This is our first toy review for Dread the Empire, a small company run out of Austin Texas. Tonight we’re reviewing their ‘Leviathan’ dildo, or rather, three of them. That might be a little spoiler for the conclusion; we bought all of these out of pocket. Like so many of our reviews, this isn’t as simple as ‘we like it’, the big question is if Leviathan and Dread The Empire[DTE] are right for you.
It would be dishonest if I didn’t mention that excellent and short wait times are becoming boringly standard for our experience with independent toy sellers on Etsy, we expect those now and one thing you won’t be dreading from the empire is waiting. We typically have our orders in hand at about the week mark and that’s with some rather inefficient routing by the carrier—the truck from Austin whizzes right by us to the regional distro, significantly east of us, then it has to come back our direction a full day later because we’re in a logistical donut hole from that location. Packaging is discreet which is thankfully also standard with our indie experience.
When it comes to Leviathan itself choosing your size is really important. Emily enjoys Leviathan the most as a clenching size challenge. For her that makes the Medium her best size, but I’ve seen comments about the small being too big for some. As always, when size is a major factor we include a detailed chart including our D-score rating, and you’ll find that just below. Knowing what you can take will make or break this toy for you. The shape of Leviathan heavily lends itself to the clenching use case, with a giant swell midway down the shaft, and with the lower part of the shaft being the smallest section it’s almost a vaginal plug. For those of you that haven’t played this way, this basically relies on using the sensation of being full to get off. Some women are more sensitive to this sensation than others, and Emily can get all the way to a long continuous orgasm with just fullness. Sometimes she enjoys adding a vibrator or double penetration or both but getting full is often more than enough.
Here’s the table, After the swell midway downn the toy tapers and gets smaller, so wanting for table real estate we omit that measurement.
Quick Reminder: D-score is a measurement that essentially gives us the number of median sized dicks to equal the girth of a toy. You can read D-Score more easily as “This is how many dicks this is worth in girth”. So a D-Score of 2.5 would be 2 and a half dicks of girth, to make it simple.
As you can see, there’s a huge—yuge?—size jump from small to medium. Yeah, it’s just as dramatic as the image at the top of this post makes it look. If we had to ding anywhere, it’d be here. The size jump from petite to small is pretty smooth but the size jump from small to medium is huge. I’ll be clear, there is no silicone dildo manufacturer I’ve ever gotten to know enough to buy from that didn’t have at least one case of this and some, like Bad Dragon, are downright notorious for it but I feel obligated to mention it when I see it. Jumps like this are why we created D-Score.
That being said, Emily has found a use for all these sizes. Medium is typically a solo affair, a challenge she can do with or without warmup toys, but she also enjoys dp fun with the small and petite working in tandem. Vaginally the petite doesn’t do much for her but the small switches use case from clenching toy to thrusting toy quite well—for her. Do keep in mind that we are talking about the same woman that rides a large Apollo—after some work—like a thrusting toy though.
We do feel however that petite size just loses the toys identity. If you look at the size chart above—and you can see it in the pictures—you can see how the small and the medium sizes have much larger diameter jumps than the petite in real terms. Those two sizes preserve the toys identity well with the bulging swell down the middle, but once you hit petite size that feature seems to become a victim of scale. Further still there’s only a ten dollar gap between petite and small, and for us that makes small the hands down winner between those two sizes. We can’t recommend going smaller than that, at least not for Leviathan. The medium has a price jump to match its size jump, and we’re fine with that, it’s a hefty piece of silicone and a worthy size challenge. We strongly recommend both small and medium sizes, depending on your personal preference and experience level of course.
In any size, Leviathan’s pour quality is great and there is rarely a choice of color we don’t like. Leviathan is also a very smooth toy and you won’t be finding a lot of texture here. We think that makes a lot of sense from the perspective of size challenges. All of our Leviathans have a pleasant amount of squish to them, coming in with a shore rating of 00-30 for the petite and small and 00-50 for the medium. They’re really soft and top heavy, getting all three to stand on their own for pictures was a challenge. Silicone is silicone though, and in any size but petite we recommend having some good lubricant on hand to combat the “grabby” nature of the material.
As far as Emily goes, medium Leviathan seems to be on the very edge of her tolerance when it comes to having to warm up with something else. Any bigger and she’d have to use an intermediate toy to get her warmed up for the medium. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know about where that falls in relation to your preferences, if you are a new reader I suggest hitting up our other reviews to get a sense of Emily’s size preferences. I will say, it’s likely not a beginner preference. Pushing boundaries is exactly where we think Leviathan shines the most, and with a name like that we wouldn’t have it any other way. We will definitely be increasing our soft silicone crab collection going forward, that’s for sure.
