Review of Funkit’s Crista

Walking the halls of the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center on a warm Thursday in August, full of curiosity, anxiety, anticipating the cusping Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit about to break into full swing all around me, I found myself clinging, quite often literally, to the familiar comforts of display tables and free samples.  I hoped to strike up conversations, but knew if promoters were busy or engaged in other business I still had the safety net of looking at, and with permission, handling the goodies on each table.  I had the pleasure of grabbing some lube sachets, stickers, free mints (thank god, my blood sugar was so low from not eating), and even finally testing the amazing strength of Doxy’s line. Suddenly a glimmer of light caught something, which my eyes darted immediately to like a fish to the lure. Clear sex toys, with ribbons and swirls of color inside of them, wooden paddles with rainbow gradients that put Microsoft Word Art to shame.

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I had seen semi-translucent silicone with Tantus’s Flurry and Cush, and had seen some of Godemiche’s decorative pours, but never a company that used clear silicone as their primary medium to display the burst of color inside. (Lilly has a great post on clear silicone here).  No one was sitting at the table at the time, so I didn’t dare touch them, just admire them really, really closely. Later on during the evening Sex Geek Salon hosted by JoEllen Notte, I was hanging out my dear friend Christoph who had just led an amazing workshop earlier in the day called “From Stonewall to Nursing Homes: What’s It Like to be back in the closet after so many years?” (It was SO good). We were joined by a bubbly intellectual fellow with a “Peg the Patriarchy” shirt and some rockin’ sideburns and spent our evening playing a bunch of games, coloring, and having nerdy conversations.  Though never formally introduced, I kept seeing this gentleman workshop after workshop, socializing with all different people. I don’t know if it was the whir of everything around me, but it wasn’t until day two where I realized this was Kenton, the creator of Funkit Toys, the brain and artist of all those gorgeous silicone pours I had been gawking at in my very first hours of the conference.
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It also took me another day or so to make the connection that his special rainbow pour, named the Crista, was in honor of sex educator, blogger, and all things rainbow, Crista Anne. After my recent purchase of the BS Bingo, I decided I needed another rainbow toy in my life, and the Cristas were absolutely fucking gorgeous in all their spectral variety. Funkit’s website has the option to order a custom toy with up to 3 colors swirled in it, but there were no more Cristas in the form of a G-Spot dildo, what Funkit calls their Swing.  I messaged Kenton and asked if he’d be willing to custom make me one. He got back to me the following day saying he’d be glad to, and together we worked on making a Crista with each color to my liking. I especially wanted one with a decent amount of purple, and Kenton was so accommodating towards this request.

The most creative shipping confirmation I've ever gotten.
The most creative shipping confirmation I’ve ever gotten.

The speed of this process was head-spinning. One day I had made the custom order, and a week later, it was in my hands. Kenton kept me updated every step of the way, literally taking me on a wilderness journey via Snapchat to watch my dildo being shipped out. So now I have my very own Crista, made just for me, and it feels really, really special. I’ve never had such a unique experience with a sex toy company.  Given my previous review and the recent climate surrounding the sex toy industry, company ethics, interaction, and approach is more important than ever.  I felt the story of my experience with Funkit and Kenton just as worthy as the review itself because inclusivity is a really big thing for me in this industry and the field in general.

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Now for the actual review! The Swing has an outstanding curve to it, to the point where I can’t figure out the physics of how it stands independently due to its near perfect C-Shape. It actually does have a little trouble standing on account of Funkit’s unique base, which is cut on both sides to enable suction but a little thin material-wise (and I’ll get to this in a bit). So while the dildo can stand up on its own, it’s just a little precarious.  For folx who like to put their dils on display or stand them up after use so lube doesn’t get everywhere, the Swing may be a little tricky.

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It needs a little propping.

The girth tapers a tad narrowly towards the bottom which I find makes it easier for my fingers to grip, but with the shore and the density of the silicone, makes it the shaft a bit floppy and bendy. The top gets much thicker in density, which is good, because it pushes against my G-Spot, but it’s not overly bulbous. There are a series of ridges from top to base, which I don’t necessarily feel during thrusting, but they are really essential for grip and also for getting a tactile sense of how far the dildo is when it’s inside of me. The Swing is not a long or thick dildo by any means. It’s modest, and combined with the pliability of the silicone, makes it versatile for potential anal play. As in, I normally wouldn’t put a G-Spot dildo in my butt because a stiff curve gets a bit pinchy for me, but I have a feeling the Swing, like the BS Bingo, will flex to fit comfortably inside of me, so updates to come.

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Crista, meet Rocket. Rocket, Crista.

As far as G-Spot stimulation, the Swing is great, particularly if I angle it downwards or have my partner do that for me. I find that I don’t insert the Swing very far, just enough to hit my G-Spot, and both my partner and I prefer using the shaft of the Swing itself to thrust rather than the base. Funkit’s bases are really unique for their multi-functionality. They offer really strong suction, you can plunk them on the base of another dildo or even one of their Swats and you have a double-ended toy that is not going to pry apart unless you want it to. And this works for almost any dildo base that is big enough to match Funkit’s diameter. We tried it on all my Tantus dildos, my Doc Johnson silicone dildos, my Godemiche Adam, and the Swing didn’t budge.

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The base itself stays nicely in an O-ring for my harness, mostly I think because of how my Swing tapers and because is not extremely top heavy. Unfortunately, because of how the base is structured, it has flaps that bend down and this makes it tricky to grip if I’m using the dildo on its own. I know Funkit advertises the flaps as making it more grip-friendly, but with lubed fingers, active kegels, and rigorous thrusting, the flaps slip right out of my tightly pinched digits.  I tried to grab the base with my fingers perpendicular to the fold as to not bend the base, but it’s still thin enough that I mush it together. Funkit’s thought of everything, though. They specially make “Hubs” to attach to the bottom of each product, reinforcing them for a sturdier grip.  I know some other silicone artisans make swatch-type stress relievers or firmness samples in disc shapes (Damn Average has seasonal themed “Squishy Grab Bags” for $20 max with all sorts of fun shapes to squeeze).  Split Peaches even makes glow-in-the-dark silicone “Stress Reliever Boobies,” and how fun would it be to have a glowing boob attached to the base of my Crista to reinforce my grip?  All the DIY fun creative ideas, ALL OF THEM.

Review of Jopen’s Vanity Vr6

So I talk about the damn thing enough, maybe it’s time I write a review about it. I say this with the utmost affection because it is my absolute favorite toy in my entire history of sex toys, and this is saying a lot. This is coming from someone with over six years working at an adult store, buying every toy my paycheck could buy, then coming to my good senses and buying better quality toys elsewhere, and still, this is my favorite toy in the world. This is the toy that will inevitably weasel its way into other reviews, stories, even discussions of identity because it has taught me more about my body and given me more orgasms then I ever thought possible. This is the Vr6.

Vr6
This type of silicone is particularly static-y. There WILL be dust (or lint, or cat hair, or asteroids).

Now I know there’s a Vs6 out, and the only other Vanity item I own is a 2.5 which overheats and dies after a minute (I still need to see if I can get an exchange on this from SheVibe, because it’s not a terrible mini-vibrator and I’d love to do a review on it). But I bought the Vr6 in my final years working at the adult store, so it must have been around 2010 or 2011. It just crapped out on me last year after my partner accidentally split the charging port with the needle-like charger (I love this charging method in the Vanity series for all of its waterproof-y goodness and how much it reminds me of the bioports from ExistenZ [don’t look that up if you’re easily squicked], but if you’re not precise with insertion, it can be tricky).

This photo dates back to 2010, so I must have just bought it.
This awful selfie dates back to 2010, so I must have just bought it then.

I emailed the company, told them how long I had loved this toy, and Jopen still honored my warranty, even without its packaging. Not the first time Jopen has been stellar in a Vr6 crisis, either. When I moved to Oakland in 2012, my car window got smashed with a rock and my laptop bag full of charging wires was stolen. Of all things, my Vr6 charging wire was spaghetti’d in with this mix, which meant my time with a charged battery was limited. Before the battery even died, Jopen had sent me a new charger.

I know, I know, wasn’t Jopen originally a part of California Exotics? Whatever, I honestly don’t fucking care. I did a whole presentation about this and it’s been a thorn in my ethical side for some time now, that yeah, some companies are really icky (and sometimes not so icky, CalExotics has been making a Packer Gear line, which some aspects I’m all for…though a bunch of its silicone products are foam-filled), but some companies use that association to help their business model, be it visibility, product improvement in better factories, wider clientele feedback, more money to innovate new toys, or even lowering the price-point of original products. Some companies are just utter leeches and grub onto the industry corruption and let their products go down the toilet despite a once reputable brand name. Not looking to point fingers…today.

