The Snarky Feminist’s Guide to Valentine’s Day Sex Toy Shopping

Wondering what toys these are? Find out at the bottom of the post!

Oh, hello! I’m guessing you’re here because you’re ready to shop until you drop—or at least until your cart is overflowing with sex toys for Valentine’s Day and you can’t carry any more. Welcome!

Let’s get something out of the way first. I know, I know, you want to dive right into the juicy stuff. I don’t blame you! This is Valentine’s Day we’re preparing for, after all—also known as That Time of Year When Mainstream Magazines Make Really Shitty Sex Toy Gift Guides and Mislead Their Readers. Er, sorry. My fingers slipped on the keyboard! No use in deleting it now.

Yes, Valentine’s Day. We’re really talking about Valentine’s Day here. I swear.

Anyway, just one bit of serious housekeeping before we begin. Are you buying a sex toy for yourself? AWESOME. Keep reading and go forth and buy all the body-safe things. Buying a sex toy for your partner? Please, please don’t buy a sex toy for someone else without having an in-depth conversation about it first, and don’t ever surprise a partner with a toy during sex. I’m always a fan of shopping with your partner, but if that’s not an option, check out Dangerous Lilly’s advice.

Back to that juicy stuff we might get into. (Yes, I said might, didn’t you see the word “Feminist” in the title? That obviously means we won’t have any fun.)

Against all logic, I’m going to share tips and suggestions for shame-free shopping for financially accessible, body-safe sex toys made by ethical companies. Isn’t that just wild? Join me in this rebellion against the slew of sex toy shopping guides popular magazines put out every year before Valentine’s Day. Take that, capitalism! #OrgasmsAgainstCapitalism

Yes, Virginia, there IS a sex toy under $200. Quite, a few, actually. What if I told you there are even body-safe sex toys under $100, under $50? Well, you better believe it.

For much of sex toys’ history, the only financially accessible options on the market were toxic and unsafe. Now, toxic sex toys still hang around (thanks, unethical companies), but more and more manufacturers are realizing the importance of creating affordable toys that are also body-safe. The sex toy industry admittedly has a long way to go, but despite mainstream advice—*cough* “women’s” magazines *cough*—it’s just not true that you have to spend a fortune to get a quality sex toy anymore.

BREAKING NEWS: Using and loving sex toys doesn’t make you “dirty” or “naughty.” Sex toys don’t need to be your “little secret” or a “private bedroom delight” or [insert any other strange, cringe-worthy, stigmatizing phrase here].

Descriptors like these might seem harmless at first, but they’re everywhere in the sex toy industry—and pop up every five seconds during the Valentine’s Day sex toy shopping frenzy. They imply that sex toys are shameful and that people should keep quiet and hide their pleasure. I have only two words in response: Fuck. That. You are allowed to embrace your sexuality and shop with companies that affirm pleasure as a human right.

No one should be ready for this jelly. This is approximately the time in the lifespan of a mainstream sex toy gift guide that the writer mentions a toxic, unsafe jelly sex toy as an “affordable alternative” to higher-priced materials. Just keep scrolling and shield your eyes. Staring at a sweaty, sticky, toxic dildo through a computer screen never did anyone any favors.

Fuck with feminists, not fakers. Yeah, I said fakers. What is this, the 1990s? I wanted the alliteration, okay? You can be embarrassed, I’m embarrassed too. (Exploitative, unethical misogynists is a good alternative to fakers. Your pick.)

It’s a good idea to investigate sex toy companies and manufacturers’ ethics and business practices before buying their toys. You deserve to use products made by companies that care about sexual freedom, autonomy, consent, and agency—and you can give a big ol’ middle-finger to those that don’t. Feminist retailers like Vibrant, Sugar, and Smitten Kitten have chosen not to stock toys by unethical manufacturers like LELO, and I look forward to seeing other shops follow suit.

Tear down unnecessary “couples” sex toy labels. Next stop, patriarchy! There’s no such thing as a sex toy made “just for couples.” All sex toys can be couples’ toys, just as they can be solo toys. Unfortunately, sex toy gift guides (and sex toy companies themselves) all too often prescribe certain kinds of sex toys for partnered people—and they’re almost always meant for penetrative sex.

“Couples toys” are usually extraordinarily highly-priced in the $150-200 range, making sex toys seem inaccessible for folks who can’t spend a couple hundred dollars on a product that may or may not work for them. The truth is a whole lot easier on your wallet: does a sex toy work for you and your partners? Even if it’s not labeled as a “couples” toy? Even if it’s $150 LESS than the luxury “couples” toys manufacturers peddle? Awesome. Pleasure shouldn’t be cost-prohibitive.

Well, there you have it, Valentine’s Day sex toy shopping extraordinaires. Go forth and shop equitably and free of shame, armed with knowledge of body-safe sex toys and ethical companies. Huzzah!

Products in the header image, starting from the bottom left going clockwise: Magic Wand Rechargeable, Fun Factory Amor, Good Clean Love Lube, Blush Novelties Helio, LVX Supply cuffs and floral paddle, Tantus Super Soft C-Ring, Jimmyjane Iconic Wand, We-Vibe Tango, random rope, New York Toy Collective Shilo, We-Vibe Gala, b-Vibe Rimming Plug, Doxy Wand.

This post was sponsored by Vibrant. As always, all writing and opinions are my own.

