3 Versions of Myself I Access Through Fragrances

“John Varvatos” by John Varvatos

I am a cisgender woman, but it is just not that simple. Gender never is.

In high school, I used to describe my eclectic personal style as a mix between a 1950s pinup girl, a 1980s teen queen, and a British schoolboy. Elements of the latter only snuck into my outfits occasionally – a collared shirt here, a silk striped necktie there – but I always felt that schoolboy somewhere below the surface, particularly as I came into my queer identity. Pursuing girls, giggling and blushing at girls in the school cafeteria, training my gaze on girls in an unabashedly desirous manner – these all brought out a butchness in me, for lack of a better term; a hard sharpness on the edges of my otherwise plush femininity.

I wondered – and still sometimes wonder – whether my once-in-a-blue-moon dalliances with dapperness are more an homage to a person I want to be, or a person I want to fuck. But then, maybe those two categories are always a Venn diagram, and it’s just a question of how much overlap exists in your personal version.

When I peruse fragrances online, I’m most drawn to notes I associate with masculinity: leather, oak, tobacco, sandalwood. It all sounds terribly sexy, for much the same reason I sigh and swoon when I encounter phrases like “blue striped button-down with the sleeves rolled up” or “freshly shined leather wingtips.” These aesthetic elements sit right in the centre of my Venn diagram of attraction and aspiration: a sweet spot where I can equally imagine myself pinned against a wall by a ravishing man who is kissing me, or being that man.

I ordered a sample of John Varvatos’ self-titled fragrance because a male xoJane writer described it as smelling “[like] you spilled a chai latte into an old leather jacket.” I could see it so clearly. Flirting with a leather-clad heartthrob in a bustling café, all waxy hair pomade and smug bravado – or being that heartthrob, and not needing to ponder petty concerns like gender, because chai and leather and flirty nerve are genderless and always have been.

There are some “men’s” fragrances that feel like drag when I wear them, coming off incongruously boyish on little ol’ femmey me. But John Varvatos melts into my skin and my gender with an uncomplicated ease. It’s masculine and powerful and sexy and bold, but coexists peacefully with my femininity and softness and docility. It’s like a men’s leather jacket I might steal from a boyfriend, that looks beefcake-handsome on him, but adorably spunky on me. It’s masc but it’s not a mask. It’s the brashest kind of boy this cis femme lady can ever be.

I love it. I want to wear it every day. I want to feel this attuned to all my gender-peculiar facets at every moment. I don’t ever want to lose that.

“Carnal Flower” by Frederic Malle

Like anyone who’s lived in a particular city for a long time, I have personal rituals tied to certain places and activities in my city. Like any introvert, many of my personal rituals involve being alone.

There are some activities I will not do alone. Though I love attending improv shows at places like Comedy Bar and the Bad Dog Theatre, I cannot go to a show solo; sipping a beer in a claustrophobic bar before the show cranks my social anxiety up to eleven, as my bad brain hallucinates judgmental eyes lingering on me from across the crowd. Likewise, I will not go to local sex club Oasis Aqualounge unless I am meeting at least one person there; the libidinous glances and bold advances of disingenuous lotharios aren’t worth enduring, even to languish in Oasis’ beauteous heated pool under the stars.

One thing I do love to do alone, however, is go to the theatre. In particular: Soulpepper, in the Distillery District.

There is something classy, mysterious, and refined about attending the theatre alone, at least in my imagination. I select shows carefully every year, spacing out my tickets so I never have to go longer than a couple months without one of these pilgrimages. It’s a special, pre-planned night out, like taking myself on a date. I get dressed up, do my makeup, spritz on some scent. When I used to live in the east end, I would get on the King streetcar, clutching a little leather purse and walking with purpose, and ride it down to the Distillery. Once there, I walk along the dimly-lit cobblestone streets, sometimes wobbling in heels (the theatre is one of the only occasions I deem worthy of heels), until I reach the warm, bright, elegant lobby of the Soulpepper theatre.

