Links & Hijinks: Soaking, Rimming, & Writing

• Here’s why people have more sex in summer.

• Interesting: sex researchers have less sex than everyone else.

Paying for porn is the feminist way to get off. Hear hear!

• “There are two things I love eating: steak, and ass.” This piece on rimjobs is a delight.

• This as-told-to on the Mormon sex act of “soaking” (“No thrusting, no grinding, no climax. Just pop it in, and hold the fuck still”) is hilarious and fascinating. “There was always squirming on both of our parts but never any real thrusts. I guess squirming is technically moving, but it’s not like her preacher was reffing the event.”

• Useful tips for freelancers who work at home. (I am feeling this struggle harrrd lately!)

• On that note: freelancing can take a toll on your mental health.

• I’m a little tired of reading about sex robots, because I just don’t think they’re going to be the futuristic epidemic everyone claims they will be. But here’s an interesting piece about RealDolls.

• You know, I rarely link to erotica in these round-ups, but this brief tale about orgasm denial made me all tingly, so there you go.

• Maria Yagoda wonders: is period sex okay for a first-time hook-up? “As punishment for not menstruating, people who don’t should occasionally have to deal with some of the inconveniences of blood, blood everywhere. For this reason, period sex can seem like a feminist act, as it defies the societal expectation of women to hide, or be ashamed of, this awful fucking thing.”

• Sugarcunt has some great advice on writing sex toy reviews.

• Here’s a beginner’s guide to keeping a journal.

“Unusual” sexual desires are more common than we previously thought. Hmm!

• Emmeline reviewed an inflatable swan phallus we tried at Woodhull and it’s the funniest sex toy review I’ve read in ages.

Dating while depressed is difficult but doable.

• Mired in writer’s block? Alex Franzen has some topic suggestions for you.

• Brandon Taylor is such a beautiful writer. “There is a way in which people talk about domestic writing or personal writing that does not set itself on fire—they call it quiet. They call it still. They call it muted. As if there were anything quiet about relationships that go awry.”

Date ideas for stoners. The OkCupid blog has gotten weird and I’m into it.

“Porny sex” is still valid sex. You’re not a “bad feminist” if you enjoy things like pussy-slapping, “degrading” D/s, and messy blowjobs.

• Gosh, I adore the way Girl on the Net writes about sex. Her Ambit dildo review is wonderful: “I don’t want him to fuck me with this in a playful way or a quick way. I want to catch him when he’s in this focused mode: when he’ll not just use it to warm me up for a fuck, but really settle into the act of fucking me with it. Laying it out on the bed like he’s a surgeon aligning his equipment, then ordering me to strip off my knickers and lie still.”

• We need to stop supporting and protecting abusive men.

• Taryn busted some myths about asexuality.

• We don’t talk about dental dams enough, and it’s emblematic of a bigger problem.

• [Content warning for ableism.] Some people have a fetish for becoming disabled and go to great lengths to fulfill that fantasy. Apparently it may even have a legitimate neurological cause. Uh, wow…

Sex Writing 101: How to Write a Helpful, Engaging Review

They say that you become an expert at something when you’ve spent 10,000 hours doing it. I doubt I’ve spent that many hours reading and writing sex toy reviews, and I’m definitely not an expert. But I do think my two and a half years of experience have taught me some things about what does and does not work in a sex toy review.

I purposely left the title of this post vague because I think most of these rules can apply to reviews of other things, too, besides sex toys. I sometimes review porn, clothing, and even lipstick, and these tips translate well to most kinds of reviews. I hope you find them helpful!

Talk about your experience.

It’s amazing how many reviewers forget to do this, or don’t do it adequately. I can read a toy’s specs and features on just about any site that sells it; if I’m reading your blog, it’s because I want to know what you think of the product, not what its sales copy says.

Try to answer these questions: how did the toy feel for you? Did it work for your body? Did you encounter any issues when you used it? What did the sensation remind you of? Did you find any alternate/unusual techniques or uses for the product?

Usefully compare the product to others.

Granted, not everyone reading your blog will have a lot of toys as a frame of reference for your comparisons, but some will.