The Fragmentation of Sarah

8:30 AM: I wake up and feel more me than I ever have. I kiss the freckles on my partner’s shoulders, watch them slowly saunter to the bathroom before leaving for work, pull the covers tighter around my bare shoulders. Still in a sleepy daze, I reach across to the nightstand for my phone, eager to check in with my community.

My community. I chew on those words for a while, feel their weight, their importance, their centrality in my life. I am Sarah Brynn Holliday. I am happy here.

9:00 AM: I roll out of bed, sleepy but fulfilled: I exchanged some salty, snarky messages with one of my best friends. A budding sex toy boutique wants to bring me on as a consultant. My Twitter feed is filled with new blog posts and projects from creators in my community.

I sit down at my home office desk and type “good morning” to coworkers at my full-time job. Suddenly, jarringly, I am not Sarah Brynn Holliday anymore.

Or I am. But not here. Here, for the next eight hours, I am someone else. I am a progressive political activist at a job that has little to do with sexuality or sex education. I am [redacted]. I am happy here, but I am not Sarah Brynn Holliday.

•••

I decided against blogging under my legal name for my own safety. As if hostility towards mentally ill queer femmes writing about sex, masturbation, and trauma on the internet wasn’t enough, I was also working full-time in a field that faced a lot of dangerous, violent opposition. By the time I decided to choose a name for my sex blogging and education work, I had already dealt with death and rape threats and attended conferences that couldn’t be publicized for fear of infiltration or violence. An organization I worked for had to hide our physical address and very carefully monitor who we invited into our space. Some of my job trainings included how to check for bombs that may have been placed under the body of my car and what to do if an active shooter was in our building.

Compared to colleagues in my field, I had it easy. Still, I knew that if any of those violent, threatening people found out about my blog, it would not end well. Sarah Brynn Holliday was born.

That was about a year and a half ago. Now, I have a different job. I’m not subject to threats and harassment the way I once was, but my name stuck around. I would be incomplete without it.

•••

I don’t have a “secret life.”

I do not have two bodies, two lives. I do not exist in two worlds completely separate from one another. My worlds touch and commingle, boundaries and borders overlapping, relationships and experiences dancing in the gray area. But I am more full, more realized, more whole when I can be all of me, when I can center my sexuality world in my life.

•••

A new friend recently described her personal Instagram as where she is simply alive and her not-always-safe-for-work, semi-private Instagram as where she is truly living. I feel that deeply.

The Twitter account I was so attached to in college hasn’t been updated in over a year. I’m marginally more active on my personal Facebook and Instagram accounts, scrolling through each at lightning speed a few times a day, never spending more than a few minutes crafting my own content, growing more private with each passing day.

While my personal social media feeds grow dormant, my sex blogging accounts flourish. Here, I thrive. Surrounded by loving friends, a supportive community, and a network of colleagues and companies I respect, I can create whatever I want. I can talk about orgasms and trauma-informed sex education, dual-density dildos and destroying gendered marketing, abortion rights and misbehaving sex toy companies. I can dream of a world without stigma and shame because I have a place in a community that fights those things. I don’t have to just survive.

•••

The first time I attended a sexuality conference as Sarah Brynn Holliday, I gave my legal name when I reached the registration table. Embarrassed, I corrected myself and proceeded to excitedly shout my full name at the rest of the people I met that weekend.

These days, I have no idea how to introduce myself. I have two good options—“Hi, I’m Sarah and I’m a sex blogger!” or “Hi, I’m [redacted] and I work at [redacted]!”—but the gray area connecting the parts of myself is vast. In some situations, it’s clear. At sexual freedom conferences, trauma-informed workshops, and sex education volunteer trainings, I’m Sarah Brynn Holliday. When I meet other people working in politics, I’m [redacted]. But what about people who would be interested in all the parts of me? What if my coworkers want to talk about sex education? What if people I meet in the sex toy industry want to talk about Trump? How do I talk about work with my hairdresser, my therapist, the people who will one day review my graduate school applications? What if people ask my partner what I do? Who do I tell and what do I tell them? How much do I want them to know?

“Hello, my name is [redacted] and I work at this place, but I also do this other thing under a different name, so feel free to read my blog or come to my workshops but please don’t tag my personal Facebook if you post about it…” doesn’t make for an excellent opening line—but it’s one I’ve clumsily used more times than I’d like to admit.

It feels painful to fragment myself.

•••

11:30 PM: I close down my computer for the night, feeling invigorated after writing a new blog post and drafting a workshop pitch for an upcoming conference. I climb into bed after my partner, nuzzle my nose against their cheek, curl my legs close to my stomach. As I close my eyes, I think about how nice it is to feel like I’ve found my place, my community, my home base.

I am happy here. I am whole. I am Sarah Brynn Holliday.

8 Commitments Sex Toy Companies Can Make in 2018

Last year, I wrote a post detailing 7 commitment sex toy companies can make in 2017. I called on companies to actively work to defend and expand human rights, stop asking for unpaid labor from sex bloggers and educators, and diversify advertising to center marginalized and oppressed people, among other things.

This year, I’m expanding on the basics and digging a little deeper into what sex toy companies can do to center feminism, ethics, equity, and justice in their business practice. Enjoy!