The crowd is different there from my usual haunts; it’s a lot of older people, married couples, mature professionals. Whereas swilling beer alone in the crowded Comedy Bar makes me feel like people are staring at me and think I’m weird, sipping a pint of Tankhouse in Soulpepper’s lobby gets me almost no attention at all. Everyone bustles softly around the space, waiting for the house to open, cooing gently at the posters of coming attractions, greeting each other with warm enthusiasm. There is no culture of cruising, scoping, judging or partying. I am almost always the youngest person in the room, but am otherwise invisible.

Stripped of other people’s projections, then, I am free to be whomsoever I please, and to be that woman in peace. And at Soulpepper – a brick and wood haven full of quiet theatre devotees – I am a mature, sophisticated young woman, elegant in my little dress and little shoes. I am precious and put-together, confident and collected. I am a nonexistent but aspirational vision of myself.

Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower is often described as a “dangerous” or “sexy” scent, but I don’t get that from it at all. On me, it’s floral, summery, and feminine in a way I have never quite been. Helena Fitzgerald describes the woman evoked by this perfume as “the kind of woman I had once thought could wear perfume while I couldn’t… I am not her; through perfume I could try on her life as a costume.” I feel this too: when I wear Carnal Flower, I can gather up my guts, my smudged eyeliner and scuffed boots and crooked teeth, and compress myself into a lither, lovelier little lady. A lady who might – for example – waltz up to the bar in the Soulpepper lobby, order a glass of white wine, and sit sipping it on a leather chaise without once worrying what anyone thinks of her.

“Acqua di Gio” by Giorgio Armani

I’ve told you before about my conflicted love affair with Acqua di Gio. It’s the signature scent of someone I used to love, who never loved me in the same way. My heart’s year-long tussle with this man was all wild hope tempered with crushing disappointment. One followed the other, like a dance. We’d have a good night out, laughing over beers and sandwiches – and then I wouldn’t hear from him for days. We’d share sex so intimate, it made me believe those who use “intimacy” as a euphemism for sex – and then he’d declare how much he valued my friendship. He’d tell me that we were on the same wavelength, that we were meant to stick around in each other’s lives, that our connection was special and deep – and then he’d go off grinning goofily on dates with random women from OkCupid, looking for “the one.” I remained the one he left behind.

If I’d never been in love with someone who wore Acqua di Gio, probably its inhalation would strike me only as mildly pleasant. It might remind me of oceans, cucumbers, or musky muscled strangers fresh out of the shower. But I have been in love with someone who wore it, so when Acqua di Gio crosses my nostrils, it’s a guilty hit of glee. An endorphin rush I quickly work to suppress. Wild hope, as I’ve said, tempered with crushing disappointment.

This is a problematic reaction to have to a fragrance as ubiquitous as Acqua di Gio. I rarely go a week without passing someone on the street who’s wearing it. Every time, every damn time, I’m struck with the pins-and-needles feeling that haunted me throughout that ordeal: Will he ever love me? Why doesn’t he love me? How do I make him love me? Why doesn’t he love me? That love has since faded, but the scent is a time trigger, dragging me back into that pit I spent so long clawing my way out of. It’s a lot to grapple with, on a street corner, surrounded by strangers.

So I became interested in reclaiming the scent, reworking its fraught associations, like exposure therapy. I read an xoJane article about this a while back, and the idea resonated hard. When friends go through breakups, I tell them to make new memories in the locations that remind them of their ex – why not do the same with a scent?

There are times, while I’m wearing Acqua di Gio, when I catch a primal whiff and sink back into nostalgic sadness, wanting that Prince Charming and the promise of happiness he dangled just out of my reach. But then there are other times when I breathe deep and realize I am that Prince Charming, I can be happy, and I can and will save myself. There is hope. There is always hope.

Review: Stockroom Neon Angel Bust Harness

 

Content warning: this post has boobs in it!

