opinion

Can Pleasure Product Reviews Be Sex-Negative?

Can Pleasure Product Reviews Be Sex-Negative?

The MIMIC was released in January 2017 and with its release came immediate success. We spent all of the previous year developing this product and getting out on the road to showcase our upcoming vibrator. What was Clandestine Devices’ goal? Our goal was to come out of the gate with an ergonomic and beautiful vibrator that would satiate the desires of a variety of users and introduce, what will be, a cohesive line of thoughtful, high-end sexual devices.

While the feedback has been mostly encouraging, there is little we can learn from a home run. We have relied on our users to inform us with what they were less than thrilled with, and this assisted us in the development and will continue to do so with our next product, and the next, and the next.

In cases where a product is simply not a blogger’s particular cup of tea, why are some of them actively driving sales away from ethical, sex-positive, all-inclusive companies?

Having spent decades handling and selling the immense range of products we all know in any proper adult stores, I did feel we had an advantage in what people like versus what they do not like, but there’s no shortage of information available to us. I took advantage of this by diving into the world of product experts online. The reviewers were easy to find and they spared no details when it came to the items they were reviewing. I did notice, early in my research, that the more popular sex toy reviewers were also unflinchingly cruel and would even go as far as to tell people not to waste their money on certain items, and that rubbed me the wrong way — pun intended. What about someone who is potentially reading that, someone who has spent their money on that item and LOVES it? How shameful would they feel?

Critics are notorious for being relentlessly honest but I’m not sure that their execution is the best approach to helping consumers find the products that are right for them, especially when dealing with such an intimate and subjective area. I admit, when I was on the other side of the counter, I had plenty of opportunities to suggest items that were my personal favorites, but sometimes the guests just weren’t impressed. On the contrary, they might fall in love with an item that I couldn’t stand. It was clear to me that our diversity is a cause for celebration, and not something to exploit or shame.

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 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 it is better suited to their tastes. There have been times that 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. I’m grateful for the feedback and eager to get them a product from us that they will enjoy! The MIMIC is not for everyone, but it’s nice to know that some of these people can understand, while it didn’t float their boat — maybe they even hated it — there are plenty of other boats out there that will set a gallant sail alongside our little sting-ray.

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 items have, etc. They do thorough research and they do it so well. 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.

I’m also not ignorant to what contributes to a successful brand; 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. In specific cases where a product may contain harmful chemicals and the company doesn’t disclose the proper warnings, by all means, it should fall under our civic duty to warn the public about it.

If a marketing campaign is blatantly misogynistic, I think deterring people from spending their money on that company’s products could be considered noble. I’m not opposed to shedding light on false advertisements, shady business dealings, awful customer service, dangerous components, etc. If the people responsible for products or campaigns that are threatening the consumers they are aiming for won’t admit it, we should step in and make it known. But in cases where a product is simply not a blogger’s particular cup-of-tea, why are some of them actively driving sales away from ethical, sex-positive, all-inclusive companies? 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.

It would behoove all of us, especially reviewers, to re-think the approach. I believe that could start with a shift in perspective. For the bloggers and reviewers, some things that might assist in humanizing your chosen roles: Think of the shy reader who is reaching out for guidance, a total novice to the world of 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 your body is not the same as their body. Remember or imagine what it feels like to be shamed for what you find pleasurable and do your best not to do that to others. 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. We are fortunate to have a tightly knit community of people in this business that, for the most part, get along and support one another. Perhaps if you can put these into practice, your voice will matter the way you want it to.

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