There is always a proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back; This straw is named Ida.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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When you review a sex toy, do you talk price? Is it just me? I feel that it’s an important point to cover, one that my readers would want to know. If I were reading a sex toy review of an item priced well over $100, I would need a fuck ton of convincing that that item is going to rock my fucking world for that price.
A potential relationship with a retailer who thought I was new to the scene back in 2012 ended quickly when we discussed the finer points of reviewing. They didn’t want me to just review one item, they wanted me to review a lot. Primarily I turned them down because they didn’t have an affiliate program (I work from home now, I need all the income I can get) but also because our views just didn’t mesh.
I’m actually not going to publicly name names here, because the point I want to make really doesn’t have anything to do with the company – my point is that it’s an aspect I care about. But in our very short discussion, as a response to me detailing that I do not sugarcoat my reviews and I am bluntly honest, always, this was mentioned:
“It’s a product review… Let the customers decide if it’s worth it. Most all of my product are over $100, so if that’s an issue and your readers don’t want to spend that, I don’t want to be skewered because you don’t believe in buying $150 toys. If a toy is good, and gives orgasms, or does its job, give it a good review. Let the buyer decide if it’s worth it. I’m a high end retailer, and carry great products. I need good, honest reviewers, that have good audiences that might buy. Let me know what you think. I repost on my blog, from your blog, word for word, so no editorializing or such.”
Well, I’ve already talked about my feelings on someone re-posting my review on their site and I was not okay with that aspect of their conditions. But I had a real head-scratcher over the “let the buyer decide if it’s worth it”. Um….isn’t that what I’m doing here?? I’m presenting them with the information but also my opinion. If they wanted pure information, they’d read the copy from the website. I responded with:
“I personally expect every, single luxury sex toy to live up to the high expectations that come along with a high price tag, and from everything I’ve seen, so do my readers. I’ve reviewed so many luxury toys that were such a let-down that I fear I’ve become a little jaded. I am hard on toys though; I expect great things for the price tag. I’ve been unable to fully recommend items such as some Lelo, Je Joue, Zini, JimmyJane, etc because there are less expensive items that perform better. In my opinion, I do reviews to help the buyer decide if a toy is worth the money – be it $25 or $125. I wasted a lot of my own money (both prior to reviewing and even recently) on toys that appeared to have glowing on-site reviews. That was what led me to reviewing, ultimately – I was searching for women who’d tried the toys I was considering, to ask them a few questions, and that was how I found out about blog reviewers. There are so many items out there that I don’t think are worth the price and I don’t hesitate to tell my readers that. To me, that’s half the point of a review. They’re looking for reassurance in our reviews, reassurance that they won’t be dropping a week’s worth of grocery money on a toy that just isn’t worth it. I get disappointed with items/manufacturers but in the end I actually like all the reviews I write – I love being able to tell someone that something is awesome and I feel good about telling someone to avoid something that sucks. I don’t gloss over just for sales. In the end, I want my readers to be happy with their purchase and feel that I truly helped them.”
This didn’t go over well, I guess. I never heard from the person again. Apparently, I’m not the type of reviewer they want on their side. They clearly wanted reviewers who would drive people to buy, and it almost seems like they were angling for some sugar-coating. Thus far all of the places I review for have never taken issue with my reviews, no matter how harsh they are and boy howdy have some1 been2 harsh3.
Do you talk about price? Do you feel the need to justify super-pricey toys to your readers, assuring them it is worth it? If that same toy that you feel is decent, but not wonderful, cost half the price would you be more likely to recommend it?
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A few years ago, Lelo decided to cash in on the wave of “luxury” sex toys and kick things up a notch. A fancy new name for a fancier-looking line: Insignia. These first three new uber-luxury sex toys – the Isla, Alia and Soraya – certainly looked posh. Lelo’s previous line had been a signature look at the time: a white, shiny plastic handle with 4 buttons set in a unique configuration and standard colors. The Insignia line completely changed the look. No more white plastic! No obvious handle or buttons! HOW FANCY! Well, in theory. They were certainly pretty to look at, but I found with the Isla that the inner core of metallic-painted plastic caused major headaches when it came tine for clean-up. And even though that metallic-painted plastic inset looked like metal, it was not. Yet, we didn’t question it at first.
