The Myths of Sex Toy Reviewing

April 20th, 2010

I was so excited when I got my first toys to review. I know you were, too! I know if you have just discovered how awesome it is to not only play with vibrators and dildos and butt plugs — Oh my! — but to do so for free in exchange for some words, then you might still be floating on cloud 9. That’s totally cool. I know I wanted to jump right into things and I was sure I was awesome and I made some beginner’s mistakes. I like to think I am beyond that; most people get some gentle guidance or learn from example. Some people realize that reviewing actually takes work and give up when it becomes apparent that companies expect some sort of quality.

The truth is outsiders and newbies may have some misconceptions about sex toy reviewing:

Toy reviewing requires no effort.
True, I’ve seen some rather shoddy reviews which could only have taken seconds to compose but to be a successful reviewer, the ones who earn respect and gain a following learn to do a few things. Like use a toy more than once, even if the first time is horrible. They work on improving their writing skills and describe things in painstaking detail even when the details have become boring to them. They discuss toys with friends, proof read dozens of times, deal with defects and argue with delivery services. The types of reviewers I like to read research materials and compatibility. They double and triple check waterproof capabilities and try toys in ways they would not normally use them, all in the name of a good review. *I wouldn’t be surprised if consistently bad reviews disqualified you from reviewing.
It’s all about experience.
I call bullshit. In fact, most quality review programs have something to say about experience: keep it limited and keep it relevant. I believe this guideline is in place for good reason. Quite simply put, your personal experience can never predict someone else’s personal experience. Furthermore, sometimes I can’t even predict how well a toy will work for me despite being myself. Hard facts generally give consumers a better idea of whether or not a toy will work for them.
Every toy is awesome!!!!
No, it’s not. Toys are made of potentially dangerous materials. Toys break. Defects abound. Poor designs can actually cause pain. And sometimes even a toy which is awesome just does not cut it for me. I wish it weren’t so but it is. In an effort to produce a good review, however, I will try to explain to you why the toy might be awesome for others even if my experience failed (see above).
Sex toy reviewing makes your sex life so much fun!
I won’t lie, it can. It can be a great “excuse” to get your partner or even just yourself to try something new. It can make masturbation or sex more pleasurable. Maybe you’ll have it more frequently. But there’s a big downside to it all. It can get mechanical. Pretty soon you start looking at everything as all numbers and sizes and materials and compatibilities. Like anything which starts out fun but becomes a “job” of any sort, you can forget to smile, to enjoy yourself. Plus, not every partner is okay with the idea of sex toy reviewing. Your sex life can actually take the back burner without even realizing it and sex toys can be pretty intimidating. There are just times when reviewers need to step back from toys so you can enjoy sex — solo or with others — again.
You will be the best reviewer ever.
I am always so excited when I embark upon a new adventure. Sometimes my ego swells a bit and I imagine myself taking the place by storm, making “thank you” speeches while holding flowers. It just doesn’t work that way. Every program has different expectations and limitations. It takes time to learn the ropes and to excel. I like to think I’ve done that but if you look at some of my first reviews on the blog or EdenFantasys, you will see I was not amazing when I started.
Reviewers are loose sluts.
There are a whole bunch of myths about the type of people who use sex toys and then to have the nerve to write about it! The truth is, the reviewer friends I have made are all extremely different. Males and females, some folks who don’t fit any category. Straight, gay, queer, bi and more. Young and old. Some have a lot of sex with the same person, no sex at all, or some casual sex. In fact, it seems that reviewers are just as likely to be the “girl next door” as they are to be the promiscuous one. No single generalization really applies, except maybe that they do like sexual sensations and are mature enough to write about it in a helpful way. Also, just to remind you, the vagina is a muscle which does not stretch out!
A good writer will never struggle with a review.
There are certain types of reviews I just find more challenging. Switching up the format can be difficult, too. I think all reviewers, no matter their writing talents, have days where words just refuse to flow in a way that sounds good and makes sense. It’s to be expected and if you experience it, don’t sweat it.
It’s all about the reviews.
Although I pride myself on writing helpful reviews and I spend a lot of time on them, I know that the reviews themselves are frequently not the end game. The truth is, reviews (especially offsite reviews) offer publicity and exposure. They bring in potential customers. In addition to this, links and keywords work to raise a website’s (the store you review for) search engine rank. Sometimes that is just more important than content.
Reviewers have a direct line to manufacturers.
As much as I’d like, this isn’t true most of the time. Most of the companies I work with are stores, not manufacturers. I assume some manufacturers read my reviews but the fact of the matter is, I review products which have already been designed and created. I am not a beta tester. My complaints do not necessarily mean a change will happen. Even if manufacturers contact me because they want that sort of criticism, nothing might happen because of it. My power is limited.
We talk about sexuality, so we want to talk about it with you.
No, just no. Unless we initiate the conversation, we probably don’t want to be having it. Back off. The same goes for pictures and videos.