Comparisons are also useful as a way of recommending products that might work better for some people depending on their bodies and preferences. For example: in a review of the Lelo Gigi, I might write that someone seeking similar functionality but with more girth and power might prefer the Mona 2.

I specified that the comparisons should be useful and here’s what I mean: don’t compare the product you’re reviewing to a product that’s so obscure that almost no one has it, be very selective in making comparisons to outlier toys like the Hitachi Magic Wand, try not to make comparisons to toys that have been discontinued (this helps no one), and be specific in your comparisons. If you say that one toy reminds you of another, try to specify why.

Find interesting ways to describe sensations.

It can sometimes be helpful to describe a vibrator as “very strong” or a dildo as “very pleasurable” or whatever, but it’s better if you can come up with a more specific, creative and memorable way to describe what you feel.

Here are some examples which are totally cliché but work effectively as sensation descriptors: a vibrator like a jackhammer, a dildo that pounds your G-spot, a butt plug which gives a stretching sensation. If you can come up with more inventive descriptions, so much the better.

I often ask myself, “What does this feeling remind me of?” and find my descriptions that way. That’s how, for example, I decided to describe the Lelo Ida as feeling like a sharp rock in my vagina. I’ve never actually had a sharp rock in my vagina, but that’s what it felt like to me.

Proofread.

I tend to tune out and/or unsubscribe from blogs that have a lot of grammar mistakes, misspellings, and typos. I find it incredibly distracting, even if the writing is otherwise good.

Read your posts aloud before publishing, or show them to someone in your life who’s a good proofreader.

Structure your post for maximum readability and clarity.

The most basic way to increase readability is to use lots of paragraph breaks. Long paragraphs are sometimes necessary but they can feel tiring or confusing.

If your post has subheadings, sections, or any really important points you want to stress, consider bolding them. This helps break up the post, visually, and aids in overall comprehension for your reader.

I often structure my reviews in an “on the one hand/on the other hand” format, by which I mean, usually I’ll list all the pros and then all the cons, or vice versa. I try not to go back and forth too much between the product’s good qualities and its bad qualities; I think it makes more logical sense to list all of one and then all of the other.

Use the “inverse pyramid” structure.

Man, you would be surprised how many of the tips I learn at journalism school translate directly to my work writing sex toy reviews!

At J-school, we learn to structure our news pieces in an “inverse pyramid,” meaning that the most important or exciting information goes first and then the rest of the information is laid out from most to least important, all the way down.

If there’s a huge, glaring reason why I hate or love the product I’m reviewing, I usually start with that. That’s the “headline,” so to speak. The lesser details go farther down.

Introduce and conclude properly.

Remember when you had to write essays for school and they always had an introduction and a conclusion, both of which contained mini-summaries of the points to be made in the body of the essay? A similar structure can be helpful for reviews.

It’s good for comprehension and clarity if the reader knows what to expect before they get into the meat of the post (e.g. that you’re going to talk about size, shape, and texture, in that order) and if your conclusion is a little recap of your main points.

Disclose your relevant biases and quirks.

I have a small-ish vagina, I need clit stimulation to reach orgasm, I often find intense G-spot stimulation overwhelming rather than pleasurable, I loooove A-spot stimulation, and I need moderately strong vibration to get me off. These are all factors which affect how I feel about sex toys, and which may make my preferences different from those of some of my readers.

If I hate or love a sex toy for a reason that has a lot to do with my own unique preferences, I always try to be transparent about that. Someone else might love a toy I hate, or vice versa, if their body and preferences are significantly different from mine, and they should get some sense of that from my review.

What qualities matter to you in a review?

Blog Tour Questionnaire

A few different folks have tagged me in this “blog tour” thing, and it has some interesting questions, so I’m gonna do it! Read on, if you want a portal into the mind of a sex blogger…!

What am I working on?

Reviews, always reviews! I have a couple of Tantus toys I’ve needed to review for ages, a few lubes, an erotica book, and some other stuff.

I’ve also had an idea percolating for a while for a blog series about unusual fetishes, but I’m still deciding how to approach it.

And, as usual, I’m working on material for the Sex Toys Canada blog.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I once heard the ladies of the Blogcademy say that a blog should be like a magazine: geared toward a specific type of reader, and the various things that they would be interested in, rather than a specific type of content. So I try to keep that in mind. My target reader is a feminist, queer or queer-positive, open-minded and open-hearted sex geek – kind of like me!

