Pain, Punishment, & Pretty Girls at The Ritual Chamber

My inbox is a perpetual blur of unappealing offers, but there are some propositions you just don’t ignore. Like, for example: “Would you like to come try out our funky upscale queer-positive dungeon?”

It was an email from the Headmistress of The Ritual Chamber, and I practically started salivating as I read it. Yes, of course I wanted to play around in the dungeon. The only question was: with whom?

See, I’m between partners at the moment, and you can’t exactly jump on Tinder and ask a random fuckboy, “Wanna come beat me up in a dungeon?” Well, some people probably could, but I can’t. The very idea makes me hideously nervous. Plus I wouldn’t trust a Tinder bro to know my ass from my elbow if I put a flogger in his hand, know what I’m sayin’?

But then, of course, a perfect solution floated into view: my friend Suz volunteered to be my play partner for the day. I asked our friend Taylor J. Mace to come photograph the proceedings. And just like that, we became a trio on a mission: to trek to the dungeon, bruise Suz’s ass, and get some beautiful photos in the process.

The Ritual Chamber is a gorgeous space that you can rent for you and a partner (or up to 3 partners, if you please!). It’s set up to make a broad range of fantasies come true: there’s a medical clinic room, an elegant Victorian boudoir, an ageplay room for littles and caregivers, and a traditional dungeon space. But what interested me most, when I perused The Ritual Chamber’s website, was its “school detention room.”

I have a thing about teacher/student flirtation. It’s haunted my sex-brain since the days when I was a literal student, sitting at my hard, uncomfortable desk and staring dreamily at whatever babely instructor I currently had a crush on. Of course, I wouldn’t have wanted them to respond in kind, because that’d be gross IRL, but in fantasy, it was thrilling.

So when Suz asked me what she should wear to the dungeon, I told her to “dress like a subby good girl for me.” And when we arrived at the space, the detention room was our first stop.

I had brought some impact implements of my own to use, but ended up not needing them; the dungeon is extremely well-stocked with equipment. I bent Suz over this authentically vintage-looking schoolhouse desk and selected a paddle from the collection arranged in the corner. There were several frat-style paddles like this one, as well as a few wooden rulers for that legitimate mean-teacher aesthetic.

It was fun to make Suz write lines about what she’d done wrong, and then punish her accordingly. But I must admit I got a little distracted when I realized that those lockers behind us are actual, functional lockers. Oh, the school-bully roleplay possibilities!

(By the way, if you’re wondering, my dress is by Vesper and my flower hairclip is from H&M years ago. I don’t often dress in this “businesslady femme” style, but it seemed appropriate for the domme role I was playing!)

From there, we moved on to the ageplay room, which reeeeally appealed to my inner little girl. The toys and stuffed animals everywhere would be so great for comfort during and after scenes, and the impact toys laid out on the bed were perfect for punishment in an ageplay dynamic. One of them was painted to look like a lollipop. Aaaamazing.

I continued Suz’s spanking on the adorable little pink bed in this room, alternating between a wooden hairbrush and a paddle carved in the shape of a bear. Conveniently, there was even a pink footstool for her to rest her knees on. The creators of this space have truly thought of everything!

This room is super authentic-looking, not really a sexy, tarted-up version of a child’s room but more like an actual child’s room. I felt that way about the medical clinic room, too; every detail, from the scratchy paper on the exam table to the dingy fluorescent lighting, felt pitch-perfect. Those details are crucial when you’re trying to fulfill a fantasy – you don’t want to be taken out of the moment by a pervasive sense of artifice. So I really applaud the decorator(s) of The Ritual Chamber for taking so much care in the creation of this space – it looks fantastic, and every single room made me feel dirty in the best way.

The boudoir room is stunning. It reminds me of rich people’s parlours I’ve seen in films set in the Victorian era, like Hysteria. (Which, by the way, if you – like me – have a lot of sexual feelings about Victorian doctors and hysteria, the medical clinic room would be a perfect space in which to enact that fantasy…)

There’s an actual goddamn spanking bench in the boudoir, so obviously I had Suz “assume the position” on it and made her stare at her own face in the conveniently-placed mirror while I hit her with a crop.

As you can see, there was a lot of giggling. I am not exactly a serious domme.