  1. Get rid of the abusers and harassers in your ranks. Just like any other career field, the sex toy industry isn’t immune from harassers, abusers, and perpetrators of sexual violence. Sex toy companies must hold predatory and violent owners, staff, consultants, and spokespeople accountable for their actions. Whether a person’s abuse is widely known or kept hush-hush as a company or industry “secret,” their time in the sexual freedom movement needs to come to an end. Companies cannot turn turn their backs on survivors just to uphold the giants in our industry, no matter who they are or the influence they’ve had on the field. And for fellow educators and bloggers: it’s absolutely okay to stop supporting companies that protect abusers, even if they’re considered high-ranking in the industry. You don’t have to do anything that doesn’t align with your ethics.

  2. Stop selling sex toys made by unethical manufacturers. Place ethics over profit and clear out questionable sex toy stock. Want an easy example? A number of feminist sex shops like Vibrant, Sugar, and Smitten Kitten refuse to carry LELO toys because they hired an abuser to promote their faulty, unsafe condom. Follow these shops’ lead and show consumers the incredible breadth of ethical manufacturers in the industry instead of sticking with anti-feminist companies. It’s completely possible to thrive in the sex toy industry while leaving unethical counterparts behind!

  3. Hire social media managers with knowledge of the industry and an understanding of sexual freedom. If sex bloggers and educators had a dollar for every time a sex toy company’s social media manager stole our content, promoted harmful and offensive advertising, or made racist, misogynistic, or fat-shaming “jokes,” we’d have enough money to buy out the biggest unethical sex toy manufacturer and turn it into our own feminist body-safe sex toy haven. Social media can make or break a company, and you shouldn’t hand over the reigns to someone who doesn’t have a clear picture of the intersections of social justice and sexual freedom. Meaningful, educational content and thoughtful, respectful interactions with community members are some of the keys to a successful social media feed — no harmful “jokes” or creepy advertising needed.

  4. Stop fighting sex bloggers and educators on our rates. If 2016 was the year of companies asking for my unpaid labor, 2017 was the year of companies haggling me to drastically lower my rates. One company even tried to get me to agree to a rate of just one-tenth of what I quoted them for a sponsored blog post. This isn’t just laughable, it’s downright disrespectful — and it happens all the time. About one-third of all payment negotiations I had with companies this year ended with the company trying to finagle their way out of paying me a fair and decent rate. I know my work is worth it: I’m a smart consultant and a good writer. Sponsored links and blog posts on my site are valuable. Companies know this, too, or they wouldn’t come calling. In 2018, I don’t want to fight with a single company about my rates. My rates are my rates are my rates. Pay them or show yourself out.

  5. Give up marketing your sex toys “for women” and/or “for men.” Gendered marketing is archaic and it’s many years beyond time for sex toy companies to give it up. Sex toys don’t have sex or gender. (They don’t have sexual orientations, either.) People of any and no gender use sex toys, not just cis men and cis women. Gendering sex toys isn’t just inaccurate — it shows that your company has a wildly problematic and dangerous understanding of sex, gender, and bodies. Instead of assigning sex and gender to toys, just call them what they are: naming something a “vibrator” instead of a “female vibrator” never hurt anybody.

  6. Invest in sex bloggers to make your company the best it can be. You know how I said earlier that companies should hire social media managers with knowledge of the industry and an understanding of sexual freedom? That pretty much describes many sex bloggers to a T. We have a unique understanding of the sex toy industry and an incredibly strong, supportive network. Many of us work as consultants for sex toy companies looking to improve their products, marketing, and business standards. After seeing the inevitable weekly sex toy company marketing snafu or tweet gone awry, one of my first thoughts is: “Ah. Should have hired a sex blogger.” Sex bloggers aren’t a one-stop shop to fix all of your company’s problems — you need to take our advice into serious consideration and be open to make changes — but in many cases, we can help. We get the job done and we do it well.

  7. Stop ghosting people you’ve promised payment to. Imagine you scored a brand-new job, negotiated a salary, and had your start date for work. All that’s missing is your contract. And then… you never hear from your supposed employer again. This is exactly what it feels like when sex toy company reps drop off the face off the earth after negotiating payment for sponsored content, advertising, or consulting work with bloggers. I wish I could pay my gas and electric bills and buy my groceries with emails promising $150 in my PayPal account by Tuesday, but I’m not superhuman. Just be decent and let us know you’re moving on. It’ll be a blow to my finances spreadsheet, but not as detrimental to my livelihood as being kept in the dark about work and payment I was promised.

  8. Overhaul your entire company. Saved the biggest one for last, right? This goes miles and miles beyond any individual suggestion I’ve made in this post or last year’s commitment post. Put plainly, this is about getting your shit right and putting marginalized and oppressed people front and center. We deserve to be running your company, designing your products, and directing your marketing campaigns — not just included in these facets of your business for appearances or for the sake of diversity. True inclusion requires direct action. Keeping us on the sidelines is not acceptable. In 2018, I want to see more opportunities for people of color, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, immigrants, sex workers, fat people, and people of marginalized genders to run the show. I hope you do too.

If your company would like to discuss any of these points further, please email me to discuss my consulting fee.

Supporting Feminist Sex Shops Under the Trump Administration

The checkout desk at Sugar, a fab feminist sex shop in Baltimore, MD. (Photo credit: Jacq Jones, owner of Sugar!)

It’s been over a year since the 2016 presidential election. I imagine that night will be forever burned into my memory: hosting a a victory party, watching the food I’d made grow cold as results started to roll in, seeing my friends walk out the door as the night took a darker turn, lying on the floor screaming into my empty apartment in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

In January, we’ll reach the one-year anniversary of his inauguration. Since then, Trump has capitalized on having an official place in government to amplify white supremacy in the next chapter of our country’s violent history. He targets marginalized people and egregiously violates human rights at every possible opportunity through executive orders and collaborations with Republicans in Congress.

