I've been a sex editor for two years and I've gone from not being able to say the word "sex" in public to casually chatting on the phone about plush-toy fetishes, fellatio and S/M. I thought I had finally become incapable of embarrassment over things sexual.
Then I encountered the vagina hand puppet and felt like a little girl again.
Until a few weeks ago I had never touched a sex toy. But I wanted to do a story on them, so I asked for help. A lovely woman from Toys in Babeland came by the office and, in a private room, showed me an array of items that would make a sailor blush. She brandished the maroon and pink, velvet and satin, anatomically correct puppet like a doctor in a risqué cabaret act to explain the various areas of sexual pleasure we women have -- from the clitoris to the G-spot and everything in between.
Then she showed me each toy and its specialty. There was a Hello Kitty vibrator, a cock ring with attached dolphin-shaped clit stimulator and rabbit-shaped items that promised to grab a gal where she most wanted to be grabbed. And there were the waterproof numbers for tub use and the ergonomically correct designs to avoid carpal tunnel.
It was too much for one gal to road-test. I realized help was needed. I envisioned an army of horny women, dressed in their finest lingerie, lining up to do Consumer Reports reviews for me in exchange for some sensual fun.
So I asked some fearless females to be masturbatory guinea pigs and report back. Now that the holidays are over and women have lavished gifts and attention on everyone else, I figure it's time to encourage a little sensual self-indulgence.
All reviews are by women who wish to remain anonymous.
The Fukuoku 9000!
Yesterday I brought home a new sex toy with a name like Harry Potter's high-tech broom, the cheerful translucence of a purple gummi bear and the retro-geek chic of an old-time office rubber fingertip. The Fukuoku 9000 made me smile, even before I opened the package.
I did consider unwrapping it in the company of my boyfriend. Novelty usually infuses lovemaking with new energy, and this little purple thing looks novel. "Anywhere your finger goes," said the package. Anywhere. I imagined several scenarios, carefully rehearsing a shared adventure with the maiden voyage of the little finger vibrator in my mind.
However, my resolve to make the initial experience a twosome vanished as soon as I got it alone behind a closed door. I had to rip the package open and examine the contents. The featherweight 9000 slides onto any finger. It's small and smooth, but can be covered with any of three textured slip-on covers. Flat disk batteries like those a watch or camera uses are included. The package also contained a small black storage pouch. (If you wanted to replace it with something in real leather or a favorite fabric, you'd be looking for a case the size of a large bar of soap.) This thing is exquisitely portable even with its spare batteries and covers.
How good is this toy? I can only compare it to the others I've known. My very first vibrator, a device the color of Barbie flesh and shaped only vaguely like the one thing Ken could never give her, ate batteries at a furious pace. It lacked wit, grace and oomph. Next I acquired a first-generation Hitachi Magic Wand, the machine Susie Bright aptly applauded for delivering "a screaming clitoral hard-on in less than a minute."
The Wand was powerful enough to give me last-minute quivering orgasms through the fabric of heavy jeans just before I left my apartment for the evening. And since it didn't run on batteries, it didn't become increasingly flaccid in its intensity as Ken's pink plastic phallus had. However I had to redo my bedroom in orange extension cord to avoid withdrawing the plug from the wall socket with an untimely squirm. It was also loud. I concocted fantasies of riding a motorcycle up a steep road. Going uphill with him sitting behind me on the bike, reaching around to unzip me with hands so sure they could have been my own. Rounding a corner, the roaring Hitachi hog drowning my own rising vocalizations. The thrills of those moonlight rides were spiced by the fear that my downstairs neighbors would hear that massive power tool whisking me over the summit.
My new fingertip toy is on an entirely different scale. I fumbled to find the tiny power switch, and the 9000 sprang to life. It's about as loud as a happy mosquito. Turn on some music, wrap yourself in a light blanket and you could probably use this anywhere with relatively little chance of involuntary detection. I gathered my patience and shifted into leisurely self-seduction. I used to laugh about the idea that vibrators could ruin a woman, rendering mere mortal non-bionic sex useless. I'd now have to admit that for me it may be true -- not for battery-free human contact -- but for subtler, gentler vibrators. Sitting here on the sofa in the early afternoon with a new Fukuoku 9000, I do find myself craving the other one, rather than loving the one I'm with.
It may not be fair to compare this artful miniature with the Wand, but I can only judge based on what I know. The Fukuoku 9000 is quiet, light and gentle. It claims to pulse 9,000 times a second, and I am sure it makes a lot of people happy. I won't give up my noisy old quickie-factory for this, but I'll make the 9000 an alternative for times when a lighter touch and a slower pace will do. If you are usually satisfied with your own adept fingers and want to lightly animate their caress, this may become a prized toy. Besides, it's cute.
Hello Kitty and Honey Bear
Made of hard bubble-gum pink plastic and topped with the torso of the perennially popular Sanrio icon, the Hello Kitty vibrator is a straightforward sex toy with few frills to offer beyond its disturbingly cute facade.