Given the large difference between the two, if you already know you like clenching focused play or want to give it the old college try, we think medium or small will cover most of you in the size department. If you are more interested in a thrusting toy the ‘Reaper’ and ‘Thunder’ models seem to fit that bill better with their more accessible diameters and length ratios, but we won’t be reviewing those tonight. Our petite and small ran us 45 and 55 USD respectively, and all things considered we think the small is the best overall deal of the three. Our medium clocked in at 125 USD and that price firmly brings it into the category of worth it but only if you know for sure that’s what you need. The 125 bracket also leaves it directly competing with many of Bad Dragon’s toys in similar sizes. Crackers comes to mind as the closest ultra-textured comparable toy—that very texture being the most divisive part about Crackers. Lack of customization options could hurt Leviathan here if you can’t find a pour you like or have a specific custom in mind, as customs are currently not part of DTE offerings. On the other hand DTE pours have features by default that will cost you at BD, triple or quad fades with glow in the dark and sparkles is not something you get for the base price at BD that’s for sure. The small is much easier to justify as an exploratory purchase in our book, and even for a size aficionado like Emily gets the job done.
That leaves our strongest recommendation going to the ‘small’ which, don’t forget, has a D-Score of basically 2 at the swell—roughly equivalent to two average sized dicks at once—and for most of our readers will be quite filling at a price that’s quite welcoming, solid recommend.
Communications technology sure has some interesting consequences for the couple dynamic. When I was a teen I ended up in a long distance relationship utilizing dial-up internet access. It certainly wasn’t my smartest move, but it was possible, and that was new and exciting. I’m sure there must have been a little of that buzz when the telephone was invented, or telegraphs, or reliable mail service. Each of these things in turn increasing the frequency, affordability, and options for connecting with distant people. From scorching love letters, lusty phone calls that last too long, or hot and heavy webcam sessions, long distance communication has been used to start and maintain passionate relationships—and honestly after recalling all these things, sexting seems pretty darn lazy.
Today we are pleased to bring you a review concerning the latest development in long distance love making, network controllable vibrators. Vibease kindly provided us with their signature product for this review, no strings attached. From this point forward, we will be using Vibease for the product and company name interchangeably—due to Vibease doing the same on their website and the box it ships in only saying “Smart Massager” after the Vibease logo. It’s pretty awesome that we were able to get one this way, because I’m not sure we’d be reviewing or owning anything in this category otherwise. Why? Too many unknowns at a price point that demands certainty. I dunno about you but I don’t frequently drop a Benjamin+ on a ‘maybe’. Long time readers may recall we were in the same situation with fantasy themed sex toys, and that our first was a loaner. To that end, we’re splitting this review into two major sections. First, we’re going to do a short synopsis of our experience with Vibease and list out the groups we think would and wouldn’t benefit the most. Second, we’re going to do a deep dive into the product for both your benefit and some fine grained feedback for Vibease. One final note before we get started, if you’re reading this during the initial publishing Vibease is running a 25% off labor day sale with the LABORDAY19 check out code. That’s a considerable chunk of change in real dollars at this price point.
Our experience with the Vibease was positive in a few ways. Most importantly Vibease gives us new ways to play as a couple, point of fact we think the remote control feature is the biggest strength of the product. As you read on, remember that bottom line, Vibease is an excellent way to bridge a distance gap of any size. As always, use case is going to greatly effect whether we recommend the product or not, so I’m going to list the groups of people I think will get the most bang for their buck out of Vibease.
Established couples with busy schedules
Any couple in which at least one partner does a lot of traveling
Any couple comfortable with public play
Couples with mismatched work shifts
There’s also a list of people I think could get a lot out of the Vibease with some caveats, and should read the full review and do their own investigating.
Women offering Kik or GFEs or other remote play services
Women that are into audio erotica
Women that live in places where winter traps them indoors for long periods of time (or get cold enough where they get out less)
As with any toy, there’s just some things Vibease isn’t the right solution for. Despite the marketing, we don’t think the solo experience measures up to other options available to you at this price point, or even significantly below this price point. Again, we think the strengths of Vibease really shine in you+1 scenarios and a lot of the design trade-offs are tilted towards that use. We’ll get into the specifics of that in the long section. For now, here’s a list of use cases we think aren’t well serviced at this time.
A couple in which either partner spends a significant amount of time in a cellular dead zone
Anyone that owns a phone that typically has bluetooth connection problems
Women with plenty of access to private alone time looking for a pure solo play vibrator that will get the job done on its own
People who frequently misplace chargers and have a tough time keeping their devices charged—this is meant as sort of a humorous gimme
Finally, the Vibease is made from body safe materials. I almost forgot to mention that as we don’t review toys that aren’t, but I’ve been careful to mention these things so far. The packaging is also nice and it comes with a drawstring pouch to aid with portability and storage. Now lets get into the nitty gritty and have some fun.
