Mar 062018
 

Coconut Oil and Silicone Sex Toys - A jar of coconut oil is surrounded by various silicone sex toysThe world is divided on their feelings about coconut oil as lube, but I didn’t know that people truly believed that coconut oil and silicone sex toys were incompatible. It doesn’t work well as a lube for everyone; it’s not the perfect lube (there isn’t one perfect lube). But it does work well for many folks! It’s not good for those who use condoms – unless you can use the hard-to-find polyurethane or nitrile condoms – but it is great with all body-safe sex toy materials.

I’ve talked about the fact that coconut oil and silicone sex toys are compatible but then recently a sex toy shop published a Very Incorrect article on why they hated coconut oil as lube. Among their many opinions touted as (incorrect) facts was that they claimed it would destroy silicone sex toys, making them look “decayed”. That’s…that’s not a thing that happens…ever.

Despite myself and other bloggers chiming in about their long-time use of coconut oil lube with silicone sex toys, the shop’s social media manager was not swayed and they got really shitty with folks. But since they were not the only ones surprised that coconut oil and silicone sex toys can have a long, happy marriage I decided to run a little experiment. Y’all know how much I love experiments.

Geeky Metrics

I wanted to be sure I could tell you that there was no change to the silicone with no doubts, so I had to use proof beyond my pictures and my words. I borrowed a durometer to tell me the shore strength (squish level) of the sex toys before and after their exposure to coconut oil. I weighed them in grams to make sure that no oil was absorbed. I photographed them before and after each time they bathed in coconut oil.

Coconut oil and silicone sex toys - showing various silicone sex toys with coconut oil on themThe first time I put the coconut oil on the sex toys I had melted the oil and brushed it on with a basting brush. I did it this way because once the coconut oil is in your body it’s warmed up enough to liquify. But this meant that I was worried there wasn’t enough oil on the sex toys to be convincing because the oil slid right off the shiny Tantus dildo and dripped off the others in slow motion. Because we keep our house temps at 68F, though, the melted oil eventually solidified on the sex toys. I waited 30 minutes before I washed and dried them. 

The second time around I scooped out some slightly-softened-mostly-solid coconut oil and spread it on the sex toys. This time I left it on the TPR toys for only 2 hours and decided to leave it on the silicone sex toys overnight. The coconut oil and silicone sex toys marinated for 15 hours the second time.

Coconut Oil and Silicone Sex Toys

My first test time of 30 minutes “marinating” the coconut oil and silicone sex toys was based on this poll I ran asking people how long their sex toys were usually covered in lube.

My second test time of 15 hours1 was because I wanted to make sure that a cumulative effect of many uses would also not have any effect. I was too impatient / couldn’t gaurantee the consistent cleanliness of my kitchen to run 5 or 9 half-hour tests so I figured that a long exposure would be fine. 

As expected, the coconut oil had no effect on the silicone. There was no absorption of oil into the silicone. There was no change in shore strength. There was no “decayed” look. There was no effect: coconut oil and silicone sex toys are perfectly compatible.

Coconut oil and silicone sex toys - close up views of silicone sex toys before coconut oil was applied and after the final 15 hour test

Coconut Oil and Fun Factory Toys

It came to my attention tonight, thanks to Epiphora, that it does void the warranty on Fun Factory toys if you use coconut oil or other oils – however, it’s not because of the silicone. I find this kind of ironic because one of the toys I tested was Fun Factory. WHOOPS. The toy is fine, though. Anyway, it’s because oil damages their plastic handles / the controls. I’ve never personally experienced any issues with coconut oil and other plastic sex toys or their plastic handles but I cannot tell you to risk voiding your warranty when the manufacturer is so explicit.

Which Coconut Oil?

I did my tests with “extra virgin, unrefined” coconut oil. When I first did my research on coconut oil as a lube information seemed to point to unrefined, organic, extra-virgin as being the “best” and healthiest. Refined goes through processes to sanitize it but those processes also destroy a lot of the good stuff. According to LiveStrong:

Of the two options, refined oil remains a cheaper choice. While the refined product still contains the valuable medium chain fatty acids, the damage done to many nutritive factors such as the polyphenols during processing means that the unrefined oil stands out as a healthier choice.

Some refined coconut oils can have partially-hydroginated fats added in, which could increase the pore-clogging factor of oil for some people. I think that as long as you make sure it has nothing added and it’s organic, there’s no harm. Fewer benefits, but reduced cost.

If you’re someone who is most worried about pores being clogged because you’re prone to that then you could try liquid coconut oil – it has the solidifying fat removed so it’s considered non-comdedogenic. Of course this is also the most refined and it removes most, if not all, of the health benefits you may want from coconut oil (anti-fungal, anti-microbial, etc).

You can also try out the new options on the market that are specifically marketed as lube, which includes Coconu and Sliquid. Both are combinations of various plant-based oils and butters; I have no idea how much of the anti-fungal -microbial properties would remain in these lubes so if that’s an aspect that is important, go back to unrefined coconut oil. It’s also considerably more expensive that buying plain coconut oil – 2 ounces of Sliquid is $12, but 32 ounces of organic, unrefined coconut oil is $14.

There are no studies on coconut oil as a lubricant that I’ve found, but a number of studies showing that coconut oil is great at killing candida. I’ve found a study on mineral oil and vaginal use, which is bad, but not coconut oil. No studies talk about the pH because, as far as we know, oils don’t have a pH. Some people have reported increased vaginal infections with coconut oil and feel it’s down to the fact that oils can help bacteria hang out for longer in your vagina – they can, but unrefined coconut oil is anti-microbial. So what could be the problem?

Well, it could be how you’re getting the coconut oil on your bits. Are you digging a finger into the tub of oil? You’re introducing bacteria. I suggest “decanting” an ounce of oil into a smaller container with a lid. The article linked above also suggests that using too much coconut oil can disrupt the flora balance and make an existing yeast infection worse, not better, so it’s a delicate balance. People who easily get yeast infections may want to take caution.

“The fact that coconut oil kills candida and yeast can help with yeast infections and candida issues, but can also cause a healing crises or candida die off when used internally. If you have never used coconut oil internally before, start with a 1 teaspoon (5 grams) and test your body’s response.”

A little goes a very long way with coconut oil as a lube.

Oil and Silicone Elsewhere

A few months ago the myth of “silicone toys touching in storage” came up again on social media in part because of Lovehoney’s incorrect assertions that some silicone wand toppers shouldn’t be used on silicone-headed wand vibrators and my jar experiment of a few years ago didn’t seem to be “enough”. I went to a kitchen supply store, I looked around my own house and pointed out the many many silicone kitchen ephemera that exists peacefully as a group, all touchin’ up in each others’ business. The silicone items at the kitchen store touching in long-term storage. Nothing. Happens.

People seem to forget that silicone exists in the world outside of sex toys. Silicone wedding bands, and gasket rings, and various kitchen and bath items, and cell phone cases. How many times do you use oil in your cooking and baking and it comes in contact with a silicone item? For me it’s a lot – spatulas and basting brushes and measuring spoons. Many people wear a silicone wedding band and I’ve not heard of one problem with the band being destroyed due to contact with oils. They don’t warn you in the care instructions to avoid oil.

Like the myth that silicone-touching-silicone will result in damage to your sex toys I think this myth is something that has hung on from the unchecked industry issues of companies or retailers saying that something is silicone when it’s actually TPR. If your sex toy is damaged, melts, deforms from storage or oil? It’s not silicone. You’ve reached an timely end in your adventure, now turn back to page 14 and start over, this time by flame-testing that sex toy to make sure it’s actually silicone.

Bonus Section: Coconut Oil and TPR

I expected to see visible destruction given the results of my jar (the liquid in the jar is the oil that’s leached out of the toys and my theory is that that speeds up and encourages more breakdown of material). What actually happened mildly surprised me. 

I could not find any change in the texture or softness of the two TPR sex toys. One was more firm than the softest silicone and one was so squishy it reminded me of a masturbation sleeve and it was softer than the Shore A durometer could measure. What I did notice, however, was how the oil behaved. The liquid oil on the TPR never solidified. The solid oil on the TPR started to melt AND seemed to draw out some of the oil in the material. You can see the differences in this video. The oil on the cutting board beneath each TPR sex toy was slightly sticky, too. 