Our last stop was the dungeon proper – a dimly-lit room in the middle of the space, where the walls are lined with floggers, whips, paddles, restraints, and pretty much everything you’d ever need for a kink scene. Even Taylor, a seasoned kinkster, found something in the collection he’d never seen before: a pair of gloves where each finger has flogger-esque falls attached to it, so you can hit someone by swinging your open paw like some kind of werewolf.

We cuffed Suz to the Saint Andrew’s cross in this room and then proceeded to beat her up in several different evil ways. Taylor hit her chest with the aforementioned flogger gloves, I flogged and whipped her with other implements from around the room, and then I scratched “BAD GIRL” onto her pale chest with some metal talons Taylor had brought along. Hey, when you’ve got a cute sub consensually chained to a cross, you make good use of that opportunity!

While this beating was going on, I noticed that the space felt blissfully private and safe. I couldn’t hear any noise from neighbouring houses or apartments, so I could rest assured they couldn’t hear us either. We could be as loud as we wanted or needed to be, and all our cavorting was safely contained in this tidy, well-appointed little dungeon. (And yeah, we got pretty loud at times.)

Our time at The Ritual Chamber was certainly an eye-opening experience! In the past, I’ve occasionally gotten into situations where I needed a private spot to have sex but there wasn’t one immediately available to me. We could’ve dropped by our local sex club in those situations, or tried to rent a hotel room or a last-minute Airbnb, but none of those are entirely ideal: the club might be crowded, an Airbnb might leak sound to its landlord, and a hotel room won’t come equipped with kink implements galore!

If you are in need of a sex-positive, queer-positive, kink-positive space to bring a scene to life, I can’t recommend The Ritual Chamber highly enough. It has just about everything you’ll need, all carefully arranged in a clean, comfortable, private space. It’s the perfect spot for a kinky getaway into your darkest fantasies!

 

Thank you so much to The Ritual Chamber for sponsoring this post, to Taylor for taking all the photos, and to Suz for being such a good girl for me!

We Deserve More Orgasms, Dammit

“How are you, Kate? What have you been up to lately?”

“I’m writing a magazine article about the orgasm gap and it is blowing my damn mind!!”

My friends are tired of hearing about it, I’m sure. There are more interesting things we could discuss, probably. But it’s an occupational hazard of journalism to become temporarily obsessed with whatever you’re currently covering. I’ve gone through these fixations before with other assignments: spanking, squirtingBenedict Cumberbatch. And though my focused fascination didn’t always last, I always learned something in the process that I took with me into my ensuing experiences, my work, my life.

One of my favorite editors sent me an email a couple months ago, saying two new books were coming out on female sexuality and I might want to review them for her magazine, or possibly write a feature on them. “Has women’s time finally cum?” she joked in the email. I agreed to write about the books, and she had them sent to my house.

The books, as it turned out, were Closer and Becoming Cliterate – two fabulous reads which assess the current state of sexual sociopolitics and women’s sexuality. They have a lot of commonalities – both mention the A-spot, to my great glee; both advocate masturbation and mindfulness as potential solutions to women’s sexual woes – but what struck me most was both books’ examinations of the orgasm gap.

Closer quotes a 2015 Cosmopolitan study which found that only 57% of women usually reach orgasm with a partner, while their partners climax 95% of the time. Becoming Cliterate adds that in first-time hookups, only 4% of women say they usually reach orgasm, versus 55% of men. Yes, folks: we’re well into the 21st century and these sad stats are still true. It’s been over 50 years since the supposed sexual revolution of the ’60s and women’s orgasms are still trailing men’s. This is unacceptable.

I told my mom about this assignment, and the books I was reading for it, during an Uber ride to a family gathering. (The driver was probably judging us pretty hard. Oh well.) “Do you think that’s true?” she said, of the orgasm gap. I paused and furrowed my brow. “It’s scientifically proven. Yeah, it’s true,” I replied. Then she clarified: “No, I mean, is it personally true, for you?”

While I declined to answer that question when my mom asked it – hey, kids and parents have gotta set boundaries somewhere – she did get me thinking about orgasm disparity in my own life. Like the authors of the books I’ve mentioned, I also have access to scientific data. Mine’s just self-made and a lot more specific: my sex spreadsheets!