Vr6
But Jopen has this little place in my heart, particularly with the Vr6. It was the first dual stim/rabbit-styled toy that ever worked with my anatomy (the arm fits snugly against my clit!), it taught me how to squirt, it helped me understand my g-spot better than my fingers ever did, and using it helped me reconcile some gender dysphoria I was having with my genitals for quite some time. I’m not a huge fan that the default sex toy color of our generation has gone from pink to purple, but there’s something so neon and visually assaulting about the Vr6’s purple. It’s even different from some of the other Vanity purples…it just screams “fuck me with your 90’s nostalgia” and simultaneously doesn’t show a lot of crud on it even on my most cruddy days.

It took me a long time to work up to using this thing internally when I first got it, that bulb is, as I say repeatedly in my Bingo video, “severe.” But I think it’s exactly this girth and drop-off of an internal bulb that my g-spot loves. My use of the Prism V only confirms it with each inevitable squirtfest (“Babe, if you grab that one, you either grab the puppy pads or sleep in the wet spot.”) The difference between the Prism V and the Vr6 when it comes to squirting is that I need to take the Vr6 out of me when I’m ready to squirt. The bulb is just a little too big and the neck a little too thick to let my Skene’s glands get around it. Which is totally fine, it makes for a much more dramatic projection, and with the dual stimulation of the little arm I actually get a clitoral orgasm before I ejaculate, so everything’s groovy.

Vr6

The vibration of the head is a little more rumbly than the arm, but the frequencies aren’t far off. I have two Vr6’s (don’t ask how I got that lucky), and I have noticed that both of them have a point of vibrational dissonance if you get to a certain speed with each button. As with most Vanity products, you simply hold down the button to get stronger vibrations, but I’ve noticed that if I have one exact strength of vibration in the arm and the head, the two seem to bounce off each other and it makes a weird rattly noise. I don’t remember this ever happening in my original Vr6 from 2010, but the two new ones do it…so maybe it’s just how they are manufactured these days. It doesn’t really affect me, but it might suck for anyone who gets off with those particular strengths and has to deal with a really loud vibrator with out-of-sync vibrations. Normally this thing is so quiet. Like, I have to put it up to my ear to see when the battery is dying, and I can listen to the hum get slightly weaker. THAT quiet. And when you consider how strong the vibrations are, phoo.

Now, the Vr6 isn’t completely silicone. It’s got a silicone skin, but has a ton of machinery inside (don’t boil it), including a lithium ion battery. It holds a charge for what feels like days. I can go on hour marathons with this, no problem. The silicone material itself has some drag to it, not in a sticky way, it’s really sort of a silky texture, actually, but if you were to take this to a delicate area of skin without lube and pull it along, it would move the skin with it. This isn’t really a problem when I’m just using the bulb for external clitoral stimulation, as the bulb is just big enough to hit all my favorite parts of my crura if keep it in one spot, but I definitely need lube if I’m going to put it inside me. I’ve had no issues with using coconut oil with the Vr6’s silicone, but would always recommend something more universally compatible with both toys and bodies like a water-based Sliquid.

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Graphic design is my passion.  And grammar.  Clearly.

Solo, I’ve found that using the Vr6 internally quite literally mimics the sensation of jerking off. I get to grip my hand around its base (fortunately the buttons are not so sensitive that any touch will change the speeds), and work my body into an orgasm that puts me in a really gendergooey headspace. It is so glorious, and every partner that has seen me use this toy has noted that I sometimes go into total “boy” mode, particularly if I’m on my knees using it to squirt. It’s a really empowering toy for my gender identity. Partnerwise, I’ve found that some partners either get it, or they don’t. Vulva-bearing partners could never bring me to orgasm with this toy because they didn’t fuck me roughly enough with it, didn’t push the arm up into my clit enough (especially on the left side, despite communicating this preference), or they played with the buttons too much, messing up my rhythm.  To be fair I remember one of these exes not enjoying the Vr6 when I used it on them, either.  Like, the grippiness of the silicone arm, regardless of lube, pushed their hood up and the vibrations were way too strong even on the lowest setting.  So while it felt great for about .02 seconds, it was really irritating and frustrating for them the rest of the time. I know Lilly has a bittersweet fondness for the Vr6, where the arm was way too clampy, but the internal bulb had some really nice rumbles.

Hopefully the following description doesn’t ruin Alice in Wonderland for you.

The cismale partners that have used this on me have almost unanimously gotten it without any guidance. I even had one partner show me a whole new way of using it, by tilting the handle so far down that the bulb pushes incredibly high up into my g-spot, which I can’t do alone.  My current partner likes to wiggle the arm really slightly against my clit when he feels me get hard as he’s fucking me with it, sort of a thrust-and-doorknob-turn type motion which is so fucking good and again, I do not have those motor skills to do that on my own. I’ve said in previous reviews that the curve of the neck and the size of the bulb in the Vr6 make it pretty tricky for double penetration. It just seems to take up a lot of space once inside me, and even trying double penetration with a biocock ends up being really uncomfortable and pinchy for partners. Seriously, though, if that’s the biggest complaint I have about this toy, you can see why it’s my favorite. I remember recommending it to a woman when I worked at the adult store and she was really hesitant because of the price, but a few weeks later she came back, not even to buy anything, but to emphatically thank me for convincing her to get that toy. Like, slapped her palms on the checkout counter, opened her eyes wide, and said “Oh my god, you weren’t kidding.”  No ragrets.

“Can’t change the world by hating men”

“Can’t change the world by blaming men.”  And yes, NOFX is problematic.  But they taught me to challenge a lot of fucked up systems at a very young age.  I don’t discredit transformation.  More on punks later.

I wrote a blog post almost a month ago but waited to post it until I attended the Widener Careers in Sexuality Conference this past weekend. I’m glad I did. It added a whole new perspective on masculinity and hatred towards variations of masculinity in how it intersects with men and maleness. I attended Wesley K. Thomas’s “Lets Talk Effemiphobia: Dismantling the New Homophobia for Black Gay Men” workshop.

Let's talk effemiphobia with Wesley K. Thomas in 20, shall we? Room A #CISCEffemiphobia #cisctaboo #cisc2k16 #ciscexpose #cisc

A photo posted by Careers In Sexuality Con (@careersinsexualityconference) on

What impacted me most was how much we, as a broad society made up of all our intersecting identities, tend to dismiss mental health in men. Gay men, men of color, trans men, white men, men of all religions and social economic statuses. Mental health is rendered so invisible for men, to the point where when we look at mappingpoliceviolence.org, how many of these folx were battling mental illness at the time they were murdered? How many of them were getting help? How many of them had the health insurance coverage for a treatment plan that covered medications, talk therapy, in-patient facilities, anything they needed to improve their mental well-being?

During Wesley’s workshop we talked about how compulsory masculinity, effemiphobia, and the measures men make to avoid being seen as weak…how these are traumatic and tied to mental illness. It’s all fucking feeding into each other. When feminists hate on men for “acting like men,” we are just reinforcing the structures that could be broken down with discussion, questioning, critique and analysis like Wesley’s workshop. It’s not easy, but WHY are we not trying? Why “build a wall?” Doesn’t that sound familiar? I understand that there is a balance between self-preservation and advocacy, but isolation that resorts to these trendy fucking tumblr posts that make kitschy “radical” (in terms of 90’s radfem nostalgia and a tribute to the lingo of the era) slogans about how men should die and are worthless and expendable, but really? FUCKING REALLY?

http://thoodleoo.tumblr.com/post/148994395493/careers-that-i-am-looking-into-harpy-beautiful


I remember Brené Brown talking about shame and vulnerability in one of her TED talks and how a father and husband disclosed his vulnerability with her at a signing. I remember how that stuck with me just as much as the rest of her talk. We are all together in this. Dr. Jayleen Galarza spoke in her keynote about privileged folx needing to make ourselves vulnerable and do something when we witness all this awful shit happening. One of my classmates mentioned that our Widener department has made zero acknowledgement of the pain or to help us process the endless murders of black men at the hands of police day after day in this country. I am publishing that here. That is something I can do. I am also sticking up for men, in all their beautiful forms on this post today, because while sometimes I identify as male, people keep telling me I’m not, so I’m going to use that position of non-maleness to stick up for men and say that they deserve better than being shit on day in and day out for being too sissy, too powerful, too loud, too ignorant, too rich, too lazy, whatever it is they have been lumped into because of the refusal for one person to see another person as an individual.