To all your reviewers, what misconceptions did you originally have? Is there something I missed or something you find people assume? Let me know in the comments.

14 Comments


Why Ask a Stranger? (or “Go Talk To Your Partner”)

January 13th, 2010

Having been around the internet a time or two, I’ve sought out advice from others. Who hasn’t? But as my knowledge in just about everything expands, I find myself being the one who offers instead of seeks counsel, more often than not. I don’t mind. In fact, I thrive on it. I love helping people and answering questions. And if my advice works? Excellent. I give myself a little pat on the back and feel hopeful that someone has somehow worked over and issue in their life whether it’s communication within a relationship or just finding the right sex toy for them.

But I have come to notice a certain type of question which I cannot answer – not because I am unfamiliar with the territory or even because I disagree with something that gets someone off. No, the questions that bother me most are the questions about relationships and dynamics and communication which clearly should be asked to a partner, not random strangers on the internet. Don’t get me wrong; it’s good to show initiative. If you want to do something a little extra special, I’ve got ideas. So does everyone else and these ideas are not necessarily dependent on your partner’s tastes or relationship status. But I cannot answer these questions

  • Why is my partner less interested in sex?
  • Why does my partner no longer initiate sex?
  • Does my partner still love me or find me attractive?
  • How do I deal with my partners ED/disability/insecurities without talking to him or her?
  • What does it mean when my partner ignores my advances?

Yet, if your partner’s interest in sex has decrease or his or her attitude has altered suddenly, I cannot tell you why. I just can’t. I’m not your partner. I don’t share his or her stress at work or home. I do not react to things the same way nor do I have the same life experiences. My life influences and brain chemistry are, quite simply, incredibly different. I don’t know what makes your partner tick and, if you’re asking me, it seems like neither do you.

Perhaps the internet offers anonymity when it comes to our problems. We can say “this is going on” without saying “and my name is John Smith and I live in Miami with my wife, 2 children, cat and dog.” Sex is not always the easiest thing to talk about and I understand that but sexual and romantic relationships frequently suffer from lack of or poor communication. Sure, some relationships are completely effortless but most are not. You don’t need to talk to the world about your sex life; you just need to talk to the person(s) with whom you are having sex.

Get off the internet (after all, you signed on to ask your question) and have a heart to heart with your lover. Ask about changes in behaviour or reluctance to do a certain activity. Ask why things are different from how they were in the hot and heavy days or why things just never seemed to pick up from the beginning. Ask your partner how he or she feels and offer a shoulder to cry on. Perhaps you will find that your partner has been struggling with something and you can help.

Your partner may be relieved that you brought up the subject. It offers both of you the opportunity to make improvements, something which cannot be done when one or both partners are in the dark about the other’s feelings. Sometimes we forget that our partners have the same fears and aspirations as we may and we can fight them together, not fight one another because of them. Occasionally, you are positive something is a problem when talking can reveal it to actually be a misunderstanding. You may find that knowing more about your partner may make you feel closer and boosts your confidence in your relationship. Conversely, not speaking about these options frequently only exacerbates the problems.

Of course, there are some guidelines to follow when talking about sexual issues and many of them have to do with when to bring them up or, rather, when not to. Don’t bring up your concerns at any of these inopportune times:

  • Right before sex
  • In the middle of sex
  • Immediately after sex
  • In public (or in front of the in laws)
  • During a fight (especially not as ammunition)
  • When there are distractions (computer, TV, kids, phone, while preparing dinner et cetera)

Every effort should be made to express your feelings and concerns without putting blame on your lover. Pay attention to your partner’s responses, both verbal and nonverbal. Body language can serve as a guide to the success (or lack there of) of your discussion. Allow your partner to speak freely and avoid making assumptions; ask for clarification when need be. Finally, be open to suggestions. Ask how things can be improved and avoid dictating measures your partner “must” or “should” do. After all, you probably don’t want to be commanded yourself.