A lot of my posts are sex toy reviews, but I branch out from that as well. I try to provide content that’s as helpful as possible, while also encouraging a light-hearted, radically inclusive attitude about sex. It’s my goal to avoid judgment and stereotypes, and to be truly sex-positive, which I define as believing that any sexual act or fantasy is A-OK as long as it’s safe, sane, and consensual.

Why do I write what I do?

I genuinely feel that sex education and sex geekery are my calling. I started this blog because I wanted to write and there is nothing I’m more fascinated by than sexuality. It’s the only topic in the entire world that I could write hundreds of blog posts about, because it’s intriguing, infinite, and ever-expanding.

As for sex toy reviews specifically, I want to help people make better choices about what they’re putting in their bodies and what they’re relying on to give them pleasure. The world deserves better than cheap jelly toys that give you chemical burns and shitty vibrators that can’t get you off. Pleasure for everyone!!

How does my writing process work?

I usually get posts done all in one go. That’s always been how I’ve written; my brain just works better that way. Of course, I go back in and edit or change things later, but I like that initial write-through to get done in one sitting if possible.

When writing sex toy reviews, I start crafting sentences in my head while testing toys, and make a mental list of pros and cons that I can use as a guide when I write my review.

After drafting and editing a post, usually I either publish it right away or let it sit in my drafts folder to marinate for a few days.

Yay, that was fun!

Sex Toy Reviewer FAQ

I’m a sex toy reviewer; duh. People are often curious about it. Here are some questions I’m frequently asked.

How did you get your start?

Like it says on my “about” page, after being interested in sexuality my whole life, I applied to a job at a sex shop. I didn’t get the job in the end, but in the process of applying, I did a lot of research to brush up on my sex toy knowledge – and somewhere during that Google tirade, I stumbled across some sex toy review blogs. Being a writer/journalist, I knew I could do what those bloggers were doing.

I started this blog and reviewed some toys I already owned. After I’d built up a small readership and backlog of posts, I started e-mailing sex toy companies to see if any of them would be willing to send me stuff to review. Sex Toys Canada and EdenFantasys were the first to say yes (though I’m not reviewing for either of them anymore). They started sending me stuff and the rest is history.

How can I become a sex toy reviewer?

Do what I did, as described above: start a blog, review some toys out of pocket, and then pitch yourself to companies.

Epiphora wrote a beginners’ guide on this very topic, and it’s much more informative and exhaustive than anything I could tell you. Pay particularly close attention to the part where she says you have to love writing and be in it for the long haul, because you aren’t going to be successful immediately, you aren’t going to get luxury toys right off the bat, and you aren’t going to succeed at all if your writing is terrible or boring.

How do you write a good sex toy review?

I’m not even confident that my reviews are good, but here’s what I’ve learned: you need to have a good balance between dry facts and entertainment value, and you also need to strike a balance between personal opinion and more generally relatable descriptions.

In most of my reviews, I’ll indicate whether or not the toy worked for me, but I’ll also give information that will help a reader figure out whether it would work for them. That’s important. The shape or size or texture or vibration strength of a toy may disqualify it from being enjoyable for me, but that doesn’t mean I should write a useless review in which I tear the toy apart because it didn’t work for my body. Each review has to be as useful as possible, while still being personal.

What does your boyfriend think of what you do?

He’s proud of me and he’s a willing participant in my work. Sometimes I review couples’ toys or men’s toys and my boyfriend happily helps me test them out (or, in some cases, tests them out on his own).

Are you “out” to people about what you do?

My friends, immediate family, and a few select members of my extended family know about my sex toy-related endeavors, yes. I’m lucky enough to come from a very open-minded, liberal family and to have friends who share those values too, so I was never concerned about any of them “finding out” about what I do.

I use a pseudonym (Girly Juice) because I don’t want to burn any bridges when it comes to future conservative employers or whatever. That said, I think we are moving into a future where writing about sex online won’t be an automatic disqualifier for getting a job, and I do hope to be able to “come out” as my real self online someday.

What was the first toy you ever reviewed?