Recently, a reader emailed me:
Just wondering if you know anything about the gold foil flaking off the pointy end of the Soraya? I love my black friend but I’m a bit wary of using it when I can’t find the paint flakes after toy time. I haven’t had it all that long either. I’m not rough cleaning it, no scrubbing or harsh chemicals.
This gave me pause. Yes, I too would be a bit concerned if I knew that there were flakes of paint hanging out in my vagina. Since the onus is on the manufacturer to be truthful (and thus far, Lelo always has told the truth when they’ve described their materials) about the product, what with there being no regulations on sex toys, we must assume that the metallic paint is body safe should it flake off. Nothing about the composition of the paint is ever mentioned on the site.
But even beyond just the safety concern is suddenly the fact that your once-posh-looking nearly-$200 vibrator suddenly looks like the sex toy equivalent of a New Years Day hangover – still wearing last night’s fancy dress and makeup, but everything is faded and a bit scuffed from the enthusiastic partying, with missing spangles and sequins and shiny skin. Seriously. I expect a lot from a company who charges almost $200 for a dual-stimulator vibrator that has no bells and whistles like rotating shafts and independently controlled internal and external portions. I expect a lot from Lelo, period. I started looking into things more online, specifically the EdenFantasys forums. I tend to avoid them with a 10-foot-pole, but they do sometimes have their uses.
I found a lengthy post from a Soraya owner who still views the Soraya as her all-time favorite vibrator, despite all of the issues. And the issues don’t stop at cosmetic. At 6 months in, paint flaked off for her. After about 12-15 charges, the unique charging port changed from a pinpoint hole to a larger hole with tiny bits of silicone breaking off. When we first received the Insignia line, reviewers were baffled as to where to put the charging pin – the silicone skin was completely healed, there was no port cap! We were told that it wasn’t necessary, that it would break through and be so tiny that water wouldn’t get in during use. And it didn’t. But if that pinpoint hole should enlarge? I don’t know. After 8 months of use, the owner had a motor malfunction. What I find important to note is that she said that if the motor had not malfunctioned at 8 months in, she would not have been able to get a warranty replacement. I was shocked. Paint is flaking off, yet that is considered a cosmetic issue and is not covered under their 1 year warranty?!? And, good thing the malfunction happened at 8 months in. Past the year mark, one would only get a 50% off credit towards a new Lelo. Now, this doesn’t mean that you would have these issues with the motor. You may never. But chances of the paint flaking off? I’m saying it’s pretty likely:
Despite the reader who emailed me saying that she treats her toy well, it seems that even those who are careful can suffer a surface scratch to the painted plastic portion and not even realize it – until it later starts flaking. Since the painted portion is concave, it’s less likely that it is a rubbing-off issue. When I used to use silver-toned corded bullet vibrators, after a few months of heavy use the paint would start wearing. I didn’t use them internally so I wasn’t as concerned. But these were cheap, $10 bullets. Not $200 rabbits or $150 lackluster straight vibes or $115 clitoral vibes.
I contacted Lelo to ask if my reader’s Soraya is covered under warranty, just in case. In reading the warranty terms on the Lelo site, it says:
This pleasure object is intended for adults only. LELO warrants this pleasure object for a period of ONE (1) YEAR, after the date of original purchase, against defects due to faulty workmanship or materials. If you discover a defect and notify LELO during the warranty period, LELO will, at its discretion, replace the pleasure object free of charge.
The warranty covers working parts that affect the function of the pleasure object. It does NOT cover cosmetic deterioration caused by fair wear and tear or damage caused by accident, misuse or neglect. Any attempt to open or take apart the pleasure object (or its accessories) will void the warranty.
Now….I take issue with this. I feel that the paint flaking off of a portion you use internally is a result of faulty workmanship or materials. I don’t view that as a mere cosmetic issue.
