Apr 152015
 

Diva Cup silicone menstrual cupThe Diva Cup is the greatest thing I’ve put in my vagina that has not resulted in orgasm.

Whenever I use it, I emerge from the bathroom wanting to spread the gospel of the menstrual cup to anyone within a half mile radius. One time I excitedly gushed to my mom about them in Target.

I don’t care that I’m 10 years behind the times. I don’t care at all. My life is better now, and everything that came before has just faded away.

If you’re new to menstrual cups, here’s the deal: they are silicone (usually) bell-shaped receptacles that sit in the vagina, up against the cervix, to catch menstrual blood. They vary in size, texture, rigidity, stem length, and how much the company relies on traditionally feminine bullshit to sell their product. To insert, you fold the cup and slide it in your vagina, letting it pop open against the cervix to form a seal. When you’re ready to empty it, you break the seal by squeezing the sides of the cup, then carefully extract it from your vagina and dump out the product of your loins.

The only reason I got a Diva Cup instead of frantically researching every other option was because I was able to borrow my friend’s Diva Cup first. She’s the kind of person who once bled so heavily it went down into her socks, so, I was treading on sacred ground. And I loved it. I loved the Diva Cup and immediately ordered one for myself.

I was glad that the first menstrual cup I tried worked well for me, and I didn’t want to jinx it by ordering a different brand. The Diva Cup’s rah-rah girl-power dELiA*s throwback pink-and-flowery-everything mantra is disgusting and I find the founders’ pink jackets deeply offensive, but at least the cup itself is void of gendered assumptions.

It was pretty easy to get the hang of the Diva Cup. I’m lucky, I think — some people have difficulty achieving a seal, struggle with removal, or feel awkwardly jabbed by the cup’s stem. Some need a different cup since the Diva Cup is one of the longer cups on the scene. For me, the learning period was swift and painless. I wore panty liners (and still do when I’m worried), but never had more than a few stray dribbles of blood.

I will admit there are things about my life that make using the Diva Cup exceptionally easy. Like that I work from home and my sink is within tossing distance of my toilet. And that I don’t bleed so much that the cup needs to be emptied more than once a day. And that blood fascinates rather than repels me.

Zealous menstrual cup proponents sometimes insist that cups aren’t messy at all. But the Diva Cup is messy. Dumping it into the toilet, carefully wiping it off with toilet paper, re-inserting it, and wiping excess blood from my fingers and vulva… is messy. Because blood oozing from a vagina is fucking messy. Welcome to reality and earth. Not everything needs to be sanitized for our protection.

Personally, I love the visceral sight of my blood, and I take pleasure in pouring it out in the shower. It’s easy to just toss a used tampon or pad, but the cup invites me to appreciate the sheer amount of gore that my body produces. I’m much more aware of changes in color, consistency, and amount — from the bright red, runny blood to the viscous dark snotty stuff.

Diva Cup silicone menstrual cupEver since I got my birth control implant slut stick, my bleeding has been irregular. The Diva Cup makes it tolerable: I get the telltale cramps, wander to the bathroom to insert my Diva Cup, and promptly forget about it. Hours later I remember to check it, and sure enough, it is ripe with blood.

I routinely forget I’m even on my period when I’m wearing the Diva Cup — that’s how comfortable it is. One time I forgot it was inserted and started using a dildo and it even halfway worked. It didn’t jam into me with pain; it just felt like my vagina ended sooner.

The Diva Cup can be remarkably accommodating. I’ve kept it in while my partner inserted a couple fingers above it. I’ve used it with the small bulb of the Feeldoe More inside of me, although it did leak a little from the movement. I can wear it with the We-Vibe 4 with no issues whatsoever.

I’ve learned to follow my intuition with the Diva Cup, though, because whenever I disregard it, bad things happen. Like that time I hadn’t emptied the cup recently but still thought I could insert the NobEssence Dare in addition. When I pulled out the Dare, I accidentally tipped the cup and blood promptly began dripping into my pajama pants, underwear, and new bathroom rug. A+, me.

Another time, I got cocky and decided to wear my best cutest underwear. Something felt off as I drove to my girlfriend’s place, but I figured I was just cramping. Turns out, the cup was not inserted correctly and I had bled all over my underwear. No matter how much you want to impress your girlfriend, cute underwear is no longer cute when you have to scrub it in the sink pre-fuck.

Even my subconscious knows that the cup can sabotage me if given the chance. I once had a dream I was about to do a porn scene, but true to life, I had to take out my Diva Cup first. Well, of course, it spilled blood all over everything. Subsequently, the porn scene never happened and I got lost in a labyrinthian spa. So. Don’t tempt fate with the Diva Cup. It knows.

The Diva Cup does stain and develop a smell over time, but I soak it overnight in hydrogen peroxide and the next day it’s good as new. I know the company advocates boiling only, but the company also says shit like “yes, you wear the Diva Cup in ‘there,’ in your vagina… but we promise, it is not as scary as it sounds.” Boiling doesn’t do jack shit to quell the color or the smell — hydrogen peroxide does.

If you’re not comfortable removing and placing things in your vagina, which sadly would’ve been me 10 years ago, menstrual cups are not for you. If you can’t handle the sight or smell of blood, they’re not for you. If you’re an extremely busy businessperson with no time for the folly of emptying a cup mid-day in the office bathroom, they might not fit your lifestyle completely.

But if you’re a person who menstruates and have ever felt displeased with the experience of tampons or pads… you need a menstrual cup.

It would hardly be fair for me to proclaim that the Diva Cup is the best menstrual cup out there, or to promise that all vagina-havers would prefer it over other brands. But this thing has legitimately changed my life — and it only cost me $28. The only way the Diva Cup could be better would be if it paid me every month for all the menstrual products I no longer have to buy.

Share your menstrual cup experiences in the comments section!

For more info about menstrual cups, visit this communityblog, channel, and Lorax’s guide.

Apr 092015
 

Enjoy: bloopers from my April Fool’s Day video review:

I had many ideas for April Fool’s Day this year, but the idea of a sex toy video review was solidified one night when I realized I could craft a video which began well but devolved into a pile of shit. It would start out great, with an awesome theme song and me being my charming1 self. Then there would be strange cuts. Bad lighting. I would say weird shit I wouldn’t normally say. But it would happen slowly, so that for as long as possible, the illusion of sincerity would remain. Then at the end? The same theme song, performed horribly.

