I’m a Survivor, and I Will Never Support LELO Again

Content warning: abuse.

On June 14, LELO announced the launch of their new condom, HEX. They also revealed that Charlie Sheen would be their condom campaign spokesperson, saying that Sheen is the best possible person to “engage on STI prevention, condom usage and change”.

Do you know what else Charlie Sheen is? An abuser. I will not go into the details of his abuse convictions and allegations; Sarah from Marvy Darling has done so exceptionally well in her recent post, which I highly recommend. I will also not go into details about the number of LELO screw-ups in the past: Dangerous Lilly has a “Dear Lelo: I quit” masterpost and a new post about the Charlie Sheen disaster, both of which I also highly recommend.

am here to say that I am a survivor, and I am angry.

It is absolutely deplorable and unacceptable for a sexual wellness company to partner with a known abuser. It is clear to me that this decision was purely motivated by shock value and publicity, without any concern for their customers or the educators, reviewers, or stores that work with them. What about someone with a history of domestic violence screams “Yeah! We really love our customers and we want them to be comfortable endorsing and buying our products! We are REALLY committed to sexual freedom!”? (Hint: nothing.)

Furthermore, as Kitty Stryker points out on Twitter, Sheen also has a history of whorephobia, and she hoped to hear more from folks in ethical porn denouncing LELO’s decision. This was LELO’s response: “Our commitment to feminist porn is absolutely unchanged. It means a lot to us.” What about putting an abuser as your campaign’s spokesperson is feminist AT ALL? (Hint: nothing.)

LELO thinks everything is fine because when directly asked why they were partnering with a known abuser, they said their HEX partnership with Charlie Sheen is not an endorsement of his past. I am here to say that is bullshit.

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The narrative LELO is working to craft about their partnership with Charlie Sheen is so similar to the silencing and shame I experienced when I told people I was an abuse survivor. As many perpetrators of domestic violence are, my abuser was incredibly popular. In my hometown, everyone knew who he was, and everyone loved him. People didn’t believe me when I told them he abused me. Over and over again I heard awful things like, “He couldn’t have done that! He takes great care of his family. You must have imagined it.” and “Well, that wasn’t really abuse. You’re exaggerating. Do you honestly think he did that? There’s no way. He wouldn’t have so many friends if he was an abusive man.”

When LELO says that, essentially, they can ignore Sheen’s abusive past to make him the spokesperson of their new campaign, they are doing the exact same thing as the people who told me they didn’t believe that my ex-partner was abusive. When you don’t believe survivors or when you excuse a person’s history of domestic violence in favor of their other “redeeming qualities” (in this example, Charlie Sheen’s ability to speak to condom usage, in LELO’s opinion), you are complicit in a culture that blames survivors and shames us into silence.

 I will not stand for LELO’s blatant refusal to acknowledge that survivors matter. Our experiences matter. Our hopes and dreams matter. We should be able to exist without “sexual wellness companies” reopening our pain and then implying that our pain isn’t valid because the company isn’t “endorsing” past abusive behavior.

I will never support LELO again. I will never purchase their toys again or accept them for review from an independent retailer. I have removed the LELO toys I do own from my Toybox page. I will very likely dispose of those toys immediately.

If you are a survivor also struggling with LELO’s partnership with Sheen (or anything else), please know that you are loved and supported. You matter because you are here in this world, and you matter to me.

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My Femme Resume: Matching Lipstick to Dildos

A couple of days ago, I was talking with blogger pals Caitlin, Artemisia, and GJ about what our femme resumes would look like. Mine included “magical ability to make lipstick last for hours, through food and drink” and “looks great in many shades, from bright red to black lipstick.” That evening, I received my Tantus vintage toys in the mail, and immediately noticed something very important: I could exactly match two of my new dildos to some of my lipsticks. Come to think of it, I could match quite a few of my beautiful, vibrant toys to some fantastic shades in my lipstick collection. After a quick test run that night, I realized that matching lipstick to dildos would most certainly be at the top of my femme resume, and I set out to work on this post.