Now to the original post from September 11th:

“I see a lot of hate on cis dudes in my various queer and trans communities and it’s never really sat right, like, ever.  It’s not to say I haven’t witnessed male privilege or experienced my share of trauma by the hands of men and boys.  And it’s not to say the kindnesses I have witnessed on behalf of men and boys excuses the experiences of people who experience and relive their traumas every day.  I don’t willingly ignore male privilege.  I don’t protect the patriarchy.  But I don’t hate men.  I grew up with a really honorable father who, in my later years, I am now getting to see as a man with all his own faults as a human being, and it’s a humbling process.  I did the thing a lot of people do, mostly having all cismale friends through my childhood and adolescent life, finding little judgement from them, cherishing the ability to have my words taken at face value, and even in my thirties, seeing those friends still bonded and loyal.

I’m coming back from a hardcore show in a New Brunswick basement tonight.  It’s a tradition that dates back decades now and there is still so much heart in it.  Going to shows has always been a cathartic process for me.  Every therapist I have ever been to has always recommended I go to a show when I start feeling emotionally stuck because they know what it does. It’s just this energy, this excitement, uncertainty, positivity, an evolving sense of camaraderie and yet my individual moment of peace.  It’s kinetic love and sometimes primal rage.  It’s Audre Lorde’s erotic and I feel like I’ve written about my passion for going to shows in my Livejournal and physical diaries of the past, but the fondness of paying tribute to them never grows old.

These shows are usually predominantly cismale.  I went to one show once, well more of an arts and music festival geared towards feminism and queerness, and it was one of the most isolated events I have ever been to.  Every person looked like they had stepped out of a Delia*s magazine, clutching their cans of Tecate, slumped against the walls or standing by zine tables but not actually interacting with anyone.  I’ve totally bought into this 90’s fashion now, two years later, because I am a fucking hypocrite and it gives me an excuse to wear my combat boots with a dress.  I still don’t consider this femme for me, despite the feminist Riot Grrl aesthetic it seems to connote for most folks.  It’s just kind of a comfortable, witchy genderfuck, and though trendy, it gets me a little nostalgic for an era I missed by a few years and 3,000 miles.
chokers and stone rings never go out of style
Anyway, back to the shows I like.  The sweaty shows, the kinds of shows where if you get knocked to the floor in a pit there are always three people’s hands ready to help you get back up and at least one person to ask if you’re alright.  The kind of shows where the band is standing right there on the floor with you, or if it’s not their set, all their members are in the crowd supporting the other bands.  The kind of shows where you make fast friends with a skinhead over absolute nonsense only to see that person decades later crowdsurfing in a wheelchair or officiating roller derby with the name “Gimpy McLegsdontwork.”
Lenny will always be the iconic punk rock kid.
Tonight, the first band, Weather Lore, started off thanking all the fellow brown and black punks in the room, proceeded to chant in Spanish, “this is not just your world, this is our world, this is our pain” (I speak Spanish so I understood, but I appreciated the concept that maybe as a white person I was not meant to understand), and brought the entire crowd as close as we could get (“don’t be afraid of the Spics”) as the lead singer ran through and started a pit big enough to fill the whole basement.  The sheer aggression in addressing racism and the significance of the date, all in combination with the growls and energy with the crowd made for a beautiful set.

The closing band’s bassist shared a personal disclosure of his family’s history with domestic violence on behalf of his late father and how that has brought disarray to his home even now when he visits to see them.  He said that nothing has ever been the same and coming to hardcore shows was his outlet, his source of strength for over 20 years, and it became a whole family on its own.  He told us to think about each other in this room, and that domestic violence and abuse is so common that there was probably a good portion of us that had or were currently experiencing it, and not to lose that opportunity to reach out to one another and become each other’s family.  It reminded me of being 16 years old again when Geoff Rickly from Thursday told the audience he wrote Concealer all about his past history with abuse.

For all the stuffy air and the mattress-blocked windows in that basement, you could practically feel the circulated sighs from each person during this man’s speech, people holding in tears, folks holding hands and patting each other on the back, kids looking around, everything.  It was so unifying and moving to know that people were honoring his story and implicitly honoring each other at the same time.  These shows, the voices and advocacy, the humility in the men I encounter…I cannot hate them.  I love these people.  I grew up a punk.  I grew up a ska kid.  It’s part of my gender identity.  I also wonder sometimes if being cismale is part of my gender identity.  I really think that’s in me.  You grow up in a punk community, a real punk community (whatever the fuck that is), the kids you’re with hate authority.  They hate “the man.”  They actively squirm at structures that are meant to put people down and oppress marginalized populations.  They fight.  I love that fight.  Audre Lorde’s Uses of Anger RIGHT FUCKING THERE.
15 was as good an age as any
The white men I know at these shows, they talk privilege.  I’m willing to bet that they’d have a great conversation about white male privilege if folks just gave them the chance.  I see people writing off all cismen, or saying “Ok SOME cismen are fine, but they need to be x, y, z and need to REALLY work at earning respectability.”  We all have fucking privilege.  We should all be working towards being better people.  I’m not going to get into some pissing contest about the Oppression Olympics because my TERF-in-denial ex-girlfriend thinks my gender nonconforming cismale partner is the Paragon of Patriarchy.  I don’t love ALL men.  I also don’t love ALL people.  But goddamn was tonight precious to me, and looking around at this crowd thinking about all the folks that would readily cast them aside for their gender makes me confused and angry.  I’m trans.  I’m nonbinary.  I’m fluid.  I’m whatever fucking word of the day that will never accurately describe my weirdass gender identity that is or isn’t male, female, human, or transcendent of language/existence itself.  But what I’m not is a manhater.”

With love, my partner and I made this cover tonight.  We are now eating cheesy soft-pretzels with shit-eating grins and stuffy noses.  We are sending out good energy to anyone reading this right now.

Review of BS Atelier’s Bingo

The BS Bingo is a three beaded butt plug made by BS Atelier, a small toy company in Spain that makes really artistic dildos, plugs, leather harnesses, cuffs, and rope. They offer a great selection of silicone, all beautifully poured into designs that range from the splattery Noise pattern to their bovine Vaca, a cow print without being fully zoomorphic akin to what some companies do. I’ve always wanted one of BS’s products, but found their dildos to be a little on the small side when seeing them in person. When I saw their Rainbow Bobo butt plug on SheVibe, I fell in love, but wasn’t too sure of the dimensions. It looked a little too long and the diameter made me wonder if it would be too big. I skipped around and came to the Bingo in a beautiful shade of light blue with a rainbow base. The measurements sounded much more tolerable, and it turns out they were.

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The Bingo is three beads versus Bobo’s four beads, and is only a little thicker than my pointer finger at its widest bead. When I first held the Bingo, I was admittedly nervous at how soft and squishy the silicone was. I’ve always loved squishy silicone for front hole penetration but didn’t have luck with anal play. When using the Vixen Tristan 1 plug, the squishiness had too much give and made the plug difficult to insert, having to guide the tip with my fingers and hold the base of the neck so it didn’t go slipping around my butthole once lubed up. I worried that it would be a similar case with the Bingo, but I was so wrong. Because the Bingo is such a modest size (for me), my ass took it in immediately. As in, my butt ate it. One bead slipped in, and where I usually have to guide a plug in (especially with beads), my butt took in the rest of the plug until the base fit snugly against me. It was so easy, so comfortable…I feel like even on my most tense days I could handle the Bingo with no problem.

thepalimpsex

The Bingo’s not huge, sure. It doesn’t give me that sensation of being totally filled up like other plugs do, especially because of the softness of it. It conforms to my ass so nicely that at times, I can barely feel it. Which is actually SUPER exciting because I think I’ve finally found a plug I can wear for long periods of time. It bends so naturally that I feel like if I were sitting and moving around in different positions, it wouldn’t be pokey or uncomfortable at all. The softness of the Bingo made it perfect for double penetration. Usually when I have a plug in and I use a dildo at the same time, the thrusting of a dildo in my front parts will make my pelvic floor ache in not-so-good ways. This is usually because of the angles or pinching of the plug against my tissue.

If this doesn’t happen, it’s usually because a plug has a gentler graduation from the insertable to the stem, but then plugs that fit this category usually end up popping out of my butt if I’m attempting double penetration. The Bingo did neither of these things. It stayed put, and it stayed squishy, accommodating all sorts of insertables from my Vr6 which has a pretty severe bulb in terms of angle, hardness, and girth, to my Raptor, which is the harder Tantus silicone and pretty fucking thick. The Bingo also stayed in during orgasm, when my muscles contract the most, so I was really happy about all of this.
fullsizerender

I find that I don’t really handle the Bingo much once it’s inside of me, whereas my partner loves using it roughly on himself. He says the softness and smaller size allow him to thrust it, bend it, whatever he wants without it being pokey on the sides of his rectum (which is often a concern for him and anal toys). It also doesn’t hit his prostate, which is a bonus, as my partner doesn’t really like prostate orgasms. It’s funny…I never told him how quickly my ass “ate” the Bingo, when one evening at work I received a picture on my phone from him subtitled “NOM NOM NOM.” Maybe it’s the candy-colored aesthetic, maybe it’s just coincidence, but I got a chuckle that both of our reactions upon first use of this toy were so similar.