Deep Dive Review
Alright, for me this is going to be the fun part. As a note, all testing was done for the android version of the app. Since this is our first remote play toy Emily and I took a lot of time and effort going over the features of the Vibease, finding out what worked for us and what didn’t, and the first thing we need to get out of the way is expectations. The Vibease is an external wearable, and it’s sized and weighted as such. These things can only get so small and vibrators in particular become less effective as they’re shrunk down. This is why we have a bit of a problem with the ‘solo’ toy claim from Vibease. Perhaps partnered with other toys, and certainly not “ultimate”. In Emily’s case the Vibease lacks the power to send her over the edge, it can get her there, but she can’t seem to crest that hill. Adding both a vaginal and anal plug setup didn’t change that. You know what though? That’s completely fine. It’s about expectations. As people experienced with sex toys in general, and with vibrators too, we knew going in that we were going to use this thing to tease, edge, and embarrass, rather than leaning on it the way we would a larger wand vibrator, or even a comparably sized bullet vibe that doesn’t have to worry about also fitting in the wireless circuitry, and the Vibease excels at the tease, edge, and embarrass bit. We think Vibease may want to consider these facts in their marketing and make sure they’re not mismatching customer expectations and design limitations and strengths.
On that note, Emily and I just aren’t fans of narrated erotica in audio form. That’s one of Vibease’s big ticket selling points. The Vibease comes with some pre-programmed scripts that syncs vibrations carefully to audio. While this is mostly done in the form of narrated erotica, some of the free samples include background soundscapes of nature, such as the beach, or a thunderstorm. Emily actually enjoyed those more than the narrated erotica. Of course, everyone’s mileage is going to vary on this one, you know whether or not you already like audio erotica novels and I’m even willing to go out on the limb that the Esthesia—Vibease’s dual stimulation, G-spot and clitoris, insertable vibrator is a better fit for this use case by default. So far, synced audio is a walled garden experience, which we think is a bit of wasted potential. At the end of the day this is just a programmed routine timed to synced audio. There are other exciting potential applications for this! Please open this up to the creator landscape if you can. I could see a collaboration with companies that specialize in porn for women too, such as sssh.com. I could imagine creative people spicing up their workouts if they had the tools to sync their own audio.
Oh, speaking of workouts, back to the wearable size issue with vibrators. Maybe you’re a flirty show off, and maybe it would turn you on, but I imagine most people using this in public will be doing so with the idea that it’s clandestine. We think the size of the Vibease is basically perfect, but that doesn’t make it magic and this is going to print through your yoga pants. Denim booty shorts are fine though. It’s less about the coverage and more about the material. A long shirt or dress or skirt should fix that problem, it’s just something to keep in mind. If you’re already struggling to hide panty lines, you’re probably printing with the Vibease. I think for some of you that could be a thrilling turn on though and in other situations that could be mitigated just by what you’re doing. Like, I know we mentioned not liking the erotica much but if you wanna take this thing on a jog you’re probably going to be moving too much for the printing to matter and throw on some audioscaping while you’re at it? Could be fun. That’s not something we did mind you, that’s just a thing I could see being done effectively. The extra elasticity strength provided by some good workout pants would definitely hold the Vibease in place for a run.
Let’s talk about the app for a minute, and maybe a few more minutes, because the app is absolutely central and critical to the function of the Vibease. You need to create an account with Vibease to get started, which threw me for a loop for a few seconds before I considered the partner play requirements. I do think you should be able to access basic quick play and “turn the toy on” functions without signing up or signing in though, and we’ll get to the reasons why in a minute. Back to the sign up process, it was easy and straight forward. Emily and I both guffawed at the prospect of ‘signing in with Facebook’ though. I don’t care how skillfully that lizard man pretends to drink water like a human, I don’t trust Zuckerberg or his company anywhere near vibrator data. I appreciate Vibease being mindful of our connected world, but I’ll just give them an email address the old fashioned way thanks, and that’s just what we did. I don’t trust google much either with data privacy, but I trust them more than Facebook not to sell the fact that we have a Vibease or who-I-use-it-with data.