The glee and envy it elicited from my girlfriends when I showed it off socially almost made up for the discovery that it only had one speed. The smooth sides provided little in the way of pleasant friction, and the head itself was a bit unwieldy. I also discovered that I had a mental hang-up about playing intimately with the international symbol of adorable youth; I couldn't quite get over the unsavory feeling that I belonged in a photo spread for "Barely Legal," which is definitely not a fantasy of mine.
On the plus side, it was so insanely cute that I had the unprecedented urge to display it prominently on my night stand. Finally, it has a very loud purr, so I would not recommend it to those of you who don't want your immediate neighbors to know when you are saying hello to Kitty.
Also taking a childhood memory and giving it an adult spin is the bear-shaped vibrator reminiscent of certain honey-dispensing plastic bottles. Its surprisingly detailed features (lines etched into the body to signify fur, a carefully delineated snout) are molded out of soft pink rubber, and its arms arch over its head, ballerina-style. When switched on, the little paws quiver up and down, which motion is supposed to provide extra stimulation to the clitoris. I couldn't quite figure out how to maneuver it so it "grabbed" that area consistently without slipping, but the sensations provided were great anyway. The rubber warmed instantly to body temperature and the palm-sized body of the bear was pleasant to the touch and easy to handle. The speeds available ranged from a surprisingly powerful low rumble to the obligatory fast and furious, and the accompanying noise levels were fairly low. All in all, a very sweet bear!
Rub my ducky
When it comes to vibrators, I'll always choose function over form. After all, when it's "down there" does it really matter if it's a cucumber or something anatomically correct? All that matters to me is whether or not it helps me get where I want to go.
Rub My Duckie was a disappointing orgasmic experience. With persistence one can reach a climax, but it's strictly an external affair. This toy is not built for a deeper pleasure. The biggest drawback is there's no obvious way to hold or use this vibrator, which happens to look exactly like a little yellow tub ducky. Oh, it's cute -- and makes a marvelous party or gag gift -- but for the serious orgasm seeker, you may as well take a ride on your washing machine. Since one of this toy's highlights is that it's waterproof, if fun in the shower is what you're looking for, a good water massager and decent water pressure will bring you more pleasure than your ducky.
Old and new
I was able to test the best of the old and the new in the world of vibrators.
The traditional phallus-shaped tiger-print vibrator (about 8 inches long) was grrrrreat. Powerful, and attractive to look at -- it made me recall Tony the Tiger and got me thinking a girl could do worse. Hey, he wore that jaunty bandana, and he wouldn't be one to bore you with stories of psychotic ex-girlfriends. Its smooth surface was easy to grip and felt very clean; I appreciated that it didn't have a rubbery smell like many vibrators do. However, it seemed to grow loud very quickly.
I also had good results with the new Natural Contours vibrator. This is a wonderful product. The packaging touts it as "designed in Europe" (not by uptight puritanical Americans!) and "ergonomically engineered," so important for those trying to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome. It is practically silent, with three distinct speeds. Its unique, elegant modern shape seems to encourage experimentation -- I wasn't sure exactly how it was designed to be held but it wasn't difficult to achieve, er, success. Another bonus to this product: If there's a chance airport security will be waving your vibrator around, this is the one you'd choose. "Um, that's my neck rest."
I had to have the Beyond 2000 vibrator. I am greedy like a magpie, and it had the shiniest stuff. The candy-pink jelly monument stood 7 inches tall on its solid black base. Sparkling silver bands led down to an enticing spiral of glittering pearl-sized beads. It had contours. It had ridges. It had a charging rhino. It whispered in my ear and promised me super-sized pleasure. This was the power tool for a pop princess wannabe. Bling-bling! I took it home.
I checked out the dual-speed variable controls. The left control button started the rhino buzzing and bouncing, tiny tusks flipping in a high-speed vibrating frenzy. Turn the right controls up to 1 and the silvery beads whirl, the pink shaft shimmies; at 5 it gyrates; at 10 it's Christina Aguilera. It practically throbbed. Very Dirrty. The B2k was going off, and this was only the dry run. This seemed like a lot to take in all by myself, so I enlisted Boyfriend help.
"I said, can you help me with this thing?"
"It's kind of loud, eh?" It was very loud, but so pretty it had to be fun! The dog started scratching on the back door to get out. We closed our bedroom door and pressed on.
It was obvious what part of the B2k went on the inside, and I was sure, at least for me, that the charging rhino had just better stay on the outside. Boyfriend turned both controls to one. The rhino, even on its lowest speed, buzzed too strong for my taste. I went from tickled to numb in six seconds. Ouch! Even when off, the thing was really in the way. The spinning beads were too high up, or maybe they were too low? I didn't seem to fit the Beyond 2000. Maybe I was only a '90s kind of girl. Boyfriend, never discouraged in a situation like this, turned me up to gyrate, then to Lady Marmalade. I could hear the dog whimpering.
"Maybe we should put him out?"
I tried. I really wanted to feel the way it looked, all pink and shiny and dazzling, but with the silver beads spinning one way, contoured pinkness headed the other way, and a rhino charging up the middle, I just felt like an unbalanced wash load. rrRRRr, rrRRRr, rrRRRr, rrRRRr. I smiled at the silliness of it all, and then I started to laugh. My boyfriend smiled too. "Is that right? Is it working?"
