Last night, I was browsing through my twitter feed, and came across one particular tweet that kind of perturbed me. The tweet was made by @Epiphora, and included a picture of a magazine opened to a specific article. Mind you, I couldn’t read the article, at first. But the title read: “Different Strokes for Different Folks: Can Sex Toy Reviews Be Sex Negative?”. In addition, there was a block quote in the middle of it, which read: “In cases where a product is simply not a bloggers particular cup of tea, why are some of them actively driving sales away from ethical, sex-positive, all-inclusive companies?“
The article was featured in this month’s issue(January 2018) of XBIZ and written by Kim Faubel of Clendestine Devices. After zooming in a bit, I was able to read the full article very clearly. The article addresses what I can only assume is the slew of negative reviews Clandestine Devices has received on their latest sex toy called the MIMIC, released in January of 2017. Faubel makes the claim that sex bloggers and toy reviewers are a major asset to companies like Clandestine Devices, but may inadvertently be shaming people for wanting to buy, and use, their product.
Some sex toy reviewers are, possibly inadvertently, shaming people. A number of these self-proclaimed sex-positive writers are being quite sex-negative when it comes to what gets people off, and that’s where I find their good intentions can actually be quite harmful.
I’m not a sex toy reviewer, but I know you don’t ‘self-proclaim’ yourself as a sex-positive person, writer or otherwise. You do so by lifting people up, encouraging body-positivity, empowering them, and taking control of their own sexuality. People deserve to enjoy themselves to the fullest extent, and reviewers give them the knowledge and experience needed to make informed decisions when buying products. Readers don’t blindly follow reviewers because the reviewer proclaims what products to buy, and what to ignore, like some kind of dildo-dictator. Readers do so because each one of them has been able to achieve sexual autonomy on a level that satisfies all their needs, without wasting money wading through bad products until they found a good one. People know through experience that these reviewers can be trusted, and know them to be very sex-positive!
I have reached out to several bloggers who have written negative reviews of the MIMIC and thanked them for their feedback and kept in touch with them so I can send them the next one, in hopes that it is better suited to their tastes. There have been times they are shocked that I would be so nice after our product received such a bad review. I maintained that their objectivity is key and their preferences are not up for debate.
And yet, you wrote this anyway…
What Faubel seems to be forgetting is independent reviewers exist for this very reason. They’re not afraid to be honest, do their research, and give a clear and concise analysis on what a product can do, and what it can’t do. If a product doesn’t perform up to a certain par, they know it’s their responsibility to make sure the rest of us are aware of it.
Bloggers are, without a doubt, product experts. They know materials, batteries, components, charge time, play time, waterproof vs. splashproof, the correct lube to use with different materials, what is “body-safe,” how many functions and speeds a device has, etc. They do thorough research and they do it so well.
Wait… I’m remembering something you said early on in the article:
Critics are notorious for being relentlessly honest but I’m not sure their execution is the best approach to helping consumers find the best products that are right for them, especially when dealing with such an intimate and subjective area.
Faubel seems to be contradicting herself throughout the article. At times, she claims bloggers don’t know enough about sex toys to give adequate advice on purchasing one, and later says these bloggers are doing an incredible job doing their research and sharing their knowledge. Faubel goes on to say:
What I believe they could use some help with is people. It seems they have forgotten that their erogenous zones are not the same as everyone else’s[…]
[…]It would behoove all of us, especially reviewers, to re-think the approach. I believe that could start with a shift in perspective[…]
[…]Think of the shy reader who is reaching out for guidance, a total novice to sex devices. Imagine actually looking in that person’s eyes and wanting to help them in an environment that might intimidate them. Offer guidance and, of course, your opinions — but always remember that your body is not the same as their body.
Although Faubel believes reveiwers could do better to “humanize their roles”, she is, herself, de-humanizing these amazing people, and attempting to discredit all they’ve accomplished. Does she really believe sex bloggers actually don’t keep their readers in mind when writing a review? Does she believe reviewers are solely concerned for themselves? Is she unaware of the existence of regular consumers who also say: “This product is pretty bad”? All Faubel has accomplished is writing an article that gaslights reviewers, and their years of experience, just so they can shift the blame away from her company’s own bad product. And that couldn’t be more apparent by what she said here:
[…]a blogger needs a voice, an approach unique to their name and message. Sometimes, however, that brand may be confusing “honesty” with “bullying” and I don’t like seeing that in any facet.
There seems to be an agenda and it’s fueled by poor business ethics and an abuse of whatever power the reviewers think they have.
Practice compassion. If you’re going to be sex-positive, actually be sex-positive and don’t use our industry as a way to bring people down.
Here’s a better idea, Ms. Faubel: If it’s generally agreed that your product is bad, just own that, and work towards making a better product next time. Because this conspiracy that reviewers are working together to control the sex toy market is just absurd. All you’ve accomplished is alienating sex bloggers everywhere even further. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they were less-willing to work with Clandestine Devices in the future. Nobody has it out for your company, and nobody is “abusing their power”. You wanted honest reviews, you got them, and now you regret it. That’s all.
I want to thank Epiphora for bringing this to my attention, and giving me permission to use her photo. Epiphora is one of the most knowledgeable people in this industry with 10 years of experience under her belt. She’s reviewed over 600 sex toys on her website, Hey Epiphora, and sometimes gives them away to her readers. If you’re interesting in sex toy reviews that are snarky, honest, and delightfully void of euphamisms, Hey Epiphora has it all! She hasn’t paid me, or given me any incentive to write this. She’s just a legitimately awesome person.