I can see the paint flaking off of the battery covers to the Insignia SenseMotion remotes, as well, in fact much more easily. I’ve already scratched the surface of mine just by trying to get the damn battery cover off, even using their plastic key. A lot of handling of that remote would cause paint to flake off. Now that I would not take as big of an issue with since it would not be on the internally used portion, but again for the price of these toys…..I would feel cheated to have to look at an ugly, expensive toy.
Thankfully, Lelo responded the way I had hoped they would:
So it seems that the problematic owner from the forums took the warranty to heart and never asked. She didn’t outright say that she tried to return it under warranty and was denied. She assumed she was, and her assumptions made it sound like fact in her reporting.
Always ask. Especially when it comes to higher end companies like Lelo.Read More
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Non-Monogamy encompasses a whole host of various situations: Swingers, couples in open relationships, people who identify as polyamorous or even just those who are not in committed relationships and are dating numerous people. Most of these non-monogamous people are (hopefully) well aware of safe sex practices and use them every time.
While I doubt that the majority of people bring their vibes to sex parties & clubs and pass em around like a drinking game, there are other situations outside of the realm of monogamy where sharing may come into play. Even 1-on-1 or threesomes should be treated with care if you aren’t fluid-bonded.
More than half of you out there still probably own sex toys made from materials that would cause me premature grey hair, try as I might to dissuade you. But many people, even if they’ve switched to silicone vibrators and glass dildos, pull out a cock ring from their arsenal now and then and I’m betting it’s not silicone. Or at least, not 100% pure silicone because they’re not the norm. Most cock rings are inexpensive and made from various soft and stretchy materials: Jelly/Rubber, Elastomer/TPR or silicone blends (which are not the same as pure silicone and are not non-porous). You’ll see silicone blends show up in sneaky ways; they’ll be labeled “SEBS” which stands for silicone-elastomer blend, or they’ll just merely be labeled a quiet, solitary “silicone”. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the government only says that a sex toy needs to contain a mere 10% silicone to be labeled as nothing other than “silicone”. So it can be 90% TPR and they’re not going to tell you that. Of course, you can whip out your trusty sex-geek-detective lighter and perform a flame test. Remember those Bedroom Kandi kegel balls? Yeah, they were labeled as “silicone” and I was told that they were silicone, but they went up in sticky, destructive flames. Ahem.
So, what’s the big deal, you ask? Unless you’re buying the truly disposable one-and-done vibrating cock rings1, then your little gummy, (possibly) buzzy ring of fun is quite porous – and can’t be sanitized nor therefore shared. Yes, this also means the ones that you purchase in the condom aisle. Unlike most vibrators and dildos, a vibrating cock ring can’t be covered by a condom for barrier protection so the cock ring could be exposed to vaginal and/or seminal fluids. If you are using a simple non-vibrating cock ring, one that goes around just the base of the cock, you may be able to get away with covering it with a condom, but keep an eye on it. Since I’ve never tried to do that I can’t say if the condom would keep it covered or not. There are also some silicone cock rings but again the norm seems to be jelly or TPR.
Also, don’t let a luxury price tag on the vibrating versions fool you into submission.The Lelo Bo, Tor 1, and the Bedroom Kandi Rise and Shine are all higher-end cock rings that are rechargeable but they are made from Elastomer or TPR. Soft, stretchy and free from phthalates and latex, they’re certainly better for your body than the cheap jelly versions but they’re still porous and should never be shared beyond fluid-bonded partners. The Lelo Tor II, the Tantus C-Ring, Je Joue Mio, some BMS brand rings and various Jopen branded rings are all made from true silicone. However, even though many of these are waterproof they’re still vibrators and should never be boiled or tossed in the dishwasher. You’ll be able to get a safe clean by a simple handwash.
