What does your name mean and how do you pronounce it?
My name means a lot to me. I pronounce it eh-PIF-er-uh, like this. Just remember that the emphasis is on the PIF, as in “Ask Piph.” Several outsiders have incorrectly pronounced it ep-i-FOR-a, with an emphasis on the FOR.
Readers and friends have come up with much cooler reasons for my name. Someone once told me that they thought I named myself Epiphora because my posts are so funny that they’ll make you cry. Another person found a definition of epiphora in the book Eros the Bittersweet that I absolutely love, and that I have stolen as though it was what I meant in the first place: “a change or shift of distance bringing two heterogeneous things close to reveal their kinship.”
How did you get your start? What’s it like being a professional masturbator?
I wrote a big long post about my journey here. My reviewing of sex toys began in fall of 2007. I was quite inexperienced with sex toys and only owned one, the Turbo Glider, but when I saw an opportunity to get free toys in exchange for writing reviews for an online sex toy shop, I was all over that shit. I’ve always loved writing, masturbating, and voicing my opinion, so it made sense. All I needed to do was learn more about the sex toy industry, so I devoured information about it along the way.
As far as cleaning goes, I take the cheap route: mild soap and water. I froth them in the kitchen sink (sometimes after soaking them, if the toys are waterproof), scrub with an old toothbrush (or my fingers) in the nooks and crannies, rinse, and set them on a paper towel to dry. Sometimes I dry them immediately with a paper towel if I need to put them away right then. I don’t really see the point of sex toy cleaning spray, but then again I don’t have to worry about leaving my gunky sex toys on the kitchen counter, either.
For removing the smell from butt toys, I usually use a 10% bleach, 90% water solution. I spray the toy down, let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse thoroughly.
How many times do you test a toy before you review it?
It really varies, but I’d say at least five times. I take notes and work on my review as I go along. Sometimes I’ll be finishing my review and realize there’s some other way I didn’t test the toy yet, so I’ll have to go do that. But usually I know when I’ve used the toy enough times to fully understand my feelings about it. Sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes it takes months.
When it comes to unique stimulation, the Fun Factory Stronic line offers an incredible back-and-forth thrusting motion — I adore the Stronic G. There are roughly a bazillion air flow toys in existence now, but the sleek Womanizer Pro40 is my top choice.
It just depends on what kind of sensation I’m in the mood for. Maverick is squishy and huge, great for filled-up thrusting. The Pure Wand is a G-spotting god that glides with much ease, but the lightweight Seduction is also very intense. Fun Factory Stronic G if I want to be lazy and let the toy thrust for me. Randy and Nova are beasts. The Twist offers the most unique sensation, as I actually do “twist” it against my G-spot. If I want vibrations on my G-spot, I’ll pick up my Sassy, Mona 2, or We-Vibe Rave.
If I want to squirt, the Pure Wand is guaranteed to do it. Tons of other toys turn on the waterworks, as long as I thrust fast enough with them.
What does your partner think of all of this, you trollop? How about your parents?
My parents are cool as fuck, I’ll have you know. My partner and I have been together for over 15 years, and I started reviewing a couple years into our relationship. I’ve even had him try some toys made for penises. He has never been weird about sex toys at all and if he was, we’d obviously have a problem. I have very little tolerance for people who not only feel threatened by toys, but don’t understand the benefit of them. Jealousy is ugly — even more so when you’re jealous of something that brings your partner pleasure. And uh, sex toys are objects; people are people. If you’re too dense to get that, I don’t want to know you.
Unfortunately, when it comes to recycling and disposing of sex toys, your question is one without many answers. We used to have Scarlet Girl, but they shut their program down long ago. I work at a retail shop and we’ve had zero luck finding any sort of facility that will take entire toys. We have to strip out the motor and recycle that as you would any other electronic… then sadly we have to throw away the rest. A few articles on Hot Octopuss, Minna, and The Stranger present the most helpful information I’ve been able to dig up about sex toy recycling/disposal.
However, not all hope is lost. If your toys are made of non-porous materials, you may be able to sell them online — or give them away to friends. There’s a sub-Reddit for selling used toys, or simply posting on social media can work.* Some people sell things in niche Facebook groups; for instance, there’s a Queer Exchange group in my city and folks sometimes put toys on there. But people can also get weird about used sex toys, so it depends on the group’s dynamic. Same with gifting to friends.