I’ve been increasingly interested in leather chest harnesses over the past year or so. The more I learned about them, the more I wanted one. While I’m a frivolous femme and definitely appreciate aesthetic trappings for their visual appeal, what really made me want a chest harness was when I found out they have practical kink applications as well. When you’re strapped into a chest harness, it’s that much easier for a partner to pull you toward them, throw you around, and get you exactly where they want you. Excuse me; I’ll be in my bunk.

So I was excited when Stockroom offered me some products to review and I saw that they carry (among sooo many other things) a hot pink leather chest harness. SIGN ME UP.

The Neon Angel bust harness is made of pink leather with nickel-plated hardware. It isn’t as buttery-soft as my Aslan Leather products, but I expect it’ll soften up the more that I wear it (that’s one of my favorite things about leather!).

It fastens in two places: behind your neck, like a collar, and on your back, like a bra. As a femmey, submissive person with boobs, I love how simultaneously feminine, small, curvaceous and helpless it makes me feel to be cinched and squeezed in those two places. It’s the mild throat constriction of a collar combined with the very slight boob-lifting of a wireless bralette, and the effect is super cute.

The T-strap connecting the collar to the underbust is adjustable, to allow for different torso lengths. You can also detach the two parts of the harness using this strap, if you want to wear the collar and underbust portions separately, though they each look a little lonely and incomplete without the other!

The collar portion can fit necks ranging in circumference from about 10″ to 13″. The underbust portion, meanwhile, can get as small as 24″ and as large as 35″. Unfortunately, this means it probably won’t fit most plus-size folks. My dress size is 12, I usually wear large-size shirts, and I have a 33″ underbust, so it fits me comfortably with a few holes to spare – but a size-14 friend tried this on and couldn’t get the underbust part fastened comfortably. There’s only about an inch of extra space at the end of the leather strap to add extra holes if you wanted to.

As a fashion item, I find this harness surprisingly versatile! I’ve worn it over dresses, as pictured, and also over crop tops, T-shirts, and lingerie. However, it works just as well when I wear it while otherwise naked, or while just wearing panties. It has a submissive babygirl aesthetic that I adore, and which is obviously pretty on-brand for me! In addition to the pink color, you can also snap up this harness in bright yellow or black – and the black version is even available in vegan PVC if you’d rather not buy leather.

Worn naked, the leather is slightly chafey against my skin if I’m moving around a lot, but not moreso than other leather items I might wear during sex, like cuffs or a collar. My past experiences with leather tell me this chafeyness will lessen up over time, too, as the material softens and starts conforming to my shape.

One of my favorite things about this harness is those big 1.5″ D-rings on the front – one by my throat, one right between my boobs. As with any D-ring, you can use these to attach the harness to rope, cuffs, a leash, or other bondage accessories to create elaborate predicaments if you so desire. For example, I once had a partner attach two carabiners from my under-the-bed restraints to the D-ring on a collar I was wearing, effectively chaining me to the bed so I couldn’t move. There are lots of fun things you can do with these D-rings!

One of their best and simplest uses, however, is as a handle for pulling and manipulating the person wearing the harness. As you can see from these photos, if you’ve got a partner wearing this harness, you can grab ’em by a D-ring to pull them in for a kiss – or to throw them around as part of various other kinky activities. I love, for example, being tugged around by a chest harness when I’m blindfolded; it adds to my feeling of being helpless and needing my dominant partner’s guidance for everything.

Overall I’m delighted to own this harness! I’ve found it unexpectedly versatile, both for fashion purposes and for kink purposes. I think it’ll get a lot more wear in the future!

All photos in this post were taken by Taylor J Mace. Thanks to Taylor, and also to my lovely co-model in some of these shots, A.! Thanks also to Stockroom for sending me this product to review. Check out their wide selection of body harnesses!

Monthly Faves: Rainbow Glitter & Nipple Clamps

It wasn’t my most libidinous month, on account of mental and physical illness, but I managed to squeeze in some good experiences nonetheless! Here were some of my fave things in September…

Sex toys

• The Standard Glass S-Curve has been my favorite dildo all year and this month was no different. It’s just… so… good.