Unfortunately, sometimes knowing what is going on in a partner’s heart or mind (or pants) can pose problems that we cannot overcome. Sometimes talking paints a clear picture but it’s not of a happy ending (Cinderella style, not massage). I think sometimes people reach out to strangers, looking for a way to deal with symptoms of larger problems rather than admitting to themselves or their partners, all so they can continue to avoid the inevitable. But sometimes the inevitable (especially when it’s a parting of ways), although difficult in the present, offers the best possible future.

Either way, talking to your partner will truly shed light on a situation. It may not be the best light. Let’s face it, the truth is not always comfortable but the truth, as they say, can set us free.

I am just a stranger on the internet who has no ideas what is really going on in your head or in your bed.

1 Comment


Does Your Affiliate Program Suck?

December 8th, 2009

Hi, my name’s Adriana. Welcome to my website! Today I am here to talk to you about affiliate programs, specifically adult affiliate programs through sex toy shops (Adam and Eve, Babeland, Good Vibes et cetera), manufacturers with online shops (Liberator, For Your Nymphomation) and specialty shops (BDSM Gear, Stockroom, Xtreme Restraints). Now, I have not run any of these programs myself but I have used enough of them as an affiliate to know what makes one stand out amongst all the others. Some are good enough that I go out of my way to use affiliate links and others are such a hassle that I will risk the loss of commissions simply because it’s not worth it. You don’t want to be one of the latter because, although sales will continue even if your affiliates aren’t enthusiastic or if you have no affiliate program at all, we are all well aware of how powerful word of mouth can be. After all, isn’t that really why so many shops offer toys to us reviewers? Like it or not, your affiliate program is in direct competition with other programs, as well as your shop.

So what can you do to ensure that your affiliate program doesn’t suck?

KISS (Keep it simple, stupid!)

This acronym should be the basis of nearly all operations. Your affiliate program should be simple (read easy and efficient) to sign up, sign in, create links, get banners, view reports and recruit others. Ideally, links for signing up or in to the affiliate program will be easy to find even amongst the rest of your navigation. Everything within the control panel should be only a click or two away and your links should be simple and to the point. No need to reinvent the wheel here. Creativity is something you can do with the rest of your product/store. While allowing an affiliate to add a link by manually adjusting an URL is a good option, I am personally fond of Babeland’s link creator tool which simply requires me to input the page/product link and my affiliate code. EdenFantasys allows affiliates to link from any page by clicking a button on the page. On the other hand, I know more than one affiliate programs makes it difficult just to link to the store front without a banner.

But not overly simple.

And by this, I mean that users of such programs expect certain things and when we see a program that is incredibly limited in functionality or potentially design (you know, basic things like “Home” links, a page for banners and links or being able to edit account information), we may form some ideas. Like that you don’t value your affiliates or that your program was simply an afterthought. And if you don’t care to put any thought into it, why should we? If I can’t even view reports about how much I’ve made (let along click throughs or display counts), what good is your program to me? Or to you? Babeland’s affiliate control panel is simple yet effective (now if only I could link to it with my affiliate code!)

Let me spell this out: Do not put every single banner on a single page. That is effing ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is if you somehow try to include all your affiliate content on a single page. What are you thinking crazy people? And while I’m add it, don’t you think it’s polite to at least let us log into something?
All together now.

To put it plainly, keep your affiliate content together. There are numerous sites who have a control panel for their affiliate program yet still display the same content elsewhere. Sometimes it’s even different content so, as an affiliate, I am forced to check multiple sources to ensure I know about latest banners et cetera or to fully utilize the program. I’ve had affiliate programs e-mail me information that isn’t even available via the control panel. Because I am going to save your message forever and ever and always make sure I have access to it just to snag a banner? Um, no. Adam and Eve’s affiliate program has everything (and the kitchen sink) in one place.

Be Flexible

At least a little bit. Allowing your users to customize online stores, specify payment methods and amount, choose to link certain pages or pick from a few different banner options allows us to use your affiliate program in the way that is most beneficial. Not all affiliates are the same, nor should they be. Variety is the spice of life and helps to direct different potential customers to different areas of your site for different reasons. Most of the affiliate programs I use allow me to link different pages but a few only give me some options, leaving me out in the cold if I want to link to anything else. Although not all affiliate programs offer hosted stores like SexToy.com, their program allows much customization as well as several payment options and the ability to change the affiliate code which is a plus!

Be Open to Suggestion.