*If you need help selling your toys online, let me know. I’m happy to post on Twitter on your behalf, or retweet something from you. You could also put something up on Tumblr and I could reblog it. For each of these platforms I’d suggest including a picture, how much you want (even just cost of shipping), whether the toy has been used, how to contact you, etc.
During the most epic #dildoholiday ever, 7 of us converged at a coastal beach house and spent our days giggling, drinking tequila mixed with Thin Mint creamer, and blowing our own glass dildos (!!!). It was a time to remember.
I advise people against buying on Amazon unless they must, because sex toy boutiques are doing such good work out there in the world (P.S. I work at one) and they deserve your support. Additionally, if you want to support me as a person who perhaps informed you about the glory of the Mona 2 or Fun Factory Stronic G, Amazon gives me the lowest commission rate. Like, if you buy the Mona 2 directly from LELO or from Babeland, I get about $28. If you buy the Mona 2 on Amazon, I get less than $10. Gross.
When I buy a sex toy online, will it be shipped discreetly?
Yes, all reputable online sex shops mentioned here ship and bill discreetly. Just check the FAQ or shipping info page on the site you want to purchase from (some examples: GoodVibes, Smitten Kitten, Babeland, SheVibe, and my favorite, Early to Bed). Your order will come in a plain brown box with an inconspicuous return address. The only exceptions are when you purchase from a shitty online sex shop (like Adam & Eve, who are known for sending follow-up junk mail) or if you purchase something that has to go through customs, and thus must be described on the box (but even then, it’ll usually say “silicone sculpture” or something).
I’ve heard that the G-spot isn’t real and/or that squirting is pee. What do you think?
UGH. The media is notoriously terrible at reporting on the G-spot; they love to start rumors and make all kinds of inaccurate sweeping statements, and it drives me up the wall. As a G-spot stimulation enthusiast, no flawed scientific study on earth is going to convince me that what I’m feeling isn’t real — whether the G-spot is a physical structure (possibly the urethral sponge) or part of the internal clitoris, there is most definitely an area in my vagina that feels uniquely intense to stimulate. And yes, everyone with a vagina has such an area — some people may not be familiar with (or may even dislike) the sensation of G-spot stimulation, but that does not make the G-spot non-existent.
As a proud squirter, I’m particularly enraged by the obsession over whether ejaculate is urine. I wrote in-depth about how I know squirting is not pee, but to summarize: several studies have shown that ejaculate contains zero or low levels of urea and creatinine, and in fact contains some markers similar to those found in prostatic fluid (produced by the prostate). Mostly, though a vast number of vagina-owners have reported that the stuff that gushes out of them does not look, smell, or taste like pee. I believe my own body, and I believe my vaginal cohorts.
If I use vibrators, am I going to become desensitized or numb? Can I become addicted to sex toys? WHAT IF I CAN’T GET OFF WITH MY FINGERS? AM I RUINED?
Short answer: no.
Long answer: as with many things, we can become accustomed to stuff over time. That applies to sex and masturbation as well. You can fall into a routine with your sex toys just as you can fall into a routine with a partner (the same foreplay, same positions, etc). Our bodies actually grow nerve pathways in response to stimulation. So with repetition, your body will come to expect certain triggers in order to orgasm. But these triggers can always be re-established by switching things up.
Yes, if you only ever have orgasms with vibrators, it will probably become more difficult to orgasm with your fingers. That doesn’t mean you can’t orgasm using your fingers (unless you’ve never been able to, which is also totally fine), but simply that you’re out of practice.
Physically, vibrators cannot permanently numb you or ruin your orgasmic response. The only actual “desensitization” that you can ever experience with a vibrator is temporary. Just as your hand will become numb if you hold a really strong vibrator against it, so will your vulva. This happens when nerve endings become fatigued. It’s harmless, and once the vibration ceases, sensation will return fairly quickly as blood returns to the genitals.
So, if you use the Hitachi Magic Wand every day for months, then yes, it will become difficult to orgasm with something weaker. But you can ALWAYS re-train your body. If you want to.