Even with this idea, I knew it would be hard to fool you people. I’ve been pulling pranks for five years now, and you expect one from me. So with each step of the arduous process of producing this video review, I took into account whether it would “give away” the joke.

First, I needed a toy. A carefully selected toy. It couldn’t be a toy that readers would immediately know I’m reviewing as a joke — so bad rabbit vibes from Cal Exotics were off the table. I wanted it to be rechargeable, so it would have enough features for me to talk about/butcher. I considered stuff from Jopen’s Envy or Lust lines or maybe mini vibes from Fun Factory… but decided on the Vibratex The Girls Princessa.

Then, I began laying the trail. Placing little clues on social media. This was the first one:

Meanwhile, I started writing the script. I’d lie awake at night thinking of stupid ideas and emailing them groggily to myself:

“Good for nipple stimulation. Kinda like using a weird vibrating flower.”

“Reminds me of that other toy I reviewed from Vibratex… hmm… can’t remember the name of it.”

“Thought I hit record but no. Had perfect take but whatever here we go again.”

At the beginning of March, I went on a trip with Aerie and Lorax, and we spent one night trolling YouTube for the worst sex toy video reviews from which to gather inspiration. It was here that I came up with the idea to show the sex toy in murky reddish water,2 vibrating awkwardly against its own bag, and held much too close to the camera with the ever-present qualifier, “I don’t know if you can see that.”

Ah, the usual sex toy video review shots

When I got back from my trip, a package was waiting for me. It was time for another subtle social media hint, so I took a picture of the contents. The comments only confirmed my choice of toy. “Oh, dear. I dread and eagerly await your review of the Princessa,” someone wrote. “I can’t wait to read your signature snark on the princess vibe from Vibratex,” said another. “It is so buzzy it makes my eye twitch.”

Filming the Vibratex Princessa on my not-at-all-staged charging stationI’d read reviews of the Princessa and felt it in person once before, so I knew it was going to be a disappointment. Still, I was appalled at how utterly useless it was. I assure you, every negative thing that I say in the video is true. I actually did question whether I was having an orgasm with it.

I began filming. It took two days to film b-roll of the toy sitting in various locations throughout my house, and to capture with precision my artfully-arranged charging station. It was time for another clue, so I uploaded this photo.

But it was too much of a give away. Some of you were just too smart. The moment I saw this comment, I hid it:

Comment reads: This just left me thinking, "Oh that's right, April is coming..."

I started to lose hope about actually fooling you. But I soldiered on. I needed my girlfriend’s opinion on the toy to add to my video, so I literally forced them to use it while I laid next to them with a notepad in my hand. They deemed the toy, and the experience, “really upsetting.” When I told them the toy retailed for $75, they yelled, “ARE YOU SHITTING ME?”

I set aside an entire day to film the main footage, a day when my boyfriend would be home to help me wrangle the cats. Script in hand and natural light on my side, I sat in front of my phone for hours filming myself. When the script read  “chug a glass of wine,” I followed its orders — and continued filming. Most of the post-wine parts were improvised.

Video editing in Pinnacle. Oh my god.

Editing the video was an endeavor all its own. I’ve been using Pinnacle since high school, so it’s unfortunately all I know when it comes to video editing. A decade later, the program is as buggy and inexcusable as ever. I’ll give Pinnacle one thing, though — it made my life super easy when it came time to add ridiculous transitions and sound effects.

Bad video effects such as ripple, tint, CD case, and fire

5,000 hours into editing, I talked to my dad on the phone. I thanked him for “blessing” me with the inability to do anything half-assed, including APRIL FOOL’S DAY JOKES. He said, “if you’re going to do something 90%, why not do it all the way?” So. That’s where I get it from.

The music was the final finishing touch, and thank goodness my boyfriend is a musician. For the music bed, I needed a 12-minute opus that sounded wonderful at first but degenerated into chaos, and boy did he deliver. The first inkling of weirdness comes right when I say the toy could be good for nipple stimulation. Truly beautiful. I wanted my theme song to include the phrase “discerning vagina,” which was a challenge — but the song he wrote was a home run. During the credits at the end, we decided on a karaoke version of the song, complete with drunken buffoon slur-singing along.

Finally, it was time to unleash the video for the masses.

The social media response was all I’d hoped for. Some people seemed to understand the video was a joke, while others thought only the toy was.

Facebook responses to my video

The truth is, I don’t plan to do video reviews from here on out. At least not regularly. Now that I have a sweet theme song and title sequence, though, I must admit I’m tempted. But for the moment, I’m taking a deep breath and remembering why I prefer writing. There is SO much that goes into a video, no matter how effortless it seems — actually, the more effortless something seems, the more effort it took. I have a whole new appreciation for Laci Green and Lindsey Doe.

"but where DID you put the pistachios"

So, peeps, did you know the video was a joke? Did it seem legit up until a certain point? How long was the theme song stuck in your head, and how on earth am I ever going to fool you again?

For more sex toy tomfoolery, check out Jewelry N’ Kegels,
the Kensington Wireless USB Presenter, and Fun Factory’s Orgasmia.

  1. questionable []
  2. actually, it was raspberry wine []
Apr 012015
 

[This toy really is the worst, but this is mostly an April Fool’s joke.]

Vibratex Princessa rechargeable clitoral vibratorIn the past month, I’ve lost the ability to form full sentences. My fingers have forgotten how to type, settling only for clicking and dragging while I hold my breath. My eyes have been replaced with cameras, my legs with tripod attachments.

But it has been worth it. Because now, finally, I can show you my first ever video review.

I’ve dabbled in the video arts over the years, but this is a new level because it involves more than simply painting my nails. Written reviews are not going away — there will just be video reviews sprinkled in every once in a while.

For this video review, I tried the Vibratex Princessa, from The Girls line. BEHOLD THE VIDEO I HAVE CREATED, complete with ridiculously catchy theme song by my boyfriend (it will get stuck in your head), cameos from my girlfriend and cat, and much more!

Vibratex is known for game-changing sex toys such as the Hitachi Magic Wand, Rabbit Habit, and Mystic Wand, but they’d barely released any rechargeable vibrators before unleashing The Girls. The toys in the line are only $75 each — if they were good, I needed to know.