I even left the softer TPR dildo in contact with coconut oil for an entire day – the coconut oil in the dish solidifed (I’d melted it) but the oil I’d put on the dildo was gone and the oil that dildo was touching in the bowl also remained liquid. It’s really strange. I couldn’t see any damage like visible material distortion or anything but I could see some literal holes in the dildo that teared easily when I pulled on the material a little.

Without having access to more in-depth scientific tools I can’t tell you exactly what happened to the TPR. It’s a known thing in the industry that you can’t mix TPR or PVC with oil lubes so this wasn’t a thing to prove – it was merely a “compare and contrast” and “because I can” addition to the test.

 

Do you use coconut oil as lube? What have been your experiences?

  1. In the video I said 10 hours but that is because I have no concept of time, and guessed. But when I looked at my IG post from the day before to see when I’d actually put the oil on the toys the second time, it said 15 hours
Mar 032018
 

Definition:: what is a body-safe sex toy?Toxic. Non-porous. Body-safe. Skin-safe. Non-toxic. These are all terms you will see used to define sex toy materials. Toxic, non-toxic, and non-porous are all pretty self-explanatory terms but we’ll go over them here. The term that seems up for debate is body-safe, so today I’m going to give you various answers on what a body-safe sex toy is.

But, let’s start by talking about the other, more easily defined terms, before we define a body-safe sex toy.

Toxic Sex Toys

The topic of toxic toys is one this blog is familiar with; I have a whole page dedicated to the ins and outs. When you get down to the nitty-gritty of language, though, you may wonder if “toxic” is accurate. Toxic, by definition, means “containing poisonous substances” or “containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing serious injury or death

While there are no cases of a sex toy material killing someone we do know that some sex toys contain phthalates, a chemical that can do bad things to the body. The occurance of phthalates in sex toys is sharply declining, thankfully, as evidenced by recent lab tests. One or two uses won’t likely hurt you, and sex toys are not the only place to find phthalates but they’re a thing you can control and avoid.

We’ve also seen the presence of heavy metals, like Cadmium which is dangerous, but this is rare. We may see irritants, such as chlorine, which may cause a burn or rash on your skin. But the chances of a sex toy truly being “toxic” to the point of serious illness? We don’t know. After all, no one is subjecting mice to a Basix dildo and observing them.

The lab tests on sex toys have largely been performed on the more well-known brands but the market is flooding, unchecked, on sites like Groupon, Amazon, Ebay and AliExpress. Brands come and go and they are usually not the focus of testing. These are the brands I am most skeptical of; they are white label brands usually (another definition post to come on that) and their manufacturing isn’t watched with a careful eye like the more major brands.

Because the sex toy industry is much less regulated the chemicals in sex toy materials are not monitored by any governing body. Packaging can say whatever the company wants it to say with no regard for the truth. As consumers become more savvy and bloggers educate more, I feel we’re seeing fewer companies lie on packaging but it certainly still happens.

There are a few things we know to be true, though: You’ll never find phthalates in silicone or hard materials. Due to the nature of the material you don’t find phthalates in TPR/TPE but you may in latex rubber or PVC. PVC/Vinyl can contain high levels of chlorine, while TPR/TPE has been shown to be free of harmful and irritating chemicals. Visually, it can be hard to tell the difference between a TPR and PVC – your nose may know, but all soft sex toy materials (even silicone) can have a bad chemical odor due to manufacturing chemicals not being removed before the toy is sealed up in packaging.

Non-Toxic Definition

Non-toxic is a definition I use for materials that are porous but are either very unlikely to contain harmful or irritating chemicals or the company claims they are free from harmful or irritating chemicals. TPR/TPE and various trademarked “flesh” like materials will fall in this category – such as masturbators like Fleshlight and Tenga. PVC that claims to be phthalates-free could begrudingly go in this category if we’re feeling charitable or have repeatedly seen that the brand never fails on lab tests. 

Unfortunately, as noted above, it can often be hard to tell the difference between PVC and TPR/TPE. Both can be jelly-like and clear, or completely opaque. I am more wary of this difficulty telling the difference when you’re relying on white-label brands direct from the Chinese manufacturing plant than of major name brands carried at most retailers.

Non-toxic, porous sex toy materials may not ever harm your body in the ways a toxic toy can – they are unlikely to cause a rash or chemical burn, for example. They will, over time, become a happy home to bacteria and yeast because these materials can only be cleaned on the surface – the same can be said for toxic toys because they are also porous. Their pores will always freely feed bacterial colonies and encourage them to thrive. The material is not chemically stable and will break down over time. It will happen slowly if left on its own: it’ll sweat an oily substance, lose it’s coloring, or take on coloring from anal use or simply the place it’s being stored. It will happen rapidly if stored in a place that gets hotter than body temperature or if two porous toys are stored touching each other.

Non-toxic, porous sex toys can also potentially cause vaginal infections in some people.

Skin-Safe Definition

I’ve only seen this term used by a few retailers, namely Lovehoney (and anybody setting up their site who copies Lovehoney). My best guess is they use this term as a nicer way of describing materials that are porous yet claim to be non-toxic.

Why “Skin safe” and not body-safe or, more accurately, non-toxic? Perhaps even they recognize that “body-safe” is a higher level of quality yet they still want to give you a false sense of security. Given all the issues that can happen with porous materials I would never call them “skin safe”.  PVC without phthalates is non-toxic but could burn your skin from chlorine…that doesn’t sound “safe”.

Body-Safe Sex Toy Definitions

Like “skin safe”, some retailers and manufacturers use “body safe” as a blanket term for anything that is merely non-toxic. The issues with porous sex toys, like repeated vaginal infections, won’t happen for everyone. If you replace the porous material after 4-6 months and take very good care of it1 then you may never have to worry about shoving a bacterial colony of squigglies in your body. These exceptions, maybes and loopholes mean that, to some, TPR/TPE and similarly named products (elastomer, for example) are “body-safe”.

I don’t consider microbial stowayas “body-safe” but, unless you’re a microbiologist, you won’t know the bacteria and yeast there. They could be. I’ve heard of people giving themselves repeated yeast infections because of the microbes in the toy; I’ve heard of people feeling like they’ve had food poisioning after using a porous sex toy anally.

While many retailers will push you towards sex toy cleaners for the porous materials, I don’t recommend it. The chemicals from the cleaner could potentially stick around in the pores. Do we know this to be 100% fact? No. Again, a lack of specific medical studies but enough people who know more about

To most bloggers, educators, and retailers, though, a body-safe sex toy is something that is both non-toxic and non-porous.

The Exceptions to Body-Safe Sex Toy Materials

Taken a step further a body-safe sex toy means being certain that the metal alloys in metal toys are considered surgical-grade or marine-grade, like njoy’s 316 grade stainless steel or Crowned Jewels’ body-safe aluminum and titanium. Good stainless steel shouldn’t be highly magnetic. It also means that the glass has not been painted and non-toxic pigments in frit are the only pigments used. It means that the wood has been sealed with food-grade sealant (or medical-grade) that will not wash away. It means that only non-toxic food-grade pigments are used in ABS plastic or silicone.

The tricky part, then, is knowing the answers to those exceptions for every brand you buy. You can get to a safe and trusting place by only buying from brands endorsed by sex toy reviewers, sold by trustworthy retailers also endorsed by sex toy reviewers. I am always very wary of recommending unknown brands of metal sex toys especially if the brands are only found on sites like Amazon, AliExpress, and so on; I can also tell you that you are very unlikely to get a body-safe metal butt plug for under $25 – especially the jeweled kind.

I’ve given you the tools to know more about the safety of your glass sex toys but there are no easy, fool-proof home tests yet for metal. Wood sex toys are usually easier because, for the most part, manufacturers/crafters know what they’re putting on the wood as a sealant and are up front about this. This article talks about the sealants you should avoid. You can try your hand at flame-testing to determine if something is silicone or not – not all PVC and TPR looks like “jelly” so at first glance you may be unable to tell visually.