In reviewing my orgasm stats from 2016, here’s what I know:
• I came during 58% of my sexual encounters; my partners, comparatively, came 76% of the time.
• I’m statistically likeliest to come with partners I’ve banged at least a few times. I had eight first-time encounters in 2016, only two of which resulted in orgasm for me. (What was the common element between those two orgasmic successes? In both cases, the sex took place in my own bed and involved toys – a relative rarity for me in first-time encounters.)
• Multiple orgasms, while rare for me, are possible – with partners I’m suuuuper comfortable around. (My only multiple-orgasm sessions in 2016 were with a boyfriend I’d banged 13 times already, and a fuckbuddy I’d known for over a year and fucked 15 times before.)

Both Closer and Becoming Cliterate quote studies which’ve found that women are likelier to reach orgasm in ongoing relationships (whether romantic or just friends-with-benefits-esque) than in casual or one-off encounters. I can’t speak for other women, but I know why this is true for me: when I don’t know someone as well, I’m often too nervous, anxious, and insecure to ask for what will get me off. I’m trying to play the role of a “cool girl,” which includes being undemanding about my own sexual needs and just rolling with whatever my partner wants to do.

In more established relationships, though, that nervous magic wears off and is replaced by magic of a different sort. With my longest-term fuckbuddy, for example, I have no qualms about requesting he focus his fingers on my A-spot for a while instead of fucking me with his dick, and I know he’s super vibrator-positive so I’ll gladly grab my Tango or even my big bulky Magic Wand during sex with him, certain he won’t judge me or feel displaced.

Even with him, though – even though he’s made me come over a dozen times, knows exactly how to do it, and has never once balked at anything I’ve asked him to do in service of my orgasm – I still get hung up about “taking too long.” I’ll gladly spend ten or twenty minutes blowing him, because I genuinely love doing it and I find his pleasure deeply fulfilling, but if he spends more than three minutes focusing on my pleasure, I start to get anxious. “Are you getting tired?” I’ll ask, breathless with guilty arousal. “Do you want to stop?”

To his immense credit, he always reacts like this is a silly question – lovingly, of course. Hell, even the very first time we banged, he reminded me, “You’re getting in your head. Just relax and enjoy.” I’ve heard these words, or similar ones, come out of his mouth so many times since then. He’s exceptionally good at calming me down and helping me remember that pleasure is as much my right as it is his. But it’s sad that this is a rare talent among men. It’s sad that I feel I have to ask for this reassurance, rather than just receiving it by default or not needing it at all.

According to both the books I’ve read on it, the orgasm gap exists primarily because our culture still overvalues penile pleasure and undervalues clitoral pleasure. Though the penis and clitoris are anatomically analogous, and though stimulation of the clitoris is as necessary for its owners’ orgasms as stimulation of the penis is for its’ owners orgasms, and though this has been widely known for decades, the clit still doesn’t get its due attention in far too many hetero encounters. Focused clit stimulation is still mostly relegated to “foreplay,” while intercourse remains the conceptual centerpiece of straight sex, even though most women don’t get off from it without “extra” clit stim. The feminist babes who spearheaded the sexual revolution in the ’60s must be so sad and angry that it’s 2017 and women still aren’t getting off as often as we ought to.

So many times, I have told a partner, “Making me come is difficult,” when what I meant was, “I know exactly what’s required for me to get off, but I’m scared you don’t care enough to learn how to make it happen, so I’m not even going to try to teach you.” I have often said, “Don’t worry about making me come, I’m fine,” when what I meant was, “I don’t feel entitled to pleasure, even though I believe you are.” I still often say, “It’s probably not going to happen tonight,” when what I mean is, “It could happen if you did what it takes to make it happen, but I’m too embarrassed to show you how to do that, or to ask you to work that hard for me.” Meanwhile, I’m still giving diligent blowjobs left and right, time and effort be damned. It’s inequitable and it’s unacceptable.

