Writing Sex Toy Reviews: A Guide for Bloggers, Writers and Educators
By Dr. Carol Queen, Ph. D
Award-winning author, activist and sex educator with a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality, Carol Queen has been a part of Good Vibrations since 1990. She currently serves as both Staff Sexologist and Chief Cultural Officer. For over 25 years, Carol Queen has been active and speaking publicly on behalf of progressive sex education and sexual minority issues.
Every time we turn around, it seems like there are more websites and blogs reviewing sex toys. That’s a great thing -- we believe that the more information people have about sex and sex toys, the easier it is to find the ones that will work for them. At the same time, not everyone writing reviews has the experience or know-how to give their readers the best information, so we’ve put together a little helpful info for our toy reviewing friends.
Perhaps the quintessential form of "nice work if you can get it," reviewing sex toys and other erotic products is great fun...AND it's a lot of responsibility. The things you say about a gizmo (and, for that matter, any sexual practice associated with it) can make a huge difference for a reader, especially if they're a fan and trust your perspective. You can give them encouragement, information, and permission to explore; you can turn them off a toy or a new possibility; you can affirm or slam their very sexuality. Because people typically get such lousy sex education in our culture, they're turning to you (and Good Vibrations, and every other darn sexpert and sex site on the Internet) to clarify their understanding about sexual issues, including toys and whether they ought to incorporate them into their sex lives. We’re sure many of you owe the Wonder of Vibration a great debt, and you know that toy play can make the difference for some between orgasms or can't-quite-get-there. This is serious business!
The thing is, all toys are not created equal -- or equally well -- but just as crucial to the process of reviewing them, not all *people* will respond to a toy or other product in the same way. It's why we at Good Vibrations have always found it especially challenging to deal with the most common customer question of all, which is: "What's the most popular?" This seems like a very simple question, but what's a great choice for many customers might leave some others cold. One person's favorite size, shape, or texture isn't another's. One person won't use anything but a realistic dildo, while someone else won't go near one that looks penis-y. One person loves this lube, and it makes that person itch. It's why we carry so many items in any one category, and it's a real challenge to help a new toy user navigate all that choice.
When it comes to writing your reviews, we definitely want to know your own reactions and experiences. If something doesn't float your boat, we don't want you to say it did. But please try not to fall prey to the Great Sexpert Fallacy: that your own experience of sexuality is generalizable to other people's. To some degree, of course, it probably is. But each of us is different enough from others that your own response to something -- hot, cool, or medium -- can't be guaranteed to be another user's experience. Sex educators use the language "some, many, most" to work with this issue of sexual difference and diversity. There are plenty of things you can say categorically about most people: Most people have genital sensation. Other things can be said about many (but by no means all or even most) people: Many people are interested in some sexual exploration. Then there are statements that can only be made about some people. For example, “some people masturbate twice a day.” This is pretty helpful when you're trying to be precise about what you're saying about sexually related topics, from toy use to everything else.
So if you just love a sex toy, someone out there won't. If you can't get excited about it, someone else will think it's the best ever. To help your readers evaluate what that sex toy is likely to do for them, please be as specific as possible about its qualities, so the toy-curious folks out there in Readerland will be able to make an educated guess as to whether something's going to be a good pick. Let us know if you have questions that will help you do that, and thanks for shouldering the awesome responsibility of making people's sex lives better!