Pay Me or Get Out of My Inbox

This post started, as so many do, with a tweet. For once, it wasn’t a tweet from a company behaving badly. It was one of mine, ruminating on a topic bloggers bring up so often but receive so little justice on: getting paid for our work.

I feel like I’m always talking about this. I feel like bloggers and writers in general are always talking about this. I even went back through my blog archive to make sure I hadn’t written this post before.

Just so we’re clear, I’m exhausted of talking about this. I don’t want to be writing this blog post. I shouldn’t have to be writing this blog post, but the onslaught of companies who reach out asking for bloggers’ unpaid labor only seems to be getting worse, so here we are.

To demonstrate the sheer volume of these requests, I asked my sex blogging buddies to send me the number of unpaid work solicitations they received last month. In just November 2016, a small sample of 6 sex bloggers (both new bloggers and sex blogging veterans) received 66 emails asking for unpaid work.

This is unacceptable. These 66 requests were for product reviews from companies that don’t have affiliate programs, other types of blog posts such as personal essays and articles, advertisements to be placed on our blogs, and social media promotion of sales and new products. Basically, if a company asks a blogger to do something and they’re not paying us for it, guess what? That’s unpaid work.

(To clarify a point that’s received backlash in the past: yes, companies should either 1) pay bloggers to review their products, or 2) have a robust affiliate program that gives bloggers a chance to earn decent money. Sex toys do not pay the bills. It took me almost a year to fully grasp this concept, and I used to accept products for review left and right without compensation or an affiliate program. Now I don’t.)

Sex bloggers’ work is not frivolous, easy, or “just for fun”. For some, blogging is their full-time job. (And yes, asking us what we “really do” is insulting.) For others, it’s a part-time job, or a beloved side project in addition to a career in a different field. No matter where a sex blogger lands on the working spectrum, our blogs are serious business endeavors that we pour much of our time, energy, and passion into.

On average, it takes me between 3 and 12 hours to complete a blog post from inception to completion. This includes communicating with companies, researching, writing and editing the post, taking and editing photos, and social media promotion. Outside of writing blog posts, I spend a great deal of time curating my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. For many bloggers, social media is the way we connect with our audience, and it’s an important part of the job that can’t be overlooked.

Blogging is legitimate work. To stop companies from exploiting bloggers, I think it’s worth exploring why they ask for free content. While some companies are just greedy and want to steamroll bloggers, I think there’s another major factor at play here, too.

Compared to other industries and blogging niches, the sex toy industry and sex blogging community are relatively small and tight-knit. The most common explanation I get when I ask companies why they’re soliciting unpaid labor is “We’re new, small, and don’t yet have an advertising budget, but we need the exposure.”

It’s fine to be a new company – we all start somewhere. What isn’t fine is thinking that because we’re in the same community, bloggers owe companies some type of favor. If you are not financially secure enough to pay bloggers, don’t reach out to us. Seriously, don’t.

Paying people for their labor shouldn’t have to be a revolutionary thing. If you think bloggers’ work is good enough for you to want to partner with us, pay us. It’s truly that simple. There’s nothing secretive about this and there’s no hidden detour to get around it. This is serious. This is about equity, ethics, and economic justice.

I’m tired of debating my worth email after email after email. I’m tired of companies trying to cut my sponsored post and advertising rates in half. I’m tired of hearing about the latest work solicitation email from fellow sex bloggers, knowing full well I’ll see the same email when I open my inbox. I’m tired of writing about this.

From now on, my reply to these companies is simple: pay me or get out of my inbox. Bloggers are mighty. If you haven’t noticed that, you might not be paying attention. We deserve to be paid for our work. We are worth it.

Are you a sex blogger? Want to join an unpaid work request tracking project in 2017? DM me or email me.

Are you a company? Want to talk about my rates? Email me. Want me to write for you without pay? Go away.

Want to hire a blogger, but think I may not be the best fit for your brand? Great, I’ve made this easy for you. Please refer to the blogroll to your right. Each blogger on my list is brilliant, talented, and worth your time and money.

Review: We-Vibe Sync

I haven’t been reviewing many toys lately, but when Vibrant reached out to me and offered the We-Vibe Sync for review, I couldn’t resist! Thanks, Vibrant!

And Vulvas ‘Round the World Rejoiced: You Can Customize This Thing!

The Sync is a drastic departure from previous iterations of the We-Vibe, which featured only “loose fit” and “snug fit” models. These two polar opposites left no room for people in the middle, which meant that there was really no guarantee that the We-Vibe would fit any given person’s anatomy. Spending over one hundred dollars on a toy that might not work for your body isn’t exactly ideal, especially when there weren’t any options to adjust the toy to fit your needs.