In general, though, can we stop with the endless fingers vs. vibrators debate? I’ve barely brought myself to orgasm with my fingers since, like, high school, AND I TURNED OUT FINE. Really, though… it’s a lot of unnecessary worrying. If you get off with something, hooray! Celebrate! Keep doing it! There is no hierarchy of pleasure which places fingers at the top. Come on, they are ancient compared to the vibrator technologies we have now.
Another thing people worry about unnecessarily is whether dildos (especially large ones) will make them “loose.” Again, no. Read up on vaginal elasticity. Vaginas are made to birth babies and then snap back, you guys. They can deal with dildos.
I take issue with the word “addiction” as well. Most clinical definitions of “addiction” characterize it as something harmful and compulsive. There is nothing harmful about using a sex toy. While it is possible for a person to become obsessed with any object or behavior, there is nothing about vibrators in particular that evokes this kind of attachment. Honestly, I think this rumor has been circulated by insecure men who think their almighty penises will be “replaced” by sex toys.
There is something else I would like to address in answering this question. It seems like the underlying reason this question comes up all the time is because people are worried about sex with a partner. They’re worried they won’t be able to have an orgasm during sex without a vibrator. Yo, world, it’s okay to use vibrators during sex! If that is what you need to get off, fucking take charge and make it happen. If your partner bellyaches about it, then I guess they don’t want you to have orgasms and you should probably dump them.
You can do a flame test to determine if something is silicone, but it’s not as reliable as we’d all hope. Nor is looking for the phrase “For Novelty Use Only” on the packaging, which doesn’t mean anything except that the company is worried about being sued. (Even reputable companies use this phrase.) There is one pretty surefire way to know: if the toy is soft, clear, and smells like a new shower curtain, it’s likely toxic. I wrote about how to determine if a sex toy is body-safe here, or Bex has a good quick guide here.
Contrary to your worst fears and a few unfortunate horror stories, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) doesn’t really give a fuck about sex toys. Whatever you bring, they’ve probably seen it before. However, that won’t stop them from being hardasses and thinking everything’s a potential weapon or bomb.
There are pros and cons to both carry-ons and checked baggage. Carry-ons won’t ever get lost, but they can be searched in front of your fellow passengers. Checked baggage is searched more discreetly, but can sometimes get lost. If you opt to put your stuff in your checked baggage, be sure to label it so the TSA won’t feel the need to disassemble it. Don’t put it in something that can’t be opened; that’s just asking for trouble.
When packing your toys, put them in plastic bags just in case a TSA agent decides to fondle them. ALWAYS remove batteries from your battery-operated toys. If your rechargeable toy has a travel lock function, use it! If not, you’ll need to drain the toy’s battery completely before travel. Buzzing vibrators notoriously make people think of bombs, and you do not want to be that person.
Dildos are an awkward thing for carry-ons. According to the TSA, “tools” less than 7 inches in length are allowed. However, if the item is “club-like” or can be mistaken as a weapon, it’s not allowed. So use common sense on that one. Don’t bring the Eleven on a flight.
Also, be sure to follow the 3-1-1 rule when packing lube in a carry-on. I like to buy a small plastic container (like one with hand sanitizer in it), wash it out, and fill it with my favorite lube. Otherwise, just pack lube samples, or stick your lube in your checked baggage (after taping it shut like a fiend).
Your best defense, though, is having a positive and nonchalant attitude. Some people may be embarrassed by sex toys, but you don’t have to be. Try not to be nervous, and if an agent questions you about one of your toys, don’t dodge the question — just calmly explain what it is.
Here’s what I hate: there are so many variables with rabbit/dual vibes that can go wrong. You have the shaft as well as the clitoral stimulator. If one of those doesn’t fit your body correctly, the toy is nearly useless to you, because there’s pretty much only one way to use a dual vibe. They’re way more limiting than other toys. Also, I’ve never found a rabbit that felt extremely pleasurable both internally and externally.
Another reason I don’t like them is that I like to be able to control the pressure and movement in my vagina and against my clit. With a rabbit, if I want clitoral stimulation, I can’t really thrust with the toy. If I want different clitoral stimulation, I have to manipulate the toy in a potentially awkward fashion. Basically, I can’t get rabbit vibes to do what I want. I much prefer just using two toys and holding one in each hand. And I’m lazy, so that tells you a lot.
