Things I Didn’t Know Before Reviewing Sex Toys
My eight-year blogiversary happened this summer, sometime during ShitShow June, when my nesting partner and I were going through crisis after crisis, and my PTSD was in high gear. These eight years haven’t been as productive for toy reviewing as I’d have liked them to be, but I’ve still accrued a great deal of treasured friendships, knowledge, and experience.
Reviewing sex toys changed my life. It was my impetus for starting a sex blog at all, because I never imagined having enough sex worth telling the internet about, although I certainly aspired to. It taught me a great deal about WordPress, writing, editing, web design, SEO, marketing, social media management, and being part of a community for a span of time – all things that have helped my career in this industry, and have helped me in other endeavors in the past, like for the 3 years my ex and I ran a small web development company.
While those skills are truly helpful and have given me opportunities to sustain myself doing them, they’re far from the only things I’ve learned, but the other things are a little more niche.
I struggle to fathom another industry that will prize knowing things like:
- What the fuck it means for a toy to be “thuddy”, and how that contrasts with “buzzy”. I occasionally find myself using these words with fresh-off-the-griddle vibrator newbies who do not possess a range of toys asking, “Well do you like buzzy, or thuddy?” and being told that they aren’t sure what that means. That’s totally okay! I didn’t have firsthand knowledge of the clear difference at first, either, until I’d reviewed many types of vibrators.
For starters, it’s still a subjective scale, because everyone prefers different stimulation – but some toy motors will solidly land on one end of the spectrum or another. When you crank a Wahl up to speed 2 (or as I called it, the “OH FUCKING SHIT” setting), you can tell that’s a thuddy motherfucker.
If you don’t go into a toy store with floor models, attend sex toy workshops, work in the adult industry, or have access to a large toy collection, odds are that you haven’t had enough vibrators in front of you at one time to really compare.
- What “broad” and “pinpoint” stimulation are. The same issue most people have as the one mentioned above – if you don’t have experience using a wide range of toys, you may not have tried enough vibes in different shapes to know the difference, or at least what you prefer. For me, the Leaf Life was the toy that made me realize, fully, what pinpoint stimulation was; the original, corded Hitachi Magic Wand (now just “Magic Wand”) was definitely my introduction to broad, but the Tenga Iroha Midori taught me that broad stimulation can be nuanced, rather than a crotch-ensconcing, tractor-fucking wand.
What you find as your breadth of experience grows is that you may have “exceptions” to whatever general opinions your genitals have about a type of stimulation. For instance, I fell asleep using the Leaf once, and generally disliked it, but the Zumio is also a pinpoint vibe, and that was a one-way ticket to splash country. I’m genuinely displeased that I lost my Zumio charging base in the homeless shuffle, because it was one of my desert island toys – the only pinpoint stim I not only abide, but crave.
- The acrid scent of shitty materials and dream-shattering lies. If you read sex toy reviews, usually on sex blogs instead of store pages, you may already know a great deal about the importance of body-safe sex toy materials, and you’ve probably done some flame tests of your own at home if you’re always looking for any excuse to play with fire, like me.
But there’s more to it than that – the things we do for honesty, thoroughness, and science, y’all… we slice, we dice, we keep gross jars. When I think about the least pleasant-smelling toy I ever saw burned in person, I think of the Buck Angel stroker Lilly melted one weekend when Formidable Femme and I met up with her after the Careers in Sexuality Conference in 2016.
The worst thing about killing that toy wasn’t that we were destroying a masturbation sleeve – it’s that the spectre of its burning carcass still tickles my nostrils whenever I see Buck on social media being a lying, transphobic shitheel after many trans people of my generation, myself included, considered him a role model.
- ALL the different types of lube. I didn’t learn shit about lube until Wet sent me a hybrid lube to review in 2011 – then I was on my favorite blogs troweling the category pages to learn about lubricant, and googling “why we need oil-based lube”, “how the fuck do i get a bullet out of a vibrator,” “why is this lube pussy poison”, and “does my partner need to go to the doctor after the lube I was reviewing burned their urethra?”
I wish the last one were hyperbole, but it isn’t.
- Rabbits are a fuckin’ crapshoot. The thing is, you try one and it doesn’t line up and you’re like, “well, that’s okay, there are others,” and sure, that’s a literally true statement, and a foundational principle of reviewing: almost always, there are others, and if there aren’t now, there probably will be later.
But how many others can you afford if you have to buy your toys? How many dual- (or god forbid, triple-) stim vibes do you want to go through, feeling dissatisfied and broken, because if you have a vagina, your clit is (pick however many describe you):
- Too high
- Too low
- Too buried
- Too prominent
- Too big
- Too tiny
- Too far left
- Too far right
compared to how the vibe is made?
If you have the rare luck not to have this issue with most rabbits, you are truly fortunate. The rest of us are usually better off with an insertable and a separate clit vibe, if that option is accessible to us. I would never drop money on a rabbit vibe. I don’t have dough to fuck around with.
- Masturbation isn’t all fun and games. Well, okay, sometimes it still is, but when I commit to reviewing something, my method is typically to use the toy many times, then several more if there are minutiae I want to research or new things I want to try. I stop what I’m doing to take notes, I repeat motions that aren’t always pleasurable if there’s something I want to say about them.
“I wish I could lay around masturbating all day!” Yeah, OK, but what if you were only allowed to masturbate for a few weeks with a toy that was so bad it didn’t even feel good? What if the looming spectre of avoiding the shitty toy and the review you must write tainted every good jerk-off session until you finished the piece? What about if it were with a toy that lures you in with the promise of tongue pleasure, but pulls out your pubes like some kind of tricky, licky Rumpelstiltskin from another dimension that you sold your crotch hair to in the misguided hope you’d get an orgasm?
I didn’t sign up for an epilator, I signed up for orgasms, but I’ve STILL gotta finish this goddamn review…
Obviously, it has been a momentous 8 years, and while I can’t find any career outside of the adult industry that would appreciate my opinions about lube, horrifying photoshop skills, or ability to identify sex toys in porn, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.
I’m dying to know – what incredibly niche skills have some of you learned in your time as sex bloggers and toy enthusiasts?