I recently hooked up with someone at a sex club whom I’d just met an hour before, and to my immense surprise, he made me come. This, as I’ve mentioned, almost never happens to me – it’s one of the key reasons I decided to eschew one-night stands in 2017. But on that particular night, I’d smoked a little weed, so my sensitivity was high and my inhibitions were low. My hookup also kept emphasizing how much he wanted to please me, which helped. Teaching him to fingerbang me properly felt fun and exciting, rather than intimidating like it usually does with new partners.

Mid-encounter, I realized – as I often do – that my orgasm would remain out of reach unless I brought a vibrator into the mix. So I stole a line Bex once recommended I use: “Do you wanna see me come?” No halfway-decent partner would ever say no to that. When I got the affirmative reply I wanted, I went and fetched a vibe from my locker – and when I pressed it to my clit while his fingers resumed their magic inside me, my orgasm transformed from elusive to impending. And then it happened, more quickly and easily than I even expected, my muscles wetly clenching around his hand. “Oh my god, I can’t believe you made me come,” I slurred as I floated back to earth.

The truth is, it’s not hard for me to come with new partners; it’s hard for me to feel brave enough to make sure I come. The actual mechanics of my orgasm are not difficult. If I can muster the courage to give a partner thirty seconds of verbal instruction, or even to grab their hand and show them what to do, they usually figure it out pretty quick. And what’s more, they’re usually thrilled to put the work in, rather than seeming inconvenienced. It’s partnered sex; we’re there for each other, not for ourselves. Most of the joy of fucking another human is their reactions, and knowing your own role in those reactions. I know this to be true from my own perspective, but it’s sometimes hard for me to remember that my partners feel that way, too.

As easy as it would be to blame sociocultural forces for denying me orgasms, ultimately I have the power to overcome those forces in my sexual interactions. It’s as simple as asking for what I want, or just stimulating my clit during sex myself without waiting for “permission” to do so. Men typically have no qualms about expecting that they will get off at some point during sex, and taking steps to make sure that it happens. I need to practice adopting that same attitude, in the same guiltless and casual way, so that I can start getting off more consistently. Because I fucking deserve that.

What are your experiences with the “orgasm gap”? Got any tips for getting over anxiety about expecting or deserving an orgasm?

My Perfect First Date

Dates never quite go the way you expect them to. There is always a discord between the date you pictured before it began – whether glittering and gold or precarious and scary – and the date that actually unfolds. You can plan and play out every plausible permutation in your head and your date can still throw you a wildcard. That’s part of what makes it fun.

That being said… I still sometimes fantasize about very specific dates. I know that they’ll never happen in real life, because if they did, they’d be as boring and predictable as a rendezvous with a sex robot you programmed yourself. But they’re still fun to think about.

Whether your meet-cute happens through Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble, mutual friends, a party, a chance encounter on the street, or you just click here for sex tonight, I hope one day you get to have your ideal first date. Here’s mine…


I spend a couple hours slooowly getting femme’d up at home: prancing around my bedroom, trying on outfits, blasting upbeat tunes, texting friends selfies for their approval. The outfit I ultimately settle on is a colorful fit-and-flare dress, thigh-high socks, a leather jacket, and leather boots. I smoke a little weed to help me relax. (It’s a family tradition.)

On my way out the door, I check my lipstick in the mirror and impulsively send a selfie to the suitor I’m about to go see: “I’ll be the chick who looks like this. See ya soon!” He replies with a thumbs-up emoji followed by a heart-eyes emoji.

I get on the subway toward Ossington station, heart thudding but not as hard as it would be if I’d skipped the weed. My best friend floods my phone with encouraging messages. I listen to a funny podcast and mess around in my Scrabble app; this always calms me down.

Once at Ossington, I skip down the street to the Bad Dog Theatre, where we’ve agreed to meet. I trot up the stairs, nervous but ultimately excited. Our Tinder banter earlier was good – a rarity in the sea of bro-y dullards that is the online-dating scene – and I’m confident his charm will translate to the offline world as well. I’ve developed a pretty good sense for that, I think.

I spot him in a booth, beer in hand. He flashes me a broad, goofy grin and a wave of acknowledgment. I slide in across from him and our conversation sparks to life immediately; he’s witty, quick, and rambunctious. They say a woman decides within 30 seconds of meeting a man whether she’s going to sleep with him or not, and right now I’m feeling a magical, hard “yes.”