My butt is the person on the left.
My butt is the person on the left.

Also, I guess if you’re into MLP: FiM and Rainbow Dash, this plug could be your gig. I will admit I’m super excited to bring it to my next play party to see who makes that association. Overall, I’m thrilled with this buy, and definitely recommend the Bingo to anyone who wants a gentle plug with beaded graduations.

Avery’s Anal Bead Horror Stories

Alternate title: “Inside the Buttholes of the Kitsch and Heinous”

Content advisory:  Poop.  So much poop. And a lot of CAPS LOCK.

I’ve been putting off writing for a little while. Life has been throwing a lot at me, what with my hands dipped in all things sexuality-related, board meetings at Masakhane, eldercare wellness-therapy groups, trying to negotiate new degree tracks at Widener, and now being offered an opportunity to speak on the politics of identity and sex toys for Widener’s CareersCon coming up in September. The semester is approaching, and I am coloring testicles furiously in an Anatomy book while watching “It’s Complicated” with Meryl Streep because that’s apparently what $1,800 costs for a class, though I will admit I am excited to have other classes with Elizabeth Schroeder and in a different class I get to profess my love for Judith Butler.  Academia has its upsides and downsides.

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This took me two hours to finish. >__>

Anal August is coming to a close and with it so are the doors of Come As You Are Co Op; life is aligning with the ebbs and flows of sexuality.  After hosting a last minute poll as to what the subject nature of this post should be, it seems as though folks were interested in hearing about my horrific history with anal beads. I figured this was appropriate, given the topic of my upcoming workshop about sex toys and Formidable Femme’s most recent amazing blogpost.  (Also a huge fan of this blogpost from Lilly in 2015).  (And this one from Hey Epiphora!).  You get the idea.  My relationship with anal beads is paradigmatic of many things I find really fucking wrong with the sex toy industry, and I’m kinda glad I got to experience this learning curve in the way I did.

My first experience with any sort of butt play was at age 16 with an unlubricated attempt at my then boyfriend’s dick partially in my ass. This was followed by the “Oh my god NO, ouch, why did we do that, BAD IDEA BAD IDEA” dance/hop all around the apartment with my hands clasped around my buttcheeks. I had sworn off anal for another two years until college came when someone I started hooking up with introduced me to fingers and lube. THEN a dick. MUCH easier. MUCH more pleasurable. Particularly with a vibrator on my clit. I found that orgasming with a dick in my ass provided an incredibly intense orgasm, and decided butt play was for me.

Winter break came our freshman year and partner and I stopped by a little leather shop on Christopher Street in the village and decided to buy a black large jelly rubber butt plug which we later realized would never in a million years fit inside my ass. I ended up using it vaginally. (I know, what?)

Insert generic rubber butt plug here. Or don't, actually.
[Insert generic rubber butt plug here.]            Or don’t, actually.
Years went by until I graduated college with much more knowledge in sexuality (heck, even a BA in it), began teaching sex ed for Masakhane, and started working at my local sex shop. For the next six years working at this sex shop, I used my 50% discount with reckless abandon. I bought hundreds of toys, spending each paycheck exploring the best and worst our store had to offer. And looking up at my toy shelf right now, I see all of 10 of those remaining. I’d try a toy and it’d either break, melt, I’d decide it wasn’t for me, it didn’t fit right, whatever. In retrospect, I wish I kept every single one of them because some serious science could have been done. Lilly’s Jar of Horrors? I could have made some sort of art installation! Hindsight…20/20…ableist idiom, but so true.

I finally get to meet Lilly's jar of horrors!!!

A post shared by Avery (@thepalimpsex) on

The first thing I heard about butt toys working at the store is how amazing anal beads were. “You know how good it feels taking a shit? Now imagine having an orgasm while taking a shit.  Blumpkin level.” My colleagues were precious. I mean that sincerely. The honesty and crudeness of our conversations was something I still can’t have in a lot of other spheres. Even in the rest of my sexuality fields, I don’t know how comfortable I’d be casually watching porn at 9am while eating a taylor ham, egg, and cheese and commenting on the skill of a performer’s messy blowjob.

Anal beads were one of my first purchases with my newly acquired 50% discount. Not just any anal beads mind you. These. Tiny ones, green (because color was a huge factor in choice for me during my early purchase days, not material), connected with string knots, and a plastic green loop at the end. I used them twice. Once by myself, where they hurt immensely while taking them out, each knot scraping my insides, actually feeling the skin of my rectum catch in between each knot and bead as I pulled the string out of me. I used a ton of lube, but it didn’t matter. I still bled on toilet paper for two days.


The second time I used them was with my partner during sex. I asked him to pull them out of me while I was riding him on top with a bullet on my clit. As I was orgasming and he pulled them out, he yanked them way too fast, and while it felt better than the previous time, what he had hanging in his hand was mirrored by his face of horror. I didn’t need to look at either before the smell had hit me. The strand of beads were completely stained brown, each knot had caught a little bit of feces. I’m not talking a ton of poop here, but enough that by the swinging of the beads, the sweat of sex and the humidity of a Jersey summer, my boyfriend’s outstretched hand wafted the stink of shit from these beads while he looked at me asking “what do I do with these?” That ended our session pretty quickly, as I ran to the sink to scrub them out. Scrub them out. NOT throw them away! I put them in a wad of paper towels, left them in his basement to be forgotten, only so two months later his mom and little brother could find them and ask him about the plastic green bracelet behind his computer desk. Awful.

Not so funny when it happens to you.
Not so funny when it happens to you.

So I learned the hard way: No string, check. Bacteria, knots, pain, hard to clean, etc. Get beads that are connected, Avery! I fixed my eyes on these really funky looking beads that weren’t bead shaped at all, but rather shaped like little, fat, S‘s connected all with the same material. The same, disgusting smelling material that reeked so bad I could smell it through the packaging. It literally smelled the same as that Cherry scented dildo, minus the fruity notes. Like burnt medicine and shower curtains. All the typical phthalate signs I hadn’t learned about yet. But the texture wasn’t tacky (actually quite bumpy, which added to the disaster later on), and nowhere on the package did it say jelly, so I scooped it up. And then it scooped me up. Yes, these S-shaped nodules were absolutely perfect shit-scoopers. What I thought would stimulate my asshole upon exit and entry ended up provoking the SAME reaction in the SAME position with the SAME partner when I asked him to remove them. This strand of S‘s went even deeper into my butt, scooped out generous portions of feces per bead, and once removed I couldn’t tell what smelled more, the original material or this newer, poop-enhanced version. Not to mention the bumpy texture was a complete lube-eater, so we had a nice slathering of Santorum going on with this item as well.

The brand I bought doesn't exist anymore, but this is what the beads were shaped like.
The brand I bought doesn’t exist anymore, but this is what the beads were shaped like.

You’d think I’d learn. Ok, so maybe I just need ROUND anal beads. But maybe I should get graduated ones, where they get really tiny at the tip and wider at the bottom. And maybe we can make them vibrate this time! Because why not add a new variable into the mix of something already really uncertain and discouraging? But I’ll be really good about it, I’ll make sure they’re silicone this time, because when a reputable company like TOPCO says it’s silicone, it HAS to be silicone, right? The insertable bullet transmitted zero vibration throughout the beads. The handle ripped and I almost lost the entire toy inside of me. We ended up grabbing the beads by the bullet when the bullet, in all its lubed glory, popped out of the toy. So after sticking a finger in the hole where the bullet USED to be and slowly negotiating this toy out of my rectum by holding one end of the ripped handle and keeping one finger in the bullet-hole, I was able to decide that “MAYBE I DON’T FUCKING LIKE ANAL BEADS.”

Where's the diagram for the structurally unsound handle?
Where’s the diagram for the structurally unsound handle? Also, “Spa.”

I know there are some good ones out there. Tantus makes some impressive Vibrating Progressive Beads. Fun Factory will always be famous for their Flexi Felix. But something about that sensation of shitting tiny turds I thought would feel so pleasurable a decade ago has absolutely zero appeal to me now. Don’t get me wrong. I love textured plugs. The Tantus Ripple feels absolutely amazing. I adore the Aneros Helix, even if it isn’t my current partner’s favorite. I can even handle the beaded end of the Fun Wand if I’m gentle enough. It’s just something about a loooong chain of bumps that my body can’t handle.