With the Sync, it’s clear that We-Vibe took the above concerns into consideration. They produced a truly innovative product: the Sync has two hinges that adjust the shape of the toy, meaning it can fit a huge range of bodies. There is one hinge in the center of the Sync (between the internal and external arms), and one in the internal arm. Once you set the hinges where you want them to be, they stay there. You can bend the Sync all  you want, and the shape you’ve chosen holds in place.

This awesome innovation allows for a fully customizable sex toy – you get to pick the shape that works best for you and your anatomy. Of course, I can’t 100% guarantee this will fit your own anatomy, because I do not have your anatomy, but I can guarantee that the possibilities are essentially endless with the Sync. If you’re skeptical (and, let’s real, I would be too), see my video below!

The Way To My Heart is Through We-Vibe’s App… and Sex Toy Storage?
Screenshots of the We-Connect app (click to enlarge)

The Sync is my first hands-free, device-connected sex toy. I wasn’t sure if I would like using an app with it, especially since I’m not used to being glued to technology while masturbating, but I’m happy to say We-Vibe’s app totally optimized my experience with the Sync!

The “We-Connect” app is well-designed, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to use… and I’m hooked. In the app, you can cycle through various vibration modes (both steady vibration and patterns), adjust speeds for both the external and internal arms, and create your own patterns.

I’m seriously ready to start a petition for every sex toy company I love to develop similar apps for their products. I much prefer using the app instead of the remote that comes with the Sync, but it’s imperative to note that the app does not work for every body, especially larger bodies. (More on this in the Accessibility section below.)

The We-Vibe Sync’s storage and charging case (click to enlarge)

There’s another outstanding feature worth mentioning about the Sync: its case, which doubles as a charging unit. I never put a big emphasis on sex toy storage in reviews, but We-Vibe deserves a round of applause for this one! The Sync’s case is excellent for people who need discreet storage. It also travels quite well – I took the Sync on a recent overnight trip and all I had to do was dock the toy and remote, throw the charging cord in the case, and toss it in my duffel bag.

Okay, But Did I Like It?

Well, that’s a complicated question. I was impressed by the Sync’s external motor when I first turned it on, which is substantially more powerful than previous We-Vibe models. (The internal motor is nothing to write home about, which isn’t too surprising.) Being the power queen that I am, it takes a lot for a vibrator motor to impress me, so I had high expectations for the Sync… but first impressions aren’t everything, and the Sync didn’t work for my body for a number of reasons.

There are three important things to know about my masturbation preferences: 1) I am a power queen, 2) I like to move vibrators around during use, and 3) I am not a girth enthusiast. Because of this combination, I wasn’t able to reach orgasm with the Sync. The external motor is strong, but since this is more of a stationary vibrator, moving it around kind of defeated the purpose of the Sync entirely. (One more power level would have been nice, too.) I also tried using the Sync paired with a dildo, but it was much too painful. If I couldn’t handle a smaller-sized dildo with this toy, I definitely could not have handled penetrative sex. (Fingers alone might be fine, though.)

My reasons for not liking the Sync have nothing to do with its design – given that this is a hands-free, “couples” toy, they aren’t too many ways to get around it being a stationary vibrator or one that’s meant to be used with penetration. This is just about my personal preferences, and I appreciated the opportunity to play around with the We-Connect app and all the different shapes the Sync can take on. I still think the Sync is a smart, innovative toy that could be great for some folks!

My Accessibility Concerns with the Sync

The Sync has some awesome features, but it’s not exactly the most accessible sex toy on the market. It’s technically a “hands-free” toy, but you still need to be able to adjust the hinges to fit your body before using it, which makes it not so hands-free after all. If you have mobility or joint issues, the Sync will probably be difficult for you to use.

The other concern I have with the Sync is accessibility for fat bodies. The We-Vibe Connect app connects to the Sync via Bluetooth, which doesn’t always work for fat folks or folks with fleshy labia. Both The Frisky Fairy and Dangerous Lilly have reported on this, and it’s an important thing to keep in mind before you shell out $199 for the Sync.

The Verdict

I feel comfortable recommending the Sync as long as you know what your preferences and needs are: do you need a massive amount of power? do you have limited mobility? do you need to move your toy around to reach orgasm? do you have trouble taking more girth than what you’re used to? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, the Sync might not be the best option for you.