Penis Extenders and Sleeves
The vast majority of these are not silicone. Vixen makes a few, like the Ride On, but the price is so high that it will deter most buyers. I see a lot that have “silicone” in the name, but these are all going to be a silicone blend – therefore, porous. Many extenders/sleeves and cuffs are designed to be really stretchy and soft – that’s not a common attribute in pure silicone items. The closest I’ve seen would be the dual density outer layer of something like the Tantus 02 Cush but I don’t know if creating an item entirely from that type of silicone is even possible. I suppose that if you’re fucking more than one person in a sitting and they both really dig the artificially extended / textured penis sleeve you’re sporting, you could put a condom *over* it but that just doesn’t seem very practical to me given that there will still be a portion of the extender that isn’t covered by a condom. From what I’ve seen, a company called Oxballs makes a couple extenders that seem to be pure silicone but most are TPR blends. So please keep these porous models limited to a single partner, and keep in mind the fact that these are all porous – this means it will never get truly clean and sanitized, the softer ones could mildew if stored while still wet from cleaning, and they may retain stains and/or odors after an extended time of use.
Harnesses and Dildos
Moving on from cock-centric toys, I want to talk about dildos. Especially harness-compatible dildos. The guidelines are pretty damn simple: Cover it with a condom or stick to silicone and don’t share between non-fluid-bonded partners without a wash in between. However, even if you’re using a high grade silicone cock like Tantus, you should still keep anal-play dildos to themselves. While they can be sanitized in boiling water or the dishwasher, sometimes they can retain a bit of an odor over time if it’s used a lot for anal play. That’s not going to be a fun discovery for your partner if they decide to perform a blowjob on your silicone cock! It takes quite a bit of use to get to that point, though and sometimes it’ll never happen.
Most harnesses are made from leather or a fabric (even just strap webbing is fabric). These are porous, and should be considered a one-partner item unless they are washable, in which case please wash in between partners.
Metal, Wood and Glass Toys
Provided that the toys are free from defects2, these should be safe to share between partners and anal-to-vaginal if they are washed thoroughly in between partners and uses. Take careful note if the toy is highly textured – really make sure to scrub all around the nubs, ridges, etc to be sure you’ve removed any traces of fluids. A non-textured seamless item made from any of these materials though will be super easy to clean in between partners; you could even just keep a pack of Afterglow Wipes on hand if you’re in situations (like at a swinger’s club) where departing to a sink in the middle of multi-person fun would kill your mood. They do have anti-bacterial properties and are body safe to all but the extremely sensitive folks – I don’t know though if I’d recommend using them on a toy, using the toy on a woman, and then after that move to oral sex, I can’t imagine that Bergomot oil tastes very good with all the other chemicals but I’m ultra sensitive to that sort of thing, your mileage may vary.
Again, stick to only silicone (or condom-covered TPR) and make sure to thoroughly wash it in between partners. Be sure to get down in the cracks and crevices if the toy has, say, a hard plastic handle (Like Lelo vibes). For more immediate use, if you’re able, cover with a condom. If the only sex toys you own are made from porous materials, then you should always cover with a condom even if you’re the only user. For vibrators that are entirely made of hard ABS plastic, these can just be wiped down with a little soap and water, rinsed or again cover with a condom if there’s no immediate availability to get to a sink in between partners. ABS plastic is non-porous, but you do have to watch out for nubs and crevices. Pocket rockets are the worst offenders at keeping clean. The Hitachi Magic Wand (or a similar wand vibrator) has porous material on the head; not all wand vibrators are like this, but certainly the ones originally marketed for actual back massaging. Newer wand vibrators that are made by sex toy companies are sometimes made with a silicone head like the Mystic Wand or the Lelo Smart Wand, but also keep in mind that many wand makers like to add texture and ridges to the head – those spots are harder to clean on the fly so covering it with a condom if immediate sharing is likely is a safe bet. If you’re not 100% certain though, cover the head with a condom. It’s also a good idea to continue the condom down past the exposed metal portion and onto the plastic handle if you’re going to be in a group situation with people who are copious squirters.
Kink and Leather
I’m not talking about kink to those that frequently visit BDSM clubs; they are all pretty aware of safety precautions but those that just play casually in the bedroom won’t be aware about certain things. Any item that breaks/scratches the skin or causes welts that can bleed (if you get that rough) should be kept only to one person.
Gags that have leather straps would also need to be kept to one person. Cock rings can be leather. Paddles can be leather. The shiny side is water resistant but the rough parts aren’t, and none of it is non-porous.