So there you have it. Anal bead mistakes were made. By a so-called “sexpert.” Which is why, with all the good toys out there, there are twice as many terrible ones. With even the most informed educators, we have the capacity for human error and need the space to learn and share those learning experiences (no matter how grotesquely crappy they can get). Sex-positive or not, whatever sex-positive means to you, we do stupid shit to our bodies all the time. We’re not always going to make the best decisions in life, and wisdom isn’t always a forward trajectory.

 

I’d like to think that my anal bead blunders are over, but I’m sure there will be a day down the road where I reflect on other practices in my sexual self-care that need improvement. I know there were moments working at the store in my later years where I had flickers of judginess at the customers who bought that string of green anal beads. I desperately tried getting my boss to take it off the shelves, but “It kept selling,” so we kept stocking it. Some days I’d do my best to offer a safer alternative. Some days I’d remember back to the moment I bought those beads. Would I really have listened if someone told me to pick something else? Probably not. My stubborn ways would have said, “No, this is cheaper, it’s my favorite color, and I don’t even know if I’m going to like it. I’m going with these.” You pick your battles and hope for the best. But that’s another story.

Review of Godemiche’s Anal Beginner Starter Pack and Adam

I feel like there is no possible way to review my new Godemichegets” without reviewing them as a trifecta of discovery. Each item opened me up to so many new and delightful sensations beyond what I ever expected. I was already excited to be buying from an artisanal company, and I knew despite the better deals on shipping I could get by purchasing their products from SheVibe or Early2Bed, I was willing to spend a little extra on international shipping to get a more customized product.

 

The Anal Beginners Starter Pack
I’d been on Godemiche’s subscription list for some time and following them on Twitter.  I’d seen some of their earlier incarnations of the Adam-QUBE filled with colorful chunks of neon silicone and their most recent take on literally “fucking capitalism” by embedding your own money in a dildo. It always reminded me of those Pleaser Heels we used to sell at the adult store that let you put your cash tips in the soles, which I thought were amazing.  Godemiche has been so creative with their work and I’ve loved seeing them interact with customers and folks in general, so it was just a matter of time before I found something I really wanted.

When their Anal Beginners Starter Pack went on sale and one of the color options was that incredible gold in the Adam, I HAD to buy it. My primary partner is a gender non-conforming but publicly cis-presenting male and we have a really wonderful relationship playing with our gender roles in the bedroom. All genderfuckery aside, anal and blowjobs are two of our favorite activities, and while my Shilo (which I wholly identify as my dick, beyond any of the other dildos I own), is fine for his mouth, it, as well as all of the other dildos we’ve tried, just hasn’t been the right fit for pegging. Some are either too firm, too deep, have too much of a curve, etc.

The closest one we’ve ever liked has been a “Platinum Silicone” dildo by Doc Johnson called “The Only” which has since been discontinued. So when we saw this beginner’s kit that had a dildo and a plug, I was sold. When I also saw that Godemiche sometimes holds specials for subscribers where you can buy products in limited color batches at discounted prices, I immediately scooped up an Adam in a grayish silver swirl.

 

What arrived in the mail completely blew my mind in size and proportion. The Adam was huge, so much bigger than I expected. And the butt plug was so tiny! But the matching gold dildo, which I’ve affectionately dubbed “Goldfinger,” (Godemiche already calls the gold version of their Adam the “Gold Member,” so I found this to be fitting) looked like my baby bear of the bunch; it appeared to be just right. Little did I know, they were alllll just right.

Like, Godemiche must have put a lot of thought into the sizing of these because they were so perfect for my parts. The plug, where I worried it would pop out immediately, slid in comfortably and stayed put the entire time. The legs of it fit so comfortably against my perineum that they stimulated me but at the same time were barely noticeable. And the stiffness and thickness of the silicone reassured me that the flared legs were not going to bend, that no amount of clenching during orgasm was going to suck this plug inside of me or push it out. It was right where it needed to be and the exact size it needed to be.

Plug-B Beginner's Anal Butt Plug

In fact, starting with the plug made it a great icebreaker for the next step to the Goldfinger.  After taking the plug out, the Goldfinger slid right in, and easily so. Its silicone is still the same firmness, but because it is so thin, it has nice bend, and the little ridges offer it a flexibility (think of a bendy straw) as well as some added texture around my anus as I pull it in and out. I was initially dubious about these ridges, but they are subtle enough that they provide some really nice stimulation. I found myself only inserting this dildo a little past the ridges and then pulling it out, but because of the thinness and the ease of its glide, I could give myself a really rigorous fucking without any discomfort. It also left plenty of grip at the base for my hand.

Thats the other thing I love about this dildo. The base is nice and thick. It fits nicely into a smaller o-ring, and is totally strap-on compatible for pegging. My partner is in love with it. We typically prepare for toys by using a finger or two, but given that this toy is roughly the size of my middle finger, plus a few inches, it wasn’t necessary. And the depth was perfect too! He enjoyed the ridges, and the flexibility of it allowed me to change positions while inside him without being too rough against his prostate.

The Peg Pearlescent Gold

We didn’t even need to use our Liberator Jaz, which we usually do, in order to get his butt high enough in the air, and doggy style was much easier because he could arch his back comfortably without me poking his insides with something too thick. We finally found the perfect pegging dildo for him, which makes us super happy. As far as an anal dildo for solo play, he said it’s a little on the thin side, as when he plays alone he likes something thicker as he can relax more and take things slower, but for partnered fucking, the Goldfinger was fucking aces.

This is also a dildo that might be more comfortable for folks with vulvodynia, vaginismus, transmen and transwomen who otherwise find larger diameter dildos to be uncomfortable, or just anyone who is like “Jesus Fucking Christ no, that is too big, just NO.”  Also, because dildos aren’t always about shoving them into holes, Goldfinger here offers a lot of versatility for other play that may not be possible if you have a huge hunk of dick swinging around in a cumbersome or awkward manner.

 

Speaking of huge hunks of dick…the Adam. I’ve got to find a different name for the Adam. I have way too many friends named Adam.  And a brother-in-law.  It just…it just doesn’t work.  But yes, this dildo is of Biblical proportion size. I’m not talking a Raptor XL or anything near Bad Dragon levels, though given the firmness of Godemiche’s silicone, particularly in this pour (which is an amazing pour, Godemiche really knows what they’re doing with their marbling), the Adam’s aftermath is mammoth.

The Adam

What makes the dildo more impressive (even in the etymological sense of the word “impression”), is the space between the glans and where the foreskin hypothetically pulls back. It’s not actually a squishy, retractable foreskin. This is a molded, hard, silicone foreskin that pops against my g-spot every time I can barely manage to pull the Adam out of me. It feels amazing, but I find myself not really wanting to pull the Adam out of me. When I have it in my front bits, I want every inch of it in me, stretching me out, filling me up.

This is my Gunmetal Goliath. This is my Monument of Mons. When I fuck the Adam, the Adam fucks me. It is huge, it is dense, it is severe in its edges, and it makes me come on an average of 30 seconds if I add vibration. I’m not kidding. I’ve tried the Adam ten times already. I had one outlier of a two minute orgasm and that was because my coconut oil lube dispenser was too far out of reach.  (Though I do really appreciate the free bottle of Give Lube Silicone + they included with my order, and according to FAQ’s this silicone lube will not deteriorate the silicone in Godemiche’s creations).

The Adam Base Detail

Between my graduations from the Mikey O2 to the Raptor to the Adam, I am realizing how much of a girth slut I have become with my dildos. I love my G-spot vibrators, don’t get me wrong. But if I’m going to have a dildo, I want it thick, and Adam is my new go-to for a good stretch. My only critique, and this is barely even a critique because I am fucking greedy and I don’t think I’d even use this dildo on anyone but myself, is that the base of the Adam, in comparison to the shaft’s chunky glory, is actually a little flimsy. There’s not much to grab onto and given how much lube I need to work this dildo, I find my fingers slipping around it, trying to pinch on to a half inch of flare when I really want to push the dildo inside of me. It kind of hinders my thrusting pattern when I fumble for a grip, so if Godemiche could either lengthen their flare or thicken it a little, I think the Adam would have a better balance.