“Couples” vibrators are never going to be perfect, but if you’re looking for one or if you’re looking for hands-free solo play and don’t have any problems with the above limitations, the Sync could be a good option for you! It’s certainly the only vibrator specifically designated as a “couples” toy for use during penetrative sex that I would recommend.

Vibrant generously provided me with the We-Vibe Sync in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. Vibrant is my newest affiliate and an excellent ethical company, and they absolutely deserve your business! Take a look at their selection here.

The Power of Spooky Femme

Content warning: abuse.

One week ago, I cut my hair for the first time in two and a half years. I also dyed it jet black.

For my friends and family, the shoulder-length chop and color change may seem like a massive departure from my signature waist-length dark brown hair. But for me, my new hair feels like coming home.

• • •

If you follow me on Twitter or read my blog regularly, you’ve undoubtedly seen me talk about #SpookyFemme. I created #SpookyFemme to describe my aesthetic: all black clothing; deep red lipstick, and dark hair. My friend Kate calls this look “severe”, which I really love.

Being seen as severe, spooky, dark, and even unapproachable makes me feel good and powerful. Spooky femme is so much more than what you visually see from the outside: my femme identity comes from an internal power that is inherently tied to my queerness.

I love my spooky femme look, but I had a nagging feeling that it was incomplete. I wear all black every day. My nails are long and painted black with a matte overcoat. My dark lipstick is my trademark. So what was missing?

I had been considering a big hair chop for a while. On a whim, I thought “what if I also dyed it black?” Immediately, an image of me wearing all black with dark lipstick and black hair popped into my mind, and it clicked: spooky femme means so much to me and makes me feel so powerful because it’s a reclamation of my younger self, the self that I halted for almost ten years because my abuser forced me to.

• • •

When I was thirteen, I dyed my hair black and I adored it. I was your typical young goth teenager –  I loved wearing all black, and Tripp pants and heavy metal band tees peppered my closet – but the very beginnings of my budding spooky femmeness went deeper than that, as they continue to do now. What everyone assumed was just a phase wasn’t a phase for me. Somewhere inside of me, a small voice said “this is right”.

Until it wasn’t.

I also started dating my abuser when I was thirteen. A couple of months into our relationship, he started telling me what I was and was not allowed to wear (which later evolved into what I was and was not allowed to eat, and who I was and was not allowed to spend my time with… the list goes on). He demanded that I stop wearing the clothes I loved to wear, and promised he would never talk to me or even acknowledge my presence at school if I didn’t change my look.

I was crushed and confused. I loved my goth aesthetic, but I was just emerging out of years of being bullied horribly, and I knew what was going to happen at school if my abuser and his friends ever saw me wearing my beloved dark clothes again. I was already in the throes of an abusive relationship, and I had no idea.

I traded my Tripp pants for floral sundresses, let my band tees collect dust in the back of my closet, put light brown highlights in my hair, and packed my goth dreams away with a bruised heart.

• • •

Last fall, five years after my relationship with my abuser ended, #SpookyFemme was born. In an off-hand comment, I used the term to describe my look in the first picture in the collage above.

After a few years of bouncing between style phases, I had begun to wear a lot of black again. I knew “goth” didn’t feel like a perfect fit anymore, but “spooky” did – it combines severe glamour with my unyielding take-no-shit attitude. The small voice inside of me that said “this is right” when I was thirteen came roaring back.

• • •

One week ago, I looked in the mirror and felt more powerful than I have in ten years. My clothes are mine. My body is mine. My hair is mine.

My life is mine, and I will continue to reclaim it.

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.

Black Friday & Cyber Monday Sex Toy Roundup!

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If you’ve been thinking about getting yourself a brand-spankin’-new sex toy, now is the time!

I have a lot of feelings about Black Friday, worker exploitation, and capitalism, so I’m making an explicit commitment to only promoting ethical and equitable sex toy companies and retailers. You can shop here knowing that your toys are coming from good people who treat their employees fairly.

SheVibe

SheVibe is having a progressive sale you’ll definitely want to get in on!
From 11/23 to 11/28, Shevibe is offering 10% off $85 or more with code KRINGLE10, 15% off $100 or more with code KRINGLE15, and 20% off $125 or more with code KRINGLE20!

Can’t decide what to get? Allow me to make a few suggestions!

And finally, if you love Fun Factory toys, you’re in luck! SheVibe is running a special Fun Factory gift offer where all purchases of Fun Factory products totaling $109.99 or more (after discounts) will receive a free toy box! User offer code TOYBOX to redeem your gift (and yes, you can stack that code on top of your discount code)!