• I moved out of my parents’ place earlier this month, taking with me all the toys I actually use regularly and leaving behind the rejects and redundancies. I’m glad, however, that one toy I left behind is the original Doxy wand (I took the slicker, rumblier Doxy Die Cast with me to my new place). With a Doxy at each house, I’m guaranteed giant, thrumming orgasms whether I’m at home or staying at my family’s for a night. Perfection.

• You might know Weal & Breech for their amazing handmade wooden paddles (and if you don’t, you SHOULD), but did you know they also make wooden nipple clamps now? I bought a pair of purpleheart ones this month and they are very pretty (and highly effective).

Fantasy fodder

• Sensory deprivation orgasms (like in this porn scene) are carnally intriguing to me! Now I want some cute domly person to strap me down, blindfold me, put noise-canceling headphones on me, and “torture” me with a wand vibe… I mentioned this to a new beau and he said he’s interested in trying it, though I think I’d reeeally need to trust someone before I’d feel comfortable letting them do that to me.

• There is so much filthy Brooklyn Nine-Nine fanfiction out there, y’all. This one is a recent fave. Brief “plot” summary: Jake quizzes Amy on historical facts and police trivia as part of a teasing foreplay game. (Send me your dirty Jake Peralta and/or Rosa Diaz fanfic links + headcanons, please. They nourish my soul.)

• I sexted with a Twitter crush this month, and mid-cyber-fingerbang, he noted that good sex is a blend between pleasure and tension. (See also: TEASING IS GREAT.) Sometimes a good tease turns me on more than the part that actually gets me off, y’know?

Sexcetera

• Some of my work elsewhere this month: I consulted and reported on the Sex Toy Awards story in the new print edition of Glamour. I wrote about gags and muzzles for Stockroom. I was interviewed about ageplay and communication for the Off the Cuffs podcast. Pedro Marques interviewed me about my career. I reviewed one of the new Fun Factory Battery+ vibes for Peepshow. On our podcast, Bex and I talked about platonic kink, exhibitionism, orgasms, and interviewed Sunny Megatron and Ken Melvoin-Berg.

• Orgasm stats: this month I had 24 orgasms, an uncommonly low number for me, due to the aforementioned depression and sickness. Two of them (8.3%) were from a partner. That brings my total for the year up to 247 so far.

Femme stuff

• I ran out of my perennial favorite pink lipstick, Bourjois Pink Pong, so I’ve been wearing Sugarpill lipstick in Girl Crush a lot instead. I don’t like the formula quite as much (it’s a bit drying), but the shade is fantastic and I love the glittery, hyperfemme packaging!

• I’m currently haunted by the new rainbow glitter Doc Martens, which don’t seem to be available in Canada yet but which I desperately need. (Um, send me an email if you’re feeling generous!)

Little things

My new room! Making out with a random guy who recognized me from Instagram at the Horseshoe Tavern (#SlutLyfe). Finding new favorite haunts in my new neighborhood (ya gotta have a café, a bar, a 24-hour grocery store, a bookstore, and a sushi place, at the very least). Listening to the Flop House endlessly. Working on my boundary-setting. Visiting the Condé Nast offices in NYC and having great chats over coffee with my editor at Glamour! Seeing the McElroy brothers do a live show in Brooklyn, making friends with the girl sitting next to me, and drinking a giant, bright green Long Island ice tea-esque cocktail while laughing my ass off. Spanking Bex at their birthday party. Going to the theatre with my mom. Hitting 6,969 Twitter followers. Wine and pizza night with a fellow femme. The woman in front of me at Waiting for Godot who got so offended by how much I was laughing at the play that she left at intermission (!). Catching up with my little brother over coffee. A photoshoot in pink leather on my balcony (oh, just you wait!). Tiny shorts weather.