All in all, between the Anal Beginners Kit and the Adam, the functionality, the artistry, and the versatility of the products, I am beyond impressed with Godemiche’s quality and will definitely continue to buy from them in the future. They now have the Ambit, a curved dildo that looks like heaven.  I feel like there are too many religious references in this review…I maybe put a little too much GOD in the Godemiche.  Orgasms do weird things to me sometimes.  Anyway…

Thoughts on Woodhull and The Transgender Training Institute’s Training of Trainers

Today marks the one week anniversary of a journey into two conferences I never in a million years thought I would have had the balls to attend, much let alone participate actively.  From Thursday morning until Sunday evening, I spent my time in Alexandria, Virginia at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit, and from Monday morning until Wednesday evening I was in Philadelphia for the Transgender Training Institute’s Training of Trainers.  Right now I am typing this blog entry fully aware that I will be taking breaks, maybe to get a cookie, maybe to switch a load of laundry (of which there are so many), maybe to watch an episode of Pokemon Indigo League on Netflix, or maybe just to cry.  It’s possible I may abandon this entry altogether, and it’s possible I may put it down for the evening when my partner comes home so I can spend some time with him as we have not seen each other in a week and have much to catch up on.

Avery’s cautious optimism – Day 1 Woodhull

I had so many ideas for directions in which I wanted this entry to go.  As my week progressed, I talked with my peers about how I wanted to write about my experience, each idea changing, refining into something not completely new or different but a lesson scaffolded onto another lesson.  Where the beginning of my week I focused quite bitterly on my sense of being outcast from a blogging community I had expected to welcome me with open arms, a community that treated me like the new kid on the block in not so nice ways, I also realized this was a community made up of individuals going through their own shit and experiencing a drastic change in social environment in their own ways as well.  I tried to empathize via messages I was learning about mental health through amazing workshops, but my own mental health and the difficulty I had processing a recent failed relationship with underpinnings of emotional abuse left me untrusting of those around me and suspicious of why people were not extending hands of support when I consistently asked for them, be it through social media, during audience participation, or outright face to face in hallway conversation.  I found myself feeling not welcome in blogger spaces, and grappled with how much of this was a projection of my own insecurities and how much was legitimate.  Had I been identified as the “needy new neurodivergent blogger with overambitious aspirations of making friends?”  Everyone seemed settled with their groups.  I felt invasive.

Fleeting negative thoughts were carefully mitigated with the positivity of a community I had known for years, friends and lovers I had known for decades, partners of partners, educational cohorts that have now become lovers, this huge mishmash of intersectional (in the least trivial sense of the word) eros that was aggressively unapologetic, forcing me under their wings.  I find myself crying right now thinking about my gratitude for a queerness of bodies and minds that didn’t just give me permission to join them, but danced with me until the day I walked back to my car, smelling them and feeling them and imagining their words and spirits and the grazes of their beard on my thighs and their giggles around the lube bottles I had tried gagging them with and the cupcakes I had licked off their fingers and the way their underwear rippled when I beat them gently and the beauty of their tattoos and the violence in their hand gestures as they spoke of the illusions in idolatry and the way pool water made their t-shirt float all around them and I thought GOD I WANT TO BE THAT T-SHIRT and I thought, “I love you people.”  I fucking love you people.

So much love.
So much love.

I was so proud to be a part of that brilliance.  I was so thrilled to share true magic, in all of its wooey exuberance, with my hematite in one hand and the possibility of failure in the other, and know that no matter where I ended up this week, I would fail beautifully and with people who were willing to help me.  I reaffirmed my beliefs in the humanness of wanting to be happy vicariously.  If I saw others crying, my heart hurt.  The stories I heard, the microaggression activities and other practices of facing transphobia during my TOT Conference, there was so much pain.  At one point my cohort, Emily Nagoski turned to me and said “You know what, Avery, I kinda like that you identify ‘punk’ as one of your genders.”  And I do.  I think I need that hardness.  Because if I spent all this time in my heart, in this empathy and in this affect, I’d fucking flounder.

Private queerspace play party at Woodhull!
Private queerspace play party at Woodhull!

So these two conferences taught me to feel.  They taught me that when I get defensive, I intellectualize, I overanalyze, I try to get into other people’s heads, I reflect on the past, I try to do exactly what I’m doing now.  I don’t feel because it’s a completely fucking vulnerable place.  Case in point: where I was in tears writing the paragraph about my experiences at Woodhull I was a sobbing mess.  Right now, I am dissociated to the point of disinterest, to the point of ending the entry and wondering why I wrote it in the first place.

Mental health wise, I am a person with Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and several instances of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Sometimes these blend wonderfully to make me a hyperaware, feelings-sensitive, intelligent being who is very careful with my assumptions.   Sometimes the blends bring me to other places, some good, some great, some downright horrible.  I don’t have any complete or concluding verdicts to round up my experiences at Woodhull or the TOT to make this a digestible blog post.  I’ll probably revisit it and do quite a bit of editing and adding later on.  But something needed to be said.   Something deserved to be written.  It has been a powerful, emotionally exhausting, and life-changing week to the point where I’m not quite sure who I am right now (I thought today was Friday for a few hours).

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Second to last day at TOT, burnout imminent.

One final thing I want to say about Woodhull, though I’m not sure the order it should be included in this entry, but I wanted to put it in before I forget it, is how much the last week has taught me about the concept of status in the field of Sexuality.  Whether a blogger, educator, sex worker, activist, clinician, so much more that I feel partially terrible for marginalizing the “so much more” bit, you are important for whatever you do.  Not like I need to be the one validating your work, but still.  I saw so many “famous” and “well-known” people this week that were just fucking humans like everyone else.  I even feel a little guilty for name-dropping Emily Nagoski and am debating that redaction…going to sit on it for a bit and why I felt the need to include that.  I had so many great conversations with all of these “big names” this week and didn’t tweet them, didn’t tell anyone else about them, because I respected them for what they were, great conversations.  And I’m a little salty and a lot confused why celebrity has become a thing in the field of sexuality.  I get the whole giving creedence and respect.  I definitely agree with live tweeting hashtagging and giving proper citation for brilliant ideas being generated during workshops.  But when I see stuff like “OMG selfie with ___ look who I just met!”  I’m left with a really puzzled feeling.  I don’t really know what that feeling is, other than maybe fear of capitalist tendencies or going back to that status of not being the cool kid I discussed in the earlier parts of my blog, but it’s like, we’re all part of one community here.  One of the “celebs” I was hanging out with after Woodhull said they deliberately wore a hat the entire time because they wanted to avoid that kind of response, and I totally get it.  Like, maybe they’re here to learn, too?

I mean, my toy lineup from our play party made me semi-famous the morning after.
I mean, my toy lineup from our play party made me semi-famous the morning after.

When I went to the Transgender Training of Trainers, Dr. Green even said something along the lines of “Yeah, you can totally tell people you passed this course…you get a certificate, you know!  But you don’t have to go throwing my name around, even though technically it is my course!”  When you use the image of a celebrity, big name, well-established community figure, when you name-drop, what kind of agency are you taking from that person?  What kind of subalternity are you creating and in a community promoting sex-positivity; do we really want to get that gross about it?  To me, it just cheapens the whole idea.

Yes, I am super fucking proud of myself for pulling through this week.  I most definitely had a deep con-drop on Sunday night, collapsing on a dear friends chaise lounger in the dark and calling my partner in Jersey on the phone crying, “I can’t do the next three days, I don’t even have the energy to shower.”  But I fucking pulled my shit together, I smelted one last spoon, and I held my own during this training.  So yeah, I’m going to toot my own horn.  I’m going to be confident for the first time in a long fucking time and say, “Not only did I do the thing, but I did the thing FUCKING WELL!”

So thank you to Woodhull and TOT for helping me feel all the feels, and to reduce my temptation to get Butlerian with this entry and to let it come from my heart.

/mic drop

Review of Vixen’s Tristan 1

I don’t know what it is about ass talk that makes me either smother it with puns or anthropomorphize all things butt-related.  I’ve never been the kid who drew dick graffiti (ok maybe sometimes) or called someone a pussy…my lexicon has always been oriented towards the posterior.  I guess I’m just an ass man.  Or an asshole.  Or just an ass, in general.  I still remember having to sing alto in sixth grade Chorale for “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day,” and NEVER being able to make it through the lyric, “Between an ox and a silly poor ass” without losing my shit.  That horrible commercial where the guy accidentally calls his interviewer “Dumbass” when his name is actually “Mr. Dumas?”  Unforgettable.  So yeah, it’s really hard for me to write any review about anal toys, any blog post about anal health, or any commentary on anal sex without getting a little ridiculous.  Sorry, but also, maybe a little not sorry?   Anyway…

 

Tristan 1

 

The Vixen Tristan 1 has been in my anal toy repertoire since its days known only as the Tristan, before the Tristan 2 came to be.  Given that the Tristan 2 is a little more short and stout when the Tristan 1 is already too girthy and not long enough for me, I don’t think I’ll be buying the Tristan 2 anytime soon, but more on that later.  I initially bought the Tristan 1 because it checked off several points of interest for me in a butt plug.  It had a seemingly reasonably long shaft, a flanged (flared) base that was meant to fit between buttcheeks comfortably so I could potentially walk around with it or have double penetrative sex more easily with it, it was tauted to stay put and not “pop out,” it was silicone and black, a color I like for anal toys because it doesn’t show any santorum-y goodness after a rough go, and it was named and endorsed by Tristan Taormino herself.

