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The secret truth about sex toy reviewing

Yes, I masturbate for a living, but it is not as glamorous as you think. These are the candid confessions of a professional sex toy reviewer.

Sex toy reviewer spread: camera, laptop, to-do list, and sex toys everywhere.

“Holy shit, you masturbate for a living?!”

This is how people often respond when I tell them what I do, and honestly, I can’t blame them. On the surface, “sex toy tester” sounds like a dream job. “You’re so lucky!” they exclaim. “You get paid to orgasm!” But this is an oversimplification — and it starts to get annoying after a while. Aside from dismissing all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into running a blog, it glosses over the aspects of this job that are less than idyllic.

While being a sex toy reviewer is definitely more fun than most jobs and has its fair share of perks,1 there are a number of drawbacks too. The following is a list of 22 unfortunate truths I wish everyone understood about sex toy reviewing — peculiarities that don’t occur to you unless you’re vag-deep in that sex blogger life.

So, for anyone who has ever said to me “I wish I had your job!”, here’s a candid peek into what it’s actually like being a professional sex toy reviewer.

1. Your brain never shuts off. Masturbation will never again be the carefree, thoughtless experience it once was. Instead, your mind is a constant ticker-tape of observations: wow, this pattern is weirdow, why is it poking me like thatjesus christ this thing is loud. 15 minutes into the porn, you realize you’ve been zoning out, taking mental notes, not perceiving any of what has happened on screen. The concept of getting lost in masturbation, of enjoying it for its own sake, starts to feel foreign. You become adept at clenching dildos with your vaginal muscles while you pull up your website’s dashboard. You get vag goo all over your keyboard.

2. Most people don’t care about your sex toy collection. As huge and awesome and organized as your collection may be, it’s not something you can show off to just anyone who comes over. It is not like a collection of fine art, and treating it as such will cause quizzical stares. Plus, even if your toys are clean, they once were not. Everyone remembers this. Everyone but you. They do not want to touch your vagina-tainted objects. Not even your partner is excited about toys you acquire. In fact, they become little more than your personal cat wrangler and battery compartment opener.

3. You can’t talk about, or do, your work in public. At coffee shops, you must monitor the volume of your voice and strategically position your laptop screen away from prying eyes. You pray for an empty seat next to you on the plane so you can write about your genitals in peace. You turn down invitations from friends because you have to stay home and masturbate. One day, you get ballsy and set up a spread of dildos on your porch to photograph… at which point, of course, a family with children walk by.

4. You incur bodily harm. Sex toys grab your pubic hair. A spiked dildo scrapes your insides. You throw out your back trying to use an anal toy. You voluntarily touch an electrostimulation vibe to your clit, then wonder why the fuck you thought that was a good idea. On a particularly bad day, you find yourself in the shower furiously rinsing rubbing alcohol off your burning vulva, questioning your life choices.2

Tristan and Ryder butt plugs on the edge of my bathroom sink, casually.
Tristan and Ryder butt plugs on the edge of my bathroom sink, casually.

5. Sex toys become invisible. Whereas most people can spot a big red dildo a mile away, your eyes pass over it, not registering it at all. Every photo you share with family members on Facebook must be scrupulously scanned. The obscene objects blend seamlessly into your home decor, which becomes a problem when you need to clean up prior to guests. You accidentally leave freshly-washed butt plugs on the edge of the sink and dildos on the coffee table, only realizing you’ve done so when it’s too late — when band practice is over, when the construction workers leave, when the door-to-door salespeople are already sitting on your couch. Oops…?

6. Masturbation is a chore. You must set alerts and put it on your to-do list. You don’t get much choice in which toys you use. You never feel the urge to use a butt plug; you merely have to use a butt plug, because you’ve had a good poop today and that’s what you should do. Masturbation is by obligation only; you will never procrasturbate or use jacking off as a reward ever again. In the afterglow, rather than chilling out or falling asleep, you have to debrief and type up notes.

7. People don’t take your job seriously. They denigrate it, laugh at it, sexualize it. They scoff at your collection. They don’t believe you because you “look so innocent.” They try to relate to you with awkward sex puns. I can assist you with testing 😉 they comment oh-so-helpfully, as if you’ll be wooed by the cleverness and originality of this offer that you definitely have not received 5,000 times before from other internet creepers. It’s ironic, too, because…

8. Your partners get sick of helping you test toys. For you they’ve already endured pain, cervix poking, pubic hair pulling. You’ll recognize it in their faces, the thinly-veiled reluctance as you beg them to taste-test lube or try that useless stroker one more time. You try to appeal to them with humor, asking “want to have some extremely distressing sex?” You start bribing them. You end up apologizing to them post-sex… then interrogating them to get their opinion on the experience.