Call me Colette ...
What better gift for a lady writer than a lovely vibrator-equipped pen? When I first saw it, I couldn't wait to experiment. I imagined heading into the washroom after a steamy interview with a hot newsmaker, or enjoying a solo mile-high-club excursion when I had lots of writing to do on a long flight. When I decided to try it out first at home before tucking it into my briefcase as one of my professional accessories, I was quickly moaning -- in discomfort. Ouch! The little vibrator sits on top of the pen, about a half-inch in diameter. To get it to work you press on it gently, or so I thought. But what felt gentle to my thumb felt like torture to my clit and its environs. The lovely sensitivity of that region is not well served by a vibrator that is activated by pressure, and the vibrating plastic top is just too hard and small, even without the pressure, to get the job done. (I also had some hygiene questions about how you'd keep such an implement clean and fresh, but having only used it once, that wasn't really a problem.) My daughter found it, had no clue what it was supposed to be used for, just thought it was neat that it had a vibrating top -- and put it in her backpack to entertain her friends. I hope they never find out what it was made for -- it could turn them against masturbation for a lifetime!
The Wahl 2-Speed All Body Massager
At first glance, there's nothing sexy about the Wahl 2-speed All Body Massager. It's packed in clear, no-nonsense plastic. We're talking straight Fruit of the Loom, with a photo in the corner of three women -- one white, one black, one middle aged -- all jogging. More like an ad for hemorrhoid medication than a promise of sexual satisfaction, unless they're jogging to a suburban swingers' party or something.
It's white -- washing-machine white -- and with all the attachments it looks more like a mini-handheld blender than anything you'd want to hide in shame. You could probably leave it out in your kitchen utensil drawer with the eggbeaters and no one would be the wiser.
But man, plug that baby in and set it to work and Ka-zing. Fire your boyfriend and unplug your phone. Back to basics: two speeds, wow and more wow. Wally (yes, I nicknamed mine) plugs in so you don't even need to worry about getting new batteries. There are four or five attachments and, if you're so inclined, you probably could use it on your back, or shoulders for the stress relief promised by the picture. But you won't be so inclined, trust me.
And better yet -- Wally runs quiet, so you don't have to.
The Rabbit Habit
My anticipation for this one was pretty high. The extra-all-purpose purple gelatin bunny-ear and rotating bead masterpiece of "Sex and the City" fame, the one that inspired an intervention because once Charlotte got her, um, hands on it she stopped leaving her house.
Visually the thing is a stunner: purple gel, realistic in design, but rendered cute and innocuous by a smiley face on the tip and the bunny ears on the attachment at the base. How turned on you are by the visuals depends on how you much you ever had the hots for Thumper. Since I've had a thing for rabbits ever since I first read "Watership Down," I thought I'd be OK. The problem is that you need a degree in electrical engineering to figure out the controls: There are two separate levers, one of which controls the vibrating bunny (two light for my tastes) and the other that controls the rotating beads. If you speed one up, the other slows down, and it would take a few years of in-flight training school to calibrate the appropriate ratios and get the levers balanced appropriately. The necessary calculations and ratios certainly don't lend themselves to wild abandon.
It looks awfully cute on your nightstand, though. Altogether: Not fast enough, or powerful enough to warrant the hype. It's as practical as Carrie's Manolo Blahniks, and just as uncomfortable.
The Anal Sex Video
The summary on the back of the video for "Nina Hartley's Guide to Anal Sex" promises "Your anus will always listen to your heart, not your mind." I'd never really thought of it that way before, and I do appreciate the degree of heart shown in the hour-long video's climactic five-person gangbang. The stars are all passionless, bored, friendly and, yes, given the sensitivity of the regions involved, very, very careful. There is nothing sexy about the video whatsoever, though the opening instructional lecture (with demo) provided by Nina Hartley and Anna Malle (astonishingly unmoved in her doctor's chair) does provide lots of helpful tidbits that the brain-dead among us might not have thought of. For example, trim your nails. And if your partner squeals in pain and screams "STOP!" then, well, do so. In case you hadn't noticed, there are a lot of nerve endings down there.
Given the general unattractiveness of the participants and the stilted presentation, it's all the more disturbing when you find yourself getting turned on despite yourself. I watched it with three women friends, and after all the jokes were said and done, we realized we were shifting around uncomfortably, not looking into each other's eyes, and making frequent trips to the bathroom. And I have to admit I learned a few things from the video. What they were is none of your business. But altogether, definitely worth a viewing.
Sizzling Body Candy
Repeat after me.
Kiss it, lick it, dip it, suck it.
There, you've had about as much fun as this product is going to offer you, just by reading the box it came in. The candy itself is tasty -- but it's also a dead ringer for Pop Rocks. I tried it on and that pleasant sensation of sizzling on the tongue is a lot less pleasant in more sensitive areas. Plus, you can freeze up when you remember all those urban legends of Pop rocks exploding in people's stomachs. An acquired taste, I suppose.