Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pleasurists #123

Beauty by Any Definition by UniqueNudes

Welcome to Pleasurists, a round-up of the adult product and sex toy reviews that came out in the last seven days. For updates and information follow our RSS Feed and Twitter.
Did you miss Pleasurists #122? Read it all here. Do you have a review for Pleasurists #124? Be sure to read the submission guidelines and then use the submission form and submit it before Sunday March 27th @ 11:59pm Pacific.

Monday, March 28, 2011

On Privilege

Privilege. It's a nasty word for those who have never had it applied to them before. If they even understand what you're talking about, most people told they have privilege of some kind will react as if you had made an attack on their character, as if you had made a judgment on who they are as a person based on, for example, whether they had been born cis and white or not.

In many ways, one of the most insidious expressions of exploitation of privilege comes from some of the people who claim to be fighting against exploitation of themselves. (take for example the way RadFems so often treat Trans women and people of color) They are fighting against discrimination, so how could they possibly be discriminating against someone else? They are on the Side of Right on their pet issue, so how could they possibly be on the wrong side on another front?

Also, the majority of people who get the short end of the privilege stick in one facet of their lives will fight you tooth and nail should you suggest that they are in fact privileged in some way. Privilege doesn't "balance out," it's not a checkbook or a balance sheet. However, it is possible to be privileged in some areas but not in others. (I, for example, have white privilege, but I'm a PWD*; I'm well off financially, but I'm a woman trying to make a career in a "male" field) Having some other privilege doesn't make you a bad activist, or a bad spokesperson for the disadvantages you have. Having one privilege doesn't invalidate your experiences with your other disadvantages.

Before anyone starts getting huffy and trying to start into Oppression Olympics, remember that everyone who has the ability to read this blog has a hell of a lot of privilege - literacy and access to the internet, to name just two. Done derailing? Awesome.

It's hard for people to understand or accept that aspects of life they take for granted are part of some facet of privilege. It's very uncomfortable to acknowledge that some of the nice things in their lives aren't standard, and that things they do may directly or indirectly take those nice things away from other people. It usually isn't intentional - hence why I said that most of privilege is stuff we simply take for granted. People don't think about it, they don't intend to cause harm... but that doesn't in any way prevent harm from being done. It's generally not someone's fault that they have some kind of privilege. Unfortunately, most people see statements of privilege as personal attacks (you have X privilege over me, so you are an evil scumbag who is deliberately repressing me) and react accordingly. Honestly, if you thought someone was trying to say something like that, it's a reasonable reaction.

The thing both sides need to understand is that you "get" the majority of the most powerful privileges the same way people "get" onto the receiving end of repression - birth. A person has no control over being born into a white, middle class family. A person has no control over whether they are born with testosterone or estrogen developmentally marked bodies, or over their sexual orientation. (obviously, this does not apply to privileged groups people can theoretically move in and out of, like thin privilege and socioeconomic status and others)

What people do have control over is what they do about that privilege. Do they pretend it doesn't exist and shout to the world that discrimination is dead? Do they exploit their privilege, consciously or unconsciously? Do they try not to cause harm with their privilege? Do they try to strike down privilege to build a more egalitarian society?

This is what marks the difference between someone who has privilege and doesn't know it, and someone who you can justifiably say is an evil scumbag who is deliberately oppressing you. This is what marks the difference between someone who has no idea they have privilege, and someone who knows but has no fucking clue what to do about it.

Many activists have said that the first step is acknowledging that privilege exists, and that you have it. To that end, I've tried to be as honest as possible with myself about the sources of my privilege. At this point in my lift, with the shit that's going on, I figure it's at least a start, and not one I deserve a damn cookie for. I'm going to keep working on this whole "being a decent human being when it comes to privilege" thing. Because it's the right thing to do.

* Person/People with Disabilities

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: 26" Plain Crop

While I've played with other kinds of impact toys, this crop was a first for me. A first that took a while to grow on me, but has come to be a favorite.

The design is simple, but well executed. There are no bells and whistles, but honestly? A good crop doesn't need them. The handle is narrow, about half an inch wide with a slightly flared back end. It's molded of a rubbery material with a slight texture, like it was pressed against sand. Most of the length is covered in ridges, and it compresses slightly with pressure. The end result is a handle that is comfortable to hold for extended periods, but won't go flying at inopportune times.