Rabbit vibes are extremely well-known and so people always assume they are the be-all-end-all to sex toys for vulvas, which is another reason I feel grumpy about them. I would advise you to consider whether you want penetration every time you go to use the toy, or whether you’d prefer a toy which can be used for clitoral stimulation OR penetrative play, depending on your mood. Something more versatile, in my opinion, is a lot better as a first toy.
(If you must know, I like the We-Vibe Nova and Snail Vibe, but I would never definitively say everyone should own them because clits and vaginas are so differently spaced in all people.)
I’ve never owned a sex toy or have owned all shitty ones. What would you suggest to a beginner?
It’s difficult to recommend something without knowing more about what someone is looking for. But generally you are going to want body-safe, non-porous materials. In terms of vibrators, something rumbly with variety in the vibration strengths is good for a beginner. A nice clitoral vibe like the Je Joue Bullet or Dame Kip is an excellent choice. If you want the option of penetration, the BMS Sassy and We-Vibe Rave are rad.
A less expensive option might be to find a fun first timer’s kit; Early to Bed has this one. I’m in favor of the Silver Bullet (or something else similar) as a cheap beginner’s toy because it has a range of power and can be enhanced with softer sleeves.
How on earth do I choose a toy if I don’t know what I like?
Get a toy that is versatile! If you have a vagina, I suggest something that can function as both a G-spot vibe and a clitoral vibe, something like the Romp Hype, BMS Sassy, We-Vibe Rave, LELO Mona 2, or OhMiBod Lovelife Cuddle. That way you can try it many ways: as a non-vibrating G-spotter, as a vibrating G-spotter, and as a clitoral toy. Hopefully you’d like at least one of those ways!
In terms of dildos, maybe something double-ended with different sensations like the LELO Ella or glass G-Spotter. Also, I only know of a few people (out of a billion) who didn’t love the Pure Wand, which is good odds.
It’ll be hard to know how you feel about different materials until you feel and experience them. If you have access to a local sex toy shop, visit it and see which items intrigue you. Figure out which ones get good reviews and go from there. You’re going to have to spend some money, but with research, you hopefully won’t waste it. The more stuff you buy, the more you’ll know what you like, so you gotta just bite the bullet!
I’m on a budget and need an inexpensive toy. Suggestions?
For the purpose of this answer I’m going to define inexpensive as $40 or less. Then I’ll break it down by type of toy.
P.S. SheVibe tends to have the best prices overall, and always check my sales & deals page to find sex toy sales. I have tons of static discount codes you can use on various sites!
Get something better than a watch battery bullet, please! Those things are junk. You don’t want it to take N batteries or watch batteries, and it should take more than one AA or AAA. Rechargeable toys have become quite inexpensive, so I’d recommend that: perhaps the Romp Hype ($35), BMS Pillow Talk Racy ($36), or Screaming O Vooom ($39).
To my delight, the cost of a silicone dildo has decreased a lot over the years, so now all you really have to do is sort by price and pick out whatever shape and size appeals to you. The most inexpensive options come from larger brands such as Blush and NS Novelties. Tantus’ grab bag section has some rad dildo (and butt plug) deals too, and indie manufacturer Funkit Toys’ NoFrillDo line is intentionally low-priced, with silicone dildos starting at just $24. Pleasure Works makes a handful of affordable silicone dildos. More small-batch dildos are available from Fuze, Uberrime, and Portland Toy Company — hand-poured and reasonably-priced.
Get the Tracey Cox Supersex Toner Balls! Because they aren’t coated in a ton of silicone, the balls on the inside are easily felt the way my loves the LELO Luna Beads are — for less than half the price. The only downfall is the obnoxiously stretchy retrieval string.
As for squirting tips, here’s a quick run-down of how I’d suggest you do it. First prepare a nest for yourself — in a comfortable, distraction-free environment, with either the Liberator Throe or several towels under your butt. Take your time getting turned on first, even bringing yourself close to orgasm. Then, with lots o’ lube, insert your G-spot toy and start thrusting with it. Continue using the clitoral toy. Try to relax as much as possible and keep your vaginal muscles open, not clenched. Increase your thrusting speed until you start to get the need-to-pee sensation. Keep thrusting until the feeling becomes almost overwhelming, and then THRUST SOME MORE. Hopefully, hopefully, you will squirt.
