Feb 132013
 

Your future desk.So you wanna become a sex toy reviewer. I know, it sounds so glamorous and enticing. Packages bursting with free sex toys! Masturbation as a job! Merely writing about how something makes you feel! Instantaneous fame and fortune!

But of course, it is not like that. One does not just become an awesome, popular sex toy reviewer overnight. Or ever, if you suck at writing or are prone to wandering away from projects. Blogging in general takes a shit ton of time, energy, and motivation, and sex blogging in particular has a few extra caveats, like protecting your anonymity and not upsetting Facebook with scandalous photos of penis-shaped objects.

So if you are feeling compelled to stick things inside yourself and then write about it on the internet, there are some things you should know. As a formerly clueless budding sex toy reviewer (circa 2007), I am now equipped to dispense advice and crush dreams. Let’s begin.

Sections

Interrogate yourself

Look at your life, look at your choices. Ask yourself the hard questions and be starkly honest. What is your motivation for starting a sex toy blog? If the answer is “money,” please stop reading right now. Yes, I make money from this, but it took me years, and I am an anomaly. I didn’t start my blog with the goal of making money, and if I had, I would’ve given up long ago. So will you. Please. I’m really serious about this part.

Another very important question: do you love writing? I hope so, because that’s kinda the point of blogging, and if you aren’t into it — it will show, your blog will suck, and you’ll hate life. The biggest prerequisites for starting a sex toy blog are that you love writing and you love sex toys. And when I say “love sex toys,” I don’t mean in theory. You should own at least a few and know at least a little about the industry.

Now try these: are you truly comfortable talking about sex (hint: if you would consider sex toys “naughty,” you aren’t)? Do you have enough free time and energy to devote to a blog? Are you willing to start at the bottom and work your way up? Review cheaper toys at first? Review for questionable websites simply because they’re the only places that will send you free toys? Use a sex toy that you hate five times just because you have to review it? Deal with virtually nobody reading what you have to say?

Finally, if you have a partner or partners, you probably should talk to them about your desire to start a blog. If you plan to write about your sex life with them, you will have to set boundaries together. And if you’re dating one of those terrible souls who is threatened by sex toys, dump them and get a new partner who isn’t a moron. Because nobody wants to hear about your partner’s sexual hang-ups.

Carve out your corner of the internet

Brainstorm a name for your blog. Don’t choose something that’s too long, too hard to spell, too sleazy, too generic (hint: don’t use the words “buzz” or “toybox”), or already in use. It is best if you can snag a name that’s available as a URL and on social media platforms. Use NameChk to quickly check for this (note: this doesn’t check Gmail).

Even if you think you’ve come up with something super unique, Google it. The more matches that come up, the harder it’s going to be for anyone to Google your name and find you. As an extra security measure, Google the potential name plus the word “sex” (or “sex toys”) to make sure there aren’t similarly-named bloggers.

(Sidenote: don’t ask me for ideas about this; I am horrible at coming up with names. I christened my blog Hey Epiphora because it was the only thing I could think of with my already-established name of Epiphora. FAIL.)

Get a new Gmail address. If you care about anonymity at all, this is not optional. Use this email address when you sign up for everything related to your blog. And don’t have it forward to your non-blogger email address; if you reply from within your non-blogger Gmail account, even if you are using your blogger email address, there are ways for people to see your non-blogger address. Also, whenever you sign up for anything, use your pen name unless you have to put your real name in order to get paid.

Start using two different browsers. This is simply the easiest way to keep your “regular” account and blogging account separate and avoid awkward mix-ups. I use Firefox for my regular stuff and Chrome for my blogging stuff. There are other ways of separating it — like by using browser profiles or creating multiple instances of browsers — but I like the ease of two different-looking browsers with distinguishable icons.

Decide where you want your blog hosted. Your main options are WordPress.com, Blogger, Tumblr, or self-hosted. The first three are free and subject to the whims of the platform, the fourth costs money but allows you to do whatever you want1. Blogger is clunkier than WordPress.com, but with Blogger you can change your site design more easily (on WordPress.com you have to pay for CSS editing).