9. Storing your collection is… challenging. You feel compelled to keep the packaging from each toy you’re currently reviewing until it piles up into a mountain. You lose toys and forget that you own others. All specialized sex toy storage is laughably incapable of accommodating your bevy, so you have to dedicate a whole closet to it instead. If you don’t label your charging cords, chaos will ensue.

10. You’re forced to use terrible toys, and thus have shitty orgasms. Your credibility depends on trying mediocre and even horrible things more than once, just in case they will surprise you or redeem themselves. Had a traumatizing experience last time you used that pinchy vibrator? Too bad, you have to test it again just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke! Is that unreliable toy going to start glitching right at the peak of your orgasm? Probably, but you won’t know until you try!

A whole bunch of sex toys piled up in a dish drying rack.
At some point I started putting dirty/clean toys in a dish rack, and I never looked back.

11. Dirty sex toys invade your life. Your dedication to the cause, to thoroughly comparing everything, is rewarded with a heap of vag juice-crusted dildos which, after all that, you are now too exhausted to clean. The thought of hiring someone solely to wash your sex toys crosses your mind. Often. A dildo butler. Now that would be luxury.

12. When people ask you what you are up to lately, you have no fucking idea what to say. An honest answer —  “um, masturbating a lot?” — does not seem like an acceptable one. Civilians do not understand the satisfaction of conquering a girthy dildo, the delight of penning a smash hit tweet, the gravity of reviewing a long-anticipated product, or the excitement of running a successful toy giveaway. They do not need to know about the latest thing that entered and exited your vagina. Sex toy gossip is meaningless to them. Fuck. What else even is there to talk about…?

13. When you are sick, angry, sad, or tired, sex is the very last thing you want to write about. But you run a sex blog, and you must soldier on. Stay on-brand. Put on a brave, sexy face. Muster a tweet. Hope that today is not the day that dude #1758 says something dickish to you on Twitter, because you will GO OFF.

14. Sex toys haunt you. You are terrified of inadvertently lying to your readers or enabling anyone to buy anything that they won’t 100% love. You have one bad session with a toy and then one good one and don’t know how the fuck to explain that. Feeling personally responsible for everyone’s orgasms, you obsess about the day (it WILL come, you just know it) that someone will email you in a rage because you misdirected them. Then, one night, you’re startled awake by a possessed sex toy turning itself on in a drawer, scaring you half to death. A true haunting.

15. Comparisons drive you into a neurotic spiral. Tortured by the thought of not being exhaustive, you keep almost every toy you receive just in case you need it for comparisons in the future. You enact dildo flights and push the limits of your vagina. You apply a line-up of vibrators one by one to your clit to figure out which one is strongest, weakest, best, worst… all the while refraining from the orgasm your body clearly wants.

16. Orgasms become the enemy. No longer a marker of success, as you were previously taught, orgasms come to symbolize a lack of self-control. You must cope with this either by playing an elaborate game of edging, or teaching your body to regard orgasm as something to recover from quickly — so you can keep testing, like a professional. Professionals aren’t slowed down by measly orgasms.

17. And yet, your efforts never seem to be enough. Within days of a new sex toy being announced, people do the chop-chop clap at you and ask “when’s your review coming out?” You spend an inordinate amount of time writing your blog posts, attempting to anticipate reader questions, but someone always pops up in the comments section like “OK, but did you try it anally?” or “OK, but did you use it with a partner?” These comments are not written in all caps, but they feel like they are.

My cat Chowder hugging a cat hair-covered dildo (Shilo).
Chowder hugging a cat hair-covered Shilo.

18. Hours of your life are spent removing hairs from dildos. First, while kneeling over the toys, shooing cats away, painstakingly picking hairs off with your bare hands before taking photos. Then, on the computer, you must Photoshop out all the additional dust and hairs that you couldn’t see with the naked eye. Finally, the toy looks smooth! Perfect! Flawless! Your reward for this? Not a single comment on your review compliments your photo.

19. Your knowledge is useless, your success inconsequential. Oh, you know a lot about sex toy materials? You know what year LELO was founded and what Jimmyjane prototypes looked like? Nina Hartley once complimented your hair? Yeah, most people don’t give a shit. Your triumphs are only appreciated by your partners, your cats, and your blogging friends. Your other friends merely nod politely and pretend to be impressed. Most criminal of all: you don’t even get to be a genius during Trivial Pursuit.

20. You get jaded. You get irrationally angry at the high-pitched whine of a vibrator charging. You develop vendettas against companies. Whereas in the past you’d give passes to bland, nondescript dildos, you now judge them for not trying harder. You involuntarily recoil at the word “revolutionary,” laugh maniacally at the phrase “whisper-quiet,” and every time you encounter misogynistic sex toy marketing, you scream.