The Departed Dominant & the Jilted Submissive

My collar is too tight. I keep tugging at it, loosening it, shifting it against my sweat-slick throat. It doesn’t feel quite right, because my submission doesn’t feel quite right. It’s been five weeks since my dominant dumped me and my submissiveness still doesn’t feel quite right. I’m simultaneously sympathetic to my own cause and furious I’m not over this shit already.

“This is the first time I’ve worn a collar since my breakup,” I tell my best friend, realizing only as I say it out loud that it’s true.

“How are you doing with that?” Bex says, their brow furrowing because they understand the gravity of what I have just said, in a way a vanilla friend might not.

“I’m doing okay,” I respond. Still tugging on the collar even as I try to let it lie.


Whenever someone breaks my heart, I become outraged I let them touch so many things in my life I cared about. Like a bad apple in a barrel, cruel lovers ruin whatever they come into contact with. I can’t watch Steven Universe or listen to DVSN anymore; I can’t order from that one Thai place we used to frequent; I can’t even enjoy media featuring characters who share his first name. It’s all painful and I’m furious it’s painful.

But what hurts even worse is the places he touched that are buried deeper in me, more central to my heart than my entertainment preferences: my sexuality, my sensuality, my submissiveness. I let him own me while he was my dominant; it’s unfair he still gets to own part of me now that he’s gone. I want those parts of me back, but that’s like trying to make dirt-trampled slush back into clean white snow.


I miss my bruises. I miss my bite marks, scratches, and hickeys. For the first several days after the breakup, I think this thought at least once an hour and cry every time.

Holding my ghost-white forearm out in front of me while sitting on my friend’s bed, I splutter, “There’s a bite mark here. You can barely see it. Soon it will be gone, and I’ll have none left.” My friend is listening but I might as well be monologuing to myself; I’m so absorbed in my own internal drama these days.

Later, I tell Bex the same thing via text. I’m repetitive when I’m heartbroken. “You’ll get more,” Bex suggests.

“I don’t want more from anyone else.” It feels true when I type it. It feels like it will always be true.

“You will one day,” Bex replies. “Or not. And that’s okay too.”

My heart folds in on itself then, crumpled and dissolute. What if they’re right? What if this prophesied nightmare comes true and I never find my way back to my submission? What if I left my kink in that man’s hands and he still has it and he’ll never give it back?

I bend over in front of a mirror and stare at my ass, dappled with bruises from a scene with a one-off hookup last week. I stare and stare at the wine-dark marks and feel blindingly angry that these meaningless splotches still linger while that bite mark, that one last precious vestige, is nearly gone.


Relationship psychology fascinates me, and so do sex toys, and one intersection between the two is the intriguing question: who keeps the sex toys the two of you shared when you break up?

My toys are mostly mine, purchased with my own dollars or acquired with my professional clout. But them being technically mine and mine alone does not stop them soaking up meaning from past relationships. There’s the metal hanger rail I can’t bring myself to use with anyone but the man who pried it out of a hotel closet for me; the silicone dick extender I got to fulfill a specific partner’s fantasy and likely won’t use again; and now, the multitude of kink implements that remind me only of the dom who debuted them on me.

How long will it be until my favorite paddles no longer feel like his? How long until I can use my shiny new wand vibe without thinking of how he, at my request, tied me down and held it against me until I squirmed and screamed? Will I ever be able to repurpose the wooden dowel he bought for me at a hardware store, sawed and sanded down to size, and used to smack stripes onto my skin?

A week after the breakup, he drops by to return the nipple clamps I forgot at his house. I’m filled with bitter rage – Yeah! He SHOULD give those back to me! I bought them with my own money, dammit! – while also knowing it might be a long, long time before I want to use them again. I hold the clinking clamps in my sweaty palm and tear up, thinking: You damn fool. Crying over nipple clamps.


I move into his neighborhood – not on purpose, just a cruel coincidence – and develop a crippling fear of running into him. I won’t leave my building without first slipping on a low-key disguise: sunglasses, headphones, modern shields against creeping invaders. I add extra blocks to my walks so I won’t have to take streets I know he frequents.