Most importantly, though, WordPress.com has a disturbing policy about affiliate advertising, and Blogger prohibits the monetization of adult content. So, hooray, both suck for sex bloggers! No money for you! Tumblr is more for microblogging, so it has its own cons, but at least they don’t restrict content. This post is a good, quick run-down of the pros and cons of each free host, and this post is more in-depth.

If you’re serious about blogging, you should consider going the self-hosted route: purchasing hosting and a domain name. Finding an adult-friendly host can be a bitch — you have to dig deep into each host’s Terms of Service to be sure (search for “adult,” “pornographic,” and “obscene”). Here are some hosts that are cool with adult content. You’ll want to install WordPress as your blogging platform, which I can do for you if you purchase from any of the following links.

  • 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.
  • GoDaddy.
  • 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.
  • 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 $3/month, you get just 250 MB storage and 5 GB bandwidth. To give you some numbers, my site is currently 1.2 GB and burns through 125 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.

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.

Think like an HGTV star

What NOT to do. DON'T DO IT.Find (or create) the perfect design for your blog. Real talk: I know you think light text on a dark background looks moody and sexy, but many others (ME… and others) think it is an assault on the eyes. Your first concern should be readability, followed by navigability, then you can worry about bells and whistles. Keeping things simple is better than going all haywire with the design. Your blog should reflect your personality, so stock images of lips are out of the question. And for some reason this gets overlooked: always have your contact information clearly visible.

You’ll find that free blog themes are generally pretty shitty, but not always. There are also some nice free theme frameworks to get you started. But if you’re willing to pay and investigate, the designs will be much better. A good place for paid themes is ThemeForest. They have Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress themes.

A few other web design resources that rock are Firebug, Subtle PatternsPatterncooler, 0 to 255, Color Scheme Designer, and Image to Color Palette Generator. Some excellent WordPress-specific resources are WPBeginner and WP-SnippetsLorelle’s blog is an invaluable resource for all bloggers; Lilly’s Sex Blogger Education posts are must-reads; and Lilly and Laura’s Blogging 202 includes bad sex blog design examples and much more.

Write something on that blog of yours! No more excuses! You don’t want the place to feel deserted when you email companies. In fact, you want it to look as put-together and content-filled as possible. Sex bloggers come and go like the wind, so you need to prove that you are here to stay — that you’re willing to do what it takes upfront, before you’re promised free toys.

At a bare minimum, review some toys you already own and write up a decent “about” page. The more work you put in at this juncture, the more likely it is that companies will take you seriously when you apply to their affiliate programs and ask them for toys.

Finally, the sex toys!

Join affiliate programs. I suggest GoodVibesShareASale (which includes many adult retailers, such as Lovehoney US) Paid On Results (same thing, including Lovehoney UK), Babeland, Early to Bed, SexToy, and JT’s Stockroom. There are also some manufacturers with great affiliate programs, such as LELO, Tantus, and Crystal Delights. Being a part of a program won’t matter unless you actually link to the place, so don’t just join everything you can find. Once you’re approved, place their banners in your sidebar and write down information about their programs (I suggest a spreadsheet).

Gently ask if you can review. This is tricky, because every company does it differently, and many don’t send out review products at all. It’s a shot in the dark, every time.

Figure out which company you want to contact. Send them a short but informative email. Explain why you like their store/product, show them your blog, and ask if you could possibly review something. Don’t be pushy or too eager, and don’t be surprised or outraged if they reject you or don’t reply. Some companies prefer established bloggers; others simply never send stuff to reviewers anyway. (Also, don’t use Twitter to proposition companies; it’s tacky.)

When working with companies, be your own advocate. As a n00b, you need to be open to reviewing cheaper items at first. But don’t be afraid to turn down toys made from morally objectionable materials, like jelly. And don’t agree to review stuff that you have no interest in; if you’re indifferent about a toy from the get-go, it will be hard to write a review of it. Watch for red flags with companies and don’t make agreements you’re wary about.