After the simple registration process you’re presented with some simple categories of use. The first is the Vibease Market where they have all their paid audio erotica options. It has a trending and new section to help you sort that out. The next section is where you access your purchased/free audio to use with the Vibease. In the bottom-right corner of this section is the Vibease icon, through which you access ‘quick play’. In our opinion this should be a more prominent option, perhaps with its own menu. We understand why they put it here—this technically is what allows you to vibrate to any audio source—but this is the only place you can access unguided solo operation of the device. We feel that warrants a more prominent placement in the UI. The third section is where you access and control your partner play experience. Behold, the best part of the whole Vibease experience. From here you can connect to other app users—hence the need to sign up—and send invites to the app through basically any app on your phone that allows you to input text, everything from Discord to the WordPress app. Once you are connected you can start a ‘chat’ with the user which lets you text, send audio or images, and of course send requests to control the vibrator functions. Using the three dots menu, you may also set up a user as a ‘trusted partner’. A trusted partner’s requests to control your device are automatically approved, the critical function for ultra stealth public play. We also appreciate the thought that went into deciding that outside of opt-in trusted partners, every control request must be manually approved by the device wearer. Good job here Vibease.
Inside of the chat area there are three nice options for remote control play. The first gives you a dynamic touch screen interface with two axis. One controls the speed of the device and the other controls the power of the device. Sliding your finger to the top right puts the device at maximum speed and power, the bottom right is low speed high power, the bottom left is low speed low power, and the upper left is high speed low power. You may freely slide your finger to any combination in between. This mode requires the most attention and intimate knowledge from the partner and long term partners are going to make the best use of this control section. The next control section is a pattern graph that lets you set the power and rhythm of the device in a repeating loop, I used this section a lot, as once it’s set you can do other things like continue to flirt in voice or chat, send pictures, etc. In the next section are some preconfigured vibration patterns to select from. I found ‘flick’ to be especially compatible with Emily. These patterns, like in the second option, will repeat until they are changed. On that note, a word about section one—the Vibease will fill communication gaps for you by simply continuing your last selection so if you put your finger all the way to the top right of the graph and let go it will stay on maximum power until it’s told to not be there. If you disconnect completely it will maintain whatever its last command was whether that’s a repeating pattern or a strength you chose in control option one.
In the next section you set-up and pair your device with your phone. Once again Vibease shows consideration to privacy here. The pairing process must be started with the device OFF. That alone prevents a ton of known hi-jacking methods. Good job Vibease. Remember those presets I was talking about in control option 3 in the paragraph above? Well in this section you can alter and save these presets. If you find any of the presets to be useless, congratulations you now have a custom pattern slot, go nuts! I know I’ve talked a lot about shortfalls in the app, but you can really see how much effort was put into the user experience. Even where we disagree with how that experience goes, you can’t say they didn’t consider it. This section too is a real highlight of the software. You may also play patterns from here so it also functions as a sort of secondary solo play mode, though it’s not as completely off the tracks as the one we pointed out before.
Finally, you get your standard three dots menu, from which you can change your profile settings, your privacy settings, check your app version, send invites to friends/partners, request support, rate the app, and explicitly log out. It’s a well rounded and well thought out options menu.
We also want to communicate to everyone how much quality of data connection matters for using the Vibease. It’s story time. We have three children, and we planned an entire date around using the Vibease. We get full on dates about once a month, they are rare and fun events and represented the perfect time to take the Vibease features for a spin. So guess what happened? Our local cell phone network decided to take a colossal shit that day. Emily and I were on separate networks and they were both affected. We fiddled with the Vibease for an hour with no luck, generating things like java null reference errors in the app and all sorts of things that would make a less tech savvy user blame the software or the device. But I also noticed that Discord wasn’t working either, for either of us. SMS was working, but that was about it. Insidiously, the cellular networks were presenting us with data bars, but they would rapidly ping pong from 5 to 1, good signal to terrible. Anything that relied on our Data connection was totally fucked, for hours. Ultimately, at an hour in to our 5 hour monthly date, we decided to salvage what we had left and ignore the device. Total, fucking, bummer. Again, this wasn’t the fault of Vibease, I’m just pointing out some inherent pitfalls that come with chaining things to a cellphone. Any of you that have had a day of PokemonGO ruined because a cell tower decided to take a dump knows exactly the kind of frustration I’m talking about. EX raids anyone? As soon as we got back home on a network that didn’t suck ass—we were mall crawling that day, we got on the public wifi at the mall and it offered zero relief as it was the first Saturday that students were back and the network was saturated to uselessness—the app worked flawlessly. No more silly Java null reference errors when trying to update my profile. This is a problem that could erroneously present itself as a problem with the device or the software, and I will renew my pleading to Vibease to have more ‘offline’ function options. Remember, you have to be signed in to even use the manual operation options.
As I mentioned above, this could be a useful device if you are a sex worker that offers GFE services or other remote play services. The privacy settings are there and it’s easy to completely control who can pester you with control requests. Again, on the privacy front, Vibease gets top marks from us. The only snag I can really see has to do with the paragraph above. There’s a lot that can go wrong with cell phone leashing, most notably, the cellular network itself, and it only takes that being shoddy on one end to ruin the connection. It’s amusing to say outright, but the weakest link in the Vibease model is the cellular towers themselves. Aside from that though, I say go for it, or at the very least consider it. If remote play services aren’t part of your hustle(thank you Tawney for the jargon), don’t worry about it.