 

A body-safe sex toy doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Buy from a trusted retailer – not Amazon, AliExpress, Groupon, Ebay – and you can find many options to fit your budget. You can’t find many body-safe sex toys under $10, for example, but you can find hundreds under $35. I want you to have the best, safest experience possible and that starts by knowing your materials, the risks, and how to shop.

 

 

  1. clean it immediately before and after use with a mild soap, let it air-dry 100% before storing it in a dark environment, storing it by itself in unbleached cotton bags/wrapping
Aug 122014
 

“TPR-Silicone”? Silicone blends? NOPE. Not possible.

For quite some time, we used to believe that there was some bizarre “10% rule” where a manufacturer only had to create a sex toy that contained 10% silicone in order to actually call it silicone for marketing. When I learned that there are no regulations, I learned that the “rule” was a myth and companies could be lying about the material. They could use any material, and claim it to be any material. There is nothing stopping them from out and out lying. And then the lies get spread further because the retailers usually have no option but to parrot the information given to them by the manufacturer.

When I first started reviewing in 2008, we (the consumers) thought that silicone blends and “TPR Silicone” was a thing. The manufacturers called it that, the retailers (of course) called it that. In fact, many retailers still do! A google search of that term shows that it’s still being used on many sites. I don’t know, can’t know, which retailer was the first to explain the various materials – Edenfantasys, for all its downfalls, did a service in providing their material safety rating scale which helped educate a number of people about jelly, cyberskin, etc. The material safety was ranked on a scale from 1 to 10. In order to give credit where credit is due, the material safety scale was created by Shanna Katz and someone who went by “Delilah Douglas” on EF.  Sadly though, they still list TPR Silicone as a material. Many new sites model after their material list, and the myth/misinformation perpetuates. Given the drastic decline of Edenfantasys, I highly doubt that there’s anyone there who would care enough to change their information.

How to Tell TPR from Silicone

Ever since I started burning sex toys, I’ve noticed certain traits. For one, jelly and TPR can be completely clear, crystal clear, but silicone can not be. Silicone can be clear, but it is a somewhat “cloudy” clear. TPR and jelly has also a certain feel that you’ll never get from silicone, and an elasticity you’ll not get from silicone. So if something is crystal clear and can stretch to fit around your ankle? That cock ring is not silicone.

ScreamingO

Most often, when I find a sex toy still being advertised as “TPR Silicone” on a retail site, a look at the manufacturer’s site shows that they’re merely calling it TPR. It’s hard to say who is to blame for the inaccurate listings…..did the manufacturer wise up and the retail store hasn’t made changes to the listing? Or is the retail store trying to fool you? Information changes, so what we used to believe as fact is no longer, and when this old, incorrect information still persists, the myths persist.  Sites like this are not out to purposely misinform, but I hope that the information given will be changed as more is learned about these materials and the truth. Information changes, so what we used to believe as fact is no longer, and when this old, incorrect information still persists, the myths persist. 

The Confirmation – TPR Cannot be Blended

I have a few industry friends I can turn to for further investigation when I get one of my hunches, and this was no exception. I can’t name names nor say anything about my “informant” but they work with materials and and have worked for a few large sex toy manufacturing companies. They confirmed for me that it is not possible to blend TPR/TPE with silicone. They’re different materials, and simply cannot be “blended” to create one material type.  They said that one could, technically, layer the TPR and silicone, so that the silicone layer is what is seen by the consumer, but it’s a stretch and it’s very expensive to do so – therefore that negates the whole reason for it. This person reiterated what I’ve suspected, which is that “a lot came from [earlier in the industry] when silicone started to become popular and some were trying to pass it off by saying TPR/TPE silicone”.

Once Again I Lash Out at Screaming O for their “SEBS Silicone” Claims

I decided to dig deeper because of the material naming discrepancies that I still sometimes see; one culprit as mentioned above is Screaming O. I’ve burned their cock rings that they claim are made of a “material” called SEBS, which they claim stands for “silicone elastomer blend”. Not only can you not even blend silicone with a thermoplastic elastomer, but everywhere else in the chemistry world, SEBS stands for styrene-ethylene/butylene-styrene.  The Screaming O cock rings are extremely stretchy and soft. They’re probably over 80% plasticizers (likely mineral oil). When lit, they burn like Indiana Jones’ torch – hot, bright and resistant to extinguishing from a gust of air. The Screaming O rings were the only thing I’ve burned that I couldn’t extinguish by blowing out, I had to toss them under running water. Silicone doesn’t behave like that. And of course, after being burned, the Screaming O rings left no ash — the hallmark of silicone — just a look of melted plastic.  I can’t tell if the material Screaming O is using truly is this SEBS stuff or if they’re just using that acronym as a made-up term for their made-up material. I’d have to raise funds to get a ring sent to the lab like I did with the Hello Touch to find out for sure. I’m skeptical of their material, though, highly skeptical. Styrene is a chemical that many are side-eyeing pretty hard, and aren’t sure how toxic it could be.  If we’re gonna continue to get all technical and science-y, Screaming O (and other sex toy companies too, like Vibratex) use the term “Elastomer” as a material name, when it’s actually a material type. I’d be willing to bet that when most companies are describing their item as being made of Elastomer, it’s really TPE – thermoplastic elastomer. Wikipedia says it’s “also called” thermoplastic rubber (TPR) so I am not yet sure if there is a chemical difference between TPR and TPE, if they’re the same thing, etc. There are different types of TPEs, but I don’t know if all of those types could be used in the sex toy application. We’ve seen these mystery materials come in a variety of shore strengths, too. The softer they are, the more porous they are, and the more likely they are to break down. There’s a big different in how the TPR like these items behaves vs the TPR of say the Eroscillator. I’ve yet to hear that someone’s Eroscillator attachment melted or started to break down, or got “greasy”. Those attachments have much less softening content, though, too. I’ve tried to contact Eroscillator about the material, but they won’t respond.

The term TPR Silicone is very misleading and very incorrect; people hear “silicone” and think that it’s safe, and non-porous. I’d like to see retailers eradicate the language, and I can only hope that when they’re contacted, they will change the terminology.  If you see a site selling items listed as “TPR Silicone”, please consider contacting them to change the wording.

 

Disclaimer: I am explaining things in the best way I know how. I’m dealing here in many “facts” that I can’t promise are all 100% accurate – we lack the ability to be super scientific about this. I don’t have a chemist by my side, I don’t have a lab. I’m sharing with you what I think, what I’ve been told, what I am inferring from my own test results thus far, and what my reason and logic is filling in. The information here may change as we learn more–this post is evidence that as the years go by in the sex toy industry, things are changing and past truths are becoming myths.

 

May 252014
 

first sex toy buying guideOver at Reddit I’ve been getting a lot of questions along the lines of “I/we want to try out sex toys, but have no idea where to start”. It can be hard sometimes to recommend things for someone’s first sex toy, since not even they really know what they want. And of course, they often are young or just reluctant to spend much money on the whole endeavor, since they have no clue how it’ll work out. Too often, people recommend cheap and *unsafe* sex toys, or cheap and half-ass quality sex toys, for a sex toy newbie. I’ve been there, and that’s mostly what filled my meager toy bag my first two years. It led me to wasting a decent chunk of money, but it also ultimately led to me creating this blog. I try to avoid recommending shoddy toys to the first-timers. So difficult, so very very difficult. They’re cheap for a reason! I do have a complete guide to under-$35 sex toys right here, and there’s now a bonus section for sex toys under $50, but for this topic we’re going to up the budget to $80 because it’s where the better sex toys are. Not that you need to start off pricey but I don’t recommend always going super cheap, especially with vibrators.