Write good reviews. Follow my 15 rules for writing a review that doesn’t royally suck, but go beyond those. Make your reviews interesting, unique, and truthful. Develop your own style. Don’t be coy. Keep the specs to a minimum and write about your personal experience. Never lie to appease a company. Always keep the reader in mind (i.e. don’t be boring). Have a partner or friend read your stuff before you hit publish.

Attract readers, make friends

If you’re not on Twitter yet, get on it, fool! And no, I won’t listen to your technophobe excuses about how trivial Twitter is. If you want people to know who you are, you must have it. And you must use it. And you must love it.

Upload an avatar, fill out your profile information, and spend a day or so submitting really clever tweets before going on a following spree. This will increase the likelihood of folks following you back. It should be pretty easy to find risque Twitter accounts; check out lists.

Learn Twitter etiquette. Lilly’s sex blogger guide to Twitter is required reading. Engage genuinely with people, not just because you want something from them. Tweet about your posts but not just about your posts (I use Buffer to schedule tweets, after years of wrestling with HootSuite). And for the love of god, don’t whine about how nobody comments on your blog. Not only can people smell desperation; it repels them.

Sign up for Tumblr and Facebook, too, if only to secure your blogging name. Facebook’s “Community Standards” are a doozy, though, so tread carefully there unless you want your account to be suspended.

Have a blogroll and keep it updated. If you need suggestions, check out my blogroll (duh). Don’t ask people for link exchanges; it’s old-school and insulting. If they like you, they’ll link to you on their own.

Link to other people in your posts. This usually sends them pingbacks, so they’ll notice that you mentioned them and are more likely to check out your blog. It’s also a great way to subtly thank people for inspiring you.

Comment on other blogs in the community. Participation is important. Put in the effort. You have no right to complain about a lack of comments if you never comment on other blogs. Leave thoughtful comments, not self-promoting ones.

Run giveaways, but not frivolous ones. People go nuts for free shit, but you’ll have better success if you’re not giving away bottom-of-the-barrel crap. Use Rafflecopter or Giveaway Tools to make it easier for yourself. Force people to subscribe to your blog in order to enter.

Submit to e[lust]. Any little boost in traffic is worth it, especially at the beginning.

Be controversial? A somewhat dubious way to acquire traffic, but it certainly works. Momentarily.

Stay awesome

The computer demands a blog.
 

Cultivate your voice and define your niche. This is, hands-down, the most important advice I can give you. You can read all the SEO articles in the world, but you’ll find the same adage repeated in all of them: continue to create engaging content. As you write, figure out where you fit into the blogging community and what you uniquely offer. That sounds like bullshit but it’s true. You have to find a way to stand out. The internet is huge. Why should people read you?

Ask favors — gracefully. There will be times when, perhaps, you want to ask another blogger how they got in contact with such-and-such a company or what plugin makes their blog do that-one-thing. Don’t be pushy when you do this. Understand that if you email someone asking for information or advice, they are not obligated to reply to you. And if they do, you better thank them for their time.

Know when to say no. Chances are, without even trying, you’ll get emails from people offering you things. It’ll almost always be janky shit. Like they’ll want to send you vagina-scented perfume. Or a plush torso sex doll. Or a disposable stick-on vibrator. Or they want to provide you with FREE! CONTENT! for your blog, or they’ll ask you to write about their new music video (?!), or they’ll offer to host your content on their site (the word “exposure” will inevitably be dropped). These people are not trying to help you. They are in it for themselves.

Although it can be fun to take people up on their insane offers once in a while (like the guy who wanted me to review his vibrating phone app), keep it rare. Otherwise it becomes horrifying.

Know your rights. Bloggers are actually pretty well protected here in the U.S. from defamation lawsuits, but you really should read my interview with an attorney for specific, highly pertinent info.

Don’t act too big for your britches. It might be quite a while before anyone gives a shit what you have to say. That’s blogging. Accept it.

Learn, grow, and evolve. If you want to stay alive in the blogging world, you must find ways to make your site better whenever you can. Monitor your traffic and take note of what people are searching for. Look at referrals and see who is linking to you and why. Ideas can be gleaned there. Get to know your audience, get a better idea of what they like and want to read. And of course: keep writing. Constantly.