I had no idea how far away from good this toy could veer. The Vibratex Princessa: for people who love pink and hate orgasms.

Big thanks to SheVibe for sending me this toy!

Mar 232015
 

Ask Piph

Want to ask me a question? Email me at hey.epiphora [at] gmail [dot] com, or ask here.

Since rabbits fit everyone so differently, I’m wondering if you could tell me how far your clit is from your vaginal opening?

OKAY, WORLD, I DID IT. In a relaxed non-aroused state, with my legs spread wide while sitting on the floor and awkwardly juggling a mirror, the distance between the very bottom of my vaginal opening (seemed like the clearest end point…) and my clit is between 2″ and 2.25″. Do with that what you will.

My measuring tape needs a bath now.

LELO Ina 2 under water; photo via <a href="http://www.lelo.com/theblog/photo-gallery-lelos-waterproof-massagers/">LELO</a>You say the Mona 2 is fully submersible. Is that even if the tab that plugs the charging port is open? So far I haven’t let mine get near water because I’m like “if this dies my soul dies with it.”

I understand your hesitance, but yes, the Mona 2 is waterproof no matter what the tab is doing! I have let water run directly into the charging port many times, and my Monas are still going strong. The silicone tab is a bit of a relic from old school LELO toys which were not waterproof. Newer LELO toys don’t even have the tab anymore — just the exposed port. LELO has explained how this works on their website:

. . . [the toys] feature vacuum-sealed charging ports, wherein the chamber that their DC plug resides in during charging is completely sealed off from the batteries, circuit boards, processors and motors.

Do you have any techniques that help you to orgasm harder/better? I masturbate just fine but my orgasms seem to be a bit… lackluster.

I’m glad you are trying to cultivate better orgasms! This is a worthwhile endeavor. Obviously people vary a lot, but here are some factors that I feel have contributed to the quality of my orgasms.

  • Good clitoral vibrators. I know, obvious. But I think something that works well for me is having a vibrator with a lot of intensity settings, like the Mona 2. This allows me to start off at a lower setting and steadily increase intensity, so I don’t get numb or bored. An expensive option would be the Eroscillator, which provides deeper stimulation than a traditional vibrator. Or the much cheaper Wahl, which is so strong and rumbly on the second setting that it can really shake the internal portions of the clitoris.
  • Edging. Getting close to orgasm and then backing off can help with the end result.
  • Hot porn. Give your arousal a boost with some different, novel erotic material. I imbibe all kinds of video porn, but sometimes I mix it up with some scandalous fan fiction, filthy audiosspam ads on torrent sites, or, once in a great while, my imagination.
  • Kegel exercise! I like wearing the Luna Beads or We-Vibe Dusk as incentive to do my kegels. The PC muscles are the same muscles that contract during an orgasm, so exercising them is very beneficial.
  • DILDOS, ALWAYS DILDOS. For me, G-spot stimulation adds SO MUCH to the experience of both masturbation and sex. It makes the pleasure more intense, and yes, the orgasms too. I tend to clench a lot on my toys, and so I end up exercising my PC muscles a ton, which in turn enhances my orgasms.

How do you take such gorgeous photos of your toys? The photos I’ve taken are amateur-looking at best. Do you have any tips?

I’m no photography queen like Penny or Artemisia, but I do know one thing: natural light is the best thing you can do for your photography. Artificial light is harder to work with and has a tendency to look shitty. Here are a few “gems” I’ve taken under artificial light, vs. photos I took in natural light.

Sex toy photos taken in artificial light (top) versus natural light (bottom)

Top: Ophoria Pleasure No. 6, Bedroom Kandi Hold On To Me, Don Wands Blue Tip Clear Rings.
Bottom: Vixen Creations Buck, NobEssence Seduction, Crystal Delights Star Delight.

Natural light doesn’t mean you have to go outside (god forbid!). Just harness the sunlight that streams through your windows and you’ll already be on the right track. (But, if it snows, I do suggest rushing out there to snap some photos.)

I suggest using an actual camera, not your phone, and learn how to adjust ISO and aperture. Both can reduce grain if used properly. Switch to macro mode if you’re very close to an object, and utilize manual focus if your camera has it.

Sex toy photo shoot with the LELO Ora 2 and GorillaPodYour knees will hate you, but taking about a zillion photos so you can find the single one that’s at the right angle and completely in focus is worth it. Get a tripod of some sort to help you out. Of course, there will still probably be cat hair all over the place, but you can Photoshop that out.

Yes, always edit your photos. Chances are, they are too dark or overly yellow or desaturated. All of this can be fixed with Photoshop or even an online photo editor. Start with levels, then adjust color balance and brightness/contrast. Crop thoughtfully, and use the clone stamp tool if there’s something distracting like a speck of dirt or tuft of cat hair. Force yourself to edit your photos, even if you don’t understand it. With enough practice, you’ll learn.

Have you had experience with [obscure sex toy retailer]? It’s not on your Shit List, and they have an amazing price on the Pure Wand! Is it too good to be true?!

Probably. My Shit List is by no means comprehensive — companies only make it onto the list if they have a track record of bad service and enough people alert me. So, any no-name site is suspicious. Especially if they have low prices. You’re risking a knock-off toy, spam mailings, and even missing packages any time you order from a place like that.

I know it can be hard to justify spending full retail price on a sex toy, but think of it this way: if you purchase from one of the shops I trust, you’re ensured good customer service from good people and I get a percentage of the sale. If you value the work I do, I would appreciate it.

But if you’re determined to purchase from that obscure site, I’d suggest scoping out their “about” page (is it unique? Does it seem copy-pasted?), the company’s social media presence, and the site’s reviews on Reseller Ratings. Make sure the site is secure when you go to check-out, and pay via PayPal if you can — it’s easier to file a claim if something goes wrong.

I am a 24-year-old male who loves reading your reviews! Despite the fact that I have a penis, I love to see your honest reviews of products. Are there any male toy reviewers you trust and recommend?

Awesome bio image for The Big Gay Review, used with permissionThat is so cool that you follow me even though you do not have a vagina! (I love that that is a sentence I get to write.) Here are the dude sex toy reviewers I like:

Do you believe a closed serious relationship to be a hindrance to anyone wishing to get into sex blogging? I want to understand if only having sex with one person ever will limit the blogging I hope to do someday.