Top Three Tips Before You Start

  1. Understand safe sex toy materials. You want to avoid anything porous. Stick with silicone from trusted brands, hard (ABS) plastic, glass, metal and wood.
  2. Discuss it together, first. Go get your partner and look at the items I’m recommending. What you think your partner would like and what they actually would like can be two very different things. Make sure you can answer these seven things before you buy a surprise gift for a partner.
  3. If you’re buying a sex toy for someone with a clitoris who has never orgasmed from penetrative sex, then don’t get an internal vibe. Get an external vibe and a stronger one at that but don’t feel like you have to jump right to the Magic Wand.

Where to shop

Please, don’t go to Amazon. The first place I recommend you shop at if you’re in the US is Shevibe. They have great prices and are a trustworthy company. You’ll get great customer service, too. They’ve been around for awhile and I adore them. For silicone dildos and butt toys, plus some harnesses and paddles, you can also go directly to the manufacturer I adore most – Tantus. They often have great sales. If you’re in Canada Come As You Are is good.  A few smaller, feminist sex shops I support are Smitten Kitten and Early to Bed.  Now, you may notice a lack of UK and Canadian shops. I’ve stopped supporting Lovehoney and Lovedreamer, two I had previously listed here. Lovedreamer would hold onto my affiliate earnings for ages and be unreachable. This doesn’t give me enough trust in them treating you, the customer, properly. I’m working on finding new shops in other countries that I can support fully and trust. *Apparently this paragraph is not sufficient for some people. If you want the details on why I recommend these shops, read my long-winded comment below. Also read this post.

Deciding on sex toy size

Base the size of your first sex toy, if it’s meant for insertion, on what has already been inserted into said orifice. Nothing? A finger? Two fingers? A cock? Not all people seeking their first sex toy need something tiny and/or wimpy on vibrations. If you’ve never had anything inserted, ever, you’re going to have to purchase two sizes – the warm-up and then the step-up. I realize it sounds like a waste of money, but you can’t just jump head first into these things. Starting with a warm-up can be key to the whole experience going well.  I have a complete guide to choosing your first dildo that you should check out. Also, consider the material. A very firm silicone, or other hard material, is going to feel bigger than the same size bio cock. There are a lot of under-$50 dildos listed here, too.

Introducing the clitoris to a vibrator

The first sex toy you use on a clitoris is very dependent on the sensitivity level of that clitoris. Again, not everyone will need a subtle vibrator, but not everyone needs a Hitachi Magic Wand, either. If the clitoris owner in question has difficulty reaching orgasm from fingers and tongues, then you’re looking for something powerful and rumbly. If you think that pinpoint but really strong stimulation is your best bet, you can’t go wrong with the We-Vibe Tango. It’s the most powerful bullet vibe on the market and very rumbly. Another strong option that isn’t quite the level of the Tango (but very very close) is the Jopen Lust L2.5; tiny but powerful it has deep, penetrating rumbling vibrations (it also comes in pink). There’s also a $9.99 option to consider if you are really concerned about price for now and that’s the Blush Novelties Gaia Eco; the vibrations are actually fairly strong and rumbly so I wouldn’t recommend it for more sensitive clits. Yes, it’s a long slimline vibrator but that doesn’t mean it’s prescribed only for internal use.

For those who can orgasm anywhere from somewhat easily to rarely, to unsure about owning a vibrator I have one that I recommend across the board: Doc Johnson’s Black Magic bullet. It’s affordable, it has vibrations that are more rumbly than buzzy, and with 4 levels it can work for a large variety of people. It’s versatile – can be used solo, together, and on any body part that might like some vibrations (external only, though please – I don’t feel that most corded bullets are meant for vaginal insertion and I wouldn’t trust them for anal insertion). I feel that the vibration range of the Black Magic allows for slightly less intense vibrations on the lower end of the scale when compared to the Gaia Eco mentioned above. A cute and tiny option is the OVO T2. It doesn’t pack the punch of the Black Magic Bullet, but it’s small and unobtrusive while still having pretty decent vibrations. The same can be said for the OVO D2. It’s similar in size to the Lelo Mia 2, has pretty decent vibrations and is quiet. The Lelo Mia 2 is more powerful than the OVO D2 and less powerful than the Jopen Lust L2.5 and much less powerful than the We-Vibe Tango.

If you’ve heard a lot about these new pressure-wave suction-but-not-suction sex toys like the Womanizer and Satisfyer, check out my mega-guide. The only affordable one that I can recommend for now is the Satisfyer Pro 2, at $69, but the Womanizer brand is far superior to date (updated 2017). These work best if you know you like pinpoint stimulation of the clitoris, but expect different results than pinpoint vibrators.

G-spot for beginners

A number of the dildos in the choosing your first dildo guide are great for g-spot play, but some people are understandably curious about vibration for their first sex toy. There’s a number of better (over $50) options like the L’amourose Prism V or the Je Joue Uma, but to see if you even like vibrations on your g-spot, start out with something more affordable like the Aria Hue G, or Picobong’s Zizo or Moka. The ultra-affordable Aria Hue G won’t knock your socks off but it’s no slouch. The new OVO E3, a very affordable rechargeable, has a large flat head like the Lelo Mona with pretty good, moderately-rumbly vibrations.  The oddly-shaped very-versatile Blush Nude Impressions 01 is powerful, rumbly and awesome with a suction cup, silky silicone, and a rechargeable battery. It’s even waterproof.

A Vibrator to use during sex?

Often I hear from couples who want a vibrator that can maybe be used during PIV sex to help achieve clitoral orgasm. I find myself recommending the Fun Factory Layaspot for it’s small size and curve. I’d prefer to recommend the We-Vibe Touch for it’s small size and nice silicone, but that wouldn’t fit in the $80 price limit unless you nab a seriously good sale; however the Tango does fit in the price rage, barely. Another sort-of decent toy is the Tula 2.0. It’s cheap, it runs on AAA batteries, and it’s got decent vibrations. They’re not rumbly but they’re not seriously surface-buzzy either. With a little effort, it’s even enough to get me off. It can be loud, though. But the “tilted egg on a stick” style is pretty versatile. It can be used for the g-spot, but also it’s great to use during PIV sex because the long handle keeps your hands out of the way of bumping pelvises (pelvi?). Many copies of this style exist, but most have poor vibrations that are surface-buzzy.

The We-Vibe Sync is designed to be used during sex, but the fit can be finicky (even with the improved customizable fit) and the vibrations don’t blow my mind but are vastly improved over earlier We-Vibe models. I usually prefer to recommend that you find new ways to work your sex and foreplay around a nice vibrator, rather than expecting your vibrator to blend in seamless with your sex. Other vibrators made specifically for this like the Dame Eva or Dame Fin fail on many other levels because they’re trying too hard to achieve one purpose. I don’t think that a person’s very first sex toy should be used in a high-pressure situation like PIV sex (often the vibrator is expected to help get you both to orgasms at the same time), though.

I don’t want something that looks like a sex toy

This is a common theme; whether the idea of your first sex toy fills you with anxiety or you live with other people and need something discrete, avoiding the garish designs or penis-replicas can be a good avenue. Wand massagers like the Mystic Wand are quiet and discreet looking.  You’ve seen these recommended before: For pinpoint stimulation the We-Vibe Tango and Lelo Mia 2 both fit the “tiny & quiet” bill. Often you can find a glass sex toy that looks more like art than a dildo, however please read up on glass before you go buy something super cheap.

Butts (and prostates!) need love, too

Let’s not ignore the other holes for your first sex toy! If you’re looking for plugs and dildos to prepare a butt for eventual butt sex, you should start out small and buy a few in graduating sizes, as I recommend in the beginner’s guide to anal sex toys. If you decide you like the sensation, consider the Tantus Neo, Lux LX1 or Fun Factory Booty for something under $50 or spend a little more to try the Njoy Pure Plug which is seriously highly rated. These are all plugs that are made to stay in one spot and provide the sensation of something being in there, or fullness if you get the bigger sizes.

If you’re looking for something to stimulate the prostate, start out with the Tantus Pro Touch from their Grab Bag for something affordable – it has the tip and curve that tends to target the prostate. Another option that has a little more oomph in the vibrations department is the Renegade Massager. You can also try out the non-vibrating Doc Johnson Mood Naughty 2 to see if you like the blobby-shaped prostate-targeting style of the Aneros line. If you decide you like the sensation but need more vibration, consider the Lust L12 for something a little over $50 or L’amourose Rosa Rouge for a big splurge. 

