You could almost hear the collective groan from the entire sex toy industry when LELO announced the Sona. After an insufferable year and a half of HEX HEX HI HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT OUR HEX, this is what they released. This is the cool new thing. And as per LELO protocol, boy do they want you to think it’s special and revolutionary and entirely their own idea, not at all influenced by the bevy of air flow clit stimulators that have flooded the market in recent years.
LELO calls the Sona a “sonic massager,” claiming that the toy uses “sonic waves and pulses” rather than vibration. What does this mean in reality? Well, if you peer into the Sona’s nozzle, you can see an attached silicone plate that oscillates up and down. But from what I can discern with a flashlight, that’s what the Womanizer and Satisfyer utilize too: a pulsing plate that creates sensation by displacing air. Other companies have called this technology “pressure wave” and “pleasure air,” but I’m pretty sure it’s all the same goddamn thing.
Naturally, I badgered my sound engineer partner about how on earth a sex toy could use “sonic waves,” a.k.a sound waves, to stimulate. “They’re saying it’s shooting sound waves at your clit and that’s supposed to do something?” he asked as I pressed my Sona Cruise against his palm. “Sorry, but the only kind of sonic wave that will affect you physically like that is a very low frequency sound at a very high volume. Like when you go to a show and the bass guitar and kick drum are so loud it feels like they’re hitting your heart.” ((My partner would like to clarify that it is possible to physically experience high frequencies, but it would be unpleasant and not at all suitable for a sex toy. Please don’t mansplain to him in the comments.))
Considering all vibrators make noise, and “sonic” is just another word for “sound,” LELO calling the Sona “the world-first sonic clitoral stimulator” is a) inaccurate and b) meaningless. Taking a sip of his beer, he finished, “they’re just trying to use buzzwords to make it sound cooler than it is.”
DING DING DING.
Unbeknownst to my partner, LELO’s own marketing likens the feeling of using the Sona to standing next to a speaker at a night club. “Do you feel the music throughout your body, as if it was inside you?” the voice-over asks. “It’s exactly the same principle.”
Only it’s not, because the Sona doesn’t stimulate with sonic waves. It stimulates with air flow, just like the toys from Womanizer and Satisfyer. That’s why simply aiming it at your genitals doesn’t do jack shit — you have to press it against your clit, creating a seal and allowing the air to move. But the difference with the Sona is how little space there is between the tip of the nozzle and the moving plate: less than a centimeter when the toy is running.
You see, I felt the need to dismantle the idea of “sonic waves” because those sound so nice and gentle, and the Sona is not nice and gentle. “Intense” would be putting it kindly. “Overbearing” feels closer to the truth. It’s as if LELO took the technology that already existed and said, “don’t you want this closer to your clit? Even more pinpoint?! Don’t you? Don’t you love it?!?”
I do not love it. I’m not convinced I even like it. Rather than a subtle, undulating sensation, it feels instead like my clit is being haphazardly wheedled by an inept lover with no awareness of how sensitive clits can be. But you can’t teach a sex toy to perform better, not like you can with humans. The Sona is what it is — and what it is is aggressive. It seems like the small tip, and short distance to the moving plate, magnify the harshness.
The Sona comes in two versions: the Sona ($149) and the Sona Cruise ($179). They’re the same toy, quite nearly: both have 8 intensity settings, both are waterproof, both come with storage bags and one year warranties. So what does that extra $30 buy you? It buys you CRUISE CONTROL (no trademark symbol yet? Unbelievable!):
Specially developed by LELO and exclusive to SONA Cruise, Cruise Control is a feature that reserves 20% of SONA Cruise’s full power during normal use, so that when it’s pressed hard against the body and the motor begins to drop power, that extra 20% is unleashed so that there’s no reduction of intensity. It’s not a setting, it’s completely automatic, and it eliminates the single most common complaint against pleasure products.
$50 for anyone who can guess what this actually means in use. Yep! Sudden and unpredictable jumps in power, whether you like it or not! And it doesn’t seem related to the amount of pressure I’m using, either. This “feature,” of sex toys presuming to know what I need at any given moment… lord, one day I’m just going to turn into the eyeroll emoji.
Because I don’t want any extra power from a toy that already feels like it’s flicking my clit at warp speed. In contrast to the touchless, ephemeral fluttering of the Womanizer, the Sona Cruise is so abrasive I wonder whether its silicone plate is actually coming into contact with my clit. I even summoned my partner mid-masturbation, imploring him to measure my clit for me. Apparently it protrudes half a centimeter, which seems like enough to collide with the Sona’s moving parts.
This is relevant because my clit is tiny, y’all. Like, the size of a Jelly Belly, at best. Anyone with larger genitals is completely SOL with the Sona. Its opening measures a mere centimeter wide. (Many of the Womanizers come with an alternative, larger nozzle with double the diameter.)
The Sona does not turn me on, because it doesn’t feel good enough to get me aroused. Pleasure is elusive because the entire time, my brain is like this is… not ideal, is it. And orgasm is more of a byproduct, really — the result of something thwacking away at my clit until it has no choice but to surrender.
Oh, and it makes wet fart sounds whenever it encounters lube/skin/folds.
In short, the Sona is nothing like being surrounded by the booming, intoxicating music at a concert. It’s more like the nasally-voiced person behind you who feels now is the perfect time to have a loud yell-conversation with their friend, actively ruining the experience and testing your patience in previously unimaginable ways.
Is the stimulation unique? Sure, sort of. But fuck unique; give me any old reliable vibrator from my collection, one of which is literally made by LELO, and I’d be happier. Besides, the Sona does not exist in a vacuum. (Ha.) It was, consciously, born into a world already inhabited by direct competitors. Competitors that are cheaper and, in my opinion, much more pleasurable. The Sona’s prettier and shinier and it has a name that doesn’t sound insulting, but when it comes time to latch it onto my clit, none of that matters. That’s the trouble with yanking existing technology, LELO. Your toy will then be judged against a criteria that pre-dates you.
On the first page of the Sona’s manual, before delving into the toy’s features, the text instructs me to use my clitoris “wisely” and “with care.” That’s some sage advice, and I plan to take it to heart. I won’t be using the Sona again.