. If the picture is large the link may float farther over to the right. Below are two examples.

amazonreport1

amasonreport2

When I clicked on the link, because the incorrect information was everywhere and not just the bulleted points, I chose “Other product details” first, and then after some thought I went back and reported again to point out the bulleted list. The next drop down wants to know what the issue is. I put “incorrect information”, but “product quality issue” may also be valid. On listings like the items I purchased for the Silica Gel post, I would choose “conflicting information” because those items said silicone in some parts of the listing, silica gel in others, and so on. Does it help to report over and over again on the product for every issue? I don’t know. Because we could say that the Tracy’s Dog rabbit vibrator also had “conflicting information” – while all of the ad copy from the seller, Tracy’s Dog, said silicone the Product Description (which I assume Amazon writes?) said TPR. But it only ever said TPR in that one little section, and that is easy to overlook when they say “silicone” 15 other places.

amazonreport3

It would take a massive effort worldwide, really, and I feel that this reporting needs to be done across the board – not just sex toys, but all items on Amazon that you receive which seem in poor shape. Counterfeit products are rampant on Amazon, products of all kinds, and these counterfeits are killing small businesses. Maybe a change can happen; maybe Amazon will just stop selling sex toys. Until this massive change happens, though, please think twice before you buy that sex toy from Amazon.  You’ll get much better customer care and support by shopping with amazing folks like Shevibe, Early to Bed, Come as You Are, Smitten Kitten and many other small, feminist shops both online and in-store  – for more information on where to shop, go to the last portion of this article.

 

 

  1. allow me this one moment of sheer optimism
 Posted by at 12:54 pm
Nov 272016
 

Remember when I thought that “Womanizer” was the worst name for a sex toy? “Tracy’s Dog” is worse, and it’s the brand name. It might be the worst brand name I’ve ever heard. Stick with me here; I know you may be wondering if it’s April 1st already but you’ll soon see this isn’t your average sex toy review.

Tracy’s Dog – A Brand I Do Not Trust

You won’t find “Tracy’s Dog” at the retailer I trust most, SheVibe, or other retailers I trust like Come as You Are, Early to Bed, Smitten Kitten, Babeland, and more. Where will you find it? The retailer I trust least – Amazon. Tracy’s Dog has been trying to get me to review their sex toys for ages now. They’ve sent a bunch of emails. I’ve always refused because I won’t review sex toys that come from Amazon and only Amazon because reasons. Some reviewers have tried out the brand, and not everyone hated it. There was a really eyebrow-raising issue with Cara Sutra’s Pleasure Panel reviewers and their “Liquid Silicone” dildos – two people received a “Liquid Silicone” dildo with a “Materials Test” result paper which supposedly came from a testing lab and claims the material is SILICA GEL – links and photos further down. Not silicone, for they are not the same thing. And as I’ve reported before, silica gel is a desiccant – not a sex toy material!

The Tracy’s Dog Flirt Rabbit sells for $13.98 at Amazon, is not made from silicone, and is a nightmare. I bought this stupid thing from Amazon for that piece I wrote illustrating water-clear TPR and cloudy-clear silicone. I also bought this because on the Amazon listing, in amidst all the SEO words, Tracy’s Dog claims it is silicone in the title. The “highlights” bullet list calls it silicone. The fucking packaging calls it silicone. Multiple places throughout the page call it silicone. Finally way down under “Product Description”, it’s called TPR. Most people will not see this, though, and think they’re buying affordable silicone. This. Is. Not. Silicone. This is why I avoid “white label” sex toy brands, and brands that you only see on sites like Amazon, Ebay, AliExpress and Groupon. The “branding” on this piece of junk is literally a fucking sticker. So yeah, be prepared to see this godawful thing from other “brands”, too.

51xasgt4mjl

“Tracy’s Dog® Flirt Rotating Bullet 36-frequency Thrusting Soft Silicone Powerful Rabbit Vibratoir G-spot Stimulation Vibe Clit Masturbation Dildo (Purple)”

*sigh*

  1. It’s not silicone.
  2. What is 36-frequency?
  3. Vibratoir?
  4. Not a Dildo
  5. SUITABLE FOR BAR FLIRTING

AND THEN. Oh because the listing gets better. We’re still up at the top here – just under the image where they bullet-list the highlights and say:

The rabbit vibrator is made of healthy senior silicone, crystal clear,vivid skin touch feeling

What, pray tell, is “healthy senior silicone”? Also, no, not “skin touch” feeling. It feels like goddamn softened plastic. I’ve felt TPR that does feel realistic-ish, but not this!

Realistic big glans,telescopic bead design, 36-frequency vibrating,adjustable power,can auto thrust to you body, direct sexual desire,like a fire burning all your passion

Oh, you’ll feel a fire, alright, after you’ve used it too many times and the itsy bitsies living in the pores give you a yeast infection.

“Rotating, Vibrating, Thrusting, knock the door of your heart.”

  • The design of this product bases on in-depth analysis of the Europe and the United States female’s sexual-mind. Its size and appearance according with human body engineering design can let a female fondle admiringly.
  • Thrusting soft silicone combined with strong power motor creates infinite fun. ..Powerful rotating bullets coupled with the unique flapping wings make you passionate.
  • Built-in the most advanced motor, provide a steady stream of power for the strong speed.