What am I so afraid of? He did this, he fucked this up; I don’t have to be ashamed. But I’m scared that if I see him, he’ll still feel like my Daddy. Or worse, I’m scared that he won’t.

I pass by his house and (insanely) want to knock on the door. My phone beeps a text tone and (insanely) I wonder if it’s him, wanting me back; wonder if I should text to ask. A distant ex sends me a long-overdue apology out of the blue, and (insanely) I consider seeing him again. I don’t do any of it, and (insanely) I very, very much want to.


I try to make everyone into my dom, because I feel unmoored without one. I say self-effacing shit until friends have to command me to shape up; I pretend my to-do list is a written decree from a bossy babe; I spend more time around my parents because there is no one else now to make me feel small and cared for. When texting with casual beaux and Tinder randos, my once-flirty banter tricks like “Is that an order?” and “Make me!” become, instead, thinly-veiled desperate pleas.

But just as a tree falling in the forest is inaudible if there’s no one there to hear it, a bratty submissive is just an aimless failure if there’s no one there to rein her in. When I make silly decisions, like skipping meals, forgetting my iron supplement, and putting off my work until late at night, no one scolds me or spanks me or throws me a stern look. No one tells me to straighten up and fly right. I am neither punished nor rewarded for anything I do. I must be a Goddamn Adult and supply my own motivation. I can barely remember how.

In navigating this sudden crisis, I am reminded of the existentialist philosophy classes I took in high school and university. When existentialists came to the ultimate conclusion that there is no God, no watchful deity, no inherent meaning or purpose to life, at first they felt deeply anxious and upset. It was like being cast out of an airplane with no parachute, reeling, not even certain where the ground lay. But soon, they came to realize: one can make meaning out of one’s own life. One can select a purpose, a direction, a vision for oneself, instead of waiting for some distant God or Divine Right Order to do it. What was terrifying at first becomes empowering as you sit with it and think it through.

I have to make my own meaning. I have to be my own dom. I know this. And one day I will figure out how to do it.

 

This post was sponsored by the amazingly generous folks at SheVibe. As always, all writing and opinions are my own. Check out their selection of restraints, spanking implements, fetish wear, and other kink products!

Guest Review: Venus for Men

Note from Kate: In over 5 years of writing this blog, I’ve never published anything from guest writers, because, frankly, I wanted this to be my space and I have super high standards. However, a friend of mine recently bought himself a Venus for Men and wanted to contribute a review, and since I know he’s a funny writer, I was excited to publish it here. Enjoy!


I’ve been looking for the perfect penis-centered toy for a long time. At age 12, I cut open a rubber ice pack, shoved it between couch cushions, and fucked the shit out of it. It may have been the most sensual seventeen seconds of my life. By age 18, I’d put my dick in dozens of household objects; it’s a miracle that I never ended up in the emergency room! As I got older, I kept searching for better toys. I tried all manner of low-quality Doc Johnson toys, pussy sleeves, the disappointing Autoblow, the classic-but-underwhelming Fleshlight, and even the futuristic Soloflesh. I got a Cobra Libre last year, and it was fun now and then, but I had always been jealous about the wealth of toys available to the vulva’d among us.

It always seemed that one small consolation of our bustling patriarchy was the plethora of techno-marvels available to your average AFAB (assigned female at birth) person. The Rabbit, the Hitachi Magic Wand, the Satisfyer, the Eroscillator, the Sybian, and every conceivable shape, size, and feel of dildos and insertables. It makes sense; the very notion of “the female orgasm” has been considered elusive or unimportant throughout history, whereas your average penis-haver can experience orgasm seemingly by accident. Of course there would be more options made with women in mind.

But anyway, back to me. A man.

I would watch porn where women seemed to be deliriously possessed by the power of their sex toys, and I had so rarely felt that way. I watched a man attach a dildo to a power tool and fuck his partner at a speed that would be humanly impossible. I wanted to experience something like that! But the more toys I bought, the more I felt like the ones made for my anatomy would never hold a candle to their vulva-targeted rivals.