I spent years feeling like that silly vanilla monogamous straight blogger because I had only had sex with one person in my life — a person with a penis. I’ve always been pansexual, but in 2013 we opened our relationship and last year I started dating a person with a vulva for the first time.

Has this adventure improved my sex life and the way I experience certain toys? Absolutely. There are specific experiences I’d resigned myself to never have — like penetrating someone with a strap-on, or using the Pure Wand or Mr. Man on a partner. Now, I can explore these things. I have a new appreciation for the New York Toy Collective Shilo having seen how much my partner loves being fucked with it. I’m more into realistic dildos seeing the way they suck on them. I finally understand the full majesty of the Spareparts Joque harness. Also, my girlfriend can give me additional insight into toys I review.

But is it a hindrance to my blogging that I had only had sex with one person, a person with a penis, until last year? Not really, considering my blog is focused on masturbation (the way I want it to be). I’ve never wanted my partnered sex life to drive my posts or my reviews. As long as you have material and are unashamed about what you have to say, your blog can be anything you want it to be.

[Have you measured the space between your clit and vaginal opening? Improved your orgasms or photography? Ordered from a sketchy sex toy retailer? Comment below!]

Feb 282015
 

Afterglow PulseWave light vibratorI feel bad for celebrities. You’ll never hear me say that again. But they got the Afterglow in their goodie bags at the Oscars, and this is not what a good sex toy is. Not even close. Not even in the same hemisphere. (Tegan & Sara, if you’re reading this, I will personally buy each of you a Pure Wand to make up for this travesty.)

It’s a gimmick: the Afterglow stimulates with vibration and light energy. That’s as simply as I can put it. If you want to thoroughly roll your eyes, here’s a video about the “science,” but the bottom line is, light energy. As in lasers. As in immeasurable. Therein lies the scam: this is nothing more than a mediocre, overpriced rabbit vibrator invented by a sketchy doctor.

Out of the box, the toy had a hang tag around it which creepily read “I’m yours.” It came with a suede storage bag and a fancy-as-fuck locking leather box. Whatever money they spent on that storage box could’ve been used to make the toy waterproof, but nope — you’re not even supposed to clean the Afterglow under running water. That alone makes it not worth the price of $199. But don’t worry, there’s a lot more.

The Afterglow is equipped with features that aren’t actually features, such as a “privacy mode” which turns the red and blue lights off (now nobody will know that something is in your vagina!). The controls are oversized, like buttons on a TV remote for old people — this is the “no-look keypad.” After trying some of the nonsensical buttons, I had to consult the manual on how to turn the Afterglow on. That’s when I found out about the “travel lock”: you must press the plus and minus button simultaneously for 3 seconds to turn the toy on. Every time. Totally practical!

The manual is an experience unto itself — full of bombastic claims and patronizing instructions. One section’s header reads “Innovation by Doctors, for Women”;1 there is a long description of each phase of the sexual response cycle and how the Afterglow enhances all of them; I’m promised “what tantric teachings have called Kundalini, an energy allowing a more full body orgasm.”

Guru Afterglow Guidance regarding the PulseWave O program in the Afterglow's manualYou might love the Afterglow if you get off on being psychologically dominated by pre-programmed vibrators and instruction manuals. The 4-page long Guru Afterglow Guidance section (pictured) is particularly bossy, instructing in painstaking detail how to properly experience the PulseWave O program, an 8-minute “journey designed to enhance arousal and help you achieve better and more frequent orgasms.”

I’m supposed to take 20 deep breaths in one minute, lube up the “fingers” of the toy (ew), turn it on but “DO NOT PRESS THE O BUTTON YET,” insert it, and take another 20 deep breaths in one minute before finally entering PulseWave O.

Time to relax and relish the sensations? THINK AGAIN. If I dare to near orgasm before five minutes have passed, the manual commands me to “decrease pressure. Wait.” Uh — okay. After five minutes, I’m given permission to come: “enjoy. It is time.” But what if I don’t orgasm within the 8-minute program? “Do not fret . . . Your body is primed for a great orgasm.”

This is genius. Put some fancy technology in a shell that has been known to provoke orgasms. When it provokes orgasms, or when it simply gets someone sort of close to orgasm, EUREKA! SUCCESS! BREAKTHROUGH IN MEDICAL SCIENCE! WOMEN HAPPY!

Let me break down this PulseWave O program for you, because it’s not that complicated or exciting.

  • 0 minutes: both parts of the toy vibrate at a pretty dang low intensity.
  • 1 minute: a sudden and somewhat jarring shift into a higher steady intensity, although not the highest.
  • 3 minutes: a slow, lower mode in which vibration oscillates between the insertable and clitoral parts.
  • 5 minutes: a faster version of the previous mode, at the highest intensity level.
  • 8 minutes: the program is complete, signaled by a drop back down into the steady low setting. I hope you weren’t on the verge of orgasm!

As a program meant to arouse and bring me close to orgasm, PulseWave O succeeds. The first change in vibration is well-played, and the second change pulls me back from the precipice of orgasm, teasing me until the final change swoops in to finish the job. But it’s that finishing of the job where it fucks everything up.

Every time I have an orgasm at the acceptable point in the program — after 5 minutes — the orgasm is decidedly shit. The oscillating vibration delivers me to the moment of orgasm, but fails to stimulate my clit thoroughly at the peak. It’s so frustrating I tend to make weird exasperated noises.

Ironically, I have better orgasms when I come in the 1-3 minute window — the time-frame the manual expressly forbids me to orgasm during.

But let’s be honest. I don’t want to come during any of the settings. The Afterglow’s vibrations are shitty buzzy surface level crap, and the shape doesn’t fit my anatomy. Like many rabbits, the clitoral arm overshoots my clit, so I have to insert the shaft only halfway to rectify it. This feels weird and stupid. The clitoral arm is fairly flexible, so at least it doesn’t jam into my clit if I thrust. That’s the nicest thing I’m capable of saying about this toy’s shape.

There is absolutely nothing revolutionary about how this toy feels. It does not arouse me more than comparable things, it does not feel unique, and it does not produce longer, full body, or multiple orgasms. I didn’t find enlightenment or Kundalini. In fact, the only thing the Afterglow did was make me desperately need some quality time with an amazing G-spot toy and my favorite clitoral vibrator.