The two long cute antennas and wings vibrating with36 frequency tender massage your body, releasing all of your sexual desire and pleasure. The realistic soft big glans can thrust into your body slowly, conducting you into a wonderful happy world. Under the glans penis, the large raised silica gel points stimulate the right place, making you excited. The 101 pleasure floating-point around the stick, surrounding the passion of thread, give you a good friction.12 adjustable speed,36 frequency and 360 ° rotation can fully satisfy you.

1. For couples: This toy can satisfy curiosity and increase the newness.

2. For solo: No longer lonely with it in the night.

3. For the senior players: It helps you explore new things.

4. For beginner: It provides the instant resource for love.

tracysdogbox tracysdogbox2

Note: Text appearing in dark red is directly from the Amazon listing, and written by the brand. There’s just so much to unpack here, and this is only the fucking Amazon listing. So, it’s right there on the Amazon page, why did I copy it, you’re wondering? In case they change it – plus it’s funny (and sad).”No longer lonely in the night” – now, if we were talking about an actual dog, providing actual companionship, sure. But a vibrator? A vibrator will not ease your lonliness, nor is it meant to. Vibrators are also not there for love. The orgasms you get from a really great sex toy that makes you come harder than you thought possible, the kind of sex toy that makes you want to give them as gifts to everyone you meet – sure, those may produce endorphins that mimic love and if you try to steal my Pure Wand or Kate’s Double Trouble you will be hurt. But love? Ehhh, you’re pushing it.

Sure, we can absolutely chalk a lot of this up to “lost in translation”. After all, the vibrator is made for Asian women. Not kidding.  In amongst all of the typos and bad translation it says on the back of the packaging: “the product Dimensions boby [sic] feature based on Asian design, tailored specifically for Asian women”.  Also on the back of the package is where they say that it is “crystal clear silicone”. Um, no, no it’s not. You want proof beyond this post? It failed the flame test spectacularly.

tracysdogburn tracysdogburn2 tracysdogburn3

Anyway. Since this post is about this particular vibrator, I want to tell you a few things about it.

  1. Yes, it thrusts. Poorly.
  2. Yes, it rotates. However the rotating section of “beads” has sharp points on it and can be felt through the thin material.
  3. The only part that vibrates is the clitoral arm, which is, of course, buzzy and mediocre at best. Not powerful.
  4. It’s shit. Even if it were silicone, it’d be shit. Don’t fucking buy it!

I Won’t Trust a Brand Who Lies

Here’s the thing. Yes, there are products from this brand that are indeed silicone. There are positive reviews for these products from sex toy reviewers. But I will never endorse ANY Tracy’s Dog product, ever, despite it being affordable silicone because they lie. They’ve lied in 16 ways about this rabbit vibe; they’ve lied about those “Liquid Silicone” dildos – even though that 2016-dated product material test affidavit went out with multiple dildos they claim it was a TYPO and sent out another test report from a different lab DATED 2010. SIX FUCKING YEARS AGO.  Below you can see the two test papers that were sent to the reviewer and originally appeared at carasutra.com in this review, used with permission from Cara. At the left is the 2016 report, which doesn’t name any specific sex toy, listing the material as “silica gel”. At the right is the 2010 report, again not naming any specific sex toy. You can see what an actual materials test report looks like from a reliable lab by visiting BadVibes.org. I’ve also sent out an item for testing to a lab and received the same test report styling as BadVibes did. No decent lab would put forth such strange, vague test result papers.

Tracy's Dog material test paper from a lab reads: Sample Name - Sex toy. Sample Material: Silica Gel. Tracy's Dog Materials Test Report from a different lab, offered up as the "real" lab test. No sex toy name is defined, material is "liquid silicone rubber" and the report is dated 2010

Update: A review of the “Tracy’s Dog Double Silicone Thick Dildo” brought yet another atrocity to my attention. As the reviewer states, the company lists it as having a soft TPE exterior and a silicone interior. This just isn’t done. There’s no reason for it, and the silicone (if there is any) is hidden under a layer of porous material. Again, I don’t trust this at all. More lies!

I can’t recommend this company, at all, for any product, full stop. Even the items rated well by other bloggers can be found in similar form from more reputable companies. The brand Tracy’s Dog now live on my Blacklist. If you need an affordable sex toy, check out my list of sex toys under $35.

35under35small

 

ETA: At the suggestion of others I decided to contact Amazon. Their A-to-Z thing wasn’t activated (when looking at orders history, you should see a “help with this order” button or something, and I didn’t) so I ventured into Live Chat. I’m sharing the chat, but I want to point out: the way to get dodgy sellers/brands like Tracy’s Dog off Amazon is for CONSUMERS to file reports the way I’ve done. If enough people who’ve purchased the item report it as misleading ad copy, etc to an Amazon associate, then an investigation may be opened.  There is also a “report incorrect product information” link to click on the page, which can be done by anybody. It took me a little looking to find it, but it’s up at the top, after the item photos, on the right side. 

In my chat with an Amazon associate, once I explained what the situation is and showed them the link to Cara’s review with the shady lab test reports, etc, I was told that the person was filing a claim so that the item page can be taken down for review. I confirmed that I personally didn’t want a replacement, that I wanted to report the brand & seller. The helpful associate let me know she was asking her supervisor for any other steps that can be taken to report the problem. I was told: “I have submitted your claim. You may also leave feedback on the products review page for others to see. Hopefully we will get more claims and that will speed up the priority of the investigation.” and when I asked about others reporting: “Those that have bought it from Amazon should definitely contact us as well because it brings the problem to our attention sooner than the reviews. The reviews are more for customers to have an idea as to what others think.”

 

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