21. You don’t get to enjoy the sex toys you actually love. At least not guilt-free. Because every masturbation session is an opportunity to test new products, and you wouldn’t want to selfishly eschew your important work and let the entire internet down, would you?

22. Your opinion will not change the sex toy industry as we know it. In the grand scheme of sex toy manufacturing, reviews matter very, very little. No matter how persuasive your argument, no matter how much you think you have the key to a company’s success, it will probably have no impact whatsoever. In fact, it’s far more likely that companies will react to negative reviews with mansplaining and threats of legal action! What fun! Cool feedback!

Tell me, fellow sex toy reviewers — do you experience these same difficulties? Which are the easiest and hardest to live with? What’d I miss?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to my lengthy afternoon masturbation session. After all, I’ve only had two orgasms so far…

  1. Always wearing pajama pants and owning amazing sex toys are high on the list
  2. Don’t ask…

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  1. I relate HARD to #5 – these things just don’t phase me and that realization is often after I have sent a seemingly innocent picture to my partner that their kids might see and ask, “what’s that in the background?”
    I have also recently been made aware that what I “do for a living” made me an unwanted attendee to the kids’ birthday party (they’re twins) and I had to be reminded that some people think that way, and one of those people is the mother of the kids I’m crazy about.
    I do know that what you do and how you do it is why you are so revered, and your readers and fans thank you.

  2. Ugh. It’s ridiculous how being involved in the adult industry makes people think we’ve thrown all semblance of social boundaries out the window.

  3. Omg, I work at a sex toy shop, and I identified SO hard with this! I’ve realized I’m not even a huge fan of sex toys, just sex education, but I know a superfluous amount of information about toys now because of my job. I have 10x as many sex toys as I will ever need for the sake of research, and no storage system to cope. I don’t know how much of my professional life to share outside of work, and who doesn’t want to hear anything about it.

    Thank you for writing this, gave me a good chuckle 🙂

  4. Will what you/we do change the industry? A teeny bit, there are companies who listen. Many more went silicone despite their archaic ways only a couple of years ago. Proper bloggers help store buyers if they haven’t had their hands on a product that you’ve received first. Sales people can wax poetic all they want, but until you/we put it through the trials – I know, I don’t care until myself or someone i trust has used the item.

    Not being able to talk about what I do, without instantly becoming a weirdo or target… is by far #1 on my lists of things to hate about how people perceive the adult industry. Not being able to share my excitement is a close 2nd.

    I need to make it out to more events/com, other store’s workshops, climb the ladder… it is nice to be around others in this situation. You’re not alone!

  5. i got freaked out a lil bit when i first read this comment because i am also named Z and i also work at a sex shop and i also feel the feels you’ve mentioned… for a second there i was like “I DID NOT WRITE THIS COMMENT WHO HACKED ME”

  6. kinda felt like “aww, man” reading this – hope you’re doing okay;

    i can see how sometimes it might feel like your work can seem somewhat non-influential, tedious, maybe even on some days just flat-out not important. but you have a lot to be proud of and have definitely influenced many people – people who make sex toys, who sell them, who use them, who write about them – not trying to to add to the haunting sex toy nightmares by saying so, though.

    i definitely get scared when i sell a sex toy to people, that “i have steered them wrong and they’ll hate it and have the worst time and it will all be my fault and they’ll never touch a sex toy again and will never get to know that there’s really great stuff out there all because the vibrator i was so sure they’d love is actually horrible for them and they’re gonna be scarred forever”. but in the end i have to just chill the fuck out because it’s 100% not in my control and it’s okay to recommend things that people don’t like! we are all different and can only do our best, ya know?

    however, i will also say that your blog and incredibly thorough research on just about everything has helped me answer customer questions and provide information i would not otherwise know because i haven’t used it or looked into that particular toy enough to know the answer yet.

    and the other thing i super hardcore relate to is that all i want to talk about ever is my job, and dildos, and this shitty vibrator or this amazing vibrator or how dangerous this particular lube ingredient actually is or how completely horrifying it is that anal-eaze is a thing or the fact that people have TWO sphincters in their anus and isn’t that incredible? but nobody ever wants to have those conversations lol. my boyfriend is so tired of hearing about this shit and so are all of my friends. i had to resort to talking about it with my family and they’re not exactly excited to hear about it either.

    anyway sorry for the loonnnng comment and thank you very much for doing all thatcha do, i feel safe in saying that we all appreciate it/you/your work quite a lot

  7. while this post is depressing and kind of deterring, it’s extremely helpful. im really glad you made it, it seems hard and emotional to make. insight on why this is not a glamorous job really helps you assess if you’re cut out for this or not.