But, devil’s advocate — maybe I just wasn’t following the excruciatingly specific program? So I set out to do exactly what the manual instructed: dim the lights, hang the “do not disturb” sign (sorry, don’t have one), turn off my phone, sip my favorite beverage (as I drank my wine I thought oh god, am I GULPING?), lose any uncomfortable clothing, and get into a relaxing position. I counted my breaths as I watched the clock, because that’s a winning formula for relaxation. Then I suffered through the PulseWave O “experience.”

I resent the way this vibrator tries to dictate my masturbation. I’d like to orgasm on my own terms, please.

Innovation is awesome when it’s both discernible and pleasurable, but the Afterglow’s purported technology isn’t even fucking discernible. Very convenient, isn’t it, that the energy this toy supposedly emits is invisible to the naked eye? I know when I’m being duped, and so does my vagina. This is nothing more than magical thinking. I’m not taking some asshole’s word for it.

Yeah. The Afterglow was created by a doctor named Ralph Zipper whose entire medical trajectory can be summed up like this: YOU ARE HAVING WOMAN PROBLEMS WHICH I WILL CREATE NAMES FOR AND THEN CORRECT WITH PROCEDURES I’VE INVENTED. He literally created a disorder, “Dysaethetica Vulva,” to justify labiaplasty. The procedure for which involves lasers being projected through diamonds because chicks love jewels, right!?

Here he is talking about “Vaginal Relaxation Syndrome” and how he can cure it with his Incisionless Vaginal Rejuvenation® procedure.

This man is Very Concerned about all these floppy vulvas that “look at bit like jowels [sic]” and can’t “hold penises” anymore. Which explains why the Afterglow Twitter account once tweeted “having a natural birth beats the shit out of a woman’s vagina” and then, when called out, defended it and left the tweet up for posterity.

I am so over dudes trying to mansplain pleasure to me. To fix things that aren’t broken. To fix things that are THE PRODUCT OF PATRIARCHY. You fucking caused this, douchebag. You. You are the reason. And I’m not letting you rush in and act like the hero. My orgasms didn’t need to be elevated, not that the Afterglow helped with that at all — and my vagina is perfect as is.

So, I didn’t achieve nirvana with the Afterglow. Maybe because I don’t own a “do not disturb” sign. Or because I took 19 breaths in one minute. Perhaps because I didn’t buy their special lube with its “unique ‘light activated’ formula.” More likely, it’s because I am a fully-functioning human being capable of independent thinking.

  1. Because apparently women can’t be doctors! []
Feb 242015
 

I first wrote this post on June 26, 2013, when Blogger changed its content policy in order to prohibit the monetization of adult content. At that point, they still allowed adult content as long as it was marked as such — and as long as you didn’t make a goddamn cent from it. It felt begrudging: “okay, fine, we’ll allow you heathens to exist on our platform, but not if you make any money.”

Fuck you, Blogger

In February 2015, I had to publish an updated version of this post when Google updated their content policy to disallow any blogs containing “sexually explicit” material. It read, in part:

Starting March 23, 2015, you won’t be able to publicly share images and video that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity on Blogger.

Note: We’ll still allow nudity if the content offers a substantial public benefit, for example in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts.

. . . If your existing blog does have sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video, your blog will be made private after March 23, 2015.

I wrote, “the new policy is worded so broadly that anyone who writes about sex could be susceptible. Sure, it sounds like Google is fine with some nudity, the right nudity, maybe written content as long as it’s not accompanied by “sexually explicit” photos, but that is not reassuring. Judging by the way most mainstream companies enforce ridiculous rules like this one, even sex toy reviewers like myself may be targeted.”

A few days later, Google backpedaled. Oh golly gosh, they just had no idea that people wrote legitimate blogs about sex! So, things are 3% less bleak than they were before. But the sad truth is that this post continues being relevant — and I continue feeling wary about any sex writer using a free blogging platform.

As a sex blogger, here are your options and my suggestions. But honestly, your best best is to bite the bullet and go self-hosted. If you’re in this for the long haul, I promise you won’t regret it. The Google crackdown can always get worse, and who knows what’s next.

First, a few not-so-good options

Option 1: Stick around — and keep back-ups. Keep trudging along with your current Blogger blog and hope the content policy (which allows adult content as long as you don’t try to make money with it) doesn’t change. But if it ever does, you won’t have much time to jump ship and funnel your readers to a new blog. So, you better keep back-ups of every single post (published or in draft form), as well as all the images/files used on your site.

You should also be constantly saving a .XML back-up of your site (which includes all your posts and comments) in case you need to import it somewhere else later on. Also, back your shit up via Google Takeout. Also, back up the Picasa album containing all your blog’s photos. And you know, if I were you, I’d go so far as to save every page of my site.

Option 2: Move to WordPress.com and don’t monetize at all. Like Blogger, WordPress.com does not allow affiliate advertising. So you’ll have to blog without affiliate links and without banner advertisements for sex companies. That’s a pretty shitty deal. I believe you should at least be able to make a few bucks here and there, and there are so many affiliate programs that it’s silly not to join at least a few… if you can advertise them. WordPress also has some restrictions on adult content, and they don’t allow anything “pornographic.”

Option 3: Get on Tumblr. Tumblr allows the most adult content, but it has its own issues. It’s owned by Yahoo, so some are worried that its lax policy for porn could be altered at any moment (although Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has alluded to letting porn be porn). They have suspended the accounts of cam girls with the reasoning that they “do not allow blogs with the primary purpose of affiliate marketing.” This is before you consider that Tumblr is built for microblogging, not full-on blogging. There is a Blogger to Tumblr importer, but I don’t know if it currently works.

Your best bet: go self-hosted

This is the best long-term option (and my god, it is so freeing — I can almost guarantee you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner), but it’s the only one that costs money.