I get a pilsner of my own and we keep talking. He’s interested in my work, my life story, and I in his, so we talk about my writing and music and sex ed, and his various impressive creative vocations. The pre-show minutes zoom by, amid animated stories and bad puns and silly voices. (Gosh, he’s really very funny, isn’t he.) The theatre usher du jour announces that the house is open, so we shuffle in with the rest of the crowd. He wants to sit front-row centre, and so do I, and we commiserate about how other people always think it’s weird when you want to sit that close.

The show is hilarious as per usual, but more than that, I notice my date’s laugh. He has a big, generous laugh that makes every joke seem funnier, every improvised choice seem deliberate and brilliant. We keep catching each other’s eye in our periphery, sharing in mutual delight over the discovery that we both laugh like loons. One of the comedians calls us out for sounding like goofs and we just laugh harder.

After the show, Mr. Cutieface sticks around for a minute to congratulate the performers on a great set and say hi to the ones he knows (because, of course, he’s friends with half the cast). Then he asks me – a courageous veneer draped over some hidden nerves I almost don’t notice – if I’d like to stick around, have another drink, and keep talking. “I would love that,” I say, and his ensuing smile is all fireworks and disco balls. Blam, pow, zing.

He tries to buy my next beer but I don’t let him. We settle back into our booth and get into a heated discussion – not so much a debate – about inclusive comedy, consent in improv, and the importance of “punching up.” Every once in a while, when I make a particularly salient point, he goes quiet and wide-eyed for a moment and says, “Kate, you don’t even know how right you are,” or, “Kate, you genius, you should teach classes on this stuff.” I know he’s being hyperbolic but his unabashed flattery still melts me a little. And each time he says my name, my proverbial ears perk up and I feel entirely focused on, like everyone else in the bar is just a hologram but he and I are absolutely real.

When it gets late and the crowd is starting to thin out, he asks me, “What do you wanna do now?” and I’m just tipsy and comfortable enough to fire back, “I kinda wanna go somewhere and make out with you.” He doesn’t miss a beat, all wiggly eyebrows and roguish smiles. “Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s go do that,” he says, and reaches for my hand.

As we’re throwing on our jackets and scampering down the stairs, he asks if I’m more in the mood for park makeouts or alleyway makeouts. I half-joke, “Which one’s closer?” and he gives me a sidelong mischievous glance, takes my hand again, and leads me into an alley.

Moments later, I’m up against a wall and his face is heart-haltingly close to mine, but I’m a chronic punster and can’t resist the opportunity. “Making out with you would really be… up my alley,” I squeak between giggles at my own bad joke, and he rolls his smiling eyes and presses his mouth against mine.

We kiss for long minutes, slow and exploratory, like we’ve got nowhere else to be but here. He hints at an inner domliness in the way he keeps me pinned to the brick wall with his arms, his thighs, his mouth – but whenever he kicks up his fervor, he always backs off for a moment to ask me, “Is this okay?” or “Do you like that?” I always breathlessly reply in the affirmative.

Drunk people keep walking by the alley and half-spotting us in the dark, and every time it happens, we giggle – not embarrassed, just amused. Eventually he stops kissing me and says, soft and low, “Okay, Miss Sloan. I think we should call it a night pretty soon.” He’s pinging my kinks and doesn’t even know it yet. Or maybe he does.

I could invite him over to continue the evening. I could inquire about going back to his place. I could offer him a blowjob in this alley. But I don’t – not because of stigma about sex on the first date, but because I like him so much, I want to savor things as they come. (Pun only partly intended.) And I can feel how much he likes me radiating off his skin, so I know this isn’t the last night we’ll share, not by a long shot.

“Would it be weird if I texted you right away?” he asks as we walk to the subway station together. “That’s probably not very ‘chill,’ right?”

“Ehh, fuck ‘chill,'” I reply, and link my arm with his like we’re a lady and a gentleman in an old-fashioned movie.

“Okay, good, ’cause I like you a lot and will definitely want to text you right away.”

Sure enough, I get a text from him that night, after we’ve said our goodbyes and parted ways at the subway and I’ve started my walk home from the station. “Did anyone ever tell you you’re a fantastic kisser? Holy cannoli!!” the text says. Its brazen enthusiasm makes me giggle so loud and so suddenly that an old lady across the street gives me a stern look.