Welcome to my visual femme resume!

Continue reading past the photos for details on each look!

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Look 1 – Dildo: Tantus Clover; Lipstick: Mac Matte in Royal

I love this mini-sized dildo! Its sparkly shine fits my #femmeaesthetic, and the lipstick is a perfect match. I recently wore this lipstick out to an alien party at the local queer bar. The dildo is part of Tantus’ vintage collection, and I just couldn’t pass it up.

Look 2 – Dildo: Tails and Portholes Nereid; Lipsticks: Mac Amplified in Up The Amp + Mac Matte in Royal

This dual-density dildo is to die for. Tails and Portholes is an independent Etsy shop, and while the owner, Brandie, isn’t currently taking custom orders, I highly recommend that you follow her on Twitter to stay up-to-date with her work. There are so many colors in this dildo, so figuring out how to represent all of them in my lipstick choices was a hard task! I ended up using Up The Amp for that beautiful purple and lightly blotting Royal in the center of my lips so I could include the Nereid’s brilliant blue.

Look 3 – Dildo: Tantus VIP; Lipsticks: NYX Lip Primer in Deep Nude, Buxom Matte in Defiant Bloom

Another vintage Tantus dildo! Out of all the looks, I only felt out of my comfort zone with this one. I usually don’t wear light lipstick and prefer to stick to my reds and blacks, but I recently bought this lipstick along with a couple of other Buxom Matte shades. I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but it matches the VIP pretty well!

Look 4 – Dildo: Vixen Creations Woody Vibe; Lipstick: Sephora Luster Matte in Scarlet Luster

The Woody is the non-dual-density version of my favorite dildo, the VixSkin Mustang. (Technically the Woody is a vibrator, as you can insert a bullet into its base, but I only ever use it as a non-vibrating toy.) And how can I not love this lipstick?! This shade of red is my signature look. I wear a similar shade almost every day (I have about 15 red lipsticks…#femmelife) and people are confused when I show up somewhere without red lipstick on.

Look 5 – Dildo: Hole Punch Toys Fluke; Lipsticks: Ulta Fuschia Fever, Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in L.U.V.

Those. COLORS. What else is there to say? I mean, really. I had so much fun crafting this look! I used Fuschia Fever on my top lip and L.U.V. on my bottom lip, then lightly rubbed them together in the center to create a gradient look.

Look 6 – Vibrator: Doxy Die Cast; Lipsticks: Make Up For Ever Rouge Artist Intense in Satin Black, NYX Liquid Suede in Stone Fox

Wands are my favorite kind of sex toy, so you know I had to get one in this post somehow. I LOVE my Die Cast: it’s a gorgeous powerhouse. I used Satin on my top lip and Stone Fox on my bottom lip to reflect the Die Cast’s black silicone head and silver handle.

Thanks for reading my femme resume! What’s on your femme resume? What was your favorite look out of these six? Let me know in the comments!

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Mourning a Loss of Community… and How That Relates to Sex Toys

My mind has a tendency to wander when I masturbate. If I’m not taking notes for a toy I’m reviewing, I try to solely concentrate on my pleasure and on the sensations I’m feeling, but let’s be honest: sometimes the urge to review tomorrow’s work schedule, overanalyze a random event from the day that I felt could have been handled better, or come up with a list of reasons why the person I’m currently attracted to hasn’t texted me back yet is just too strong.

I recently experienced an intensely sad, but revelatory, mind-wandering episode. After a couple of orgasms with my favorite wand, I grabbed my go-to dildo, the VixSkin Mustang, when the following thought process ensued:

“YES, this feels so good, as usual. I know I can always count on you, Mustang!”
“Wow, I wish someone was here to use this on me. Where’s a cutie with a strap-on when you need them?”
“Hmm… no cute humans here. That sucks, and I’m feeling a little sad and lonely.”
“Yikes. I really do feel lonely. I wish there was a cutie, yeah, but what I’m really craving is community. Where are my people?”