Because not everyone or everything is perfect. We all know how disappointing it is to roll out a new idea only to face criticism from every direction but taking that criticism in stride and using it to improve your program instead of denying that anything could possibly be wrong with it. Ever. It shows that you care what we think and that you want to be the best that you can be. It shows you care about a little bit more than the bottom line and it makes us want to continue to bring business to your store. I’m the type of person who makes suggestions. I see what’s wrong before what’s right but it’s usually not because I want to dash your dreams and stomp all over your efforts. It’s usually because I want to help and I appreciate when you appreciate the fact that I care. The folks at Babeland have personally and positively responded to my requests for more banners.

Reward Us.

Okay, you don’t have to but you’ll get bonus points if you allow us to have referrals (and include snazzy referral banners) to increase our commissions. This also helps us to spread the word that, yes, your affiliate program is worthwhile and trustworthy. It’s really a win-win situation. I definitely urge other webmasters to join programs like Stockroom.com which allow me to make 5$ of my referrals’ commissions.

Last but not least.

Make Sure it Works, People.

Seriously. I once signed up for a program which confirmed my application and said I needed administrative approval (but gave me no idea who was the admin). More than a week later, I still was not approved nor could I use my affiliated account but, when I contacted them, I was told everything works fine and given no alternative solution to my issue. No offer of what could have happened. Hell, they practically suggested I hadn’t even signed up (and this goes back to being open to suggestion). Sure, I could keep signing up (if the system would even let me), until something went through but you know what I actually did? I said “See ya” because if you can’t be bothered to make sure your program even works, then I can’t be bothered to send customers your way. That’s how that works.

I know my demands may seem high but, the truth is, most of the details are well covered if you take the time to invest in quality affiliate software. The programs in which I participate seem to be pretty equally split between commercial and proprietary software; although proprietary software may work well within a site, most commercial software works just as well. It’s not a requirement that your team creates software from the ground up. Sometimes out of the box is just as good (and perhaps easier, more cost efficient and better documented). Interestingly enough, only 2 of the programs I use which are obviously using commercial software are using the same product. There are certainly enough options out there for everyone.

And that, my friends, is how you prevent your affiliate program from sucking.

P.S.

Since originally writing this article, I realize that I ommitted something damned important:

Communication.

I don’t need a phone call in the middle of the night when something goes out of stock. No, I am talking about keeping affiliates up to date when there are major changes. Redoing the entire system and we need to sign up again? That is precisely the sort of thing you ought to tell us. Adam and Eve just redid their affiliate program, actually; and sent out several e-mails detailing the changes. (You’ve only been seeing broken links because I forgot to update them, my bad!). But another program redid things (and, really, the updates are awesome) but i received no contact and all of a sudden, my blog was riddled with broken links.

Affiliation is all about links and banners and doing something which drastically alters the way those links or banners opperate requires communication. Sometimes URLs are changed, products are dropped (or are seasonal) or the entire server setup is changed. It’s inevitable and many of these changes are good. But what do you expect us to do with those existing links? Is there someplace else we should direct visitors? Do you even care about SEO or exposure? A simple e-mail can mean the difference between someone who continues to direct customers your way or someone who says “You know what? You don’t want to shop there. They don’t know how to treat people.”

9 Comments


Stigma of STDs

November 24th, 2009

A while back I was reading a piece in Best Sex Writing 2009 about the advent of online dating communities for people with STDs. The article talked about these different communities, some aimed for STD sufferers in general and others aimed for folks with more specific STDs, which aid people in finding similar folks. It’s supposed to help folks in a couple ways. First, it helps to get the message across because the fact that So and So has X virus is right out in the open. There’s no third date jitters because you don’t know how your partner will react to the bad news. It also helps people look for others with the same STD/strain so they needn’t worry about giving it to someone else.

But it definitely reduces the dating pool. In the article, one of the users of such a site mentioned how there were only ever 1 or 2 folks in her location on the sites and those were not matches made in heaven. It can be difficult to find even a possibility, nevertheless a hit, on general dating sites whose users surely number in the thousands think AdultFriendFinder or a specific match sites like think Alt.com. So reducing those numbers even more can make the task of finding a partner even more hopeless, under the guise of hopefulness. To put it plainly, it’s hard enough to find someone (or sometimes several) when you’re considering all the fish in the sea but STD dating sites are just a little pond.