Because we live in this world, even hosting that is friendly to sex bloggers is hard to find. You have to dig deep into each host’s Terms of Service to be sure they allow it (hint: look for the words “adult,” “pornographic,” and “obscene”). Here are some hosting companies that allow us heathens:

  • HostGator is my host. I love them. I’m on the Hatchling Plan, which offers unlimited disk space and bandwidth for one domain. You can get 25% off anytime with code HEYEPIPHORA.
  • DreamHost. They use Who.is privacy protection by default! Use code EPIPHORA to get free domain name registration ($15 value) and $10 off hosting on a 1- or 2-year prepaid hosting plan.
  • GoDaddy. Their ads are sexist as fuck and their site is convoluted as shit, but they do allow adult content.
  • A Small Orange. Get $5 off with code EPIPHORA. This may be the cheapest solution, but there’s a reason for that — it’s really for small sites that need very little storage space. For $35/year, you get just 500 MB storage and 5 GB bandwidth. To give you some numbers, my site is currently 2.5 GB (2500 MB) and burns through 200-300 GB of bandwidth per month. For a small site, A Small Orange could work. But don’t be surprised if you have to upgrade in the future.

You’re always going to get a better deal if you can pay for more months or years upfront. If you want to pay monthly, you’ll be looking at around $6-9/month, but if you pay for a whole year, it will be lower.

IMPORTANT: Be sure to buy privacy protection, otherwise your name, address, and phone number will be available to anyone who looks up your domain on Who.is. It’s usually $10/year or so. Here’s how to enable it with HostGator and GoDaddy. Do not fake your info instead — that is against the Terms of Service.

You’ll want to install WordPress as your blogging platform. A few resources to help guide you through the migration:

Need more help getting a new blog up and running? Read my guide to sex toy reviewing and blogging (even if you won’t be blogging about toys — there’s useful info there!). And always, if you need help, email me at hey.epiphora [at] gmail [dot] com or grab me on Twitter.

What has been your experience as a sex blogger on a free platform? Did you move to self-hosting? Have any other resources for fellow sex bloggers I should include?

Feb 182015
 

Star-shaped Golden Author Award from my fifth grade teacherI always wanted to be a writer. I wrote e.e. cummings quotes on the inside of my closet and on the rubber of my shoes; I spent my high school nights getting high on raspberry mochas and writing bad poetry. I amassed several awards and accolades when I was younger — one time I even attended an award show in New York City — but nothing meant more to me than this Golden Author Award bestowed upon me by my fifth grade teacher. While others received frivolous awards for being class clowns, I got a swanky pen — and this. It was proof: I was destined to be a writer.

I could’ve never predicted, though, that writing for me was going to be blogging, and that I was going to blog about sex.

Actually, that’s a lie. There were signs that I would both blog and document my sex life. I had a scandalous zine in the age of AOL. I had an online diary for years after that. I made my first website in the sixth grade, with many to follow. I loved Harriet the Spy and totally understood Harriet’s pain when her classmates read all the mean — yet true — things she’d written about them.

But real writers go off to grad school at Columbia and get published in literary journals and drink wine in rooms full of important people. They don’t write sex toy review blogs.

Right?

There is a way of telling stories. A red pen. A teacher to move it.
Instead you have hands, and a Light inside you, and Bones.
Instead you have ideas, which ricochet, and an anger that won’t sit still,
and dogs from outside which come to die in the quiet spots inside of you.
. . . There is a way of telling stories. They tell you it is not like this.

—Shira Erlichman, “How To Tell a Story

Writing in a motel on a family trip to the beach in 2002

As a kid, and especially as a teenager, I wrote constantly. During family trips you could always find me holed up somewhere with my journal, which I kept for 10 years. My love for coffee was borne out of needing an accompaniment to my typewriter clacking. In high school I was opinion editor of the newspaper, and my senior project was a book of my own fiction. I took writing classes at the local community college and distinctly remember the exhilaration I felt after my first day. It was where I belonged.

Then I went to college and took every writing course offered, including an independent study that I made up. Couched in academia, writing was different. I was less and less inspired as the years went on. I wasn’t 17 anymore, full of hormones and angst — the sort of fuel that makes writing great. I began to hate all the editing, all the second-guessing, all the character development and faux scenarios. My fiction and poetry had become rather soulless, and the writing process felt like a chore.

Notes from a journal entry about visiting a college professor after summer

After college graduation, I never did get the urge to write a poem or a short story. What I did get was the itch to work on blog posts. On the side, I had started up a little sex blog. I needed a distraction from Chaucer (did you know Middle English is really hard to read?), and reviewing sex toys gave me both orgasms and a casual writing outlet. I didn’t know a lot about sex toys, or reviewing for that matter, but I was learning and putting all my obscure CSS knowledge into action.

I loved what I was doing, but that didn’t mean it didn’t sting when I watched friends go off to get their master’s in writing. It hurt the 16-year-old girl perpetually holed up in the bookstore with Kurt Cobain’s Journals. The girl who once thought buying Writer’s Market was a solid decision. The girl who teachers swore would become a big shot writer someday. It felt like I had failed.

And on some days, it still does.

But when I actually thought about it, I was just clinging to my teenage vision of success as a writer. I didn’t want to go to a writing program at all — I’d spent enough damn time listening to classmates tell me to clarify my character’s motivations. I was not thrilled by the prospect of sending manuscripts everywhere only to be rejected constantly. Even if I did get published, even if I achieved marginal success, I wasn’t going to make much money from it.

Besides, was being published what I really wanted? Do I have some talent within me that is only visible if I write a short story Crazyhorse wants to publish? It’s 2015 now. People read books on Kindles, newspapers on phones, and blogs on computers. Being published in the traditional sense is not the only way to be a viable writer.

Then what is? What is success, to me?

Yearbook message to me from a great middle school teacher

Success does not have an industry or an entrance exam. Success is being awesome at what you do. Success is being trusted, having people look to you for advice. Success is doing what you love and getting paid for it.

If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.

Stephen King

It was freeing for me when I accepted that I cannot construct poems that could stop your heart with their beauty. I cannot create unforgettable characters and intriguing plot lines and deep, meaningful story arcs. Others have always done it better and they always will.

What I can do is write competently. I can organize sentences. I can express ideas. I can give my opinion clearly and do it in a way that will not put you to sleep. I adore sex toys, and now, seven years in, I know almost everything there is to know about them. I feel strongly that they can change people’s sex lives, and I believe in our right to utilize them without shame, stigma, or misinformation. I’ve spun a tiny silly blog into a profitable business.