Odd train of thought? Maybe. But connecting with my body and my pleasure has always brought my deepest, most intimate thoughts and feelings to the surface, whether good or bad.

To provide some context: I graduated from college last May, and the past year has been the most difficult time of my life. In the past twelve months, I’ve lived in three apartments, moved twice, and worked three jobs, which is a drastic change from the stability I was used to after living in my hometown for seventeen years and in my college town for four. My big plan to move to Washington D.C. and start my career fell flat on its face. While I did move to the city for my dream job right after graduation, I was miserable. My mental health was the worst it had been in years. I was working 80 hours a week and couldn’t take any time off to see friends or family. Both my social life and my precious and necessary alone time evaporated. I didn’t blog for months and felt like a failure. I knew something had to change, so in September I took a new job and moved to a new state by myself, not knowing anyone in the city I was about to call home.

The hardest thing about graduating, especially moving to a new state, has been a loss of community. In college, I was on the executive board of my schools’ student-led LGBTQ+ group for three years, sang in choir and opera for four years, and helped lead feminist activism on my campus. My college roommates were (and are) my best friends, and we had a caring, generous, and wonderful circle of queer friends we spent most of our time with. Within the walls of my university, there was no shortage of community to be found.

Post-grad life is different. There are no institutional structures designed to help you make you friends when you graduate, unlike the always-together-all-the-time college set-up of dorms, classes, off-campus apartments, and extracurricular activities. I’ve had to work hard to create my own community from scratch in my new state, and while I do have a handful of marvelous new friends here, I’m missing a true feeling of community, of solidarity, a shared understanding of queerness and feminism and being Southern and working together to fight against oppression… which is where sex toys come in.

Sex blogging came to me right when I needed it. I started my blog after discovering the sex toy reviewing community while doing research for my undergraduate senior thesis on how to craft a revolutionary model of sex education, just a couple of weeks before I graduated. So today, as I reflect on the last day of my one year blogiversary month, I am thankful for the companies I work with, the toys I’ve tested, and the ability to have a space to share my voice on everything from sex toys, to gender, to dating, to mental illness, to being an abuse survivor, but most of all I am thankful for the community I have found. When I started my blog, I never could have imagined that one year later I would be friends with the people I most admired when I was just beginning to research the world of sex blogging.

This blog and the community I’ve found through it have been the only constants in my life in the past twelve months. While I wish all my blogging pals lived near me (Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit can’t come soon enough!), I know I can jump on Twitter anytime and talk about any topic – from moving states, to dating, to outrage over misogynist assholes, to Tinder weirdos – and receive instant support from my fellow bloggers and Twitter friends. This community lifts me up in the good times, comforts me in the bad times, and encourages me to be my authentic self all the time. Whether I’m playing Scrabble with Girly Juice on Facebook, live-tweeting Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder with Lilith, talking about the political climate in our state with Sugarcunt, gushing about femme feels with Artemisia, over Snapchat, or chatting with the plethora of other thoughtful, brilliant bloggers I’m lucky to be acquainted with, I know this community has my back. And it’s a beautiful feeling.

So, while I may still crave a community in my new home, I know I have one among my fellow sex bloggers, too. When I feel lonely while masturbating again (which will inevitably happen, I’m sure), I know I can tweet my feelings out or private message my wonderful sex geek friends and receive instant support and feedback. What a wonderful world.

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Review: BMS Factory PalmPower

Welcome to the third post in the Wand Queen series! In 2015, after experimenting with lots of toys in my first few months as a reviewer, I figured out what really works for me: broad stimulation, particularly wands. So now, in 2016, I’ll be reviewing at least one wand per month from March onward. You can find my first two reviews in the series here and here.