Rope. If you tie anybody up and the rope comes into contact with saliva or other bodily fluids, wash the rope before using it on another person.
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At the end of the day, sex toys can and should be used to enhance any sexual encounter if it’s something that you and/or your partner(s) enjoys. But when you step outside the relative safety3 of a fluid-bonded monogamous couple, things can muddy up in ways that many people don’t think of. Why yes, actually, I have witnessed amateur porn where the sex toys were shared copiously with little regard to safety. It happens. The sex-positive bubble is small in comparison to the rest of the world; that much is obvious since jelly/rubber/icky toys are still such a hot commodity. The most conscientious person will always bring their own sex toy if they already own some great ones, that way there’s no worry about sharing if everyone has their own. The perfect kit would likely contain a few different types of lube (be sure to have an all-natural one like Sliquid for those who have sensitive skin issues), a few different types of condoms for both sex and sex toys, nitrile gloves, and toy cleansing wipes. If you only ever purchase your sex toys online, like me, finding affordable sample sizes of lube can be pretty damn difficult. I only have some because of my attendance over the years at places like the NYC Sex Bloggers Calendar parties, Momentum, etc. but they are perfect little things to have when you don’t want to worry about the lube bottle spilling out in your purse or you don’t have the room for a few bottles. The sex toy retailers used to all have lube samplers; I really liked the one GoodVibes used to offer, but for some reason nobody carries these anymore. You can find them on places like Amazon or at condom-centric online places, but many will not include the better brands like Sliquid or any all-natural lubes. They will, however, give you a full buffet of flavored samples if that happens to be your thing (it shouldn’t be though, the ingredients list on those is not palatable). You can also buy up a cube of Sliquid “pillows” of lube directly from the company, but they’re not exactly affordable for frequent use, it looks like they run around $1 each plus shipping.
But think about it: if you always had easy access to a little case containing an awesome little vibe (ahem: Salsa/Tango), 2 gloves, half a dozen condoms and lube samples plus a few single packets of Afterglow wipes4? Not only would you be the most awesome person at the sex party, but your individual random encounters would be safer and fun, always.
A note on choosing condoms for use as toy covers:
Don’t use old, expired condoms – while a broken condom on a sex toy won’t lead to pregnancy, it will negate the whole safety-from-funky-materials and sharing thing. Get an affordable pack of condoms and pay attention to the lubricant used (or get unlubed) – I’ve been told that most are silicone based and they don’t tell you this – they’ll only mention the lube if it’s water-based. While I’ve found that the higher quality silicone lubes are fairly compatible with higher quality silicone sex toys, you don’t know the quality of lube inside a condom. CalExotics makes a “toy cover” (as well they should, with all the jelly they sling) but it seems to be nothing more than a “feminine” colored non-lubricated latex condom. I’ve not tried this out with success because the nitrile gloves in my pantry are small (and the fingers are short!), but if you buy a box of large size nitrile gloves they could act as cheap toy covers on the fly – bonus is no latex, no worries about mystery lubes. Just snip off the middle finger. Smaller rabbit vibes could also be covered by using the thumb and index portion of a glove if you’re in need.
Thanks to Elspeth Demina for her help!
- And actually using it once, with one person, and then pitching it ↩
- And if they have defects, nobody should be using them – get them replaced!! ↩
- I say relative because there are no guarantees that someone won’t cheat; there’s also the chance that if you haven’t been together for years, an STD may have been dormant and didn’t show up on your pre-marriage STD panel ↩
- Also, why the hell don’t any online retailers offer such a thing? Lube samples are like the drug company logo pens of the sex toy industry. I’d certainly pay $19.99 for kit containing a dozen or so lube samples, 12 various condoms, a couple dental dams and half a dozen Afterglow wipes. Maybe I should make a company that sells those. That would be genius ↩
I thought that this recent question deserved to be highlighted more:
I want to buy my girlfriend an anal plug/toy. She’s new to anal; she tried the finger and now I believe she wants to pass to another level… I just want to give her a toy and let her experiment a little bit. Now, I am new also in the toy buying and I need your advice. Can you recommend something for beginners? I am aware about the materials but I still don’t know what to choose. I believe she needs something soft, something with a “natural feel”. Any advice will be appreciated.