But the impact of Trump’s administration goes beyond sweeping policy changes, more than proclamations and pen strokes. The reality of his administration’s influence on the country (and the world) is much more insidious: whether Trump has legislated on an issue or not, he’s made his political views exceedingly clear. He’s a rapist and perpetrator of sexual violence. He’s queerphobic, transphobic, and misogynistic. He endlessly terrorizes Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. And he certainly has no regard for human rights and freedoms, sexual freedom included.

Even issues Trump hasn’t specifically, directly addressed are still in jeopardy thanks to the culture of shame and stigma he’s helped to strengthen — and one such issue is independent feminist sex shops. Trump has never issued an executive order about sex toys and he didn’t have anything in his campaign platform about decrying and regulating feminist sex shops, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t impacted by his administration.

It’s pretty easy to infer Trump’s views on feminist sex shops seeing how he wants nothing to do with advancing sexual freedom. Trump is vehemently anti-abortion, a proponent of abstinence-only sex education, and a rapist. He works to roll back (the very sparse) protections for queer and trans people in the United States. He views women as objects for his taking. Feminist sex shops are the antithesis of everything Trump stands for: places where autonomy, agency, consent, and comprehensive, trauma-informed, pleasure-focused sex education reign and marginalized people are affirmed, celebrated, and centered.

With this in mind, in August I issued a call for independent feminist sex shop owners and toy makers to let me know how the Trump administration has impacted their business — and their answers weren’t surprising. Across the board, both feminist sex shops (brick-and-mortar and online stores) and small manufacturers I talked to have seen an overall downturn in sales since the election.

Even if this isn’t true for every single shop and maker out there, it’s a concerning trend nonetheless. There has never been a more important time to support feminist sex shops — and here’s why.

Buying From Feminist Sex Shops Puts Our Ethics Where Our Wallets Are

By giving your business to feminist sex shops, you are almost always directly funding labor of marginalized and oppressed people. Independent, ethical shops are most often staffed and owned by people of marginalized genders, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, and sex workers. Many pay their staff a fair and living wage and prioritize workers’ rights.

If you want to financially support people most severely impacted by the Trump administration, spend your cash at a feminist sex shop. (The same goes for any small business owned by marginalized people!) For those of us in an economic position to do so, we can put our ethics where our wallets are and shop local, shop independent, and shop feminist.

Shopping at feminist sex toy stores also helps fund the sexual freedom movement. Too often, sex and pleasure are left out of mainstream calls for “resistance” — and many feminist shops are putting in the work to ensure sexual freedom has a place at the table. When we advocate for equity and social justice, we can’t forget sexual rights, too.

Supporting Feminist Sex Shops Keeps the Door to Sex Education Open

Whether brick-and-mortar or online, feminist sex shops are places of resistance and resilience, education and empowerment. Brick-and-mortar shops are sometimes the only place in a city to receive truly comprehensive, pleasure-focused sex education — sex education that supports sex workers, centers queer and trans communities, is kink-affirming, highly values sex toy and lube safety, celebrates all body types, and is informed by trauma. Even online shops often have blogs and share affirming, pleasure-focused content on social media, making sex education accessible to people no matter where they live.

Further, feminist sex shops endlessly support the sex blogging and education communities and the sex industry at large. I would not be the educator and writer I am without the independent feminist shops and companies that sustain and affirm me. My relationships with them are treasured and beautiful. By supporting these shops, you’re not only aiding their in-house education — you’re helping lift up a community of sex educators, writers, bloggers, and speakers across the world.

Feminist Sex Shops Give Us Space To Celebrate Our Pleasure

Feminist sex shops affirm that we deserve to focus on and celebrate our pleasure. They remind us that self-care isn’t selfish, orgasms aren’t frivolous, and sex and masturbation don’t have to be afterthoughts, even in dark political times. Trump and his administration are trying to violently rip our rights and our joy away from us at every chance, but we deserve to seek and feel pleasure.

It is our birthright, after all.

It’s not difficult to translate the “why” into “how”: there are numerous ways to support feminist sex shops, and they don’t all involve spending money. Feminist sex shops (and ethical indie toy makers and small companies) always deserve your business, but that’s not an option for everyone. In addition to spending your cash, you can write good reviews of feminist sex shops and apply for jobs with them. Tell your friends about the fabulous sex toy or lube or book or lingerie you just bought and encourage them to check out the shop, too.

If you’re an educator, consider reaching out to teach a class at your local shop — it’ll bring in revenue and a new customer base for the store and you get a cut of the profits, too. Show up for charity events your local shop may partner on. Boost their profile by including them in movements like Small Business Saturday and help bust the stigma that feminist sex shops are unlike any other small, independent business in your town.

Feminist sex shops do so much good for communities all across the country and for the sexual freedom movement in general. We can put in the work to support them, too.

For online shopping, check out my two favorite ethical, independent retailers: Vibrant and SheVibe. To find a brick-and-mortar feminist sex shop near you, take a look at JoEllen Notte’s Superhero Sex Shop List.

My Abuser Is Dead and I Still Don’t Forgive Him

Photo: me, on a deserted road in Nevada.

Content warning: trauma, abuse, death

I’m exhausted.