There was, however, one shining star in this (ahem) Milky Way… one last hope, however far-off and improbable: The Venus For Men. In a world of cheap and disappointing dick toys, the Venus For Men – which, when I first heard about it, was called “The Venus 2000” – unabashedly touted itself as the best of the best. Sure, there were always RealDolls, but even if you shell out the money and have somewhere to hide the lifeless body in between uses, you still have to expend the energy to physically fuck a RealDoll. That’s not a penis’s equivalent to an Eroscillator, it’s an Ab Roller with boobs.

Let’s talk for a second about what the Venus For Men is and what it does. In practical terms, it’s a black box that sucks and blows. That’s all it does, it’s a box containing an actuator which simply sucks and blows. You connect the box via air hose to a cylindrical plastic dick chamber with a skin-like liner inside of it. Another hose connects to an air controller, and you operate the Venus’s speed and stroke length with wired remote control units. The unique feature of the Venus is that it changes the pressure in between the liner and the cylinder, so the user’s penis is sucked in and out of the liner, which in turns slides the perfectly form-fitting dick cylinder over the penis like some kind of magical, prehensile orifice. And, once properly positioned and calibrated, it will cling to your dick regardless of what position you’re in. It’s a sex robot without the creepy facial expressions. A subby vacuum cleaner with a hungry mouth. The pinnacle of space-age wiener tech.

And, since it’s the cream(ing) of the crop, it’s also quite expensive. The Venus retails for $956 USD, and that’s without optional attachments. Maybe some billionaires can drop that on a whim, but I’ve resigned myself to paying off student loans and keeping a tight leash on my credit card.

At least that was the case, until the money came in.

I made a good business move once that led to a huge financial windfall this year. So I paid off my loans and decided to celebrate my debt-free status by allocating a few thousand dollars as “fun money.” One lonely night, I rediscovered the Venus For Men website. This formerly unattainable item was now well within my budget. When would I get another chance like this? And, hey, they even had a 45-day money-back guarantee (though they discourage you from sending back a used dick cylinder). What did I have to lose?

By the way: One unique element of ordering a Venus is the five – FIVE – measurements you’re required to take of your penis. But after years of lackluster “one size fits all” sex toys, I went along with it. Even the inseam.

Finally, the day arrived. I carefully opened the box, took out the pieces, and I found the setup pretty simple. Within five minutes, I was lubing up the dick cylinder (officially called “the receiver”) and taking her for a spin. And WHOA wowee wow wow what a short and intense ride that first orgasm was. The way I remember it is basically like this:

0:01 Whoa, it’s really pulling my dick in there.
0:04 Wow, that feels amazing. I can see why it’s so expensive!
0:11 I wonder how fast this thing can go…
0:15 Holy shit that was amazing.

It was like a sexy wizard said “Here, let me give you a kickass BJ” and then, after a few seconds, got bored and just cast an instant-orgasm spell on me. I clocked the max speed of the Venus at around 5 strokes per second, and by “stroke” I mean a complete in-and-out suck-and-fuck of your dick. Even if blowjobs were an Olympic event, I don’t think the most performance-enhanced athlete could achieve speeds anywhere near what this baby can do. This was the deep-throat version of one of those power tool dildos. Finally, instead of wishing I had an organ as magical as a clitoris, I was ecstatic to have a dick just so I could stick it into this thing. I had found the equivalent of the magic I’d seen in so many vulva toys.

The Venus’s 12-page operating manual states, “At climax, you may ejaculate inside the receiver. We suggest it be washed before anything dries.”

Before anything dries? So the part where I usually feel sleepy and glowy now comes with the anxiety of a ticking clock?