Things to know about Bluetooth before you dive in. It’s really easy to disrupt a Bluetooth signal. Maximum range with direct line of sight is something about 10 meters, but Bluetooth signals are disrupted by a lot of things, and particularly human flesh. You can intentionally disconnect the Vibease by aggressively crossing your legs. Sorry, that’s the tech. So here are some pointers to keep connected. Keep your phone as close to the vibrator as you can within reason. Thicker clothes will disrupt the signal more. Crossed legs or putting your thighs real close together will really do a number on the signal. Keep other sources of wireless signals away, especially other Bluetooth. That’s pretty much it.
So what do we have here when we really get down to brass tacks? I think what we have is an excellent way for couples to connect over distance and to tantalize and tease each other to increase desire and stay connected. When it comes to a toy like this, the software is really what’s going to make or break it. As a standalone vibrator external wearables have too many size constraints to measure up to other options. The connectivity and the software that provides that connectivity is what makes these toys worthwhile. That’s why we spent so much time going over the ways the software could improve. As the Vibease exists now, it’s already an excellent edition to a couple’s warchest—that must be stressed, it is already good. We however, see a lot of room for the Vibease to get even better, and we hope it does.
Once again. I’d like to thank Vibease for providing us the opportunity to review a toy in this class.
We are going full nerd today, as if coming up with D-score and gabbing about the effectiveness of various fictional villians weren’t enough already. I’m warning you now, this post is full of tabletop gamer jargon, and it’s for those people. I never intended on penning my thoughts about the second edition of the Pathfinder roleplaying game but I feel like I have a lot to say about it. I wasn’t even planning on picking it up truth be told, but I received the pre-order as a birthday gift from my old players. I haven’t run a game of anything in years but when I was running, it was D&D, GURPS, and Pathfinder.
It’s been well over a decade since Pathfinder came out and the idea that there would be a second edition at all was hardly an expectation. Paizo publishing seemed pretty content with their content cycle and there didn’t seem to be any pressure to iterate from my perspective. Most things prone to having a second version usually do so before they hit a decade old, yet here we are. In the limbo period between knowing the core rulebook was coming and actually getting it I broke into a research period. Apparently there was a public play test that had been going on for quite some time and the goal of this second version was to be more streamlined and more accessible while still retaining mechanical depth.
I don’t think Paizo achieved that goal. I’ve been reading the manual every day for a week now, and there are still things I’m still learning, basic things—I’m running a game for a group in roughly another week and session zero is tomorrow. There are always rules that are more vague than they ought to be in any of these things but how much HP you gain every level shouldn’t have been one of them. Had I not stumbled on a post correcting me just today, my players would have been receiving far too much HP per level past the first. The problems don’t stop there, obvious grammatical errors and half-updates from the play test found their way into the final version. I know I know, in most circumstances complaining about grammatical accuracy would be me throwing stones from glass houses, but I’m not the one publishing a 600+ page rule book that’s entirely grammar bound. For those of you that already own it—physical copy, who knows when it will be fixed in PDF after all—if you turn to the arcane spell list short-descriptions for third level you will see Paralyze on it. The text of Paralyze will indicate that it can only target humanoids. If you go to the full text description, it is clearly all creatures. Since paralyzing creatures and humanoids were distinct spells in third edition D&D, I spent the next 15 minutes looking for the ‘creature’ version of paralyze based on the short description. It doesn’t exist. That was confusing indeed. There’s an errant comma in a Halfling weapon proficiency ancestry feat that, if you don’t ignore it, makes meeting the prerequisites impossible. Other errors and vagueness litter Pathfinder’s second edition core rule book and make an already complex system frustrating to learn. God forbid I try to teach a player new to RPGs in total through this. I’ve had the thought more than once that I should seriously consider running GURPS instead for games where Pathfinder 2 seems like a good solution.