 

Working in a porn store for 8 plus years, Tristan had become my go-to educator and filmmaker when customers asked me about trying anal sex, comparing it to what they had seen in hardcore porn like Evil Angel’s Anal Acrobats and the like.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a serious respect for stars like Proxy Paige and HotKinkyJo who can stretch their anuses with supernatural ability, but Tristan gave a really casual accessibility to education through porn using actual porn stars to demonstrate a less intimidating approach to anal.  It’s still mindblowing to look back to the books and films and think they were made from ten to sixteen years ago.  What she did was absolutely groundbreaking then, and she continues to work her ass off to this day, educating and promoting sexuality awareness and positivity.  I’ll be attending the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit come August, and can’t wait to see her there.

 

Tristan 1

 

I don’t usually spend a lot of time discussing packaging, but Vixen’s packaging of the Tristan was amazing.  It came in this clear plastic cylindrical tub (a photo from Smitten Kitten’s website that gives you an idea) that was perfect for storage.  If I didn’t want to display my Tristan on my toy shelf, I would definitely have kept it in here, and I hung onto this container for quite some time, trying to figure out some other use for it because it was just that cool.  I can understand why the Tristan comes with this container, though, as the Vixen silicone used to make it is an absolute lint magnet.  Granted, most silicone tends to attract lint and dust…my traditional Tantus silicone will snag a cat hair mid air from almost four inches away, but the Tristan, put on the bottom shelf of my toy rack after a wash and dry, will be covered in dust in less than a day.  This is definitely an anal toy you are going to need to rinse off before usage each time, or at least have baby wipes handy.

 

The material is SO squishy.  I had felt Vixskin in my partner’s neon green Mustang they affectionately named “Patient Zero,” but the squish and give of the Tristan, even with a solid inner core, made it really difficult to insert, especially when lubed up.  It has a very rounded head with only a slightly pointed tip, so my ass is very hesitant to take it and I can’t really apply firm pressure to squeeze it inside of me without the neck of the toy bending and slipping the bulb out of place.  With enough breathing and a vibrator on my clit, more often than not I am able to get the Tristan inside of me, and it is THEN that the softness of the silicone feels amazing.  The clenching of my sphincter makes the silicone conform nicely to my insides and it’s super comfortable.  This feeling usually doesn’t last very long, however, as when I use a vibrator and bring myself to orgasm, the way my bits swell does not work together with how the bulb rests inside of me.  It’s almost like it’s too short, like if the bulb were just a half inch higher, my ass would have something more to grab onto while everything swelled and contracted during orgasm and it wouldn’t feel so achy and painful.

 

And while Tristan’s right, it doesn’t pop out during orgasm or contractions the way a lot of my other butt toys have, this one goes flying when I am double penetrating myself with something else.  Even the slimmest and softest of dildos will make the Tristan immediately slip out of me when I insert them vaginally.  I do love how the cut of the base fits between my butt cheeks, but conversely, it does mean this is less material to grab onto if I want to wiggle the butt plug slightly in and out of me while I hold a vibe on my clit.  And given that the Vixen silicone is so soft to begin with, I can’t really get much of a grip on the flange to work the butt plug, so the Tristan really is just one of those plugs that has to stay put once it’s in me.

 

Vixen Tristan 1 Butt Plug in a Dunkin Donuts Coffee Mug

 

I feel like if they made a Tristan 3 with a longer neck, more of a taper to the head, and more of a severe graduation from the bulb to the neck so it truly stays put during things like double penetration, I’d have a new favorite butt plug.  But for now, the Tristan takes a little too much work to make it worth it for me.

 

I will say, though, that the Tristan stretched me out just enough to take my Shilo really comfortably tonight, and although my primary partner didn’t enjoy the Shilo for pegging his butthole, I am telling you, that toy is amazing in my ass.  Like holy shit, I have a dick in my ass (technically my dick in my ass, which is even hotter).  If my boyfriend took his dick out of my ass and put the Shilo in already warmed up, I swear to Bowie I wouldn’t know the difference.  I was so fucking impressed.  So while the Tristan may not be my favorite anal toy, I may have just now found my new favorite pegging toy.  So thanks Tristan.  I couldn’t have discovered this without you! <3

Review of Tantus’s Echo Handle

The Tantus Echo Handle is a manifold experience that begs lots of explanation on my part.  I’ve been putting off this review for several reasons.  One, because I’ve been really enjoying my repeated trials of the toy and have found new things I like about it during each use, two, because the overall process of acquiring this toy was a bit of a bear and I wanted to find a useful way to incorporate it into my blog.

Tantus Echo Handle

I bought the Echo Handle as a grab bag item which was part of an additional Tantus promotion on their website.  Word to the wise: follow Tantus’s social media, because they very frequently have awesome sales going on.  The “grab bag” option, though, is an ongoing deal Tantus offers where they use whatever leftover silicone from previous toy pours to make toys in random colors.  This provides less picky customers with an affordable product.  I thought I was one of those “less picky” customers.  I thought there was no possible color that a random color option could go wrong.  Clear, brown, red…a swirly mess resembling a tutti frutti jellybean, whatever, I thought I would be happy with it.  Especially when I  had seen the Echo Handle grab bag item my fellow Business of Blogging classmate received as part of our class review assignment.  It seemed as though several reviewers had gotten awesome color combinations in their grab bags (just Google “Echo Handle” and “grab bag” and you’ll see what I mean), so I was super hopeful for something awesome.

Coming Out Amy’s Echo Handle

What came in the mail was a paler version of the slime from Ghostbusters 2, almost fleshy but too translucent to convince myself it was a realistic dil like my other Tantus favorites, the Mikey O2 and the Vamp.  I was already a bit sour after Tantus didn’t honor my promotional discount I tried to use via Dangerous Lilly’s website after I hastily clicked “submit” on my order, despite their not shipping or fulfilling the order until a full two weeks later (and adding insult to injury, making the order ship later than Tantus’s usual delivery dates).   I didn’t get to take my Echo Handle on vacation, and when I got home, I returned to see a really basic colored dildo with imperfections galore: excess silicone that needed cutting at the base of the handle, weird smudges that looked like fingerprints where shine should have been, and the grossest part was a fleck of black mystery material embedded in the silicone itself.   After stewing over it on social media, I decided to be a bit more mature and give Tantus the credit they are due as a reputable and responsive company and contacted them regarding my disappointment with the order.  I figured that even if I didn’t get a refund, an exchange, or anything of the like, it would open up some sort of dialogue with the company regarding this outlier in grab bag quality.

Black Inclusion in Tantus Toy
Featuring the mystery fleck, ~2mm under the silicone surface.

Tantus’s customer service response was exemplary. With true professionalism and empathy, Kimberly (their Customer Service Representative) apologized for each complaint I offered (which I did so in much more constructive terms than the ranty tantrums provided above), and two weeks later I had a new Echo Handle shipped to me free of charge.  Kimberly promised Tantus would ensure they would use colors marbled from a vibrant pour, and I got a rich dark chocolate brown fading into black mixed with a pinkish red.  The thing looks like a cross between a truffle and some sort of wooden staff.  It is absolutely gorgeous and truly unique.  I’ve seen a lot of pinks and blues and greens and yellows, but never a color combination as nuanced as this.  Tantus really seemed to have put a lot of thought into this pour.  And for someone like me who is so obsessed with the aesthetics of sex toys, particularly when the Echo Handle is already such a visually unique item, the new colors I received complimented the shape of it perfectly.

Tantus Echo Handle

Now, onto the functionality and feel of it all.  The Echo Handle is a solid toy. Not solid as in firm, although the toy offers Tantus’s traditional firmness of the silicone you might find in the Vamp or other basic models, but solid as in a structurally sound, well thought out piece.  It has flop, which is sort of part and parcel to the physics of having an 11 inch long toy (7 inches insertable) molded with a grippable handle that allows you to whip it around like Ivy’s snake sword from Soulcalibur.  The texture of the handle is subtle but genius, tiny pits mixed with the actual divots molded for your fingers keep the handle from getting slippery with lube. It’s so deliberately brilliant, because think about it, if Tantus just made the handle matte in contrast to the rest of the Echo’s shine, it would still get slimy with lube and lose grip.  The pitted surface makes for a perfect texture combined with the finger moldings.