Profit?

Don’t get ahead of yourself, hoss. To make money blogging, you have to have traffic. If you’re reading this, I assume you don’t. Certainly not enough to make more than a few bucks here and there. The most you can do right now is use affiliate links, write trustworthy reviews, and get your name out there. But let me reiterate: you shouldn’t be blogging for money.

You have to really love it, the blogging. And all that comes with it. I hope you’re ready to get down on your hands and knees, my friend, because this is where the grunt work begins. This is where you must interact with the community, be persistent, tell the truth, and above all — write something that’s worth reading.

  1. Except upload illegal content. []
  • http://www.dangerouslilly.com/ Dangerous Lilly

    I had more advice in my last comment, but Disqus ate it as soon as I logged in finally.
    Basically: don’t be afraid to write a negative review and be honest about how much you really like the sex toy. Lying doesn’t get you anywhere; if I find that you claimed that a vibrator was uberpowerful when actually a butterflies wings would create more sensation, I will no longer trust or respect you as a reviewer or blogger.

    Research before you spout off myths and misinformation. Silicone doesn’t melt. Butt toys do need a base. etc.
    Comment genuinely. Add to the conversation. Occasionally validate and give back-pats. But don’t just throw in a link to your own blog post /review about the topic. Say “Hey I reviewed this too and thought XYZ” and if I or my readers care, we’ll find it on your site. Leaving an extra link makes me feel like you only commented to get traffic.

  • http://www.dangerouslilly.com/ Dangerous Lilly

    OH I do the Firefox and Chrome thing, too. I had one too many scares with crossing worlds. I keep Firefox for anything sex blog related and Chrome for vanillla life. Other than opening incognito windows it was the best way to allow me to be signed into two different gmail & facebook accounts at the same time.

  • http://deviantdildos.com/ solitudinarian

    Yes, thank you for mentioning privacy protection! I remember not knowing about it, seeing my details visible to the public and freaking the fuck out. Totally going to link this on my resources page. You summed everything up so well!

  • http://www.shevibe.com/ Sandra

    Excellent advice, this is…

    Take it from a retailer, everything Piph is saying counts. If you’re just looking for free shit, we will smell you a mile away.

  • Lucy Lemonade

    Excellent! I wish I would have had this when I was just starting out. Toy reviewing is tough work though people tend to view it as a “hobby”. The reason I ended up closing down my blog was simply due to not having the time to devote to steady posting and wanting to focus on other things.

    It can be very fun and rewarding, but it is hard work and sometimes you do end up with a million horrible weak-ass wand vibrators you have to trash.

  • http://elspethdemina.wordpress.com/ Lorax Of Sex

    I know you’d wanted me to look this over before it went live, and then traffic and class ate my face. But seriously, I think you really covered it rather well. Sure- there’s more to go into about what sort of education pre-requisites there are to this sort of work, about personal ethics and obligations to your readership, but that wasn’t the focus of this. This is more the nuts and bolts and mechanics of getting things going. You can’t hand-hold everyone through this (though dildogds know that people want you too). Good job. Love ya.

  • Bee Queer

    I’ve had the same issues as Dangerous Lilly with scares with crossing worlds. (PS: This is beffuchi from twitter. I switched twitter accounts because my mom has been pestering me for my twitter.)
    I agree that having a good layout is essential–I won’t read a blog if the layout hurts my eyes too much.

  • http://twitter.com/bedheadtweeting The Redhead Bedhead

    Thank you so much for this post.
    I’m still pretty new to this whole thing but these are some things that were really key for me:

    -be consistent. the internet has a short memory and if you’re trying to get folks to listen to you but blog in fits and spurts it won’t work.

    -to jump off what DangerousLilly said about spouting misinformation- Admit when you don’t know stuff. Then find folks who do know. Quote them, cite them, link to them, learn from them and thank them.

  • Beth Dawsey

    Thank you for this post. Very informative. It is my dream to be a sex toy reviewer it didnt occur to me how much time and effort it takes.