And the cleaning process is not a simple rinse. You have to pull the pieces apart and clean them individually. You have to use a large-bristled brush that comes with the kit. You’re also encouraged to store the receiver in a dark area because excess light causes the liner to deteriorate – another ticking clock! It was annoying. I have to walk through a hallway to get from my bedroom to the bathroom, and I don’t particularly want to explain to my roommates why I’m carrying a miniature toilet brush and a fleshy beaker of cock chowder. But, then again, I blew a thousand dollars on this thing. This is the Lamborghini of sex toys, and if you get jizz in your Lamborghini, you’d better clean it before it dries. So I cleaned it. The hole that connects the cylinder to the hose needs to be plugged before each cleaning, but its cover is very annoying to get off and on, so I ended up just plugging the hole with my thumb when I cleaned it (also anxiety-causing).

The Venus brought me to orgasm six times on that first day. I would use it, clean it, dry it, remember it existed, and use it again. This may be more a matter of my addictive personality than the efficacy of the product, but I couldn’t get enough of it. Suddenly, this feeling that I had only experienced with another person was now mine to feel in a magically self-centered and entirely on-demand way.

It was past my bedtime when I finally climaxed the sixth time (basically ejaculating an invisible poof of glitter at that point). My legs shook as I shambled over to the light switch and got into bed. I laid down, still blissing out, looking forward to a sound sleep. But just as my eyelids began to droop, I realized, “Oh fuck. I have to fucking clean this thing.”

Back on with the lights. Back on with the clothes. Grabbed the now-veteran cleaning brush and the dick cylinder, skulked down the hallway like some kind of sex toy burglar, spent a few minutes cleaning it, and set the pieces to dry in a part of my room that would be hidden from light. What a production! When I jerk off before bed, I typically do a quick cleanup with whatever undies or socks are lying around and just let the sleepy feeling float me off to dreamland. Not so with the Venus. Clean it, or risk whatever happens if you don’t (it’s so expensive, I was afraid to find out)!

Another drawback is that it’s a bit loud, especially at high speeds. At max speed, it’s about as loud as a squeaky mattress with a pair of giant rabbits mating on it. Its slower speeds are quieter, but part of the fun is feeling how fast it goes. Sure, there are plenty of popular sex toys that are loud (Hitachi, anyone?) but this particular sound is mechanical and repetitive. What would my roommates even think they were listening to? Often, I would get nervous that they might walk by my bedroom door while I was using it, and the thought of it took me out of the moment.

After a few weeks of using the Venus, I started dating a new woman. I actually thought she might be “the one.” My Venus use went from daily to rarely. Sure, the sensations are more optimized than sex, but the chemistry and intimacy of sex were much more enticing than the prospect of sitting, bored, while Robocock dutifully did its job.

A few weeks into the new relationship, I realized I only had a few days left if I wanted to return the Venus. I considered it. “Maybe I could find something more constructive to do with the money,” I thought. “Maybe I’ll be with my new girlfriend forever and I won’t need this thing.” Wrong. I decided to keep it, and I’m not sure why. But it came in handy, because New GF and I broke up after a month or so. Just like in the beginning, the Venus was amazingly precise. Once again, I had that “hooooly shit” feeling when its suction drew my penis inside of it. I learned to customize the placement of the liner to make it even more intense. I could once again have as many orgasms as I felt like over the course of a horny day. In its way, after my relationship ended, the Venus was a pretty great rebound.

So, would I recommend that you buy a Venus For Men? It depends upon your priorities. It’s a damn good blowjob anytime you want and you can control various aspects of it in realtime, allowing you to literally DJ your BJ. But it’s loud, high-maintenance, and costs a thousand dollars.

That said, you don’t have to use it alone! Imagine making out with your partner while the Venus sucks you off and they use a toy on themselves? Hot, right? Or imagine if your partner was too tired for sex and your consolation prize was an immaculate suckoff. Not too shabby! And it can also function as a penis pump and a unique nipple stimulator.

Is it ethical to spend this much on a sex toy when there are starving children in the world? That’s for you to decide.

All I know is this: In 2001, I bought my first disappointing sex toy, and ever since then, I’ve wished there were a penis toy to rival the most legendary vulva toys. Sixteen years and about a thousand dollars later, I finally found it.