Handle of the Tantus Echo Handle

The space between the handle and the dildo itself is also relatively bendy, allowing me to reposition my usage without pushing the dildo into any uncomfortable angles while it’s already inside of me.  This flexibility is wonderful for my partner when he fucks me with it, as he can adjust his body for comfort while he penetrates me with the Echo Handle and it doesn’t make it pop out of me.   And the insertable part?  Oh my god.  I’ve never been a huge fan of textured dildos aside from a bent or bulged tip, but these repeated ridges are fucking glorious.  Every single thrust is a new opportunity for g-spot stimulation.  The girth combined with the ridges and generous length stimulates my vaginal opening…you know that feeling you get right as something’s being pushed inside you?  Right before you get to the pressure of the fullness?  Yeah, somehow the Echo gives you THAT sensation combined WITH the fullness and my brain can’t understand it.

It just feels delicious, and the simplicity of achieving that sensation with the handle makes this all so accessible.  It makes the thrusting and the grip so easy.  It makes me come almost too fast, and I love that my fingers don’t have to cramp up forming a death claw around a flimsy base on a short dildo. Cleanup is boil, bleach, top-rack dishwasher, towel dry, or swing around water droplets at your partner screaming “THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU” to terrify them, whatever.  The Echo Handle can also stand up on its own if you balance it verrrrry delicately and no strong winds blow by.  All in all I am really pleased with the Echo Handle’s design, and if you truly don’t care about the color (look deep into your heart, because I thought I was among that population once), the grab bag is a wonderful option to get your hands on a great toy at an unbeatable price point.

Now the gods grew quite scared of our strength and defiance…

and Thor said, “I’m gonna kill ’em all with my hammer, like I killed the giants.”

As part of our Business of Blogging course with Epiphora and JoEllen Notte (The Redhead Bedhead) this past spring, my fellow bloggers and I were given the task of coming up with an origin story…something that encapsulated our desires to blog about sex, sexuality, identity, toys, and all the other delightful things we write about on a regular basis.  I loved this assignment so much; it gave each member of our cohort such unique opportunities to express our backgrounds in so many different formats.  It was a delightful way to learn about each other and I had tons of fun writing it.  So here it is, in all its unedited glory:

 

The concept of an “Origin Story” has put Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s “Origin of Love” in my head on a loop all week with the simultaneous imagery of Weapon X from the Marvel universe (Uncanny X-men story arc ALWAYS).  And I’ve sort of been traversing head and heart for my story.  Do I illustrate a mosaic of snapshots from my life with a lens covered in more vaseline than RuPaul’s Drag Race seasons 1 and 2?  Do I pick one cathartic moment and deconstruct that in order to respect its own value as life is full of origin stories?  And then I realized my “Origin Story” had been staring me in the face the whole time.  Hedwig and X-men.  So what’s the connection to blogging, toys, my passions for sex education, sexual self-discovery and exploration?

First of all, I had discovered both Hedwig and the Angry Inch and X-men comics at hugely transformative stages of my life.  I was around 7 years old when X-men entered my life.  It was one of the first cartoons I ever really engaged with, the first arcade game I punched rolls of quarters into, the first comic series I began reading, and Goddess help me, when that 1994 Fleer Trading Card Series came out, the first thing I had ever began collecting feverishly (I still have every card, mint condition, in a plastic binder on my bookshelf).

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
That wig was the WORST.

I understood the higher value of the foil cards that shimmered with their metallic colors, the importance of collecting every card for the triptych stories in order to get the full picture, and I also loved talking about collecting these cards with other kids.  It reminds me a lot of my sex toy collecting now.  Between my highest quality “gets,” to fawning over other collectors’ toy displays, to wishing for those “rares” that were in such limited production that even if I didn’t want them, I NEEDED them, my appreciation for the different artists and aesthetics in the ’94 Fleer Set was really precocious for a 9 year old kid.

The characters in X-men have also been an evolving (see what I did there?) inspiration throughout my life.  As a child, I dressed up as Storm for Halloween one year and Jubilee the next.  In my preteen years, X-men gave me an immense respect for powerful women, but simultaneously allowed me to eroticize them, as my first fantasies as a kid were Psylocke and Polaris.  Purple and green is still my favorite color combination, go figure.  As I got older, and began to understand the political context behind X-men as mutant “others” and my own morphing (again, X-men puns) LGBTQ identity, I saw these characters less as fictional impossibilities and more as realistic role models than most celebrities in early 2000’s culture.

When the live action movies began coming out, I sort of twinged at their “artistic license” with the canon, but was really excited that they were getting more people interested in X-men…people that previously may not have considered themselves “comic folk” or “superhero affiliated.”  It’s sort of like how Sex and the City and Fifty Shades of Grey are all types of frustrating and problematic as introductions to sex toys, but they create dialogue among audiences that might never have happened, and that is something of merit.  I was also really jazzed that Bryan Singer, one of the directors for several of the movies, was openly bisexual until I heard about all the cases of sexual abuse filed against him.  My heart dropped.  As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, it created a lot of conflict as to whether I wanted to continue supporting X-men films, where that would compromise my ethics, or if it might trigger me along the way.

I liken this a lot to my immediate knee-jerk reactions to companies like JimmyJane affiliating themselves with larger, “morally corrupt” corporations like Pipedream or concurrently wondering why She-Vibe continues to stock JimmyJane products.  I see that when inserting my own personal narrative into someone else’s decisions without understanding the individual perspectives of everyone involved, it is really difficult to control my emotional reactions.  I couldn’t rationalize any positives in the X-men films, for example, Anna Paquin, who is also openly bisexual and a proactive figure within several advocacy groups, and I was quick to write off an X-men movie if Bryan Singer had any affiliation with it.  So this is definitely an ongoing battle of mediating my own impulse to “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” which is something that will require extensive work if my blogging aims to explore sociopolitical subtexts behind the production and promotion of sex toys.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
Yup. This was a thing. This was absolutely a thing.

Where the X-men had jumpstarted my sexual exploration in childhood and LGBTQ affiliations in teen years, Hedwig and the Angry inch engaged my sensitivity to self in terms of love, mental well-being, and using my “rebel roots” to connect with people instead of isolating.  My early angsty teens were fueled by punk rock, Ani Difranco, and a complete transformation into masculine-leaning androgyny.  I hadn’t begun identifying as genderqueer, but after seeing Hedwig in my best friend’s living room my sophomore year, I learned that just like my fluid understandings of gender, my ideas of appearing “hard” and “soft” to people were equally blurry.  It became the pitch for my sex education from undergrad onward: because I looked “alternative,” I was actually “accessible.”  People would understand that I wasn’t judging them because I was probably always being judged.  Hedwig taught me to embrace my vulnerabilities in praxis, that I’m not going to get anywhere in life without taking risks, and that mistakes are a part of the process.

But most of all, Hedwig taught me love in a profound way.  I learned about love as a spiritual process, love as a means of connecting to people, love as a foundation for creation, love as the element that runs through everything we do as humans.  And today, it still holds true.  Every paper I have written, every thesis, practicum, or capstone I have ever worked on has emphasized the importance of love in your work.  It is the great equalizer in that it is indefinable and yet always felt in some form.  I use love in how I teach students, how I work with clients in therapy, I am using love right now in how I write this entry.  It is nebulous, explosive of time and space, heady yet simple, spectral beyond anything narrowed down to a “concept.”  I still write anonymous letters to randomized addresses I find from whitepages.com telling people “I have no idea who you are, but you are beautiful and I love you.”  It’s worth doing.  Love makes this all worth doing.

IMG_8714
Fifteen years after watching it in her living room, my best friend and I finally got to see Hedwig on Broadway. With Taye Diggs, no less! <3

Reflecting on X-men and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, I think not only of Stan Lee and John Cameron Mitchell, but everyone else that has had input in the creation and writing of these stories.  These stories are rich with value, complexity in symbolism that are universal enough that almost anyone can connect with them, but nuanced enough that they are not two-dimensional and individuals can take away different messages.  These writers are absolutely brilliant at their craft and it takes a network of support and years of effort to achieve such excellence.  But they are also unique as human beings, they had their own “Origin Stories” to bring them to writing.

Everyone has an origin story, if not one, than many, or even infinite.  Some may say every moment is a new opportunity for an origin story.  I am curious to hear yours, if you’d be willing to share.  If you click on this entry, it will take you to the post where you can add your comments, or you can email me or even chat with me in real time via IRC.

 

 

With love,

Avery

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