Policing sex toy reviews?

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So the Best Sex Toy Reviewers 2008 list came out. And I was ecstatic to find myself in spot #5. Although I’ve been reviewing since fall of 2007, I have only had this blog since fall of 2008, so I didn’t know how much of a chance I had. Being ranked at #5 really gave me a boost of excitement, and I want to extend a big thanks to Domina Doll and Scarlet Lotus for putting their time and energy into compiling the list. They even used my header to create a button for those on the list!

Since the list came out, however, several bloggers have written posts addressing what they see as an overabundance of sex toy reviews on sex blogs. I certainly respect individual opinions regarding this. However, Always Aroused girl’s post [edit: no longer available] hit me the hardest, because it was written mostly in the first person plural (“we”). I greatly admire Always Aroused Girl for her dedication to the sex blogging community, but I felt pretty left out upon reading this:

. . . can we possibly all agree that the number of reviews we are currently publishing is excessive?  . . . I know that when I surf through blogs and find a front page which contains more reviews than other writing I lose interest fast.  I can only imagine that other sex bloggers think the same, and I have a bad feeling that readers who don’t blog are even more dismayed to find sexy writing playing second fiddle to toy reviews.

And this:

For those of us with the capability, perhaps a separate page dedicated to reviews could be created, with the idea of keeping the front page’s focus on personal blogging.  The thrilling thing in writing about sexuality is in exploring the parts of relationships that usually remain hidden.  Let’s not allow that to get lost in an endless parade of vibrating plastic.

I can understand that some people like reading posts on sexuality more than they like reading reviews (some, because I personally find many reviews far more entertaining than personal stories). But the presumption that, as a “community,” blogs should behave in a certain way, and bloggers should police their posts in a certain way, does not sit well with me.

I began this blog on the premise that I am not an erotica writer. I mentioned in my first post that I held off on getting a blog for a long time because I felt it was a “requirement” to write steamy stories. I do write sexy posts once in a while, when I have a particularly interesting sexual experience. But usually when it comes to sex, I don’t want to write about it — plus, I don’t think I’m very good at writing about it.

So what about posts on relationships and less sexual things (a.k.a. non-reviews)? If I have something to say, I’ll say it. I have some ideas for future posts, and I plan to articulate them at some point. But I believe I’m better at writing reviews, and I enjoy writing reviews more. And seriously, my life is not very exciting. I drink coffee; I go to school; I write papers; I sleep. The idea that I should post a certain number of non-review entries per review is ludicrous to me. This is my blog, and I refuse to apologize for its content or alter its content to fit some posited “community” standard. If I lose readers for having “too many reviews,” then those aren’t the appropriate readers for my blog.

What bothers me more than anything else, though, is the silent assumption that review writing, by its very nature, is less of an art form than non-review writing. One comment on Always Aroused Girl’s post was this:

. . . it drives me nuts when the first post on my page is a toy review. I will almost always post something else the same day or the next so that the review is not the first thing someone sees when they land.

This seems very weird to me. I want my latest review to be front and center. Maybe others don’t consider their reviews artistic endeavors, but I do. For me, writing reviews means taking into account so many things: flow, diction, humor, the balance between information and personal experience. I spend a lot of time writing my reviews — jotting down notes, formulating sentences, structuring paragraphs. I consider them wholly artistic. I try to present reviews that are interesting, well-written, and intelligent, reviews that go beyond the boring informational realm. When I write about a toy that has been reviewed quite a bit, I try to think of ways in which my review can present a new perspective.

I also often take photos to accompany my reviews. I spend quite a bit of time taking photos, choosing a photo, and editing it. I take pride in my photos, and I take even more pride in my reviews. It saddens me to think that others don’t recognize reviews for their artistic merit. The Best Sex Toy Reviewers list did, but then some bloggers chimed in and sort-of, well, ruined it for me.

On a more positive note, I do want to point out that, as a reviewer, I adhere to certain standards that Always Aroused Girl and others suggest. For instance, I don’t only write positive reviews. I love complaining about toys. Most of the companies I review for have made a point of mentioning that they value opinions, good or bad, and that their reviewers should feel free to express themselves. I do this not because I have been given the go ahead to do so, but because I feel a personal obligation to write the truth. I may not review a ton of bad products, but that’s because I know my way around sex toys now, and I know what I’ll hate.

This feeds into Always Aroused Girl’s plea that reviewers only review safe toys. I have agreed with this from the dawn of my sex toy reviewing career. Even when I knew very little about sex toys, I refused to accept any jelly toy for review. I will never review a toy that contains phthalates, a butt toy without a flared base, desensitizing agents, or anything else that is dangerous. (And, although it’s slightly off-topic, I have vowed to never review a porn film with the word “negro” in the title.)

Anyway, my point is this. I appreciate, most of the time, the generosity, empathy, and intellect of sex bloggers. What I don’t appreciate is feeling like I am a lesser blogger because I write a great deal of toy reviews. I do want to be a part of the sex blogger community, but I will not sacrifice or cut back on what I enjoy the most — writing reviews.