Okay Henry I get that there are a few typos and misprints but that’s not what makes a system complicated, and you’d be right so let’s get to that. In Pathfinder 1 you start by selecting a combination of starting attributes in your main ability scores and a race. These choices underpin your character and only come up at level one. Your race never changes again and your stats don’t change very much either. From that point you select your class—normally anyway, some people figure out what class they play before they know the other bits, bear with me—and your class comes with a nice progression table that while not intuitive puts the bulk of your character progression all in one place. Every so often you take ‘feats’ to further customize your character, and there’s a giant list of them. In Pathfinder 2 you start by picking your race, this gives you some boosts to your abilities based on your choice (you no longer choose your ability scores separately by default) and also gives you access to a pool of ancestry feats, which essentially are all the racial abilities of Pathfinder 1 chopped into morsels and served slowly rather than all upfront. You acquire more of these ancestry feats as you level. You get some HP from this choice as well. Then you choose your background, this gives you more boosts to your ability scores, skill proficiencies, and a predetermined skill feat. From there, you choose your class, which gives you more HP, more boosts to your ability scores, and access to another pool of feats—we’re at three pools of feats now, ancestry, class, skill, four if you’re human, they can pick from the general pool right away if they choose too, which everyone gets access to at level 3. With me so far? Also, classes retain their list of class abilities, that are not feats, but things you just get automatically as the class levels. Finally, you get another pile of ability boosts to spread as you please. Some people have judged the former system as more complicated than the latter, and I honestly can’t understand what they mean. Just because Paizo says 2nd edition is more streamlined than 1st does not make it so. There are newbie traps galore, like multi-classing into Fighter from Wizard being strictly superior than going the other direction for the purposes of building a front line battle wizard. Don’t get me started on multi-classing itself, which would be another paragraph worth of text to explain clearly.
This is all a matter of managing expectations, something I think Paizo publishing should be more careful with. So far I’ve been very negative, but I do actually like the system so far, I love my crunch—I wouldn’t run GURPS if I didn’t—and I’m going to enjoy running game in Pathfinder 2e. We’re going to run into questions about the rules during the game, and I’m okay with that, and I’m studying hard to make sure that if I don’t know the answer I at least know where to look. Paizo however, marketed on less crunch, less fiddlyness, less complication, more ease of access. I don’t think those valuations were accurate of the new system. To be honest, based on their marketing, I was looking forward to a more meaty and mechanically deep version of D&D 5th Edition. I also don’t appreciate that there was day 1 splat in the published adventure paths(pre-made adventures designed to allow me to skip a lot of the work in coming up with an adventure on my own). Erh, I guess I should explain splat. Splat is additional rules that come to a system, and up until now, were generally contained in books that were published after launch, usually as a group of new rules. These are collectively called ‘splat books’. This time the new rules and options come in the form of adventure paths but more importantly, these ‘new’ rules were launched the same day as the new system but not included in the core rule book. This reeks of on-disc DLC in the video game industry. Add-ons should be just that, add-ons. These rule books aren’t cheap—your book wouldn’t be either if it were as big, as thick, and used as much color ink— and all the rules and character options available on day one should be in the ‘Core Rulebook’.
As for the book itself, minus the grammatical errors and misprints I pointed out above, you can look forward to the predictably awesome artwork of Pathfinder, the full color large pages with easy to read print in pleasant fonts. The paper weight is just right, and the finish of the paper is on point, though it does catch the light at shallow angles. It’s big, heavy, and imposing, a plus for me. This product is so niche I can’t give a recommendation one way or the other. If you’ve made it this far, you likely already know if this is the game system for you. Happy gaming, and don’t forget to shame bad dice!
This is a follow up to our intoduction to Warchest building. On more expensive sex toys we often issue the warning that you should be covering your bases before indulging unless you’re absolutely sure. A reader engaged us and asked what covering the bases looked like. Sure enough I went back and read that old post and while it talked a lot about the things you ‘could’ get we never went as far as making specific recommendations. So without further ado, here are our warchest basics. Some of these items are available through our affiliate link at Peepshow Toys. If you like this content and want to support us, using that link is very helpful.
Nothing puts a damper on fun time like dryness. Whether that’s parts that should be lubing that aren’t, or parts that can’t lube themselves, nothing says party pooper like too much friction. We recommend having at least a water based lubricant handy for a few reasons: they won’t damage your body safe toys, the good ones come in all natural body safe formulas, they work with your bodies natural lubrication, and they are easy to clean. I’ve reviewed one of our favorites in the past, but we have three go-to water based lubes.
The first on the list is Sliquid Naturals H2O. We’ve been using his lubricant for years and it is excellent. We’ll go into more details when it gets a proper stand alone review later, but the basics are it’s a medium thickness all natural water based lubricant that is Glycerin and Paraben free.
Next up is System Jo Agape. Yeah yeah, we snickered at the name too. Just like the Sliquid, System Jo Agape is free of harsh chemicals. Agape goes one step further on the marketing however and claims to be perfectly pH balanced for especially sensitive vaginas. So if you have had issues with sensitivity to lubricant before you may wanna stop here first. For our use, it’s a bit thinner than the H2O and whether or not that’s a good or bad thing is up to you. We use both regularly.
Our next favorite water based lube, and the one that gets the most use out of us by far is Bad Dragon’s Cum Lube which we did a full review on here. TL;DR, this ultra thick lubricant is a go-to when having back-door fun with toys that can’t be used with silicone lubricants. It’s got excellent staying power but can be hard to work with.
