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.


Best Women’s Erotica 2009

April 18th, 2010

Okay, so I may be a year late but I am no hardcore erotica collector. I mean, I’ve enjoyed a story here and there but I usually opp for a toy over a book. Still, it’s nice to switch things up a bit and that’s exactly what I did when I requested Best Women’s Erotica 2009 to review. Not only does it not vibrate, but it’s in a different series than any I’ve read before. ‘

This volume has a hot cover. It’s not entirely explicit but it just draws me in. A dark haired, fair skinned woman lies on the floor in the corner with a fishnetted leg against either wall. At first glance, she appeared to be wearing ballet slippers but they are, in fact, heels. The deep red of the wall is just a sensual colour.

The first few pages contain an introduction by editor Violet Blue. Even her introduction to the content of this book is a somewhat erotic story about mythological Persephone. This leads to an absolutely enthralling depiction of Peter Pan’s Tigerlily and her sexual frustrations. Although I do not particularly remember Tigerlily, Valerie Alexander does a stand up job of bringing a sexualized version of Never Neverland to life in “Fly.” It gets you excited for what the rest of the collection will have.

And then Best Women’s Erotica 2009 falls flat on its face, having done the exact opposite of “saving the best for last.” No, it gives it to you first and every other story pales in comparison. Sure, there are lots of themes: straight, gay and in between, BDSM, toys, anal sex, voyeurism, sex in public, roleplaying and more. And, in general, the writing is superb and the editing slick. Although, there is on story in particular which I won’t name, that seems so sub-pay I can’t believe it actually made it into the book. There are authors whom I’ve read and enjoyed before. It’s safe to say that many have been previously published, this isn’t their first rodeo.

Yet, the entire volume is almost completely lackluster. Where it gets my attention at all, I find the stories to be too drawn out. Some of the pieces seemed to just go on forever and not even in the name of build up; there were pieces which simply didn’t know where to end. I know that erotica is subjective but there are usually 2 or 3 pieces which I really like in any given collection and a handful more I will enjoy upon rereading but may not necessarily remember. Most of the stories in this book, however, I forgot by the next time I picked up the book with only a day or so in between!

I suspect that maybe I shouldn’t be reading “Women’s” erotica. Maybe I need something more direct, less sensual, shorter. Perhaps I am not the right audience. Maybe I want to read less about love and sweet encounters (not that there isn’t more to be found in this volume). I concede and accept that. I’m still sort of shocked I didn’t enjoy myself more.

In fact, as I try to recall just what it is that I liked about other stories I’ve read, it strikes me that Best Women’s Erotic 09 is deeply rooted in reality – save for the Peter Pan story. There’s no tentacle sex, bestiality or other fantasy. Essentially, there is nothing really different or unique. In fact, some of the stories are more than a little cliche like the one about a woman having sex with her dance instructor. I just need something more out of the box.

Maybe if you prefer in the box, reality-rooted erotica with more sensuality than you might normally have, you’d enjoy Best Women’s Erotic ’09. I don’t know.


Zen Tranquility

April 16th, 2010

Zen Tranquility, a vibrator which is also known as Sabar Zen, is supposedly a designer vibrator by Michael young. “Who?” you might ask. Well, I’d love to tell you but I don’t know. Some sources say he’s a watch designer to which, I say “Good for you. Don’t quit your day job.” Actually, some sources call him Michael Yang which is interesting. Perhaps because he is Hong Kong based, who knows. Anyway, this contemporary vibrator is supposed to be some sort of affordable luxury but, for what it does, isn’t much of either.

The Zen Tranquility is made of hard, slick plastic. It’s really shiny but, for some reason, I do not find it to seem very luxurious. Perhaps it’s the way that it smudges and picks up fingerprints like crazy, marring the otherwise reflecting surface. Perhaps it’s the cheap feel of the battery cap which is inserted and removed from the larger end with a click. Sometimes it even turns on when I put the cap back on, and the controls won’t respond to turn it off. It just does not feel quality. Oh, that’s right, it’s another California Exotics Toy. Not that I have anything against them, it’s just that they tend to slap famous names on their toys to make them sell but the designs are usually just as cheap.

I have to admit at first appearance, the Zen Tranquility looks pretty interesting. That’s part of the reason I selected it. The glossy plastic adds to the contemporary feel provided by the curves. This 6.5″ vibe curves slightly upward if resting on a flat surface. Each end is curved as well, with the vibrator growing in thickness toward the end with the buttons. The smaller end has a diameter of slightly over 1″ while the larger end has a diameter of just under 1.6″.

The curve of the toy is gentle. It will work to stimulate some G-spots but not necessarily all. The tapered curve of the usable side provides pinpoint stimulation the the vibrations are focused right there. This might make it a good choice if you like pinpoint clitoral stimulation, too.

There are long indentations along both sides which are intended to be finger holds. However, they are only useful if you hold your hand in a certain position (resting atop the vibrator, the heel of your hand toward the buttons) and I do not. It’s like this toy was designed by someone who doesn’t understand the concept of ergonomics but wants to.