  • http://aeriesroom.com/ Aerie

    This is such an awesome post, and perfect timing for me too. Thanks so much for these tips!

  • 52ndcentury

    I’ve been thinking about getting into sex toy reviewing and general sex blogging for a while now and this has been really helpful. Just the push I need to actually get going, and seeing it all laid out like this is great. Thanks!

  • http://www.pennysdirtythoughts.com/ Penny

    I’ve been looking forward to reading this one; great guide!
    xxPenny

  • http://hopefiending.wordpress.com/ Britni

    It really is so much work. I reviewed toys for years and I spent hours and hours blogging, writing, networking, Twittering. It’s something I would never have time for now. I think a lot of people think it’s all “oooh! free sex toys” but it’s so much more than that.

    On the plus side, I now have thousands of dollars worth of sex toys that sit unused in my bedroom. I spent years using them constantly and I think I burned myself out! Now I never use them. Which is kind of funny.

  • http://heyepiphora.com/ Epiphora

    Ask Twitter — they always know!

  • VaNessa

    I know how much I’ve depended on reviews in deciding which products to purchase (I’m brand new at it and I’ve been buying online), so it’s nice to see you spreading your awesomeness.
    On a side note: is that the Tantus Cush O2 I spy on your desk?

  • Biand Bi

    Could you add any tips for photograph editing? I’ve struggled to get good photos of toys and have no idea how or where to start with photo editing. I loved this article and I need to go back through it and take time to review the links. Thanks for all the wonderful tips!

  • http://rollinthehay.blogspot.com/ rollinginthehay

    Thank you so much for this post! I completely agree on with you about the light text on dark background. It hurts my eyes. You know what else annoys me? The glitter that follows the cursors.

    You’ve finally convinced me to join twitter. I wasn’t going to. Ever. But you make a very compelling argument as to why it’s necessary. It took me 45 minutes just to pick a screen name.

    And can I just say I feel vindicated by your post? I thought I was the only one that uses different browsers depending on if I’m sex blogging or not.

  • http://twitter.com/Liberty_Madame Madame Liberty

    damn good blog.. this one is a keeper, loads of stuff to absorb for later.

  • http://heyepiphora.com/ Epiphora

    Yes indeed! I reviewed it here.

  • http://heyepiphora.com/ Epiphora

    That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms. Also, I don’t consider myself particularly adept at taking and editing photos. You’d be better off finding a great online photography or Photoshop guide. It’s not like sex toys are a special case!

    All I can really tell you is this: learn your camera’s settings, use as much natural light as humanly possible, and tweak levels in Photoshop.

  • VaNessa

    I know! I’ve been wanting one since I read that review and seeing it in that pic made me finally order one. It should be here this week! (^_^)

  • GrittyWoman

    I had been wanting to start a blog for a while but couldn’t find enough information. Then you published this post and thanks to you I managed to get things rolling about a week or two ago. I keep coming back to this for the “next step” in proceedings, it is like my bible now. lol To be honest I am still struggling and having days where I cant seem to get anything working, (Don’t even get me started on using twitter, I am brand new to that.) But thanks to you and all this advice in one place, so detailed and with links too, I have been able to make a solid start and for that I thank you.I have about 20,000 questions a day that I can’t answer, but I am sure as I make friends in the community, and keep reading some amazing blogs, I will be able to keep moving forward. Thanks for this post Epiphora. Much appreciated.

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  • Rick Craig

    Wear Do I Go to Start as a Sex Toy Tester?
    guitar.rockstars_0817@yhaoo.com

  • Rick Craig

    I Would Like to Be A Sex Toy tester.
    I am a Veteran /a Family out of Work looking 4 a Way to Help make a Living 4 My Family.