I’m not entirely sure that folks with STDs should have to limit themselves to that little pond. Not only are the pickings sometimes slim but it’s all too easy to write off someone because their STD status is displayed so prominently. Assuming everyone chooses their partners wisely (ha!), there are circumstances where STDs do not have to be the deciding factor of a relationship but the stigma is so high that it can even penetrate a community intended for those whose STDs run the gamut. If someone with disease X can turn his nose down on someone with infection Y, it’s no wonder there’s such a stigma around STD sufferers in general. It’s no wonder someone thought it would be a good idea to make such a dating site (not that it’s not).

And the stigma? Is there. It’s certainly real. There’s a “them versus us” mentality. I’m not proud to say that I’d had an STI invade my body and I still think that way sometimes. I try not but it comes so easily. I imagine the type of person who could possibly be so stupid or silly and I realize that.. I was that person. I start thinking about my friends and acquaintances, knowing at least 3 of them have all had at least one STD or STI. We’re not loose women – some of us have only ever been with one person – and we’re certainly not stupid. Our cabinets aren’t stocked with cocaine nor are we sex workers. Basically, no one I know with an STD has fit any fantastic stereotype of an STD sufferer.

It’s then that I realize it’s now “us” and “them” because they are us and vice versa. If I could have an STD, then so could my best friend, my mom, my coworker or my neighbor. Not only is it plausible, but it’s likely that more of my friends and family than I know have struggled with an STD and, by its nature, the stigma involved with it. Science agrees: “Among those ages 15-49, only one in four Americans has not had a genital HPV infection” and 12 million Americans contract an STD each year 1. That means the other 75% have HPV and it’s likely they don’t even know it because many strains have no symptoms even even those which do can lay low for some time. I wouldn’t have known, if not for my yearly Pap and there’s currently no test for men at all. Of course, HPV is only one of many STDs. It becomes clear; although, many people who perpetuate the stigma actually have an STD. The reality is, not only is there no way to distinguish between people, it becomes far less necessary to do so (simply to feed the gossip and stereotypes), when considering the numbers.

Of course, I don’t even realize the stigma has affect me, even as I wonder if I would ever be able to have sex with someone besides my husband (should we ever get to that point) and I cringe because I don’t know what to say about my HPV. I don’t realize how easily it is to perpetuate the problem even as I picture that stereotypical “STD-person” all covered in warts and strung out in my head. It’s a stigma that does no one any good and a stigma which could use a good boot to the butt.

So does a dating site for STD sufferers help? I guess it depends on how you define the problem.

1 – American Social Health Association, Myths and Misconceptions about HPV

5 Comments


Personally, Passionately, Anonymously Yours

October 1st, 2009

I write about sex here, on this blog, because I want to and I can. It’s really as simple as that and the internet has created a place where I can do it. What’s more, people seem to want to read what I have to say and this is great motivation to keep doing it.

Although the internet has prompted a lot of discussion and behaviour that aren’t exactly positive or productive, it has certainly created a forum for discussion of a sexual nature and I appreciate it. Whether someone finds a sympathetic shoulder, reassurance or even advice to seek medical attention, the internet has allowed people to come forward with their ideas, thoughts and concerns. This is important because sex is such a private topic that people are sometimes reluctant to discuss it even when they should, sometimes especially when they should. Not to be too dramatic but I do think that the internet has helped people make some positive decisions regarding their sexual health and that’s a priceless benefit in my opinion.

As I said, sexuality is a private thing and a personal thing. That fact makes it so interesting to so many people. Because I literally cannot replicate every possible experience, I am limited to my own mental and physical responses to sex. Even though these may (and have!) change over time, I will still only have experienced the tip of the iceberg in my lifetime. The internet allows us to share these personal experiences more freely than we might have, because of anonymity. We can see how others are more like us than we may have imagined and how others are far more different than we ever might have thought.

This sharing can affirm that, yes, we have had fairly typical experiences or that, no we haven’t. The internet can help to show us that our experiences are not typical, for better or worse, and help us to appreciate them anyway. Sex is one of those areas in which almost any discussion is good discussion. The internet offers priceless aid in this, especially if our personal lives otherwise prohibit discussion.

Of course, sex is also a passionate subject. Sure, some people could go either way but their are advocates speaking loudly on the behalf of sex as well as those who speak, just as loudly, against it. All of these opinions can be heard on the internet. If you can’t tell, I am for sex, for discussion, experimentation and understanding sex. It has become an important part of my life and I wish for others to have positive experiences like mine.

Which brings me back to why I love being able to blog here and participate in sexuality communities. It allows me do that, to help others, to offer than sympathetic shoulder or to urge medical assistance. It lets me feel as though I am helpful.