I wake up and feel exhausted. I read the news and feel exhausted. I go to work and feel exhausted. I try to write a blog post, or an email, or simply a tweet, and feel exhausted. I’m exhausted all over, from the tips of my painted fingernails to my skin that hurts to touch. I’m exhausted in my bones, deep and aching.

I’ve been reliving my trauma more days than not. Words come tumbling out of my mouth, jumbled, uncontrollable, mashed and bent, and the only cogent thing I can come up with sometimes is “I’m exhausted.” It’s true, and I am, and it still doesn’t feel like enough. This exhaustion is miles wide, unrelenting, unforgiving.

I’m exhausted from many things: being constantly reminded of the trauma I carry in my body, my social media feeds filled with survivors’ stories without any content warnings, not being able to escape this barrage of abusive men wherever I turn.

But right now, I’m most exhausted from the expectation that survivors should be thankful that abusers are starting to “apologize.” That we should be endlessly grateful. That we should see all of this as a step in the right direction. And to me, the worst one: that we should forgive them.

I’m exhausted. But I am not thankful or forgiving.


I have a complicated relationship with forgiveness. I do not forgive my abuser. I do not particularly care that he died after our relationship ended. But it wasn’t always this way, staunch and unforgiving. It was excruciating and confusing and frustrating for a very long time.

I was with my abuser for four years. When it ended, I knew something bad had happened to me, but I didn’t yet have the language to name it as abuse. Sex education had failed me: I only knew abuse as physical, not emotional, sexual, or financial, and only knew sexual assault as rape, not coercion. How could I know myself as an abuse survivor if my story didn’t fit the narrow narrative I’d been taught?

Fast forward a year and a half. I was in college, thriving in feminist and queer circles, beginning a deeper dive into social justice, autonomy, and consent. I was in a museum in Washington, D.C. when I got the call: frantic breaths through the phone. Car accident. I needed to call you first. Where are you? He’s dead. Are you coming home?

The hours, days, and weeks following that phone call are blurry. I only have disjointed, underdeveloped snapshots left now. Images of my body, tactile sensations: what my hands touched, who I gripped tightly, how it felt. My body, crumpled on the museum floor. My hands, glued to the steering wheel. My arms, wrapped around my mother as we cried. My fingertips, touching the casket. My feet, stepping lightly on the grass in the graveyard in the cool November air.

Only one thing from that time is still exceedingly clear: all the progress I made in that year and a half vanished. The small steps I had taken to heal were buried with his body. I’ll never know for sure, but I think I may have been close to saying “That was abuse.”

I felt exposed and vulnerable and scared.


Two years later, I actually said “That was abuse” for the first time. I was sitting in my therapist’s office, talking about how a new relationship I was in was drastically different from my old one.

In the few weeks I had been dating this new partner, repressed memories began flying to the surface: things my abuser did, things he said, what he would and wouldn’t let me do, how he manipulated me, the ways he used my queerness against me. Both with my therapist and on my own, I started to explore the trauma my body remembered, the collection of painful memories sitting on my chest like an invisible, menacing lump, frozen in time since my abuser’s death.

I began to realize that the healing progress I lost after my abuser’s death wasn’t simply because I was mourning. I was devastated and suffering because I was having a trauma reaction. I was immediately thrown back into what felt like our relationship, just without him. I saw his family and his friends, all of whom shared he “never stopped asking about me” even after we broke up, which to them was an indication that he still cared about me until he died. Everyone expected me to go the funeral, to the family gatherings, to go into his house and retrieve gifts I had once given him, to bring flowers to his grave, the list goes on and on. And I did. I did all of those things.

One repressed memory snowballed into a dozen repressed memories, and that massive snowball turned into an avalanche. Suddenly, I was dealing with this giant trauma monster, trying to figure out what was what: is this trauma from the abuse, or trauma from his death? Both? Neither? Something else entirely? How do I heal? Where do I even begin?

Very quickly, I grew cold toward any memory of my abuser. I decided that I do not forgive him, and while it’s not his fault he’s dead, I don’t care too much about that either. I don’t believe he deserves my forgiveness and I am simply unwilling to invest any emotional energy into getting a single bone in my body to think otherwise.


Survivors never need to forgive our abusers. We don’t need to accept any apology, no matter what others think about its strength or veracity. We don’t need to be thankful or grateful or appreciative. We can be as angry and disgusted and unforgiving as we want to be.

Not forgiving my abuser is simply not forgiving my abuser. There’s no hidden meaning here. I’m not stuck, I don’t “need help,” I’m not holding onto a mountain-sized amount of resentment—all things people have said to me when I told them I didn’t forgive my abuser. (If you’re stuck, needing help, or holding onto resentment, that’s okay too. Everyone’s path is different.) I’ve done nothing wrong. My abuser is the one who did something wrong.

Healing from trauma and abuse is not one-size-fits-all. Forgiveness can absolutely be an important part of some people’s healing journey. It’s simply not part of mine, and it’s certainly not required.

I am exhausted. I am unforgiving. I am a survivor. My journey is valid.

If you are a survivor, you are not alone. Please know that you are loved and supported. You matter because you are here in this world, and you matter to me.

How Social Media is Silencing the Sex Industry

Four of the culprits: Patreon, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Every morning, I expect to wake up to news that yet another social media platform is demanding that content creators in the sex industry censor ourselves and our work to their liking.

Whether it’s the creation of a new policy, like the still-murky Patreon guidelines that affect “adult” accounts, especially porn performers and producers, or the enforcement of an existing one, like Facebook ads denying any kind of paid promotion for posts that have to do with sex (even educational events), at this point I expect social media corporations to fight me and my community at every turn.