If you’re into anal play that doesn’t involve silicone toys (glass, metal, fingers, dick) we also highly recommend getting a silicone based lubricant. There are some drawbacks related to the strengths. Silicone based lube really goes the distance in anal applications as it won’t be absorbed by the body, and it stays put, but that strength also makes it difficult to clean. It’s a trade-off we feel is worth it to avoid the hassles of re-lubing. We’ve had that happen just as an orgasm was building and Emily lost her hard earned build up as a result. Don’t let that happen to you! Our go-to for silicone lube is currently Gun Oil.
The next base we need to cover is external stimulation with the clitoris in mind. Unlike lubricant, which is widely needed regardless of situation, this is one of those things you have to judge based on need. Do your hands got you fam? What about your partner? If availability and effectiveness are satisfactory you can skip this and cover gaps in the warchest that would do more good. But if you’re looking for something more out of your clitoral experience we have a few products we highly recommend.
The Shibari Mini Halo offers broad area coverage and decent power in a compact cordless format. We haven’t done an in depth review of the Mini Halo yet but we’ve owned it for quite a while and it is due. Spoilers, we like it. You can pick one up at the affiliate link above.
Also available from Peepshow is the Satisfyer Pro Penguin, an absolutely adorable entry in the air pulsation category of vibrators. These vibrators offer targeted intensity that’s a little much for some people, but we find immensely pleasurable. Its less cutely shaped but otherwise identical cousin, the Satisfyer Pro 2, can sometimes be had for less depending on the sales going so check that out as well.
Toys that you stick into things are the bulk of what we review here but it needs to be said that this is only one piece of the warchest puzzle. Some women just don’t respond much to penetration and others, like Emily, basically can’t get off satisfactorily without feeling a bit stretched. Here are two basics to help you cover this base, but there are many more out there.
Recently reviewed, the Vivo by Uberrime is a great way to start on a body safe penetration journey. It safely covers G-spot and P-spot play and comes in at an affordable price for 100% body-safe platinum cured silicone.
If you’re a little more adventurous with designs, the illithid by PleasureForge is also a very affordable way to get into body safe penetration play with a large degree of texture, and PleasureForge does some amazing pours.
Those three areas will largely cover your basics. Once those are settled I recommend getting into mood setters, like music, candles, incense, lighting, soundscapes, or whatever it is you can think of to create atmosphere. We’ve also covered several advanced penetrative toys at higher price points, so check our post history. Once you have these basics covered you can start drilling down into getting specific features for specific needs. If your spouse travels a lot your needs are going to be different than if you see them every night. It’s just the way it is. Build your warchest to suit you.
Boy has this review been a long time coming. Several weeks ago I went to check out the Uberrime studio in Orlando Florida to see first hand how the silicone dildo manufacturing process went in detail. I’ve aluded to this visit before in previous blogs and on twitter but enough of what I saw fit the category of trade secrets and other confidential items that there hasn’t been a story on that. Suffice it to say however, I learned a lot and the visit has been a great asset in informing some of my critiques. At the conclusion of the visit I was presented with a surprise bag containing a Vivo and I’ve been eager to review it ever since. I also left my backpack behind, but some weirdo named Peter Parker was kind enough to ship it to me. (Seriously though, thanks Marco and hilarious shipping label)
Vivo is one of a set of three themed dildos: Spiro, Vivo, and Amo which mean “I breathe”, “I live”, and “I love” respectively. Vivo was the first sculpt in the set. Vivo is directly advertised as designed primarily for harness compatible G-spotting and P-spotting, which makes my job a whole lot easier. We typically buy and review toys that are deep into the fantasy genre, and many of these toys have no stated design goals. You’ll see in most of our reviews an exhaustive enumeration of the ways the toy can be used—that comes from no stated design goal, we have to work that out. We will still be going over the ways we enjoyed using Vivo, but at least I have a hard design goal to measure it against. Let’s take a look at Vivo.
The most striking feature of Vivo is the head, which makes total sense for a G-spotting toy. The head is prominent compared to the shaft, which you will be able to see reflected in the measurements section. The best feature of this rounded and somewhat triangular head has to be the “flat” side pictured both below and in the banner image.
This is the feature that does the most work on Emily by far and the experience matches the design goal. Emily has always had trouble finely manipulating toys to hit certain areas—her arms just don’t quite reach out far enough to get that kind of control—but as her partner utilizing the flat head and upwards curve of the shaft made hitting her G-spot effortlessly effective. That fact should not be overlooked by potential harness users. On that note, Vivo is approximately shore 8A, and as you can see in the photos, stands easily and doesn’t droop easily, which is also important for harnesses. I also used that flat bit of the head to smack Emily’s clit around a bit, because I have something of an obsession with re-purposing design elements. Just under the head are some slight but definitely perceptible ridges, followed by a very smooth shaft that tapers slightly wider as it hits the harness friendly base that also lends the Vivo anal use safety.