The vibrations are controlled by two buttons on the wider end. Technically, it’s one button and you press either the + or – side to adjust it. The soft button is easy to press and I haven’t had any issues with it not knowing which side I am pressing. However, it may be too easy to press and has turned on in my FYN Toybox a handful of times. The position of the controls makes them likely to be bumped. When powered on, this button glows red which is handy.

There are several levels of continuous vibration and they flow together smoothly when adjusting. This might be good for someone who doesn’t like their vibration levels to be spaced too far apart but makes it difficult to tell exactly how many levels there are. There might be 8. Maybe.

Powered by 2 AAA batteries, the Zen Tranquility is decently powerful but no Hitachi. The vibrations are surprisingly deep on the lower levels but become more shallow as the level increases. I find this to be quite common with a lot of toys powered by AAAs. The higher settings do tickle my hand uncomfortable.

This vibrator is not especially quiet which also detracts from its “luxury.” It won’t wake the dead but it might be a dead giveaway to folks in the same room or home.

I don’t need much vibration to get off but I just found the plastic to be both uncomfortable and unremarkable. There is absolutely no texture to speak of the the gradual curve of the shaft can’t “hook” on anything. This does mean you don’t need a lot of lubrication for insertion, however. Frankly, I found the Zen Tranquility to be a bit, well, boring.

This vibrator does come with a storage pouch but it’s pretty cheap. It’s a stiff velour type and is only just longer and wider than the toy itself. When the bag is cinched closed, the Zen Tranquility is pretty snug. The cinch strings are about 1.75″ on either side of the opening which I find ridiculously short, too.

To put it bluntly, the Zen Tranquility is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Once you look a little closer, the facade fades pretty quickly. It’s not a horrible vibrator but it’s definitely not worth $70. I’d happily pay about half that, maybe a little more. You can get some fairly comparable products (Magnifique by Natural Contours, for example) for even less than that.


Or am I?

April 15th, 2010

But I’m the only one
Who’ll walk across the fire for you
I’m the only one
Who’ll drown in my desire for you
It’s only fear that makes you run
The demons that you’re hiding from
When all your promises are gone
I’m the only one

This whole thing is so difficult for me. I hired a divorce attorney today. I still try to have hope but I know things are bleak. This shouldn’t be happening. To me. I mean, we loved each other so much. How could it be happening?

I’m so full of questions. Sometimes I wonder how I could have been so awful. Other times I wonder how he let his negative attitudes get so far. Some days I wonder just what the problem was because our relationship was far from disastrous, really. I don’t want to trivialize his feelings but at the end of the day, I think it’s safe to say they are not proportionate to events. And he’s not reacting like an adult.

It makes me so angry. I just want to knock sense into him because God knows that he won’t listen to reason. Whatever happened to sticking it through “the worse” (you know, like in your vows?). Hell, can I even call these times “the worse?” They’re more like the not-quite-awesome times. That’s not that bad.

Today I realized that 60 days from the date he filed will be my fucking birthday. I don’t know if I could handle being divorced in my birthday. I mean, divorce itself is bad enough as is.

God, I wish our therapist was available this week.


No You Don’t

April 14th, 2010

I’ve gotten a few spam comments in the last couple days which go something like this:

Hey there, when browsing at your site i see some kind of weird codes all over the page, in case it’s important I just thought I’d let you know it says this with all sorts of other stuff after it: “Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent in wp-settings.php line 12″

They include links to god-knows-where are just aren’t true. I have no errors, thank you very much. If you Google the message, it appears on many sites. It’s an interesting but annoying tactic that I just thought I’d make known.


PinkCherry Affiliate Program

April 14th, 2010

PinkCherry’s affiliate program is quite capable because it uses a powerful piece of affiliate software. In fact, PinkCherry is not the only store to decide on that software; it’s also in use by Adam & Eve. There is a slight difference between those uses. The folks at PinkCherry haven’t spent quite as much time customizing the layout of their affiliate program which, in the end, means very little. It’s still extremely usable. Adam & Eve have simply have a leg up when it comes to branding; although, this makes the site a little less safe for work, if you follow.

It’s important to note that their program is located on its own domain: I don’t mind this and the URL is easy to remember as well. Of course, affiliate systems which are built right into the site are always nice to see but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

It’s been some time some time since I original signed up but I did take a look at the TOS and saw no mention of age requirements. Folks who are over 18 but under 21 will probably find this reassuring.

For current affiliates, the dashboard is easy to use. The homepage outlines transactions and earnings. The same information seems to be repeated in another location (on the home page) alone with visitors and ratio stats. There’s an interesting little pie chart to illustrate those stats but I don’t usually remember to look at it. Toward the top is a copyable “standard linking code” which points to the PinkCherry home page with your affiliate ID. I appreciate its availability.