This isn’t an exaggeration. The truth is that content creators in the sex industry — writers, educators, performers, producers, bloggers, podcasters, photographers, etc. — have no supportive social media platforms to turn to any longer. And the platforms we do utilize, like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Patreon, are becoming more hostile every day.

Chip by Chip, Block by Block…

Comparatively speaking, this social media silencing is happening slowly. It’s not like these platforms decided on some all-at-once, coordinated effort: “Okay, on Tuesday, September 19, 2017, at 1:30 PM Eastern time, we’re rolling out new guidelines and regulations on adult content. Everyone who talks about sex will be banned forever. Go team!”

What’s actually happening is much, much more insidious than that.

This is about the seemingly small things, the things that really aren’t small at all, that add up over time. A Patreon policies change here. A minor adjustment to Twitter Terms of Service there. Yet another sex educator unable to promote their event on Facebook in that corner. Instagram deleting user accounts because of pictures of dildos and strap-ons in another corner. Twitter shadowbans here, there, and everywhere. Facebook’s “real name” sweep that weeded out, and in some cases even outed, sex educators and bloggers doing work under a non-legal name. The list goes on.

Looking at these examples individually, it could be easy to explain them away: “Ah, one new guideline isn’t too bad.” “That website sucked anyway!” “Hey, at least you’ve still got (insert other social media platform here), right?”

Wrong. We don’t have that other social media platform anymore — there’s some kind of stigmatizing, anti-sex policy in all of them. And the combined effect of all of those policies is staggering.

We Shouldn’t Need to Start from Scratch

Sometimes I daydream about creating a new adult content utopia where we’re free to share our work without restriction — but we shouldn’t be forced to start over. We shouldn’t be pushed out.

I am all for tearing down oppressive, capitalistic, sex-shaming structures and systems in favor of creating a better world. However, the heart of the matter here is that we shouldn’t have to create something new. We need our current social media platforms to work for and with us, to drop the stigma, to recognize that working in the sex industry is just as valid as any other career, to allow us to promote beyond our networks to reach new people.

Many of us have spent years crafting our brands and amassing online followings. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Patreon are where our followers, listeners, and readers are. To start from scratch and rebuild our audiences would be an exhausting, massive expenditure of time and skilled labor that most of us need to put towards making money and surviving.

What’s more, our work deserves to be seen on popular, mainstream platforms. We should be front and center, affirmed and celebrated for the life-changing work our community does every day.

This Is How Censorship Works, Plain and Simple

The truth of what social media corporations are doing to people in the sex industry is terrifying.  Platforms are effectively pushing adult content creators out, and that should worry everyone, no matter what field you’re in.

We’re literally being punished for talking about our work. Punished for choosing a career in sex education, sex blogging, sex work. Punished for trying to promote our work like anyone else in any other career field is allowed to do. Punished for showing our bodies. Punished for existing.

This doesn’t just affect us as content creators — it also renders our work invisible to new people. Sex-related work, be it education, blogging, vlogging, podcasts, porn, photography, you name it, benefits everyone. When we’re shuttered out from being able to share and promote our work, we can’t reach people who may need it.

This is not a small thing. This shouldn’t be business as usual. This is silencing, this is censorship, and it calls for intense pushback. We deserve much better than this.

It’s more important than ever to support your favorite sex-related content creators. If you’re able, considering supporting us financially. You can also participate in Share Our Shit Saturday to get the word out about posts you loved, appreciated, or resonated with each week.

You can support me financially here.

A Room of One’s Bone: Paddles, Dildos, and a Wine Rack

Last month, my long-distance sweetie and I finally closed the gap! After months of traveling back and forth between North Carolina and Massachusetts, we were both thrilled to start planning what our home would look like. Gone were the days of solo apartments, chatting folks up on dating sites like Tinder or localbangs.com/us/local-fuck, and cooking for one: we were going all-in and committing to each other, a new city (for me), and creating a home together… and what sex blogger’s new home would be complete without a freshly designed sex toy nook?

When we officially decided to move in together, one of the first things my partner and I discussed was what to do with all of our sex toys. I housed the bulk of our collection, but my partner had some too — so we revisited our sex toy inventory and came up with ideas for what to leave in North Carolina, what to get and how to design our new space, and how we wanted to build our collection out in the future.

What We Trashed

I’m not exactly known among my friends and family for being the most organized person in the universe, so I knew diving into my toybox (more like my walk-in closet, where my toys were housed haphazardly in plastic bins with even more strewn across the shelves and on the floor) would be a daunting dask.

In my three moves since becoming a sex blogger, I hadn’t tossed anything out except the sweaty jelly rabbit vibrator I bought when I was a sophomore in college and the LELO toys I destroyed when their company descended into Hell. I still had all of the strange, shitty toys I received when I first started sex toy reviewing, the weak wand vibrators I tested for my #WandQueen series, and a pile of dildos I only touched once and never looked at again.

So… what did we say goodbye to? My goddess, so many things. SO. MANY. THINGS. Every time I thought I was done combing through my closet, I’d find a bullet vibrator buried in a pile of clothes, an old bottle of lube hiding on my top shelf, or a rock-hard dildo under my foot. (Of course the dildos I tripped over were glass or single-density silicone. Squishy dildos, why couldn’t you have saved me in my time of need? I thought we were friends.)