The shaft has a bit of flex and is rather springy. After wielding it a few separate times, my boyfriend said that the ~15 degrees of flex were great for getting a nice springing snap going without wearing out his wrist. The entire shaft is wrapped in a herringbone-like weave with a black synthetic thread. After banging around for a while, there are a few black fuzzies showing, but otherwise it looks pristine.

The leather tip is whipped onto the shaft for about two inches with what appears to be button cord (nice and strong). There is some kind of glue or epoxy between the leather and the cord to secure it, which dried to a hard and glossy finish. The end result is that I wouldn't be able to remove that tip without cutting the leather off, or trying to cut the shaft itself. The leather tip is stitched down around the very end of the shaft. This stitching may be too tight or too flush to the shaft, as there are a few spots where the leather looks like it may begin to rip around the thread.

The tip itself is made of a nice leather. The dye is not struck through, so while the outsides are black, the suede inside is a medium gray. Unlike many crops I've seen, this tip is two pieces of leather open at the end, instead of a single piece folded over, looped end out.

The edges are rounded, so the sensation is almost purely the slap of the leather instead of the bite of corners. Aimed correctly, (which is harder than it looks for a beginner like me) it gives a powerful stinging slap felt mostly at the skin surface, then blooming downward. I also found out the hard way that if you are not a fan of canes, you want to avoid accidentally hitting with the shaft end with great care - it seriously hurts, and at the speeds crops are often used it could cause some serious damage. That said, the shaft itself could be used as a decent slightly-springy cane in a pinch.

I have one complaint, and one complaint only about this crop: I wish it had a hanging loop. I prefer to store it with my other impact toys, and I store them all on a series of hooks. It's not the end of the world, though - some cord and a quick larkshead knot around one of the grooves of the handle lets me hang it just fine.

This was a great introduction to crops for us - it's inexpensive yet well made, and there's nothing fancy like rose tips or funny shapes to make it harder to learn to use consistently. Thanks for a great toy, Fascinations!

This product was provided to me free of charge by Fascinations in exchange for an unbiased review. This review is in compliance with the FTC guidelines.

Monday, March 14, 2011


For the last few years, I've jokingly called myself a cripple. It's always been a joke, a reclaiming of an ableist term among friends. But you know what? Having a medical condition that physcially limits me doesn't make me a lesser person. It doesn't make me lazy, hypochondriac, or over-worried. It does not mean I'm crazy, or that it's all in my head. It does not mean I'm just not working hard enough to get over it. It does not mean that my divinity of choice hates me. It doesn't make me a slacker. It doesn't make me less able to do intense mental labor, though I may never be able to do the same physical things you take for granted.

It sure as sunshine doesn't give you the right to interfere with my life in any way, nor does it give you the right to condescend to me, nor does it give you the right to force your "advice" on me.

Cripple I may be, but don't look down on me for it. And don't EVER call me that without my permission.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"It could never happen to me" and a culture of Sanism

The more exposure I have to the field of mental health, the more I realize that a curious fallacy has taken hold in the minds of the general population. Mental illness has come to be seen as something that is either there, or is not. They see it as black and white, with raving psychotics and suicidal depressives on one side, and the rest of the world (themselves included, of course) on the other. In reality, it is a gradient, with very few people completely untouched by the slightest hint. It's hard to draw the line that says This is just normal variation and healthy, and This is mental illness. You simply can't arbitrarily draw a line in the sand and say below this point, you're perfectly mentally healthy, but the tiniest step beyond it and you're a lunatic.

And yet that is what society would have us do. It's an alluring proposition. Most people can look inside themselves and say, I am nothing like that screaming, thrashing creature. That, then, is mentally ill. Therefore, I could not possibly be mentally ill, because I'm nothing like that nut. It's an easy, though logically flawed way of reassuring ourselves that we are sane.