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The BMS Factory PalmPower was my second-ever wand purchase. After using my first wand (um, so much has changed since I wrote that review, wow) almost exclusively for a few months, I was ready to move on to stronger toys, only to find the pinpoint vibrators I tried wholly unsatisfying and sometimes uncomfortable. I loved my first wand so much, so why not try another? I had my eye on the PalmPower thanks to Toy Meets Girl’s review, so when I started working at a feminist sex shop after I graduated from college, I decided to take full advantage of the employee discount and order a PalmPower of my own.

The PalmPower has lived on my nightstand ever since. Only four other products live there – the Iconic Wand, Mustang, and Sliquid Satin and Sea – so this is definitely a compliment of the highest order. This wand opened me up to an entirely new world of strong, rumbly vibrators I had always heard about, but never experienced in my early days of trying toys.

For a toy of its size, the PalmPower is unprecedentedly powerful. It’s the smallest, most pinpoint wand I own, but also one of the strongest, even when compared to the Magic Wand Rechargeable and the Doxy. Whenever I use this toy, I orgasm very quickly (usually within thirty seconds to one minute) and then keep going… and going… and going. Breaking out the PalmPower usually means I’m ready for an exhausting but amazing masturbation session, often complete with 8-10 orgasms in less than ten minutes. If I want a super quick orgasm, even if I only have a minute or two to spare, I always reach for the PalmPower.

I have never experienced orgasms at this rate with any other toy, so testing other vibrators after using the PalmPower almost exclusively for a couple of months was quite the adjustment. Initially (about a year ago), I didn’t understand why I couldn’t get off quickly (or sometimes at all) with toys like the Doxy or Magic Wand, especially when the PalmPower could bring me to orgasm in less than sixty seconds. However, I soon realized that, of course, the wands I had in my collection were different for a reason: each one has unique features and provides a distinct experience, setting it apart from the others. I love being able to identify what I’m in the mood for and grab a wand accordingly: Treating myself to a long masturbation session? Grab the Doxy. Something quick and easy? The PalmPower. And something in between? The JimmyJane Iconic Wand. (This may seem rather obvious – of course toys are different! – but the process of being able to identify what toy I want in a certain moment because it provides x, y, and z has been an important step in my journey to understanding and loving my body and my pleasure.)

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The PalmPower really is palm-sized!

There are a few features of the PalmPower that make it a top notch toy and a few features I have qualms with. My PalmPower is corded, which I actually really appreciate. I never have to worry about it dying when I’m right about to come, or wait for it to charge when I’m in the mood for a hard, fast orgasm. If you are averse to corded vibrators, BMS Factory also makes the PalmPower Recharge, which is the same price as the original PalmPower.

Another feature unique to the PalmPower is its singular button. As opposed to buttons that cycle through set vibration speeds and patterns, the PalmPower’s lone button allows you to increase speeds on a sliding scale. There are no set speeds (and no patterns!); you can land on whatever speed feels best to you. I wish more toys had this feature – there have been many times I’ve wished there was an in-between speed when I crank up the intensity on some of my other wands. There are a couple of drawbacks to the sole button, though. It’s pretty easy to turn off the PalmPower on accident, and there’s no way to decrease the speed without turning the toy off and back on again.

My biggest problem with the PalmPower is the cap. The cap is removable, which makes for easy cleaning, but it also protrudes from the rest of the PalmPower’s head. I have to be careful not to angle the PalmPower in such a way that the overhanging part of the cap pinches and snags my vulva, which has happened a number of times and is quite unpleasant. Also, if I don’t place the cap on the head exactly right, this pinching and snagging is much worse. For folks with a more exposed clit, this may not be as much of an issue. However, the combination of my love of pressure and my buried clit sometimes makes digging in with this wand an uncomfortable experience.