The first thing anyone sent me to review wasn’t actually a toy; it was a book of spanking-themed erotica stories. It was a great book, as is every erotica anthology Rachel Kramer Bussel has ever edited, in my humble opinion.

The first actual toy I was sent to review was the Doc Johnson White Nights Super Bullet. It kind of sucked, but I was still thrilled to review it.

What’s your favorite toy you’ve ever reviewed?

My answer to this question will probably always be the same: the Eroscillator. It’s gotten the most use of any toy I own and gives me orgasms more reliably than any other.

I’ve also gotten a ton of use out of my Liberator Wedge, Njoy Pure Plug, VixSkin Mustang, Fun Factory G4 Patchy Paul, and Lelo Siri.

What’s the worst toy you’ve ever reviewed?

The Love Bone is quite possibly the most boring dildo of all time. I also strongly disliked the Joe Rock plug and Something Forbidden plug. And I still haven’t quite forgiven this glass egg for scaring the shit out of me when I thought it was stuck in my vagina forever.

So do you just, like, masturbate all day every day?

Uh, no. I actually probably masturbate less now than I did before I started reviewing.

I think people often don’t realize that sex toy reviewing isn’t just about testing the toys themselves – it also involves writing, researching, networking, marketing, managing affiliate accounts, corresponding with advertisers and sponsors, answering reader questions/comments, maintaining my website, etc. It’s definitely a pretty sweet gig but it’s not nearly as effortless as people seem to think it is.

Have sex toys lost their appeal, now that using them is basically your job?

Interestingly, no. Sure, I’m more analytical and critical of toys’ sensations now than I was before, but I still enjoy using and owning toys. They have improved my solo sex life significantly.

Where do you store all those toys?

I have two small sets of drawers – one plastic and one metal.

I will probably do a post (eventually) on my updated storage situation, with pictures and all, but for now, here’s the basic layout:

Plastic drawers, top drawer – favorite toys that are used often.
Second drawer – anal toys, Kegel toys, bullet vibrators, and lube samples.
Third drawer – silicone dildos.
Bottom drawer – condoms, porn DVDs, unused sex toy storage boxes, and instruction booklets.

Metal drawers, top drawer – rarely-used vibrators.
Second drawer – dildos made of unusual materials, like metal, wood, ceramic, and glass.
Third drawer – harnesses (of which I only have two so far).
Fourth drawer – men’s toys (because my boyfriend’s living situation doesn’t currently give him much privacy, so he prefers to keep his toys at my place).
Fifth drawer – currently empty except for my enema.
Bottom drawer – massager-style/electric vibes.

How many toys do you own?

Somewhere around 110 right now. I’ve reviewed more than that, but I sometimes give toys away to my friends, or just throw them out if they’re really terrible or broken. (My toybox page lists my collection in full.)

How much money do you make?

Not enough to live on. Yet. But more than I was expecting to make when I got into this biz, certainly.

What toys do you recommend for beginners?

A vibrator that is versatile, and inexpensive but body-safe, like the Turbo Glider.

A Tantus dildo with dimensions that will work for whatever orifice you’re trying to fill. If you’re a beginner to penetration (whether vaginal or anal) and want something slim, try the Charmer or Acute. If you’re ready for something more filling, consider the Comet, Adam O2, Echo, or Tsunami.

If you want to explore your G-spot, you could try a glass toy, or you could get one of the top-of-the-line G-spotters, the Comet Wand or Pure Wand.

If you want a butt plug, definitely look at Tantus’ plugs.

Sharing the Sexy #19

This website will deliver your sex toy purchases to your door within an hour if you live in the Toronto area. Oh my god, is this the future?!

• This poll infographic seeks to answer the question, what is and isn’t cheating?

• Ever wanted to become a sex toy reviewer like moi? Epiphora wrote a beginner’s guide and I give it an A+!

• Here’s some interesting stats about porn stars.

• This week I fell in love with Tits and Sass, a blog by and for sex workers.

• These stories about sex cults are intriguing and strange, as you might expect.

• New rumors are always cropping up about who will play Christian Grey in the 50 Shades film, and the current contender is Ed Westwick. I’d watch that.

The genders aren’t as separate and different as you may think. Awesome!