Writing at my tiny desk, with coffee and cat of course

It has not been easy to accept that this is my medium and my subject matter. Sexuality scares people. Honesty when it comes to sexuality scares people. It can be hard to feel important in the world when you can’t even tell people what you do for a living because you don’t want to deal with their response. I get emails from my college about alumni honors banquets and know I will never be recognized at one. I emailed one of my professors to tell her about my blog and she said, “why can’t you keep doing all the supremely cool stuff you are doing AND grow your writing out?” I got an OkCupid message from an old high school classmate who desperately wanted to read my writing, but “not the dildo stuff.”

I’m just as bad. In my head there is a hierarchy, with stuffy books of poetry at the top, and review blogs near the bottom, and I can’t seem to shake it. Sexual shame was never instilled in me, but I still feel the weight of our culture’s denigration of sexuality. I feel the perceived disappointment of all my professors and mentors. In my darkest moments, when I get a truly venomous comment or see my friend’s latest Facebook update about her book’s progress, my mind goes down the same path.

I’m not a real writer. I couldn’t actually get published, so I resorted to writing on the internet. About my genitals no less. I’m no better than anyone with a Blogspot, perhaps less because I write about my vagina. This is not an achievement. I’m kidding myself.

I try to counter these thoughts with questions like, doesn’t sexuality matter? Discovering new forms of pleasure? Is this not a worthy pursuit, to help people with that? Doesn’t writing matter, in any form? Can’t we still marvel at a beautifully structured piece of writing, subject matter aside? Isn’t reviewing a respected form of public service? Hey, isn’t the internet important? Creating something out of thin air? Putting one’s self on display for the internet wolves? The difficulty of running a blog?

I remind myself that blogging — and blogging about sex — is the perfect encapsulation of everything I love: sex toys, writing, web design, photography, and egotism.

In high school, with dreams

I always longed for people to read and appreciate my work. That’s why I had a zine, and an online diary, and friends who put up with me thrusting my journal in their faces. With blogging, it’s the same. I have a little fan base providing feedback and back-pats along the way.

Blogging is more immediate and colloquial than a book. It can evolve and change and I can edit old posts to pretend I never said anything idiotic. There’s no boss man or editor hovering above me telling me what to write. I can cuss as much as I goddamn want, or commit grave grammatical errors on purpose.

That’s why I love it. The readers. The catharsis. The blank white box where anything goes.

I know as a sex educator I’m supposed to say that the most rewarding part of my job is helping people… but that’s not what I live for. I write for the joy of it. I delight myself when I come up with something clever, or when I construct a post which flows so effortlessly it’s almost like I didn’t just spend hours moving the sentences around one by one. I live for the sound of my boyfriend’s laugh as he reads one of my posts. I live for that fleeting moment of unbearable excitement when I feel like I’ve written something really, really good.

The only happiness you have is writing something new, in the middle of the night, armpits damp, heart pounding, something no one has yet seen. You have only those brief, fragile, untested moments of exhilaration when you know: you are a genius.

―Lorrie Moore, “How to Become a Writer

An art project of mine, using a line from an Anne Sexton poem

Still, writing — the actual act of it — is not easy. I can insert links all day (that is, in fact, my preferred procrastination method), but getting myself to sit down and just write is always the hardest. I just spent all day cleaning a closet instead of finishing this, and you don’t want to know how long it’s been in my drafts. As it turns out, writing never became less hard. It simply became different.

There will always be a part of me who feels a divergence in my life, another path I could’ve taken but didn’t. The path everyone expected. The path expected. But then I think about how sometimes it seems like everything was leading to this. Diaries, journals, having gay rendezvous as a teenager, my parents yelling at me to stop spending every hour on the computer, getting turned on watching Undressed, teaching myself HTML instead of going outside for recess, feeling petrified of the expectation that I would submit my work to literary journals fruitlessly until the day I died…

Sappy, I know, but I think I was meant to be a blogger. And, yes, I was meant to write about sex.

Feb 112015
 

[Trigger warning: incest, menstrual blood, consensual non-consent.]

April 2014

Sit down, friends. I would like to talk to you about incest. I’ve slyly alluded to it before, but this month marks the discovery of something glorious: New Sensations’ “Tabu Tales” series. Directed most of the time by the fantastic and nuanced Jacky St. James, this series is everything I never knew I wanted, and I LOVE IT.

My obsession began with Incestuous, in a scene featuring cheerleader Riley Reid and her “stepfather” Alec Knight. Riley is a boss at playing down her age (she even moans “oh gosh”), and Alec, well… he’s the ultimate creep. I seem to be developing a thing for creepers. Don’t tell any dudes on the internet. Please.

Riley Reid and Alec Knight in Incestuous

I may or may not have quickly consumed as many films in the Tabu Tales catalog as I could. I may or may not know that the best father/daughter scenes are Steven St. Croix and Katie St. Ives in All In The Family, Evan Stone and Kacy Lane in Daddy Issues 2, and Steven St. Croix and Penelope Stone in Family Business. When shot well, with people who can act — holy shit.

My jack-off fodder is quite varied, as previous installments of this journal can attest. I like the straight, the queer, the mainstream, the taboo — the romantic candlelit bullshit all the way through people acting like dogs and consensual rape scenarios. So I didn’t think these incest and creeper fantasies were that weird, until one night when I drunkenly confessed them to some friends, and all I got in return was “I sometimes jack off to two photos side by side.”

Oops.

May 12th, 2014

When my “resident gay” Lucas sent me a link to a British guy talking dirty, I scoffed a bit, imagining that unfortunate time I listened to erotic hypnosis. But then, literally a minute into this recording, I had to grab my Hitachi and fucking go for it.

For the next several days, this will be how I masturbate.

July 9th, 2014

My menstrual bloody hand holding the LELO Mona 2, with glass dildo in backgroundMulti-tasking: watching Power and Control while making chicken tortilla casserole. I waltzed into the kitchen and left the video file playing on my computer. As I layered the tortillas, beans, and corn, I became increasingly aware of how the girl sounded like a dying seal gasping for breath. I vowed to look her up: Jessie Andrews. Never again. She’s cute, but no.

As the casserole cooked, I made a huge mess comparing the Ash Girl to the Star Delight and powering through two Monas. By the end of it, everything was so caked in dried menstrual blood that my perverse desire to photograph the scene overtook any understanding of social boundaries.