I go home and collapse into bed, visions of alleyways and loud laughs dancing in my head.

 

This post was sponsored by LocalBangs.com, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own!

Review: We-Vibe Nova

“You should buy this rabbit vibe,” my co-worker at the sex shop half-jokes while restocking the wall of rechargeables. “We’ve only got one left and we’re not re-ordering it when we sell out. I want it gone.” It’s some garish, hot pink, unfriendly-looking thing. I don’t want to buy it.

“I don’t really like dual-stim vibes,” I reply with a shrug.

He narrows his eyes at me. “If you don’t mind me asking: is that ’cause you don’t like internal stimulation, or external?”

I choose my words carefully. “I don’t really like internal vibration. And I’m also too much of a control freak for rabbits. I like to decide what kind of stimulation I’m getting internally and externally at any given time; I don’t want a toy to decide that for me.”

This was true, until I discovered the We-Vibe Nova. It’s a rabbit of a different color.

It’s rare that I’ve liked dual-stim vibes in the past. I can count the ones I’ve enjoyed on one hand: there was the Jimmyjane Iconic Rabbit, the California Exotics Silicone Jack Rabbit, and a jelly CalEx rabbit that felt good aside from the mild chemical burns it gave me (beware of phthalates, kids!). These vibes all have two major things in common: their internal portions rotate rather than vibrating, giving my G-spot the pressure and motion it craves, and the internal and external portions can be operated independently from one another, satisfying my need for control over my sex toys.

The Nova’s internal arm doesn’t rotate, but it doesn’t need to, because I can thrust with it. If you’ve ever tried to thrust a dual-stim vibe inside you, you know how frustrating it can be. The clitoral arm of rabbit vibes typically needs to be placed just so to make contact with your clit in the particular way you like, and thrusting disturbs this delicate balance. You therefore have to choose, in any given moment, between pleasing your G-spot and pleasing your clit. It’s like moderating an explosive debate between two screaming six-year-olds: you can’t win.

But the Nova changes all that. Its clitoral arm is brilliantly flexible, such that it moves with me as I thrust, maintaining constant contact with my clit. This makes all the difference in the world. I can piston the internal arm against my G-spot as fast and hard as I like, and the vibration on my clit continues all the while. This magic is why the Nova gets me off more easily and consistently than any dual-stimulation vibrator I’ve ever tried.

The centre button of the Nova’s control pad lets you choose whether the vibrations of its various patterns and speeds will emanate from the internal arm, the external arm, or both at once. Because I’m not too fond of internal vibration, I usually leave that arm turned off. Even by themselves, the clitoral vibrations are deliciously rumbly and strong, sinking deep into my clitoral network and resulting in profoundly satisfying orgasms.

In recent years, We-Vibe has introduced an app, We-Connect, through which you can control (some of) their toys via Bluetooth. This is genius in some ways and less so in others. It’s cool to see visualizations of patterns as you use them; I particularly like one called Surf, where the external vibrations remain steady while the internal ones pulse, creating the illusion of someone’s fingers tapping hard against my G-spot. I like being able to flip through modes and speeds with a swipe or tap of a finger. I like that the app gives me the ability to cede control of the toy to a partner who lives far away – I don’t currently have anyone in mind for this, but it’d be a cool Skype-date activity if I did! The only major drawback of the app is that lubey fingers don’t mix well with smartphone touchscreens, but that’s easy enough to solve.

I will admit, the Nova is not foolproof. It always takes some shifting and shimmying before I get it situated just right on my G-spot and clit. I have to tilt the toy’s handle toward my butt to get the internal arm to press up into my G-spot the way I like, but I’m used to doing that with toys. The Nova’s control pad also feels far away from me when I’m using it, because the handle curves downward right where the controls are, so it’s not always easy to change speeds or patterns in a hurry (although the app helps with this substantially).