The world is a terrifyingly unpredictable place, so it is understandable that so much of our thought revolves around making ourselves feel safe. I couldn't possibly be crazy, look at that crazy person, I'm nothing like that! That poor nut, they must have been abused as a child; I was never abused, so I don't have to worry about ending up like that. What a shame, that person is crazy because his brain is broken somehow; thank goodness I have a healthy brain, I'll never have a mental illness. Being poor and homeless is terrible, lucky for me I work so hard, I couldn't ever end up that way, I'm not lazy. That poor rape victim must have done something to encourage the rapist, poor thing; I'd never do anything to put myself at risk or encourage a predator, so it couldn't possibly happen to me. Look at that kid getting such bad grades; he must be lazy, anyone can learn to be exemplary at anything if they just try hard enough.

These may seem extreme, but there are people who believe each and every word I wrote. It's a coping mechanism for dealing with the fears of our world, rationalizing why it couldn't possibly happen to you.When it comes to the many faces of mental illness, sanism has gone undercover and become a part of the fabric of our culture. Perhaps it's time to shock people awake to the knowledge that unbalanced brain chemistry or faulty wiring isn't an immutable sentence to mental illness, nor is a perfectly healthy brain a guarantee against the same. (aside from the fact that neuropsychiatric research is a field in its infancy, so we're not even sure if "unbalanced brain chemistry" or "faulty wiring" are causal elements in mental illness at all) Abuse is not a required prerequisite for instability, nor will it doom someone to craziness. There is no way of predicting for sure if someone will or will not have some form or level of mental illness. No way at all.

The scary truth is that it could happen to anyone, no matter what you do, no matter what happens to you. The reassuring truth is that for most people, the monster never does more than peak around the closet door or send a tail swishing out from under the bed. Most people never see the monster come charging down on them to devour their lives. And for those who do have to face the monsters which lurk at the edges of our vision, may there always be those who will join them in battle, lend them a sword or protect them with their shield or bind their wounds so they can continue to fight and keep from being devoured. You may call them damn shrinks, mucking around in peoples heads with shoddy guesswork, or you can call them meddling bleeding hearts who won't make people take responsibility for their lives. We call them doctors, teachers, therapists, psychiatrists, priests, councilors, parents, lovers, children, friends. And without them, few of us would be here.

As a wise professor of mine once said, when asked if psychiatric patients should be allowed to become doctors:
"Just about every human being who has walked this earth could've used some psychiatric help at some point. You should be more worried about those that don't get it than those of us that do."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review: Chocolate Massage and Body Oil

I am a chocolate snob. I when I can get it, I prefer my chocolate to be very high quality. Give me single origin, give me perfectly blended, give me Fair Trade (I swear, these companies have some of the best chocolate around!), give me that perfect smooth blend just light enough to really appreciate the notes of berries, citrus, rum, nuts, and leather. Give me chocolate that is so delightfully complex that a little bite will have me floating on clouds of bliss for an hour.

Sweet Beauty has brought to life a wonderful dream I never knew I had - they've made a chocolate massage oil so decadent that it fulfills my chocolate cravings without a single calorie. How is this possible? They used real, honest-to-goodness cocoa nibs to scent the oil.

Pause for a moment. Let that sink in.

A massage oil made with real chocolate.

From the very first moment I opened the bottle of Chocolate Massage and Body Oil that Babeland had sent me, I was in love. I wouldn't have cared if it had otherwise been the crappiest massage oil on the planet, sticky and gunky and unusable for massage. I would have been perfectly content to just sniff the stuff.

When I got the pump going (which can take quite a few pumps the first time, don't give up!), I got another surprise -  it was very runny. I discovered that day that yes, this stuff will leave permanent oil stains on sheets. However, once I was prepared, I came to like the low viscosity. A single pump leaves a nice-sized puddle in the hand, which warms very quickly and spreads oh so easily.

The first use it saw was as a body oil. Having never used one before, I wasn't sure what to expect. What I definitely wasn't expecting was for it to be so easy to apply, hydrate so well, and disappear so completely into my skin! If you have the 5-10 minutes to wait for it to dry, this oil hydrates as well as my go-to Gold Bond lotion, but doesn't leave a sheen of dimethicone hanging around to make it hard to pull on socks and pants. I did a comparison test deep in the depths of winter, one leg with the oil, one with my usual lotion. At first, they looked similar, but by mid-day the lotion leg was itchy from the cold, dry wind that cuts straight through clothing, while the oiled leg was still soft and supple. I later discovered that this oil is even gentle enough to use on my face! I have a face so picky that I can only use 2-3 different lotions or creams on the market, so this was a pleasant shock.