All in all, I got rid of over half of my sex toys — enough to fill a double-bagged garbage bag. Do I miss any of ‘em? Not a one!

What We Treasure

With my sex toy closet cleaned up and the rest of my belongings packed into my car, I began the trek from North Carolina to Massachusetts. I ended up keeping enough toys to fill a small hard-shell suitcase, with vibrators and dildos on one side and strap-on harnesses, restraints, impact toys, and lube on the other. I kept my essential favorites, as well as a collection of sex toys I don’t always use, but keep around for their aesthetics, uniqueness, or sentimental value.

Of course, I brought all the toys and kinky implements I could never bear to part with: the JimmyJane Iconic Wand, PalmPower Wand, Vixen VixSkin Mustang, New York Toy Collective Shilo, Twisted Monk rope, a couple of generic riding crops, and our SpareParts Joque Harness, to name a few. Even though I’ve amassed quite the collection over the years, these toys have been classic favorites since the beginning!

And what’s the point of cleaning out your toybox if you don’t make room for more? One of the most exciting parts of paring down our collection is the room that left for new toys. In the past two months, we’ve accumulated quite a few new bondage and impact toys: namely, our purchases from indie impact implement maker LVXSupply, which are proudly displayed on our wall. We’re also trying our hand at vegan bondage and hogties, bulldog chest harnesses, and spreader bars! Alllll the kinky things.

What We Display

One of my favorite parts about our new home is our sex toy nook. We knew we wanted a fun, creative, artistic place to house and display our sex toys, and we made it happen! There are two main components of our nook: the wall and a set of drawers. It’s adjacent to our bed, which makes it easy to grab a paddle off the wall, a wand off the wine rack, or a dildo, harness, and lube from the drawers during sex. 

On the wall, we display some of our favorite wands in a wine rack (inspired by fellow wand queen JoEllen Notte) and hang the impact toys we use most often, with paddles on one side and riding crops and canes on the other. On top of our drawers, we have a turntable with a variety of handcuffs, rope, and other restraints. Inside the drawers, we keep our top toys — the vibrators, dildos, lube, and harnesses we use often and want quick access to. Under the bed, we have a large plastic bin filled with the rest of our toys.

In the future, we plan on adding kinky art, strings of lights, and decorative flowers to the space. I imagine it’ll be dynamic and ever-evolving… just like sexuality!

What’s to Come

When we first started dating, my partner and I made a sex toy wish list. As you can see, we’ve started checking things off that list, but there are still so many toys we’d love to try! So what’s next for us and our sex toy nook?

New York Toy Collective’s Carter has been on the top of our wishlist for months — I know that’ll be the next dildo we buy. I’m also really into Wild Wolf Leatherwork’s beautiful, body-positive, inclusive designs, and would love to place an order with them for a body harness in the near future. I’m excited to keep discovering new artists and sex toy makers and support small, ethical, independent businesses in the sex industry. And hey, if our sex toy nook gets too crowded…  we’ll just need a whole room!

This post was written in conjunction with other bloggers who moved at the same time I did! For more, read Kate Sloan’s post on the sex toys she brought with her when she moved. (Also, many thanks to Kate for inspiring this post title!)

This post was sponsored. As always, all writing and opinions are my own.

Pleasure as Resistance

Image of Magic Wand and Doxy that reads "These machines kill fascists"
Truth.

Almost three years ago, I sat in a conference room and heard the words “pleasure is your birthright” for the first time. I was in a daylong sexuality institute at an LGBTQ+ conference, surrounded by advocates, activists, and educators who were seamlessly weaving sexual freedom into social justice.

Those words stuck with me, both as someone who had had a lot of sex but little pleasure, and as a budding sex blogger (even though I didn’t know it at the time). I can’t find my notes from that talk anymore, but the overarching principles remain: we have a human right to feel pleasure. Our pleasure is radical. Our pleasure is revolutionary.

Since that conference three years ago, I learned something else: pleasure is not only radical and revolutionary. Pleasure is a tool of resistance.


For much of this calendar year, it’s been hard for me to access pleasure as readily as I had before. I don’t masturbate as much as I used to, and when I do, it’s often to relieve pressure building in my body, be it emotional or physical. It’s more out of obligation, habit, or routine than desire to feel pleasure; always quick and with the same vibrator. Underwear off, lift dress up, grab some lube, turn on the wand, come, grab some more lube, come again, wand off, clean up, underwear on, dress smoothed back down. Repeat only when needed, not wanted. It’s like my orgasms come straight from the directions on the back of a goddamn medicine bottle.

I’ve found all forms of pleasure harder to access recently, not just sexual pleasure. Blogging brings me pleasure, too, just like reading and exploring new places and sitting outside on a sunny day do. But any scroll through my archives comparing my blogging activity pre-January and post-January will tell you something’s up (and I’m not the only one).

In this era of Trump and his white supremacist, misogynist, queer-and-transphobic companions, pleasure feels far away, even inaccessible at times — and not just because my mental health is suffering. There’s an incredible amount of pressure in activist culture to keep going, going, going until you inevitably burn out (or worse). And going, going, going means there’s rarely any time for desperately needed relaxation or leisure or pleasure.

I firmly, wholeheartedly believe we must do all we can to resist and persist in this political moment. What we are dealing with isn’t new—the United States was founded on white supremacy. Systemic oppression of marginalized people is written into our history at every single turn. To think the Trump administration’s human rights violations are “out of the ordinary” given the violent, genocidal history of this country would be a mistake. This is a long-haul fight, and if we’re going to not only survive, but thrive, we must allow ourselves to practice self-care and see pleasure as resistance.