Sensations for butt toys vary – some people like the feeling of thrusting versus stationary plugs. That’s when you would try out a dildo.  The first few suggestions in the list of dildos for beginners guide are all slender and perfect for introductory anal play.

Going beyond a hand job

The world of sex toys for the penis is just so damn difficult to navigate for someone like me – I’m loathe to recommend very porous or toxic toys, yet 95% of the masturbator sleeves out there are porous. Very few are silicone – the ones that are, are very expensive or not awesome. I’m not against Fleshlight and Tenga brands, though, despite them being porous because I at least know that they’re not toxic. I’ve not heard reports about people getting skin irritations. You do have to be super vigilant with cleaning them. A Tenga product that I really love, and a material that more companies should embrace, is their line of 3D sleeves. It’s a porous TPR material infused with silver for its anti-microbial properties which would be a great place to start for your first sex toy that isn’t a one-time-use onacup. They’re extremely soft with a texture; they’re open-ended too so it won’t create vacuum suction (which also often is very noisy). Since there is no hard plastic shell around it, you can use your hand to increase pressure; you can also use your other hand to grip the open end shut to create some suction.

I read that “50 Shades” book…..

So you read one of those damn 50 Shades books and want to “spice things up”. When people say this, they can mean anything from “let’s use a sex toy” to “I have a secret kink I’ve held back on for years”.  I’m not to be considered an expert on anything serious for BDSM/kink, but I can get you started.  Pretty much the whole entire “position aids” section at Shevibe will be enough to “spice-ify” the most vanilla of sex lives, or at least get you on your way to being able to communicate deeper kinks and desires. For a little restraint and blindfold experimenting, the Liberator Bed Buckler kit is nice, sturdy and has the best blindfold I’ve ever tried on. You can also consider things like sex slings and other under the bed style restraint systems – this one fits any bed, while this more basic one will only work up to a Queen size bed.

Want to experiment with a little pain? Start with paddles and floggers, and start affordable in case you don’t like it. Avoid silicone paddles and pain implements – they hurt and it would be too much for a newbie to start with.

But what about!

You’ll see I don’t mention vibrating cock rings or rabbit vibes here. That’s because I think these are the equivalent to when a real estate agent tries to call a house “cozy” when it’s really 700 square feet, or a “fixer upper” when it barely has a floor and a roof. I don’t think that most cock rings are worth it or work well for couples, and rabbit vibes are SO hit-or-miss. In my years of  reviewing I’ve found ONE that fits me perfectly and it’s really expensive.  I didn’t get into things like harnesses because I don’t think I’ve tried enough, plus my size limits my ability to really judge the less expensive ones (my favorite of all time is the Aslan Minx or Jaguar, not something most newbies want to drop the money on). This starter kit is going to be decent for most people though.  I don’t get into gender expression items because that’s totally outside my area of expertise. There are a few harnesses too on my budget-minded list.

 Final tips

Some quick tips to keep in mind include gems like: don’t forget the lube; don’t cross-contaminate anal and vaginal toys; make sure you clean all of your sex toys properly; and finally – go slow. Try different positions. Be patient. Sex toys aren’t meant to replace a person, and they can’t. Sex toys are about enhancing the pleasure. Vibrators aren’t dangerous or addictive, nor will a large dildo “stretch out” a vagina. Have fun and check your ego.

While this guide certainly won’t cover ever aspect, it should hopefully get you started from point A. If there’s anything I haven’t covered, please ask below!

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Mar 182014
 
tl;dr : If you don’t care to understand “why” then focus on the Header text, the color-coded bullet lists below, and the color-coded photo examples. This will explain everything you need to know to educate your readers, customers and yourselves. It’s important to get the info right!

Yes, Silicone Can Burn

A couple years ago I created a big post with videos talking all about how you can flame test sex toys to see if they’re really silicone or not. But the silicone styles being used in the industry are changing and are more varied than we thought, and so the flame test isn’t as easy to decipher as we thought. It used to be thought that it was pretty black and white – silicone won’t “burn”. “If it burns, it’s not silicone”. “Silicone won’t melt” is another one. But what do YOU think of when you think of something burning? What results would you expect? You may expect nothing to happen, for the silicone to be utterly resistant to the heat of the flame. And that is partially true – your results vary depending on where on the item you flame test. If you flame test the middle of the flat base, or the shaft of the insertable portion, there is no edge or no seam. When the silicone is thinner and softer, that’s when it can burn. But there’s a large difference between the smoldering like the ashes of a nearly-dead campfire and the flames of a torch.  In my interview with Metis, she told me that we could expect pale gray ash. The ash was the marker of the silicone, but that it would brush off with no damage. We thought this of the Jimmyjane Hello Touch. It burned, it produced the tell-tale dry ash of silicone oils, but it also showed material loss and stickiness. This confused us. It got sent off to a lab test, and it was proven to in fact be 100% silicone.

Yes, Silicone Can Get Sticky from the Heat of a Flame

After the third person mentioned the “sticky”, I asked Metis her thoughts. She weighed in on this with some thoughts that it could be down to a difference in the amount of softening silicone oils present or a difference in the types of silicone. RTV, LIM. One is poured, one is injected. This difference in silicone types could be why some appear to burn/smolder more than others or why some get sticky and you’ll see some material loss. One theory I have is that many of the dildos that frequently got flame tested were made with RTV type silicone; it would have been much less likely to be thin/soft/stretchy silicone so therefore less likely to produce excess flame, sticky material, etc. A few years ago, RTV type would have been much more prevalent, therefore the RTV type silicone was used as the “this is how silicone should behave” standard.  One constant I see, though, is the presence of the pale-grey / white ash if it is silicone and if any “burn” happens. It might burn because the sample is so thin (like the Hello Touch) or because you caught a sharp edge/seam — but there was still ash left behind. Also when true silicone burns like this, it usually will quickly extinguish on its own….unless you have a situation like the Bedroom Kandi kegel beads.

I admit: We were wrong about the Bedroom Kandi kegel bead holster. I remember a few years ago at the conference, I was showing my results to a number of industry professionals and asking their opinion before I said it publicly on my blog. Everyone said “that’s not how silicone behaves, I don’t think it’s silicone”.  But! It produced ash! If we posit that ash is a defining marker of silicone, then yeah….the BK Hold On To Me bead holster is silicone. Why did it burn up like it did, so fast? Because it was a very thin piece of silicone, LIM type, made to be extra soft and stretchy. There were a lot of silicone oils to burn and it didn’t leave a lot of solid materials behind.

Embrace Your Inner Pyro and Observe

Get out your lighter, an empty bowl, some water, and a camera if you want. Apply the tip of the orange flame to the sex toy and see HOW it burns. One thing that a pure silicone will NOT do, no matter what type it is, is burn like an oil lamp. I’ve had these weird TPR things go up in flames, burning bright, high and hot. I’ve seen the more firm versions of TPR-type materials (this is rare in the sex toy world) not do anything at first….they just absorb the heat of the flame, and then get all smooshy and melty and pliable.  I tested a cock ring that is called “SEBS Silicone” by Screaming O. A lot of retailers who don’t know any better look at that and say “oh, silicone!” and list it on their site as such. Pure silicone will never be crystal clear and see-through1. The extreme stretch and the jelly look of the material means it’s not silicone.

Results from a flame test that likely indicate silicone (a few of these at once are normal, or just one):

  • Pale-to-medium gray ash which is easily removed
  • A small amount of material damage and “flaking”, leaving behind a sticky patch
  • No change
  • Black, sooty mark that rubs off easily
  • Black, sooty mark that doesn’t rub off 100%

Results that likely indicate it is not silicone include a lack of gray ash as noted above plus:

  • Easily catches fire to a hot, large flame that must be doused with water
  • Completely melted and deformed material
  • Material that looks charred black and melted (think of what melted plastic containers look like)
  • Catches fire and spreads quickly over the material as if an accelerant were involved
  • Does not catch fire, just absorbs the heat and eventually deforms. Material is pliable and soft when still warm.