From this page, users can easily see pending or paid commissions, the traffic log and payment history. The traffic log is interesting because it shows the IP address of visitors and the referring URL; except, this doesn’t work so well in reality. All of my referring URLs show up as N/A – Possible Bookmark or Email Link. There is also an easy to find link to edit all personal information, including selecting PayPal as your mode of payment.

If you’re curious, there is a $100 payout requirement and you earn 15% per sale. However, this information is only displayed on the front page as far as I can tell. There is a FAQ link under the “account” menu but the page itself is blank which isn’t quite helpful.

This specific software includes “Training materials” which, I’ll be honest, I haven’t spent any time with. There is a page exclusively for training videos but there is only one video provided and.. I can’t even watch it on Firefox. Maybe it’s a good thing that no other videos are provided. There is also a PDF which explains how to make custom tracking URLs. This would be useful, for instance, if I wanted to link to a specific product and include the product name in the URL. Folks who are more hardcore about making money can use this to see which keywords/links are most successful. In addition to this, users can use “Sub IDs” in their URLs if they want to create an affiliate network. I do find the manual to be a bit confusing. It doesn’t actually explain how to “attach” said keywords to your affiliate URL.

The marketing materials include banners and text links. The current banner count is limited to 4 – which only represent 3 sizes – and I hate to say it, but none of the designs jump right out at you. PinkCherry has long needed a logo refresher. The colour pink is also used predominantly. I get it but it’s a bit limiting. A larger variety of banners would be welcome.

There is only one text link provided, which goes to the homepage. The setup is different from the “Standard linking code” but I’m not even sure why. This section is totally underutilized. Affiliates can create these links by themselves but this is an opportunity to make it easier for affiliates to use links and highlight sections of the site.

The “Email Links” section contains similar text links; although, one is formatted in HTML. I’m not even sure why this software thinks users are dumb enough not to understand copy+paste. Users can actually send their affiliate link to users from from “Email Friends & Associates” page, if they want to enter different addresses. This message includes the standard link by default and users can edit the message.

The Keyword Tracking Links page finally explains how to create custom links with your affiliate URL; although these links will only point to the index and there is no generator. I see no reason why this needs a page for itself.

Alternatively, users can create incoming links which direct to unique pages, other than the index. This is done via generator into which users copy the default link (to a product or section) and a unique link is created. The generated link does not give any indication what the destination is, however. Users can add tracking information to these links by appending a keyword. All of the generated links are listed on this page, below the input field, as well as the original links. It’s a bit messy if you frequently use this method; although, links can be removed from the list without breaking the functionality.

It does not seem like you can refer affiliates beneath you (ie, link to the affiliate program itself) but you can set up a “network” via tracking URLs and Sub IDs. Kind of lame, in my opinion.

Ultimately, the methods provided by this software work but they’re not pretty. Plus, the dashboard just isn’t as intuitive as I’d like to see. In addition to this, the lack of customization from PinkCherry isn’t a deal breaker but it doesn’t make the deal quite as sweet as it could be, either. Lastly, I’d love to see a referral program worked into the affiliate program because it is an alluring incentive.


This is Why Your Online Sex Toy Store Sucks

April 12th, 2010

Don’t deny it.

  • There is no “new additions” page.
  • There is no way to arrange products by price.
  • Options for product arrangement exist but do not work.
  • Users cannot tell which category a toy falls into.
  • All your prices fall in the under $30 dollar range.
  • All your products fall in the over $75 range.
  • Both of the above.
  • Any category contains less than 5 items.
  • There are not page navigation links (“Page 1”, “Page 2” or “Next” and “Previous”) on both the top and bottom of the page.
  • Links take the user to a different part of the site with no indication how to return to where they were before.
  • Different colours are listed as separate products. (Personal comment: cut it the fuck out!).
  • You obviously have no concept of material safety.
  • Items are described with manufacturer supplied images or descriptions.
  • And the generic supplied information isn’t even listed with the correct toy.
  • Toys which are in no way safe for anal play are recommended for anal play.
  • Your site is obviously just an affiliate shop.
  • Your site has only been tested in one browser.
  • That browser is IE 6.
  • The home/index page links to sections which cannot be found via any other page.
  • Every toy is made of jelly.
  • Every porno you stock is straight.
  • You rename products from their box name.
  • The images in your shop: do not work, have been resized until the subject is unrecognizable, are taken in light that even bats would find low, are only icon sized, are of the wrong product, include more than 2 products which are not included and/or are intended to grossly misrepresent the size of the product.

Let’s be honest here, all of these things fall into one of two categories: site usability and product selection. If your site is so horrendous that we cannot use it, we sure as shit ain’t buying from it. And while I don’t expect every toy store to stocks tens of thousands of items, having variety in styles, prices and toy materials is a must. In fact, I would never suggest only stocking high end items because that puts your shop in a niche which I will never have need for. Me? I just want a site which I can browse and enough product variety that something will catch my fancy.