But overall? The We-Vibe Nova is easily the best dual-stimulation vibe I’ve ever tried, and the one that gives me the best, most consistent orgasms. I’ve always rolled my eyes at that famous Sex and the City episode where Charlotte becomes addicted to her rabbit vibe and doesn’t want to leave the house anymore, let alone waste time having sex with men who’d never satisfy her like her vibrator does – but I can sort of understand where the show was coming from when I use the Nova. It wouldn’t make me eschew partnered sex altogether, but it sure does make lukewarm Tinder hookups seem less appealing. Why waste time on a dudebro who might not even know where my clit is, when the Nova dominates both my clit and my G-spot and can be controlled via smartphone?

If you need me, I’ll be curled up in bed with my Nova.

 

You can get the We-Vibe Nova at Come As You Are for $170 CAD (about $127 USD!), at SheVibe for $149 USD, at PinkCherry for $142 USD (or $180 CAD), or at Peepshow for $149 USD.

The Unfortunate Truth Behind Sex Toy Gift Baskets

As a fancy femme, I’m a sucker for good presentation. So I definitely oohed and aahed when I pulled my bright-purple XRated Basket out of its shipping box. It’s such a good shade of purple, too. Swoon.

I am also partial to anything that comes with pretty-lookin’ ribbons, because I get to wear them tied in bows in my hair like the princess I am. #FemmeSexNerd

It’s too bad that the appearance of this gift box is the only good thing about it. This is XRatedBaskets’ Hers Basket. Let’s take a look at what’s inside…

Time for some real talk. Companies that make sex toy “baskets” or “boxes” usually do so by cobbling together seemingly the cheapest, lowest-quality toys they can find, packaging them up nicely, and selling them at a significant markup. This basket is no different.

I actually requested XRatedBaskets’ “S&M Basket,” because it contains some things that aren’t meant to go in or on the genitals – e.g. rope, a paddle, nipple clamps, restraints – so it seemed like a safer bet. Cheap kink toys will typically cause less damage than cheap sex toys, in my experience. But they sent me the Hers Basket instead, which is, frankly, full of stuff I can’t and won’t use.

Literally, there are eight things in this basket, and seven of them will never make contact with my genitals unless I somehow become possessed by a demon who is cool with porous, potentially toxic materials. There’s a PVC dildo, a TPR vibrating clit pump, some TPR “vibrating nipple pads,” a jelly fingertip vibe, a squishy PVC G-spot vibe, and a panty vibe shaped like a fig leaf which doesn’t specify its material but brags its “battery lasts for up to 30 minutes!”

All of these things claim to be phthalate-free, but there is no regulation in the sex toy industry which obligates companies to tell the truth about phthalate concentrations in their toys. Indeed, one toy that claimed to be phthalate-free was actually found to consist of 61% phthalates when tested in a lab. So that label is essentially meaningless, put there to fool consumers into buying cheap stuff they’re led to believe is body-safe.

The packaging of this jelly dildo boasts, “I’m body-safe: phthalate-free,” but flip it over and it warns, “Use with a condom for maximum hygiene and safety.” Condoms don’t even totally prevent leaching if a product contains toxic chemicals, though, so it’s a moot warning.

To add insult to injury, I thought I might be able to at least use the lube included in this basket, but it contains glycerin and propylene glycol, so that’s a hard nope as well.

The one and only thing in this basket that I can safely put in or around my bits is an Afterglow toy wipe – but, y’know, I usually just wash my toys when I’m done using them, and since the toys I use are nonporous and actually phthalate-free, washing them is enough to get them genuinely clean. Including the wipe is a nice gesture, but would be nicer if XRatedBaskets actually cared about your hygiene and health enough to send you toys that won’t cling onto your body’s bacteria and give you chemical burns inside your orifices.

If you want to get someone a fabulous gift box of sexy items but don’t want to spend a lot of money, you’re better off buying them stuff that isn’t for their genitals, since, as I’ve said, low-quality sex toys can cause all kinds of health problems. XRatedBaskets has an S&M Basket and a Massage Basket that mostly fit the bill: each contains at least one phthalate-ridden sex toy but mostly non-genital items.

But my honest recommendation is that you buy your amour just one or two really excellent toys instead of trying to get them a zillion things on a shoestring budget. An inexpensive body-safe vibrator and a bottle of good lube will run you less than $50 if you shop smart, and will result in more orgasms and fewer chemical burns than an $100+, jelly-laden gift set put together by a company.

 

This post was sponsored by XRatedBaskets, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own!