Below, I have some photos I’ve taken of the flame test process on some known materials.  Then I have some readers who wrote in with their questions on their flame test results.

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SILICONE: First up is a silicone cock ring from CalExotics. It’s “clear”, but it’s cloudy-clear. The stretch amount isn’t anything like a “jelly” ring. You’ll see in the first photo that I was able to get some ash. It did smolder because I caught a seam, but I couldn’t get the photo of that in time. Next, you can see a section where there is a bit of obvious material loss. Still, though, I can stretch the ring and it doesn’t tear. Finally, I’ve stretched it out a little and you can see slight scorch marks that I was able to mostly wipe off, plus little areas that are slightly different looking.
SiliconeCRing1 SiliconeCRing2 SiliconeCRing3

SILICONE: This is the Bedroom Kandi kegel bead set with a silicone holster. This was the first item to trick us. First you can see it smoldering and producing white ash. It burned a lot more/faster in my original flame test video, because I was burning the thin retrieval cord. Next up you can see that the material looks different after I blew the ash off. Finally, you can see that a part of the material is sticking to my finger. The section where it burned was sticky to the touch. It isn’t nearly as sticky the day after burning.
BedroomKandi1 BedroomKandi2 BedroomKandi3

SILICONE: This is some Tantus silicone. First up in pink is a representative of their firmer silicone. This is the base of one of the handled dildos. I couldn’t get it to burn, therefore no ash, but it scorched from the lighter. Perhaps if I were using a cleaner type of lighter, I would have less of the black soot. Next up though you can see that the black soot was easily wiped clean. However on their much softer O2 material, I had trouble getting the soot mark to completely rub off.
TantusFirm1 TantusFirm2 TantusSoft

NOT SILICONE: This is a Screaming O cock ring with the plastic bullet removed. Their packaging calls it jelly material in one section, but “SEBS Silicone” in another and then goes on to say that this is a disposable ring and shouldn’t be used again. That doesn’t sound like silicone to me! Plus this material is super soft, very clear, and extremely stretchy. In the first photo, you can see it burning like an oil lamp. This happened quickly and without much provocation. Unlike the silicone flames, I couldn’t blow this out, and had to dump water on it. You can see in the next photo where the most recently burned portion is puddling out into the water. In the last photo you can see a more severe case of it melting, and even see that the material is browned a bit from scorching. This was from a previous burn that held on longer because I forgot to bring water over and had to rush it to the kitchen sink.
ScreamingO1 ScreamingO2 ScreamingO3

NOT SILICONE: This is an old-school CalExotics rabbit vibe. The packaging doesn’t even say phthalates-free. The material feels WEIRD. It is more firm than I expected, and the surface is as smooth as glossy hard plastic. It stinks like a sweet shower curtain smell. When it burns, the fumes are extremely pungent, much moreso than the Screaming O ring. So in the first photo you can see the tip of the bunny ear flaming away. Then you can see the black scorch of melted and burnt material. That’s exactly what it’s like….burnt plastic.  The burnt part is hard now. The flames didn’t want to die down easy and I had to dump water on it before it got out of control.
Bunny1 Bunny2

NOT SILICONE: These photos come from someone else who shared their results on the Reddit board I help manage, and I’m sharing them with you. “I did attempt it on the end first, but it was so thin there wasn’t even enough material to light, all it did was get greasy, and weep, before I could see the plastic underneath. There was never any ash produced at anytime during the test. And when the middle melted, it just oozed apart, and lost all structural integrity. It behaved a lot like warm hard candy before the hard crack stage. Pliable, but once it cooled back down it lost a lot of its elasticity and some parts even became brittle.” In the photos below you see the “Smart Balls” separated with weird greasy-looking drops of liquid and blackened burnt plastic.  This person received these as a free gift with order from an Amazon seller, Healthy and Active. The “Smartballs” came in bulk packaging, not Fun Factory packaging. These are clearly a knock-off. This is why I always say never buy your sex toys from Amazon!
Smartballs1 Smartballs2 Smartballs3

SILICONE: Another reviewer, Sex and Java, decided to flame test their Pleasure Works Cadet. It is labeled as silicone and thus far they’ve been a manufacturer to trust, but the package labeling caused concern. Why would a dildo be labeled “for external use only” and then proclaim to be “anal safe”? You can’t have it both ways, folks.  The first photo below shows a lot of soot, but that’s to be expected so long as it washes off, and it does as seen in the 2nd photo. The 3rd and 4th photos show the disclaimer and then anal safe wording. This disclaimer and wording also appears on a buttplug of theirs, so it seems to be a standard disclaimer. I just can’t understand why a company who makes insertable sex toys would be a “for external use only” warning on the package. It doesn’t feel right.
Flame After externaluse analsafe

Regardless of the weird package warnings, this black soot/scorch mark is still normal. It’s because you’re not burning something “clean”, you’re using a lighter or match or something that gives off soot when it burns. So the longer you hold the flame to the material, trying to force a burn/reaction, the more soot you’ll get and something it won’t rub off. In this particular instance I would say that you can’t expect a burn result (to produce ash to tell that it’s silicone) if you’re holding the flame against that flat surface. You’d need to try the edge of the base. I’ve seen results of just minor soot marks on silicone from Fun Factory and Lelo, mainly because they are vibrators with no discernible “sharp” thin edge and no sections of super thin material. I couldn’t get a burn, so no ash. The soot is also probably a reaction of the dimethicone burning. When I cut the silicone skin off the Lelo Ina, I was able to catch an edge and get some white ash and minor smoldering burn.

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Hi Lilly,
I ran across your informative blog while I was searching for information about silicone sex toys.
I’ve had this favorite dildo for a few years now, but I kept getting reoccuring vaginal infections after using it. Since I mostly used it during the times when my husband and I were intimate, I initially thought the infections were coming from sexual intercourse with my husband.
After reading your blog, I decided to do a flame test on the dildo. Within 2 seconds of the flame touching the dildo, it immediately started on fire. The entire thing was covered in light blue flames. To give it a fair chance, I tried it on 2 different spots (the shaft and the base), and both had the same results. It was scorched black and it stank really bad. I tried to rub off the scorch marks and it was melted and peeled off, revealing underneath a fibrous looking material.
I don’t think this is silicone and now I may have found the source of my infections! The issue is that this sex toy company is well known where I live (Europe) and I visited their website and viewed their description of my toy. It states “100% silicone” and “Phthalates free”.
Is it still possible for this toy to be silicone? Have you ever done a flame test on a silicone toy and had it go up in flames? If it isn’t silicone, how can they falsely advertise like that and cause women, like me, to get infections?

PROBABLY NOT SILICONE: The fact that it burned in this manner, covered in the light blue flames combined with the peeling and the lack of pale gray ash tells me it’s probably not silicone. If it was just covered in the blue flames, I would think that the company didn’t thoroughly rinse off the m0uld-release agent during production. I’ve burned a lot of silicone, and it’s never smelled great (you are burning chemicals, after all). TPR  and jelly rubber did stink much, much worse though. And yes, if this is a porous toy it would absolutely be passing on a recurring infection! I’ve seen the blue-flames effect happen with silicone that was still covered in manufacturing chemicals but this person’s sex toy was not brand new.

What’s your opinion on Rocks Off toys? I bought one of them recently (an anal plug), the site had it listed as silicone. But then after I got it, I checked the Rocks Off site and on there it says “silicone rubber.” Which is disappointing. I tried the flame test and it did melt and come off on my finger when I rubbed it after. I tried my other two silicone toys (Dorcel and Fun Factory) and neither even had burn marks, they just got warm. There was some light grey ash, yes. I redid it to show how it rubs off and to show it better, my camera isn’t the greatest but a bit definitely gets removed. The spot on the toy stays tacky after.