Cap issues aside, I love the PalmPower. It’s not as expensive as some other wands with less power, and it’s definitely worth the $70 in my opinion. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who loves wands and rumbly vibrators. Even if you prefer pinpoint stimulation, I would still encourage you to try the PalmPower – the head has the smallest surface area of any wand I’ve ever tried, and I think it could be good for folks who may not like larger wands. I’m certain this toy will continue to live on my nightstand for years to come!

If you enjoyed this review and want to support the ongoing success of Formidable Femme, please consider using the affiliate links used throughout this post. Many thanks in advance!

You can find the BMS Factory PalmPower at PeepShow Toys.

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Review: OhMiBod Lovelife Wanderlust

Welcome to the second post in the Wand Queen series! In 2015, after experimenting with lots of toys in my first few months as a reviewer, I figured out what really works for me: broad stimulation, particularly wands. So now, in 2016, I’ll be reviewing at least one wand per month from March onward. You can find my first review in the series here.

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As an avid wand user, I’m always searching for new wands to experiment with and, hopefully, add to my regular rotation. On the same day I discovered OhMiBod recently released a new wand, the Lovelife Wanderlust, PeepShow Toys contacted me with an invitation to join their affiliate program. When the lovely folks at PeepShow Toys told me they could send me the Wanderlust for review immediately, it felt like kismet. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Wanderlust, and excitedly live-tweeted its arrival. So, how does this wand stack up to my other favorites? Did it live up to the hype?

In theory, this wand is great. It’s on the smaller end of the wand spectrum, rechargeable, splashproof (which makes for easier cleaning), and, of course, made of body-safe silicone. It features steady vibration as well as patterns, and comes with a satin storage pouch. Furthermore, it has a versatile shape: a full, round head for broad stimulation, two peaks for more targeted stimulation, and what I call a “clit nest” in between the peaks of the heart for more indirect stimulation. Unfortunately, in practice, the Wanderlust didn’t live up to my expectations.

OhMiBod’s Wanderlust product page features some quippy phrases like “Life is best when you live for the journey, not the destination” and “Not all who wander are lost. Some of us just love to take the scenic route,” which pretty much sum up my experience with this toy. Whenever I use the Wanderlust, I take the scenic route… and I drive on that road for a long time. Despite many journeys, I only reached my destination once in my time testing this toy (and it definitely didn’t look…erm…feel like the picture in the guidebook).

My complaint with this toy is simple: It has weak vibrations. The five speed levels are barely distinguishable as you click from one to another. There is a noticeable difference between the lowest speed and the highest speed, but it feels more like an increase of buzzy-ness rather than power. The Wanderlust’s highest setting matches the power level that I might look for in the lowest setting of a toy that really works for me. OhMiBod’s claim that this toy is “powerful enough to curl your toes” certainly did not hold true for me – I was only able to have one mini-orgasm with this toy, and that was on the highest setting with a huge amount of pressure on my clit.

If a toy feels good but just can’t get me to orgasm, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll throw it in my “never use” drawer – I’ll sometimes use those toys when warming up for a super high-powered wand, or when I want to have a long and relaxing masturbation session. However, the Wanderlust doesn’t fall into this category. It feels pleasant for a very short while, but I’m almost instantly left craving more. Needless to say, I won’t be adding the Wanderlust to my regular rotation.

If you need a very gentle vibrator and don’t enjoy massive power wands like the Doxy or Hitachi, the Wanderlust might be for you. However, if you’re looking for a small wand that packs a punch, check out the PalmPower. (I’ve only tried the corded version, but I’ve heard good things about the PalmPower Recharge as well if you don’t want to be constrained by a power cord.)

PeepShow Toys generously provided me with the OhMiBod Lovelife Wanderlust in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Check out PeepShow Toys’ selection of wand massagers and take 10% off your purchase using code FEMME.

If you enjoyed this review and want to support the ongoing success of Formidable Femme, please consider using the affiliate links used throughout this post. Many thanks in advance!

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