Since Trump’s inauguration, “resist” and “resistance” have become wildly common when talking about political dissent, and with them, the expectation that “to resist” means doing something actionable that takes a concrete step towards liberation — calling your representatives, attending and organizing protests, taking down fascists in the street. Whether or not you prioritize working within government channels as a path to liberation (I don’t), people’s methods of resistance come in many forms.

What I do see missing from the a large part of the resistance “movement” is an affirmation of sex and pleasure as a path to liberation. For marginalized people, pleasure is actionable. Pleasure is resistance. Pleasure is a concrete step towards liberation: our liberation.

Claiming our bodies as our own and allowing ourselves to seek and feel pleasure in the face of violence and oppression is radical. Pleasure flies in the face of our oppressors — it is a direct “fuck you” to the people who want us to stay silent, to stay (politically) submissive, to be broken down slowly day after day by the hatred and violence they direct our way.

As a queer femme, pleasure as resistance is especially poignant for me. Queer intimacy is revolutionary. Joyfully reveling in ourselves, each other, and our pleasure is revolutionary. We’re not “supposed to” talk about our pleasure, much less show it or take pride in its beauty. By claiming our pleasure as our own, we’re subverting norms and resisting with the very things we were taught to hate about ourselves.

For marginalized people, our pleasure shouts “I see your violence, but you do not get to take THIS from me. My pleasure is mine, and mine alone. I will revel in it, defying your crusade to strip me of any joy. I am in charge now.”

No matter the political landscape, we all deserve to feel joy, experience pleasure, and take time for ourselves — something I would obviously do well to remember, too. We are allowed to take comfort in our bodies, in each other, in our communities. Pleasure is our birthright.

For more on sex and sexuality under the Trump administration, check out “Advocating for Sex Toys in the Age of Trump”. For more on self-care, check out “Surviving the Election: Self-Care Methods that Don’t Require Access to Money”.

When A Company Fucks Up Beyond Belief: Screaming (N)O

Pictured: Me, annoyed at companies that keep fucking up. Seriously, aren’t y’all tired?

Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit is a safe haven for people working in the sex industry. No matter our level of anonymity – fully out, semi-open, or completely anonymous – we know we’re among friends. In private hotel rooms and conference session rooms alike, we feel empowered and safe to share details about ourselves with the understanding that that information will remain confidential. Many of us don’t use our full legal names on our name badges. Some of us wear lanyards that signal we can’t have our pictures taken. We all assume that confidentiality will extend to all areas of our presence and likeness at the conference.

This year, Screaming O broke that confidentiality.

Earlier today, Screaming O posted two videos of the “body safe” session at this year’s Sexual Freedom Summit to their YouTube, as well as sent press releases to various industry magazines and websites with links to the videos. The first video was a short, 2-minute promotional video featuring the session’s panelists. The second was an hour and a half long recording of the entire session – including the question and answer period at the end, which featured many attendees’ voices.

There are a lot of problems to dissect here. First, the panel was a garbage fire. Plain and simple. Ruby Goodnight wrote an excellent summary of it here.  Second, Screaming O used footage from the panel as PR content. Some attendees were aware that panelists had worked with Screaming O, but they were never listed as a “sponsor” of the session.

What’s more, it appears that the panelists had no knowledge of Screaming O’s press release, claims of sponsorship, or their intentions to release the full, unedited footage from the panel.

It’s obvious there are myriad concerns about the content of the panel itself, as well as how the panel is being used as official company PR, but the most disturbing thing about all of this is the gross ethical violation Screaming O committed when they recorded, uploaded, and shared content of the full session.

We were never alerted to the fact that Screaming O was recording the panel with the intent to publish it online later. All of this was done without our knowledge or consent. While this isn’t illegal in Virginia, it is wrong, and further, it violates Woodhull’s policy on filming workshops.

Screaming O’s decision to post a recording of the body safe panel is a MASSIVE consent and safety violation. Anonymity extends to people’s voices. People’s voices in the video are identifiable – some who spoke up, like myself, shared their names or their places of work, all under the guise of confidentiality. This was supposed to be a safer space among colleagues in the sexual freedom movement, specifically among people who care about sex toy safety, and Screaming O destroyed that.

Posting recordings without consent can endanger people’s personal safety, jobs and economic security, and families and children. Screaming O jeopardized these things for people all along the anonymity scale. Even for people who wore a lanyard signaling it was okay to be depicted in photos, that doesn’t mean it was okay for our voices to be recorded and shared without our consent. As mentioned in Woodhull’s statement on this issue, in order for Screaming O to ethically film and share recording of the panel, ALL panel attendees would have to be notified of the recording, sign a release form, and be willing to be captured on film and audio. None of this happened.

What Screaming O did is egregious. Their actions could have seriously endangered the people who spoke during the panel’s question and answer session, and they violated the consent of every single person in attendance. This behavior has no place in the sex toy industry and no place in a conference geared towards people invested in social justice and liberation.

An important note: Screaming O’s actions are in no way the fault of Woodhull or their Sexual Freedom Summit. They are tireless supporters of bloggers and other Summit attendees, and immediately released a statement condemning Screaming O’s behavior as soon as the recording was released. I still fully support Woodhull and look forward to attending the conference in the future.