Unfortunately, the anonymity of the internet also makes it easy to say and do things without much, or any, repercussion. People can behave in ways that are not helpful and they do not need to take responsibility of their actions. Feeling passionate about a subject can illicit responses which aren’t so strong in the productivity department, even if the intent is not malicious. The anonymity of the internet can further excuse such behaviour until it eventually turns malicious.

This is what happened with some recent comments on another article of mine. I understand that the sharing on the internet sometimes winds up with messages we’d rather not hear, experiences which we do not share and opinions with which we disagree. I respect that for that is part of what makes the internet great. On the other hand, just because sex is a personal and passionate matter does not mean we have to respond in unfruitful ways. We can still agree and be productive.

We can disagree without coming off as defensive, rude or ignorant. We can read experiences which differ from our own (and share ours as well) and both experiences can be valid. Jumping to the defense or offense or posting hastily (which is often done in such an immediate environment) can prove detrimental to the positive experience of the internet, especially when it comes to sex. It is the opposite of the support some need when exploring their sexuality. That can be a difficult move for some and I commend them. In fact, negative responses can start a hurtful chain of behavior, succeeding in only exacerbating the problem.

It’s important to remember that differing opinions and experiences do not invalidate your own. Your voice is no less worthy and, in fact, being unique can be a strength, not a weakness.

The internet is big enough for all and, whatever your experience, it’s okay. It’s okay if you’re straight, gay, bi, queer or unsure. It’s okay if you’re male, female or trans. It’s okay if you experience great orgasms, multiple orgasms, difficult orgasms or no orgasm at all. It’s okay if you enjoy oral, anal or vaginal sex – or if you don’t. It’s okay if you like to masturbate, have tried it and don’t like it or if you have no descire. It’s okay if everything came naturally and easily or if you’ve struggled to explore your sexuality. It’s okay if you’re vanilla, slightly kinky or a hardcore fetishist. It’s okay if you fit the trends of break the mold. Whatever you are – it’s okay.

Let that be a message you pass on personally, passionately and anonymously, on the internet.

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What is Cheating?

August 6th, 2009

At first glance, a question like this might be easily answered by naming a specific physical activity. Most might consider sex to be cheating. Yet, anything more than a cursory glance will illustrate how difficult it is to define cheating. After all, even the definition of sex has become blurred over the years. There is vaginal, anal and oral. Then there’s phone and cybersex.

Still, others wouldn’t be comfortable with the idea of their significant engaging in an overly friendly hug. A kiss would be off limits. I would be lying if I said that certain non-physical acts would also fall under the umbrella of cheating, for me. My partner doesn’t have to touch someone to be cheating. Every relationship has actions which would make the parties involved feel cheated.

42-15701022Moreso, the advent of the internet has created new ways for people to communicate with one another and while there have been many benefits to this, there is also no doubt that it has also had negative and confusing effects. Where do online relationships and cybersex fall into the grand scheme of cheating? Do they not count because there is no physical contact or even because the parties involved may never even meet face to face?

As the number of activities one might consider cheating pile up, it becomes less clear just how to define it but perhaps that is because what activities are cheating is not the real issue. Furthermore, some couples don’t follow the standard definition of “sex equals cheating” at all. Where might polyamorists fall into the mess of things? Rather, focus on why these are activities considered being unfaithful not only sheds light on the dynamics of individual relationships but how society, in general, works. It also helps us to define cheating, at least as much as we need to.

I believe a universal definition of cheating would focus on committing any violation of the terms of the relationship, especially in regards to emotional and physical relationships with others. Doing so abuses trust that one party extends toward the other, resulting in one person feeling cheated. It is, perhaps a vague definition but it leaves it open to negotiation between the parties involved (and no one unnecessary). I think this definition works well for several reasons, highlighting important components in deciding what is right, or wrong, for your relationship.