Verdict: As a body oil, this stuff ROCKS.

As far as massage went, I can happily say that this is by far and away the nicest massage oil I have ever used. The only massage product I like anywhere near as well is a massage bar I reviewed, but that's like comparing apples and salmon. As I said before, it warms quickly, and you don't have to fight to get it spread around. A single pump was enough for a 10-20 minute massage of the back, or a pair of aching legs. (How long it lasted depended on the dryness of the skin) As usual, nobody wanted to move for a while after the massages; by the time either of us were ready to get up and trade places, the oil had all but disappeared into the skin, leaving behind a hint of chocolate scent. There was a trace of greasiness on the hands of the massager, but a quick rub with a tissue or wipe was all it took to remove the feel.

Verdict: Best massage oil I've ever used.

I adore this oil. From the worry-free ingredient list, to the heavenly smell, to the way it makes my skin feel, I love it. The packaging is completely safe to leave out on a dresser, unlike many sensual massage oils. (yes, I'm looking at you Kama Sutra) The only flaw I could find was in the locking mechanism for the pump. It simply doesn't work for travel. Multiple times I've locked it and tossed it in a zip-top bag, only to reach my destination and discover that it unlocked itself and squirted precious oil all over the inside of the plastic bag. Frustrating, but not the end of the world - I just transferred some into a small pop-top bottle for when I'm on the go. [1]

I can't sing the praises of this product enough. It's wonderful. If you like chocolate and massages at all, you need some.

[1] - Since I received my bottle, Babeland seems to have switched over to selling only the pop-top bottles of this oil.

This product was provided to me free of charge by Babeland in exchange for an unbiased review. This review is in compliance with the FTC guidelines.

PSA: Dating Rights

Public Service Announcement:

Neither I, nor anyone else, in any way "owes" it to humanity to "shop around" more on the dating scene to give them a "chance" at us. We are not National Parks, we are people.


This also applies to procreation. We do not "owe" society any copies of our supposedly wonderful DNA.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Assumptions and Shower Sex

My friend and fellow blogger Rockin' wrote a great post a while back about societal assumptions in sexual language. She does some really insightful deconstruction of some of the ways people talk about sex; you should take a look. It got me thinking about the way people think about certain, sometimes non-sexual activities.

Let's be honest here - how many people who have actually tried it think shower sex is a good idea? (I'm assuming that you are of average strength and flexibility, and don't own any of those "shower sex" handles and steps to make life easier) I've tried it at least a dozen times now, and it's difficult, it's often dangerous, and in most showers there isn't enough room to get in a pleasurable position anyway. When we take showers together now, we might cop a feel, or at most go down for a very quick bit of oral sex, but mostly we just... shower together. It's nice to have someone who can scrub your back for you, you know? And letting him shampoo my hair and massage my scalp is absolutely divine. I love to be able to reach over and get a naked hug while we're showering. Trying to kiss without drowning is silly and awesome.

But sex? We'll wait till we're out of the shower.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just For Grins

It's amazing how the little things can do so much to brighten a day.

The first amaryllis poking its green head out of the icy ground.
Neon pink nail polish on sale at the drug store when you're picking up yet another round of antibiotics.
A random twitter follower checking in to make sure you're ok, and not ignoring a medical issue.
Your favorite candy being back in stock on campus.
A random patch of blue sky on a cloudy, cold, crappy day.
A random text from an old friend long lost touch with, asking how you've been.
Taking terrible-yet-funny pictures of stuffed animals with dildos, just for shits and giggles. (yes, really)

The little things are what remind us that all of life can be wonderful, beautiful, interesting, important. The little things are what remind us that just because we aren't having a peak moment of our lives, doesn't mean life sucks. They remind us to enjoy the day-to-day, the beauty that is all around us in the world, in our experiences, and in the people we rub shoulders with on the subway. They jolt us out of our gray little worlds, knock us off of autopilot for a moment, just long enough to think "Wow! That was awesome!" They give us a little smile in a world were so many of us seem to have forgotten how to smile just for the sake of doing so.