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.
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“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…