Tantus

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Tantus is having a MASSIVE 40% off everything sale!
From 12 AM PST on 11/24 to 11:59 PST on 11/28, everything (except for the few exceptions noted above) is 40% off at Tantus with code BLACKFRIDAY.

Overwhelmed by their amazing selection? I have some ideas:

  • If you’re looking for a smaller-sized, squishy dildo, you definitely need the Pack ‘n Play No. 2 in your life. This is one of my top three favorite dildos, and trust me, it’s worth the investment!
  • In search of a wand vibrator, but not sure if you’re ready for the intense power of some plug-in wands? Check out the Rumble, Tantus’ very own wand!
  • Did you know Tantus makes bondage rope now? Well, they do, and you should certainly have a look at their selection!
Twisted Monk

Twisted Monk doesn’t have any specific Black Friday sales, but you should absolutely do yourself a favor and check out their product selection anyway.
I just received my first review product from Twisted Monk, and I am incredibly impressed with the quality of their rope and they care they put into their business.

New to rope and not sure what to get? I’m new too, so let me help ya out!

  • The More Than Curious Kit is a great choice for beginners who want room to grow. If you’re just starting out and trying to decide between the Curiosity Kit and the More Than Curious Kit, go with More Than Curious – it’s a great mid-level pack! This is the kit I chose, after all!
  • Into all things glitter and sparkly? Make sure to add some Hand-Spun Sparkle Bamboo Rope to your order!
  • If you’re interested in wax play, check out their Curiosity Candles! They just launched a couple of weeks ago and are a great way to explore both light uses and heavier scenes. Make sure you add the book option to your order to make the most out of your new candles!
Peepshow Toys

Peepshow Toys is also having a progressive sale you won’t want to miss!
From 11/24 to 11/28, Peepshow Toys is offering 15% off $75 or more with code FIVEDAY15, 20% off $100 or more with code FIVEDAY20, and 25% off $150 or more with code FIVEDAY25!

Peepshow Toys is one of my oldest affiliates, and I’ve loved seeing their selection grow! If you’re having a hard time picking a toy, here are some tried-and-true favorites:

By doing your shopping through these links, you’re helping me out, too! Because these stores are my affiliates, I get a small percentage of each sale made (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Formidable Femme!

For more Black Friday updates throughout the holiday weekend, be sure to follow me on Twitter!

Surviving the Election: Self-Care Methods that Don’t Require Access to Money

This writing originally appeared as a series of tweets, then as a Medium post. Now I’m reposting it here, on my personal blog. The tweets and Medium post received an incredible amount of feedback – it’s clear that folks are seeking community, healing, and survival methods at this time, and I wanted to make sure this list of self-care tips was accessible to everyone visiting my blog itself for years to come.

I love the emphasis on self-care floating around the internet right now in the wake of the election. I also want to elevate self-care methods that don’t require access to money.

If you are able to treat yourself, great, but not everyone can do that. (I suggest donating to progressive organizations if you do have money.)

Here are some self-care ideas that don’t revolve around money and capitalism:
  • First and foremost, drink a glass of water! Your body needs it.
  • If you are able, and you feel safe to, take a walk. Whether it’s around your town or your apartment complex, it may feel good to move your body.
  • If you are not able to go for a walk or go outside, open a few windows in your home or sit on your deck. The fresh air will feel good.
  • Visit your local animal shelter or sanctuary. The animals will thank you, and you can take comfort in spending time with new fuzzy friends.
  • Pick up your most favorite book and begin it again. Returning to something you love could help to ground you.
  • If you have candles in your home, burn a few. Close your eyes, let the scents mingle together, and take some deep, calming breaths.
  • Right before going to sleep, wash your sheets, take them out of the dryer still hot, and make your bed. Let the warmth envelop your body.
  • If you have the ingredients, bake your favorite dessert. Keeping your hands busy might soothe the anguish of “what can I do now?”
  • If you are unable to get out of bed, try doing something that doesn’t require much bodily movement: reading, writing, watching a movie.
  • If you are able to and want to, masturbate. It might help relieve stress. You are allowed to focus on your pleasure. You deserve pleasure.
  • Take a hot shower. If washing your body or hair feels like too much, that’s okay. Just let the water wash over you.
  • Create something, even if just for yourself. We need your creative energies in this world. Resistance through creativity is radical.
Please, please take care of yourself in this traumatic time. The world needs you in it. You are important, and I care about you.

Do you have any self-care methods you love that don’t revolve around money and capitalism? Please do share them in the comments.

For more on self-care in the wake of the election, check out posts from fellow sex bloggers Girly Juice and The Deaf Queer.