August 2014

Sex toy masturbation session note takingSo much bonding time with my Hitachi while in the throes of house-hunting, money-offering, house-inspecting, and world-moving. Out of nowhere, in a blur of stress, I’d come to the realization that I was in dire need of an orgasm.

When I had time for a drawn-out masturbation session, I produced a pile of notes which said things like “forceful stim,” “good for the first orgasm,” and “either way I’m giving something up.”

I bid a defiant goodbye to my previous jack-off locale, the ever-glamorous living room.

September 17th, 2014

The spread of sex toys on my desk before I christened my new officeThe monumental christening of my new office. Hours before this I hadn’t even wanted to exert the effort of holding a toy, opting for the We-Vibe 4, but that just made me hornier. So I laid out the toys of the evening, LOCKED MY DOOR (!), and got down to motherfucking business.

I wanted to stop after my second orgasm, but I made the frigthening realization I had not yet squirted on my office floor. So obviously, I whipped out the Pure Wand and Mona. Soon, I was gushing heavily and I could feel my ejaculate spurting upward, like a fountain.

This created a 16-inch puddle on my towel and a surge of pride in my soul.

Fall 2014

Several memorable things happened during this time period:

  • I bought an automatic lube (soap) dispenser, promptly filled it with Sliquid H2O, and went overboard in the amount of lube I used during masturbation sessions.
  • I invented HANDS-FREE ORGASMS with the We-Vibe Dusk.
  • I experienced hilarious hijinks with the Bubble Love that I’m saving for my review. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

December 15th, 2014

Sex toy tools of the nightI love that when I post a photo like this one, my eagle-eyed followers start yelling things like “SPARKLY ACUTE?” and “WHAT IS THAT WEIRD PURPLE ONE?”

Yes, that is a pale pink sparkly Tantus Acute from back in the day, and well, that weird purple one is the Oblivion Purple Cherry, and it is so buzzy and terrible I probably only used it for 2 minutes. Too bad, because the shape is cool.

January 24th, 2015

The world could not wait much longer for my LELO Mona Wave review. Therefore:

Plus I had my new subscription to Indie Porn Revolution and QueerPorn.TV, which I am most definitely going to write off on my taxes. First I watched Genderflux (with Jiz Lee and Nikki Hearts), but that was a disappointment. So I switched to Daddy’s Little Princess, starring Mickey Mod, Tori Lux, and the incomparable Aiden Starr.

Mickey Mod, Tori Lux, and Aiden Starr in Daddy's Little Princess for Indie Porn Revolution

Mickey talking dirty? Close-ups of Tori’s vulva? Aiden wielding Buck? That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

January 27th, 2015

I thought I was such a genius when I stuffed the We-Vibe Dusk in my vagina right before hopping on my elliptical. Sadly, it only made me want to pause my movements so I could focus on the vibration against my clit. Also, Food Network Star is maybe not the kind of thing I want to have an orgasm to. It’s no Incestuous, OKAY?

February 10th, 2014

My hunch about the Crave Vesper was 90% correct. It’s lackluster as a vibrator — tiny and not very strong — but it’s a gorgeous necklace and I will wear it to any and all black-tie functions. Weddings, absolutely.

Watching this fabulous scene between Q-Tip and April Flores, I was struck by how far Courtney Trouble’s aesthetic has come since I wrote about their DVDs back in 2010. Now their stuff is so nicely lit, with great angles, fluid editing, and thoughtful music.

Q-Tip and April Flores for Indie Porn Revolution

I finished things off with Ban This Sick Filth, queer porn’s response to the recent list of banned sex acts in UK porn. I’m not one for solo scenes, usually, but Courtney Trouble killed it in the finale: a menstruation masturbation scene.

Courtney Trouble in "First Period" from Ban This Sick Filth

See, if Courtney Trouble can do it, so can I.

Feb 092015
 

Sex toy retailers who truly care about ethics, design, the blogging community, and customer satisfaction are few and far between. Even more so when you’re looking for a retailer based in Australia. MissX ticks all of these boxes, and I’m here to tell you why you should support the crap out of them.

Photo by Jess Lafrankie for MissX.com.au

(If this photo does not arouse you, please exit the premises immediately.)

I first became aware of MissX a couple years ago. Owner Camila emailed me to thank me for all my reviews, explaining that she routinely used them to “judge” toys on whether or not to stock them in her new online shop. “Not only your reviews are awesome,” she wrote, “but your blog looks great and doesn’t hurt my eyes like so many out there.”

Of course I was wooed, but I was also intrigued by Camila’s concept for her shop. It was to be curated, stocking solely well-designed, body-safe, and effective sex toys. I hear that a lot, but it wasn’t long before MissX was making good on this promise.

Recently Camila and her business partner Bryce purchased Skype consulting with me to discuss their updated site design and vision for their business moving forward. Aside from being adorable (I’m sorry but I’m a 14-year-old and I still find Aussie accents and turns of phrase so cute), it was clear that they wanted to have a clean yet spunky site design, respect rather than condescend to their customers, and cultivate a social media presence different from your average sex shop. We bonded over our hatred of illegible website text and “sex fact” tweets.

With the site design, Camila and Bryce expressed their desire to shy away from stock photos, and steer more queer and gender ambiguous, which I think is one of the biggest things that will set them apart. They are also responsible for The Cutest Sex Toy Photo Ever Taken:

Kittens with sex toys! Photo by Theresa Harrison.

(Pictured: LELO Mona 2, Jopen Comet G Wand, Tantus Feeldoe Slim, Fun Factory Stronic Zwei)

MissX’s selection is sparse, but that is by design. They carry a limited range of products — only the best, often as determined by sex toy reviewers like myself. They’d like to expand their selection a bit more, but they need to grow and accumulate the financial backing for that, which is why you should purchase from them if you are able. My suggestions?

Currently, MissX is only shipping to Australia and New Zealand. They ship within 24-48 hours by Australian Post. Express shipping (next business day) is $10, or you can get free regular shipping on orders over $150. As a fun bonus, MissX plants a tree for every order over $200. They work with a local company called Carbon Neutral to select the right type of native tree for the time of year, and plant it in an area that needs it most.

So, Aussies and New Zealanders, the choice is clear: go forth and support the kind of people who run thoughtful online shops and make unsuspecting kittens pose with quality sex toys. Who are we to support if not folks like that?