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  • longlegs88

    Best post I have read on the subject. I know I will be using it when I start my blog, not sure when or if time will allow it but I’m hopeful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve went to a site/blog and seen they offered classes and workshops, only to discover they were across the country from me. I was extremely happy when I went to Lorelle’s blog through your link and saw she is in my little part of the woods! Her blog is also informative and an excellent resource as you stated. Thanks for her link and the other links as well. Oh and thanks for the excellent post too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/domina.doll Domina Doll

    Great post Epiphora! Yes, sex toy reviewing is certainly NOT as glamorous as people tend to think. It is a lot of hard work and takes a big commitment to keep it up and be consistent. I myself took a bit of a hiatus and didn’t want to see another sex toy for a long time, ughhh! But, I have new a BF, so am more inspired, and am doing occasional reviews again.

    Regarding Biand Bi’s question about photography — Epi is right, use natural light. I try to photograph near a window, but not in harsh light (a cloudy day works better). Often I’ll take my toys outside as well. Also, try not to make the background too cluttered. You can blurr the bg a bit with a shallow a depth of field and focusing close to your subject, or use a wall, table, floor that is a solid color (contrasting is good) to your subject as well. Also, practice with the settings, take lots of shots, and eventually you will figure out what works best. And, there are lots of tips on photography on the net, so check them out.

    For hosting, I use the same as Epiphora (actually, she recommended them to me), after having lots of bad hosts, so be careful who you choose.

    When I was blogging/reviewing full-time I found having a schedule and sticking to it helped me stay on track. And, definitely don’t be afraid to write a bad review, or go against the grain. While I try to find the good in everything, some toys just suck (and not in a good way!).

    Great post! :)

  • http://twitter.com/SugarCunt Sugarcunt

    If you have a camera that takes photos in a RAW or PEF format, you should do your editing before you change the photo into a JPG or PNG or GIF or whatever format you choose. I find Photoshop to be ideal for editing my PEF files – CS6 opens Camera Raw 7.0 when I open a PEF file and I’m able to tweak the white balance, exposure, highlights and shadows, contrast, and other properties very easily.

    Like Epiphora and Domina Doll said, don’t shy away from natural light. It’s essential for a good photograph.

    Try using the rule of thirds: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thirds

    Make sure that when you take a photograph, your item fills up at least most of the frame. Your photo will feel mediocre and empty if it’s composed of one item in the midst of a sea of emptiness.

    Don’t be afraid to use props other than what you’re photographing! You’ll see Epiphora do this sometimes and it’s a great way to fill out the frame, as well as add interest to your photo.

    It may be worth your time to make a lightbox, especially if you don’t have much time to shoot photos in the natural light of the day. Here’s a tutorial on making one that’s cheap! http://digital-photography-school.com/how-to-make-a-inexpensive-light-tent

  • sex toys for women

    Superb post. I think you had done PhD on sex toys. What a stunning post it is. A complete sex toys guidance at one place.

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  • TJtheMadHatter

    This guide is a humbling one. Every time I start to think I need to rush to join another program, or push for this with that company, I stop myself. Fucking write something! Geez. Getting all caught up in the rat race isn’t going to do anything if I don’t have anything on my blog! So with that, I’m going back to working on my review. Oh, and by the way, the bit about background colors & fonts, changed my whole blog. It’s the reason why it’s light blue instead of boudoir red. Thanks for all the info. So helpful and all in one place. Really convenient for n00bs like me.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rayofsummersunshine Andrea Michelle

    This is great advice for anyone wanting to review any sort of thing. I know a lot is specific for adult themes, but its good info, in general. I tried the blogging thing, for a niche, and got tired of it after two years. (it was for PCOS). I want to get back into it, but do something else. Something I know I’ll actually enjoy. I have PCOS and I love helping people. But repeating myself over and over again, with the word FAQ was getting really old, really fast. And I burned out.

    Now I just wanna burn out some batteries ROFL!!! Money or not. Free shit or not. Toy reviewing sounds like fun. And I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I have a friend I’m trying to start a blog about male enhancements and his journey through is and I think that with his experiences and mine, we’d make a good duo blogging thing. lol :)

  • @lc_sexshop

    Great post, really intresting and well written.

    http://Www.littlecherrysexshop.co.uk

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  • Jeselle Arce

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  • The Sex Sleuth

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