Communication
Boundaries implies communication which means both parties have a chance to express what they are or are not comfortable with in their relationship. Because different people are comfortable with different aspects, communication clears up any grey areas. I don’t believe many people engage in accidental cheating. I don’t buy the “I slipped and fell on his dick” story. Consequently, I don’t think anyone should. 😉 Yet, I do think that some people cross the line unknowingly because they don’t set limits with their partner(s). Of course, we’re only human and cannot predict every possible turn of events so should grey area arise, I believe it is best to err on the side of caution. For example, if I said I would one day be open to a threesome and my partner brought home a third tomorrow, this would cross boundaries.
Honesty
Let’s be honest, here. People can and do talk the talk without walking the walk. Setting boundaries is pointless if we are not honest to our partners and ourselves with which things we are uncomfortable. While discussing with a friend she said she could agree to a threesome but still feel as though her husband was cheating. I gently pointed out because she was not being honest when she agreed to the terms. If she were, she would not agree.
Beyond the Physical
When I inquired to my friends and Twitter followers as to what they wanted to see, the replies about emotional infidelity were overwhelming. Not surprisingly, these comments came from women. I cannot help but wonder if this is because women are more likely to commit emotional affairs (but that is not the focus here). One thing was clear: many people consider intimate emotional relationships to be an offense just as egregious as physical adultery. In fact, some of the responses indicated that a long term emotional affair was worse than a one time physical one, with which I would have to agree. As you can surmise, both men and women also take a similar stance on about emotional or sexual relationships developed online. Unfortunately, many people feel as though they are skirting boundaries, not crossing them, when it comes to those type of liaisons because of the grey area. They use the ambiguity to their advantage, much like the zip code rule or the belief that “it’s not cheating if it’s with the same sex”. Again, if you care about hurting your partner, err on the side of caution, not cheating.
It’s you and me, baby
One thing I find crucial to defining cheating and dealing with it within our relationships is that no one but the parties involved can define cheating. This means that what is okay in your relationship it up to you, the same for me and mine. So if your definition of cheating is maybe a little more conservative than some, that’s fine. On the other hand, if you’re a little more open minded, that’s certainly okay, too. While your definition may differ from mine, it doesn’t matter. The definition of cheating doesn’t need to be universal. It just needs to work for the parties involved. There’s no one to please and no one has a right to judge. I recently participated in a conversation with the same friend from before where she felt that even if my partner and I decided to engage in an open relationship, she would still see it as cheating. I didn’t understand how it could be if we were both absolutely honest and comfortable with the situation. If neither of us felt cheated, how could it be cheating? I think I gently persuaded her that her issue was not about cheating at all but other issues and, were she able to resolve those issues, she wouldn’t feel the need to label someone else’s activities.

So what is cheating? It’s whatever you are uncomfortable within your own relationship. No one can define it for you and no one definition applies to every relationship.

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“Help! I Can’t Orgasm”

July 7th, 2009

I remember a time when I was a girl talking to a boy and I thrived on our sexually charged interactions but, when the time for us to actually have sex loomed on the horizon, I felt as though I needed to clear the air between us. I felt like a liar even though I’d never explicitly said it, I’d given him the impression that I was capable of orgasm and, because I was incapable of having an orgasm, I felt like a failure. It was almost traumatic, telling that boy my deep, dark secret and, even though that boy now teases me as the girl who used to think she would never orgasm, those same fears of failure, disappointment and even the guilt over lying are commonplace among women who are not able to achieve orgasm (yet).

You’re Not Alone

It’s frustrating to feel that way, certainly, but it’s not uncommon. The women who are in that situation vary. One common denominator is that these women often feel their age has something to do with it. Forums and chatrooms and inboxes and talk radio are full of “I’m X years old and I’ve never had an orgasm!” with X ranging from 18 – 80. There’s a certain sense of living life unfulfilled, especially the older they are. The younger women often seem to feel that, because they are apart of a generation which considers sex a given and information is so freely available via the internet, that they must be broken if they have not been able to orgasm.

Either way, women of all ages (and elasticities and locations and sexual orientations, so on and so forth) are no stranger to lack of orgasm. It’s neither a young woman’s problem or an old woman’s problem or a white woman’s problem or a straight woman’s problem. It’s not even a problem that affects only those who do not masturbate or only those who are lacking proper sex education or only those who have selfish partners.

And advice which assumes any of those things tends to come off as too general to be helpful. They tell you “practice makes perfect” so get to masturbating and, that’s true, unless you’re practicing incorrectly. They tell you communication is key and that’s also true, unless you don’t know what to communicate or your partner doesn’t care. They tell you it’s easier with a caring partner but that doesn’t make it easy. They tell you to be comfortable with your own skin but they don’t tell you how. I think you get the picture.

You’re Not a Freak

What they don’t often tell you is that it’s okay not to orgasm. The fact is, that some women and, yes, even some men cannot and will not no matter how much time they spend at it. Of course, it’s hard to believe that when everywhere we turn, we’re told that the goal (maybe even the point of sexuality) is orgasm. That’s what movies tell us when beautiful stars erotically explode – and simultaneously, no less! – on screen. It’s even reflected when sex ends as our male partners orgasm. If their end-game is orgasm, shouldn’t ours be? It’s a belief deeply steeped in tradition.