  8. Just to let you know, I’m a totally average somewhat boring guy married to a wonderful woman for 22 years this last weekend. We’re not particularly edgy, but we are very satisfied, and an appreciable amount of that is due to me reading you consistently and using you as a guide for things to try and things to avoid like the plague. Thanks for what you do.

  9. Oh, don’t worry about me, I am just fine! I didn’t write this as an “oh woe is me” sort of thing, it’s supposed to be more lighthearted and interesting. For the most part, I love this work and find it satisfying and fulfilling, and people like you are a BIG reason why. My perfectionist tendencies cause me to think of things sometimes in terms of absolute success or failure, like if someone doesn’t completely LOVE a toy I loved I’ve somehow fucked up. But you’re so right, we can only do our best. Thank you for trusting me so much. It means a lot.

  10. I have been emotionally invested in the sex toy scene for years and boy do I know your pain with invisible sex toys.

    I was reading your latest blog post through email and when I was midway through that SPECIFIC section, my mother walked in. It took me a solid thirty seconds to realize I still had pictures of buttplugs on the screen and that was probably not something she would like to see.

    After I made reasonably sure she HADN’T seen I could appreciate this was hilariously ironic.

  11. This. All of this. And I had a good idea about this before going into it, too. This made me laugh, though. So many people I know have no idea that’s what it’s really like for me. Thank you for being my mentor and my friend, and always being honest about your perspective.

  12. Your opinions have absolutely impacted my sex toy collection! There have been many items that I did not know I desperately needed until I read your review, and items that have been deleted from online shopping carts after checking your blog.

    In the long long ago I never used to pay attention to materials or knew what “body safe” really meant. Now I have become a dildo snob who only buys the best.

    Thank you for all that you do! I know it is hard work and not always fun, but know that I and my vagina appreciate you!

  13. I don’t even do the sort of SERIOUS review genuine bloggers do, and *I* sometimes feel #14 because I don’t want my online buds (and random toy shoppers) to buy something I hated or just didn’t work for me for quasi-legit reasons.

    For instance, probably works perfectly well for a lot of users, but that review’s mine because based on my experience it’s likely to be a problem if you have any kind of arthritis/fine motor control issue in your hands. I also went with a Big Teaze cat vibe (over the Downunder one you tentatively recced oops) that I complained to Dallas Novelty about because in the unpacking process I apparently broke/damaged something and now getting the battery compartment closed/opened literally requires a screwdriver.

  14. This is such a great post. I’d like to think a lot of folks who read your blog and those of other reviewers at least appreciate on some levels that a lot of work goes into

  15. Hi! Hi! This is Chowdy’s buddy Apollo, I stoleded human computer again. Hi Chowdy! You look great hugging that squish! Blue black is good colors for you. You should tell your human to always take her blog pictures with you in them. Maybe allow her put toy on you instead of hug it? Then other humans can still see toy details but don’t need worry about cat fur on toy, because toy is on cat fur. Eh? Eh? She makes good pics but everything looks better with a good-looking cat like yourself.

  16. Ugh, this is Sara again, sorry about that. I think ever since the cats took over the blog, Apollo just is excited at the prospect of talking to another cat online, for when he’s not wrestling or grooming his little buddy Stitch. Please, carry on…

  17. I am extremely grateful to have found your blog! I was researching a toy type I’d never tried & was getting annoyed with the lack of reviews. I am always leery of product blurbs & I am so picky about my toys, loathing to drop money on something subpar.
    I adore that you write as if just having a conversation with a friend over wine on the front porch. I have laughed, echoed “ewww”, evil-eyed my own feline (frackin’ cathair!) & excitedly proclaimed “oh, I want!”…
    My birthday approaches & I will be spoiling myself with a new toy (or 2?) & you have most assuredly helped narrow my choices!
    Many thanks, sweeting.

  18. njoy Pure wand, eroscillator 2 plus, hitachi rechargeable — these are examples of how you have significantly improved our methodologies of pleasuring ourselves and each other.

    And yes, I’ve *not* purchased several things because of your dedication. When i go to buy something, I stop and check to see if Epiphora has possibly reviewed it.

    As a male who is fond of butt-toys and a bit of a size queen, I’d like to see you um, expand, into that area or convert your boy into a tester, but hey, you can’t have everything (chuckle).

    Blessed be, and may the small gods smile upon you.

  19. #16 is not clear to me, what you meant by “…orgasms come to symbolize a lack of self-control…”?

  20. For what it’s worth, I always enjoy your artistic pictures. Also, all of this, and I mean all, is relatable. I haven’t been doing this long, but I’m already reaching that point.

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