RocksOff

SILICONE: My best answer to the “silicone rubber” term: “Silicone rubber” is a…. oh boy. there’s a word for these terms. Like “tin foil”. It’s no longer made from tin, but its a holdover saying. I have yet to actually find a logical reason for a company to create a material that is a combination of silicone and another porous elastomer. Silicone is expensive. When they say “silicone rubber” it’s a “rubber-like” sort of material. Pliable.  Anyways, with regards to the results of the flame test, I’ve seen this. The sticky, the material loss but with the presence of ash. Because it smoldered and didn’t go up in a woosh (coupled with the ash), I still believe this to be silicone.

 

If you’ve flame-tested a toy, please email me with a photo of your results so that I can start sharing more here!

Disclaimer: I am explaining things in the best way I know how. I’m dealing here in many “facts” that I can’t tell you are all 100% accurate – we lack the ability to be super scientific about this. I don’t have a chemist by my side, I don’t have a lab. I’m sharing with you what we think, what we are inferring from results thus far, and what our reason and logic is filling in. The information here may change as we learn more–in fact this post is all about how the information is changing because we’ve learned more because I’m sharing more nuanced result facets than I could with the first flame test post. So understand that nothing is 100% certain but I’m doing my best and I fully believe that some things hold absolutely true – gray ash means silicone, and a hot, high burn like an oil lamp means plasticizers.

  1. Someone who didn’t  publicly comment pointed out that Chavez Designs, formerly Jollies, has some “clear” dildos. There is a large difference though between the clarity of their silicone and the crystal-clear of TPR/Jelly; plus their stuff is very firm. Every dildo I’ve seen from them is a bit “cloudy” clear. Example 1 and Example 2 from Chavez. Now here is what I mean by crystal clear: Example 1 and Example 2. Now you will absolutely see cloud-clear TPR and Jelly, yes. But the feel is different, they’re very soft. Companies other than Chavez that make silicone in this translucent-yet-not-crystal-clear silicone are Vamp and Vixen. If you see others and question the material composition, let me know!
Oct 132013
 

There is always a proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back; This straw is named Ida. However, the ludicrous bullshit that stems from Lelo continues, and worsens, through the years. Every year I make sure to update this post.

 iquit

In 2008 when I first started reviewing sex toys, I got to review a couple of Lelo toys pretty early on in my career. Back then, “luxury” vibes were not as prevalent and seemed so….posh. So fancy. So very, very different from the garish, neon dreams of CalExotics and Doc Johnson, at 5-10 times the price. And with a price tag like that, surely they’re better, right?? So I felt let down when I didn’t love my first Lelo toys. They weren’t quite powerful enough for me. But I thought it was my fault. I was the problem, not Lelo. They were trying so hard, you see.  And so, I kept making excuses–trying to be objective, and state that just because it wasn’t perfect for me, Ms. Picky Clit-o-Steel, didn’t mean they weren’t great sex toys. After all, I was reading so many other glowing reviews.

I’ve become more jaded as the years pass, this is true. I’ve seen a lot of luxury sex toys come and go. And the opinions I tried to mold into objective statements years ago have lost their luster; they have chipped away like the metallic paint on their Insignia line.  I am left with nothing but unapologetic (harsh?) truths. I have replaced my old “trying to hard to be objective” with a tempered balance of honesty and realism. 

Let’s run this down, shall we? Abridged version, go:

  • Elise – Great size, and a promising two motors that sorta work for me, but the placement of that second motor was a bit odd.
  • Mia – Geek-appeal, the first USB rechargeable vibe I’d ever seen, but the vibrations were poor and buzzy. I was bummed.
  • Bo cock ring – Neat; for 2008, it was inventive – rechargeable, posh, etc. Vibrations were meh. It wasn’t silicone.
  • Gigi – Better than the bird-beak tips most toy makers thought felt nice on a g-spot, but unfortunate button placement combined with a too-short length and mediocre vibrations made for sad bedfellows
  • Luna Beads – They actually worked, and remain to be the most intelligent kegel ball system out there
  • Isla – They decided to put design over function. The metallic paint on the plastic portion chips off terribly after 6 months to a year of use. At first, Lelo wouldn’t replace them under warranty. Paint chipping off inside my vag seems to be a defect, you know?? Piss poor vibrations and a worthless shape.
  • Mona – Good shape, good length, vibrations seemed to be an improvement from all other models but could be more.
  • Tor II cock ring – No longer “inventive”, they now make it out of silicone but it’s less stretchy. Too tight for above-average. Better vibrations, though.
  • Tiani – Tiani 1st Ed was shit. Sense Motion failed, but then they fixed it. Vibrations were so weak it was pathetic. Internal arm offered nothing.
  • Tiani 2nd Ed – Internal arm slightly better, still meh. Vibrations improved, but not Wow. Better for couple’s play (but not sex) than the We-Vibe 3.
  • Luna Beads Noir – Total WTF. Better colors,  but the whole reason I liked the Luna Beads is negated. There’s no going up in weights gradually, since you only get 2 beads of the higher weight.
  • Luna Beads Mini – Also, total WTF fail. The ball is same size as regular Luna Beads, so it doesn’t provide as much sensation in use. They didn’t work at all.
  • Smart Wand  Medium – Again, the technology failed. SenseTouch was a bomb. Medium was a nice size but the vibrations were infuriatingly bland.
  • Smart Wand Large – Technology still shit, but vibrations knocked my socks off. Caveat: Works best with an attachment meant for the Hitachi Magic Wand. Doesn’t hold a charge in between uses very well; others have reported quality issues w the motor
  • Ina 2 – Better than the Original Ina in design and vibrations,  but somehow still not quite enough to be great for me.
  • Mia 2 – Still has design issues, unfortunate button placement/difficult to clean, but vibrations greatly improved. I still prefer my We-Vibe Tango, though.
  • Mona 2 –  Improved vibrations, still not enough for power queens like me and not on par with Smart Wand Large, but great shape and size.
  • Gigi 2 – Better vibrations (still less than Mona 1), but it’s not enough for me.
  • Ida – Saw Piph’s review, said NOPE. I’m done. A rotating internal arm, a flat disc that vibrates. My husband’s penis is thicker than average, and my body type won’t work at all with a flat disc. Did they even test this with human genitals?
  • At this point, I have to stop listing each sex toy failure out in this bulleted fashion and simply tell  you to keep on reading. I’ll talk about the ridiculous products every year as they come out, with an update for each year. Lelo has become a sideshow circus event.

 

Decline in Quality

I’ve heard rumors from trusted industry people that the quality of Lelo sex toys has drastically dropped over the years. More and more people are returning under warranty.  If you were around in ’08, you’d have seen the gradual, subtle decline in packaging to cut back on costs. They cut back on costs of packaging and clearly cut back on costs for materials and workmanship, yet their sex toys keep the ridiculously high price tags. And then, this summer, they raise their wholesale prices. What does that mean for the consumer? Not a lot. You’ll probably not really see much change. The stores won’t want to raise prices, because they need to stay competitive, both with each other and the Lelo direct sale site. It just means that the retailers now make a good bit less from a Lelo toy.

Inconsistent Customer Service

A lot of readers come to me with problems with their Lelo toys, and tell me that they tried to contact Lelo for a warranty exchange, but were ignored or told they couldn’t be helped. I would, each time, take it to social media and get their issues fixed that way. But I shouldn’t have to do that.  In my post about Lelo’s metallic paint flaking off, I had readers contacting me who were reading the warranty info and thinking their issues were not covered under warranty. Lelo said that they would honor a warranty replacement; however I did have to mediate between customers and Lelo a few times, when Lelo would just flat-out ignore customer service emails and warranty repair requests.

Since I’ve been working with Lelo, I’ve gone through more “handlers” than I can count. Turnover is normal in these businesses, but this is excessive. In the beginning, the info they would provide to me would be correct and helpful. In the past year, it’s been frustrating and wrong, often.  The saga of the Luna Beads cleaning method was the worst of them all. I looked like an ass, but at least I was able to get Lelo to send them new Luna Beads.