I want to explore anal play for the first time. Suggestions?
You’ll want a toy of 1″ in diameter or less and made of pure silicone.
I always recommend the Fun Factory Bootie to beginners, because I love it. It’s silicone, around $35, and very fun. But Tantus is the best purveyor of silicone butt plugs, so be sure to check their selection (and their grab bag section, which has awesome deals!). They have a huge range of sizes and shapes. The Little Flirt and Perfect Plug are thin and well-suited to beginners, and the Ripple Small could work if you don’t need a plug plug. (However, I think plugs are great for n00bs because they allow you to get comfortable with the sensation of something being in your ass.)
As for lube, you’re going to want something thicker for anal, to provide cushion. And it needs to be water-based so as not to damage the toy. My favorite is Sliquid Sassy. Sliquid is amazing because all their lubes are glycerin and paraben free.
My tips for anal play are pretty simple: use lube, go slow, breathe, relax, and listen to your body. Oh, and go to the bathroom before using a plug!
If you have decreased genital sensation, the Magic Wand Rechargeable is the gold standard for effortless orgasms due to its near-unbeatable vibration strength. (I use it through my underwear most of the time.) It has a long handle, but it’s heavy and sizeable. The Magic Wand Plus is a less expensive, corded option. The Magic Wand Mini is significantly lighter, though not as powerful due to its size.
A few more inches can make all the difference in accessing one’s genitals. Get that extra reach with the Turbo Glider, BMS Pillow Talk Sassy, or Romp Hype, insertable vibes which excel at external stimulation. The Turbo Glider is super inexpensive, with a basic dial base. The Sassy features a simple, easy-to-press button and vibrations that range from gentle to formidable. The Romp Hype doesn’t have lower settings so it’s not ideal for more sensitive genitals, but amazing for people wanting oomph.
Quite a few vibrators are designed to be easily held in the hand, but the challenge is finding one with good vibrations. For folks with limited hand/arm mobility, the Screaming O Fing O is a finger vibe I can vouch for, as it has a nice motor. The Je Joue Bullets are another option — each comes with a sleeve to convert it into a finger vibe.
Remote-controlled vibrators can be useful if you don’t want to fuss around with buttons on the toy itself, but beware: they’re not all created equal. Inexpensive vibes from brands like Pipedream, Cal Exotics, Doc Johnson, and VeDo can seem appealing, but they’re likely to deliver sub-par vibrations, which can be numbing and dissatisfying. I like the discreet and app/remote-controlled We-Vibe Moxie, which attaches to underwear with a magnet. Hmm, possibilities!
Air flow suction toys are uniquely suited to low-impact masturbation, as they don’t require movement once positioned. I enjoy the Womanizer Premium, Womanizer Classic, and Satisfyer Pro 2, which deliver delicious sensations and offer additional length for gripping. The Womanizer Premium has a very cool “Smart Silence” feature: the toy automatically pauses when you pull it away from your genitals.
INTERNAL AND DUAL TOYS
For hands-free stimulation, the We-Vibe Chorus is at the top of my list. It has an adjustable joint in the middle to customize its shape and can be controlled via an app or a unique “squeeze remote” that responds to pressure. It’s spendy, though. The Match is cheaper with a basic remote. The Vector, designed as an anal toy but just as effective as a dual vibe, is also bendable and app compatible.
Partnered sex aids include the Spareparts Deuce harness, which enables penis owners to penetrate their partners with a dildo of their choice, and penis extenders, which can reshape your anatomy and evoke new sensations.
Now here’s a cheap and useful accessibility tool: bondage tape! This stuff only sticks to itself, not your skin, and is great for adapting sex toys to your needs. Use it to attach toys to pillows, beds, wheelchairs, body parts, and beyond.
I’m a virgin/new to vaginal penetration. Suggestions?
I get this question a lot, usually accompanied by stories of attempted penetration and vaginal pain. If that sounds familiar, first I want to reassure you that what you’ve experienced is most likely* normal. I was there, in that same exact spot, years ago. I know the burning sensation and the frustration and the desire to try and just shove stuff in. It can be overcome,* but it does take time and patience.