A plug is something you wear around for hours or you can also just use it for the occasion, while just a simple toy is used as-is. The most comfortable plugs have a definitive difference between the neck and the body, with a decent base. The neck is what sits at the sphincter level; the sphincter prefers to be closed so a plug that will feel the most natural and least like she’s about to poop will have a thin neck.
I would also caution against looking for something super-soft and cushy/squishy simply because you need something with a bit of “backbone” to be able to penetrate the ass. That first sphincter muscle, especially, can be quite stubborn for beginners on letting anything inside the ass. Biologically speaking, it’s not natural. Your rectum and sphincter are built for exit-only; when the sphincter is open, it wants to close. And when things come out it is much easier than putting something in. That’s not to say that anal play is bad or dangerous; not at all if done right. I’m just pointing out that it’s not the biological function de facto which is why things may seem a little tricky at first.
If she’s taken nothing other than a single finger, I would highly suggest that no matter what else you get, you get her a warm-up dildo or two. Preferably two. The Tantus ones are the absolute best. I have them both and in my opinion you cannot just jump to the medium if you’re brand new to anal. I was steered towards the Silk Small as a warm-up and introductory toy to my Crystal Delights plug; despite the fact that I chose their smaller plug, it was still a little too big for me to just jump right to. The Silk Small was amazing. Only after sufficient play with the Silk Small would I graduate up to the Silk Medium. Even after numerous play sessions, to get used to the “weird feeling”, I would still start off each time with the Silk Small as a warm-up before moving on to the Silk Medium. These are smooth, plain and great for getting the anus and sphincter used to having something there.
Plugs that receive rave reviews from everyone are the Njoy Pure Plugs. I know that stainless steel can seem intimidating to a first-timer, which is why warm-up toys are imperative. The Pure Plug Medium though has a max diameter of 1.25″ and a nice, long thin neck. It’s built for comfort and to wear around for hours and hours. The steel might be cold at first, but you can warm it up in a bowl of *semi-warm* (not hot) tap water if you want.
Make sure you use plenty of lube! Thicker gel-like lubes work best for anal play. While many companies will tell you that you should avoid silicone-based lubes with silicone toys, the higher quality silicone of Tantus can tolerate certain higher-quality silicone-based lubes. I’ve used Wet Synergy (a silicone and water blend) with success, and they have recommended brands like Sliquid as having high compatibility.
Random Important Anal Play Information:
- Please AVOID anal numbing / desensitizing creams, gels and sprays. I can understand that newbies will be nervous about it feeling weird or hurting, but the anus is very special – if you do not use enough lube and you use a toy that is too big, too soon, you can create tiny tears in the skin called fissures. This is bad because then you are at a high risk for getting fecal matter into the open skin; you’re also at a higher risk for transmitting diseases of all types through broken skin.
- When you’re using fingers, it’s really best to put on a nitrile glove. This is a safety trick for both the receiver (fingernails!!) and the giver (broken skin? fecal matter under the fingernail?)
- Never, ever ever ever share anything between the ass and the mouth or the ass and the vagina. Never. Ever. Have I made my point clear? Ignore what they do in porn. Those butts have been cleaned out better than your average endoscopy requires, and there is no fecal matter that might transfer. You or your partner could become very sick if you don’t heed this warning. This also applies to sex toys. The only toys that should ever be used in both holes are non-porous ones that can be properly sanitized – silicone, glass, metal. And you absolutely must sanitize in between orifices.
- There will sometimes be a little poop. It’s a fact of life, it’s going to happen. Just have warm, wet washclothes or baby wipes right near by. If your partner cannot handle this, then you need to rethink anal play with them.
- Anal play, when done right, can be very pleasurable – for women and men. Men have the added bonus of a prostate to enjoy, but that’s for another guide. Many women have experienced g-spot stimulation via anal play (the wall inside between the vagina and rectum is very thin).
- My response is directed to the asker, who has a female partner. However, my information is the same for all genders – I just am focusing on the butt, not the prostate this time ↩