Anti-Plus-Size

In addition to their overpriced vibrators, Lelo also has a small line of way overpriced lingerie. A $400 robe, anyone? They won’t make plus-size options. They just won’t. Their XL is a US 12.  If you really want a pair of their overpriced PJ pants, you’ll have to pick the “Men’s” version, because the men can have pants that fit up to a 46″ waist.  The men’s robes also go up to XXL. In the land of Lelo, it’s ok to be a husky man, but they only want to cater to thinner femmes.  This trend is not unique to Lelo. Not at all. It’s just simply another nail in the coffin.

*New* Patent Trolling

Sarah picked up on this gem while I was on hiatus due to moving house. When Lelo created the Tiani they were violating a patent held by Standard Innovations, makers of the We-Vibe. Standard Innovations sued and eventually won the rights in the US – Lelo cannot sell the Tiani here anymore. So in 2015 Lelo decided to become a patent troll – they bought a patent for “inductive charging” as it relates to “personal massagers”. What’s inductive charging? In short, exactly how the We-Vibe is charged – it simply sits on the cradle, no magnets are involved. Lelo doesn’t make any vibrators that charge this way. They could have, since they created their stupid Wave vibrators after they bought the patent, but they didn’t. Why? That wasn’t their purpose. They didn’t invent this type of charging, that’s for sure. They sought out the original 3rd-party patent owner and bought it from them.

On April 28th, XBIZ reported, “The final decision has cleared the path for LELO to seek monetary compensation from Standard Innovation Corp., as well as all distributors and retailers that sell infringing items.” Standard Innovations fully believes that “LELO’s claims are baseless” and will absolutely continue to fight this drawn-out legal battle which will continue into 2016. The charges were initially filed in 2013, but this wasn’t reported on until April of 2015, as far as I know. Do you know what happens during a multi-year legal battle? A lot of dollars are paid in legal fees. Dollars that could be spent in R&D, developing a new, awesome product (well, if you’re Standard Innovations. If you’re LELO, dollars that could be spent creating the next overpriced gimmick). Between the legal fees of both lawsuits, it’s no wonder the products from both companies are pricey!

As Sarah pointed out, this not only will hurt Standard Innovations (makers of the best goddamn clitoral vibrator on the freaking planet) but retailers AND future innovators and manufacturers – since no one can use inductive charging now without paying Lelo. Of course, Lelo would have to go after them legally and it seems like they’re only interested in attempting to harm Standard Innovations in retaliation.  So they’re patent trolls, give no fucks about creating a sex toy that steals someone else’s designs, and have the maturity of your average 9-year-old playground bully.

Wherein I am an Island

You’ll continue to see amazingly positive reviews everywhere about Lelo, but mixed in with a healthy amount of negative reviews. I’m not saying they’re wrong, those positive reviews. The vibrations are strong enough for some women. But these days, there are other options for sex toys made from safe materials that come with a warranty. Options with better workmanship and better vibration, or a lower price point.  Nobody is perfect and no one sex toy/sex toy manufacturer will be perfect for every person. I’m just saying that I personally am done. I can’t fully support Lelo anymore. I can’t keep agreeing to try more and more Lelo toys, only to be let down time and again. I can’t get more and more jaded, as I read their copy (which frankly feels like outright lies many times) that promises “intense” vibration or “intense” g-spot stimulation, when it’s truly mediocre at best. Intense. Lelo, you keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means. I KNOW INTENSE. You have missed that mark by a lot, in all cases but one or two.

I’ve been brewing with these thoughts now for months. However I’d managed to still hang on to a little shred of hope…..a hope that was flat out obliterated when I finally heard the full dirt on the Lelo Ida. And for the first time ever, I “reviewed” a sex toy without owning it (perhaps it should be called a commentary OpEd post instead of review) because it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I retracted my agreement to review it for Lelo and suddenly in a matter of minutes, a decision I’d been wibbling and wobbling on for ages was made in a snap.  Why couldn’t I just keep on reviewing for them, and take the “free” toys? Because I die a little each time, lately. Writing that review for the Gigi 2 was not easy, because I was so fucking over it already. Usually I relish the opportunity to go all OH HELL NO in a review against a bad toy, and I would have with Ida, but frankly the thought just fucking exhausted me. Ain’t nobody, especially me, got time for that shit. I’ve cut back; I want to still largely enjoy what I do, not have the life sucked out of me.

Bottom line: Lelo isn’t worth the price.  They’re not worth the hassle of dealing with their promised warranty that they try to wiggle out of. They’re not retailer-friendly. They’re extraordinarily hetero-centric (and they do such a bad job at it, too).  If you own a Lelo toy, and you are having problems, of ANY kind, contact them for a warranty replacement. If they ignore your email, take it public– to Facebook and Twitter. They don’t like the bad press, so they’ll help you. I’ll still recommend the Luna Beads, the Mona 2, and maybe even the Mia 2 but with warnings, caveats and presenting other options.

2014: Even Worse than 2013

I didn’t think that Lelo could sink lower than the Ida. It was a dumb fucking idea all around.  Then they came out with the Ora, something that claimed to simulate oral sex. It clearly failed because less than 12 months later we have Ora 2. They’ve introduced two more “Beads” that are for the vagina and are largely gimmicks – the Hula, which just rotate oddly and the Smart Bead which you have to squeeze and may not even work as intended for everyone. Naturally. They’ve come out with a $3000 set of Luna Beads, in gold, because hey why the fuck not, right? And then…..then they come out with the Pino cock ring which was marketed exclusively for “bankers”. Only men can be bankers in Lelo’s world. This cock ring comes with a money clip and cuff links, both Lelo branded. Naturally.

2015: The Circus Continues

So far in 2015 we have the Mona and Ina Wave – I’m seeing a few positive reviews but more negative reviews. It’s nowhere near as “intense” and “mind-blowing” as they tried to claim it would be. I fucking hated the Mona Wave with a passion.

The Great Price Hike: It was announced towards the end of 2015 that all Lelo items would see a price hike, some items by as much as $30 or $40. They haven’t raised the quality; they’ve also made life more difficult for their retailers by raising the wholesale price while keeping the prices on their site the same. A number of retailers have complained about shitty treatment by Lelo reps.

24K Gold Plating: Yeah, because that’s just what we need. They took the Lelo Tiani 3 and did 24K goldplating on the remote and the metal band on the vibrator; because the price is so high, they gave a “relationship warranty” of sorts. If you break up within a year of purchasing it, they would replace it with another Lelo item. Except that the retail price of the Tiani 24K is $399 (at first they offered it at 50% off). To add insult to injury: The 24K edition doesn’t even feel any better than the regular Tiani 3. I tried it but couldn’t give enough fucks to write about it.

Scented Vibrators: Because it wasn’t enough to simply increase the intensity of the motor in the Lelo Lily, a flagship vibrator, they had to add a gimmick: Scent. some reported the odors were offensive, many were skeptical, many were uninterested, a few liked it. JUST MAKE A FUCKING VIBRATOR, LELO.

2016: The Year of the Penis

Because “male lingerie” is needed, apparently, in the form of a dry-clean-only silk “penis tuxedo”. It wasn’t a joke, although we sure thought so. In what turned out to be really poor timing, Lelo gave us a sneak peek at their next project for 2016: A condom. They told us about this shortly before April Fool’s Day so a number of people naturally assumed it was a joke – both due to timing and Lelo’s reputation. Sadly it’s not a joke, although it sort of is. They unveiled a latex condom with a honeycomb structure, are doing crowd-funding for it and, wait for it….

They named Charlie Sheen their spokesperson. A man who has beaten numerous women and who lied about his HIV status to women he fucked (without condoms).  Sarah summed up my feelings on this matter perfectly, so go read her post. But then, I just couldn’t help it after I heard about what Lelo employees actually think of most reviewers, so I wrote a rage-y rant-y post about how Lelo doesn’t give a flying fuck about everyone pissed off about the Hex condom and also a rant about the Hex condom in general.

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

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

It’s like they know their products are just like 6 others on the market and won’t stand out on their own merit, so they resort to trickery in marketing and “innovative” or “revolutionary” technologies that barely even work.  Lelo went from being first to the party to the late, drunk, rich frat boy that nobody invited. Is it going too far to now say they’re the Charlie Sheen of the sex toy industry?