Glass dildos tend to spring to my mind first when folks ask about this, because glass can be warmed up or cooled down, which could potentially help with the sensation. You can also use any sort of lube with it, including silicone-based and oil-based, which both last longer than water-based lube. I would suggest the Icicles No. 8, or maybe No. 2, which has a beaded shape but starts smaller.
Size is an important factor, obviously. You should definitely get something pretty smooth, and around 1 inch or less in diameter.1 The problem is a lot of toys are right on that cusp, with the exception of dilatorslikethese, which go smaller (oh and there are glass dilators too!). Aside from their graduated side, dilators are often characterized by their straight shape. If you’d prefer a non-vibrating insertable that’s a bit more ergonomically curved, consider a silicone dildo such as the Silk, Compact, Starter, Mistress, or Spur (softest), or the stainless steel Fun Wand.
The relaxing quality of vibration can be useful for some folks exploring penetration, and perhaps having a toy which doubles as a clitoral vibrator might ease your mind? If so, consider a small and thin vibrator (Luxe Scarlet, Pleasurette) or a long and thin vibrator (Electra, Prism Rainbow). If you’d rather invest in a rechargeable, there’s the We-Vibe Tango X or BMS Racy.
As far as tips go, here’s what I’ve got.
Our minds are powerful, and expectations and hopes can easily run rampant and sabotage our progress. As much as possible, it’s helpful to explore penetration without too many expectations. If it’s not working today, that’s okay.
Warm-up with clitoral stimulation. Take your time. Get yourself good and aroused before even attempting insertion. Arousal helps open up the vagina.
Use tons of lube, and remember that water-based lube does does dry up, so don’t be afraid to add more at any point! You should feel slick and frictionless, not dry.
Ease the toy in very slowly while continuing to stimulate your clit. If it hurts or feels uncomfortable, slow down or stop whatever you’re doing vaginally and just focus on the clitoral pleasure instead.
If the insertable toy vibrates, try it with the vibrations both on and off. That can change the experience dramatically.
Remember that you are under no obligation to pursue or enjoy vaginal penetration. If you don’t like it or don’t want to explore it, that’s absolutely fine. You can have a happy sex life with or without penetration.
It’s important to note that “powerful” is not the same thing as “rumbly.” Lower-pitched vibrations, which I prefer, make more of an impact on my pleasure than power does. My favorite small bullet vibes, for example, are none of the above listed. They are the Je Joue Mimi, Dame Kip, We-Vibe Touch X and Tango X, and the Je Joue Bullets. I believe the BMS Sassy to be one of the greatest versatile vibrators around, and I use it almost exclusively externally. If you seek power in an insertable shape, Fun Factory’s G5 line has the best low rumble of all.
If you’re a hardcore Magic Wand fan wanting to try something a little different, attachments are an easy upgrade. I love the pinpoint Nuzzle Tip and cup-shaped O-La-La.
App compatible toys, which are usually rechargeable, tend to have better range and are generally more reliable. They can be lifesavers for long-distance relationships. Personally if I had to choose one, I’d probably pick the We-Vibe Rave. It’s the most versatile, and I like We-Vibe’s app better than others I’ve tried. (Even if I still dislike controlling my vibrators with a phone.)
However, it totally depends on the type of toy you’re looking for. I’ve listed a bunch below. Be sure to scope out the specs to make sure the app functionality suits your needs. For example, while We-Vibe and Lovense toys can be controlled from anywhere on earth, Zalo toys have a local limit of 30 feet.
External-onlytoys — We-Vibe Wand (my pick), Lovense Domi and Ambi, We-Vibe Moxie (attaches to your underwear with a magnet!), We-Vibe Melt (air flow)
Fun Factory Share. Very matte silicone — requires a lot of lube. The bulb is thick, which could be a downside or an asset depending on the wearer.
Vixen Peacemaker. The only dual-density strapless strap-on in existence. Realistic on one side. VERY VERY floppy.
Vixen Nexus Junior/Senior. Probably the squishiest aside from the Peacemaker. Not meant to be used without a harness. Pronounced middle can provide some cushioning. Here’s a video review of the Junior. No hole for a bullet.
Questions to ponder: what sort of shape and angle does the wearer want? The person being penetrated? Do you want vibrations? Do you want to try to go without a harness (I wish you luck)? Do you, like me, have a strong opinion about the finish on your silicone (I prefer glossy)? The squish factor?