I’d like to challenge that belief. If you stare to fixedly on that goal, you’ll miss the other pleasures – both physical and emotional – sex has to offer. Does oral sex feel any less good if I don’t orgasm? No. Does orgasm necessarily make intercourse more worth the while? No. Does lack of orgasm detract from emotional intimacy? Again, no. I’d like to stress that sex can still be highly rewarding for all parties despite a lack of orgasm. In fact, many people consistently enjoy having sex without having orgasm, without even thinking that something is lacking from their sex lives.

Because it’s not.

Orgasm is bonus and even though I’ve had my fair share, it’s not something I rely on. Even if I feel frustration, and it’s certainly human, I’ve learned to let it go. Maybe next time, maybe not. Either way it’s okay. And it’s that letting go which is essential. More than one woman has been able to experience orgasm only after she stops trying for it. Orgasms have surprised the unexpecting during long and luxurious sexual sessions with no goal in sight just as they have come upon women who are doing no more than the laundry or reading a book. And a welcome surprise it is but it’s only the cherry on top of the sundae.

Not only is it normal to have difficult achieving orgasm or to not be able to but it’s okay if that doesn’t change. It’s okay if that’s not your goal. It’s okay if it is, too, but you shouldn’t spend so much time working toward it that sex actually becomes a negative, unpleasant experience. It’s okay to be however you are.

Experimentation is Key

Sometimes it’s the case that women who are struggling with orgasm have masturbated and just haven’t gotten much from it. They may not have experimented with different styles or focuses of masturbation, which I have touched on before. The same can be said for sex.

  • If you have previously focused on internal, vaginal stimulation, try clitoral stimulation or even stimulation of other areas of the body like the nipples.
  • If you’re focused on fingers or a penis, try a sex toy.
  • If you’re tried vibration to no luck, try stroking or tapping or twisting.
  • If you normally masturbate lying, try sitting, leaning, squatting, or on all fours.
  • If missionary sex is your repertoire, expand it to include doggie style, girl on top, spooning, or side by side sex.
  • If you only participate in PIV, try oral, manual stimulation, anal or a combination of several.
  • Try stimulating the back wall of the vagina, instead of the front, or the areas around the clitoris instead of the clitoris itself.

But don’t do anything if it’s uncomfortable, stressful or otherwise unpleasurable. Remember to enjoy yourself.

Check Your Head Space

Unfortunately, orgasm is that much more likely to happen if you do experiment so reluctance to engage on sexual activity is not very conducive to achieving your goal. If you have mental hang ups regarding your body, your relationship or your sexuality, you will need to work through them and some of them may even be bigger than you alone can handle.

I highly recommend talking to your partner about the feelings and thoughts you have; our partners can be our greatest resources (especially when it comes to feeling good about ourselves) when it comes to sexual frustration and often desire no more than to make us happy but don’t always know how. On the other hand, if you are unwilling or unable to talk with your partner (or they are), then your inability to orgasm could easily be linked to unhappiness stemming from your relationship. Especially for women, happiness inside the bedroom starts outside of it.

Sometimes simply discussion with family or friends can relieve what has plagued us for years. Connecting with others who share your concerns may be key to unlocking the issue and you may be able to find a support group either locally or online – like these on WebMD. Just browsing the internet or reading a magazine which is sex positive can help you realize that sexuality and exploration are both normal and healthy, and by association, so is exploration of those facets of your life.

Whatever your issue, a self help book, which enables you to delve deeper into the root of the problem instead of simply the symptom (inability to orgasm), may do the trick; they can be especially helpful with tips to help improve self image. However, sometimes problems are so large that we need to seek outside, professional help. Although taking that step can be frightening and finding a professional who is right for you can be frustrating in itself, and involve its own trial and error, it can open to doors to being a more fulfilling satisfaction in your sex life and other areas.

Of course, in today’s world where information is freely available online, many of these resources from books to support groups to professionals can be had from the comfort of ones own home (and without the apprehension one may feel at reaching out). You might try Googling “Sex Positive Professional in [Your Location]”, “sexuality support groups”, “improving self image” or “communication about sex with your partner” for starters. There are absolutely no limits to finding information just as there should be no limits when it comes to expressing your sexuality in a healthy and pleasurable manner, whether or not orgasm is included.

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