I do have to address a bit of an elephant with the review though, as the colors I got are very non-standard. That’s not a big deal to me per se, in fact I think I’m more fond of those pearled transition pours from a daylight viewing perspective, but mine came with glow pigments, and not just a little bit either. These are some of the brightest glows I’ve seen in the industry and I can actually see the toy casting light onto my hands from a decent distance once it’s fully charged. The only toy I have that comes anywhere near this is HodgePodgeEntourage’s Sylph. That leaves me in a bit of a pickle because Vivo isn’t normally available with glow pigment. It’s not to say I’m not appreciative, quite the opposite, I enjoy this light show immensely, and that’s exactly why I’d like others to be able to have it. So I’m gonna post that glow picture and implore Uberrime to find a way to make a glow variant as a standard option.
With that out of the way, lets get into one of my favorite parts of this gig, measurements and charts! Lengthwise, Vivo is 6.5 inches usable and 7 inches total length, the rest of the measurements are in the table below.
Mid Shaft Measurements
Lower Shaft Measurements
Quick Reminder: D-score is a measurement that essentially gives us the number of median sized dicks to equal the girth of a toy. You can read D-Score more easily as “This is how many dicks this is worth in girth”. So a D-Score of 2.5 would be 2 and a half dicks of girth, to make it simple.
For those of you paying attention, you’ll remember that Emily is something of a size queen. Measurements like these generally strike us as ‘beginner’ in feel and that holds out here. That’s not a sleight though, it just reflects Emily’s niche tastes. I’d be hard pressed to come up with measurements more suited for mass market than these given the design goal. Remember, that D-Score of 1.0 on the mid shaft isn’t “small’, it’s a full size average dick. It is however small in comparison to the toys we most frequently use, which swing around D-scores of 2.5 or more. This just reflects her preferred play style, which is full of stretching, knotting, and grinding. What these measurements reflect is ease of use in thrusting applications, harness compatibility, and targeted play—hey that sounds familiar, design goals. Reviewing Vivo seemed an excellent opportunity to point out how these measurements influence use.
Now let’s get into another great feature, the price. At 59 dollars, either from the Etsy shop or straight from Uberrime’s website, I don’t have to caveat or walk back recommendations on Vivo around a mid 100’s or higher price tag the way I generally have to do when reviewing fantasy toys. Just like those fantasy toys, Vivo is made from 100% body safe platinum cure silicone. Vivo is an excellent and affordable way to introduce someone to body safe products without chasing them off with features like suckers, huge sizes, and animal-like profiles. That’s exactly what I recommend Vivo for; an affordable and effective entry into body-safe materials that makes good on its advertised design features.
Boy has it been too long since we’ve done one of these. Took a hard turn to family/relationship segments and book reviews, and while I certainly missed focusing on those after the rapid fire series of sex toy reviews, it’s long since time to get back to it.
Today we’re looking at Chance (unflared), manufactured by Bad Dragon, in a large size, medium firmness, and equipped with the cum tube accessory. There, that was a mouthful. First we’re going to take an overall look at Chance’s design and aesthetic, and then were going to go over how each of the options selected for ours affects its use, what adjustments to that formula could mean for you, and what preferences this toy gels with.
First lets address the most obvious part of Chance’s design, it’s hung like a horse. I’m not exactly sure what the motive was behind that; I have several plausible ideas but I didn’t reach out and ask so I won’t pontificate. It’s ultimately not important and I’d rather deal with the reality of the design rather than the motives. Chance is one of Bad Dragon’s most prolific and popular models if its prevalence in independently produced pornography or conversations inside the fantasy toy community are in any way representative of the market interest. There are always questions about Chance, what size should I get?, how big is it really?, and so on. When Emily showed interest in one she was afraid I’d not be open to it, she was embarrassed because even though it’s a fantasy genre toy it has roots in reality that she was afraid I’d judge her for.
That confusion isn’t unwarranted, it’s a reasonable thing to be cautious about revealing in my opinion. Now in our case, I thought it was cute that she’d think I’d judge her for that, but it’s definitely not the first thing I’d own up to in a new relationship, that’s for sure. More important fish to fry. Point is, I thought her apprehension was cute, but it was definitely understandable and I don’t want to downplay the apprehensions others reading this might feel about it. On to more design elements!
Chance has a large length to girth ratio and has a large heavy base which lends itself to several types of play. Chance, especially in large size, is a good toy to lower yourself onto from an ergonomic standpoint—there’s not as much squatting involved before you get some reward; you don’t have to completely touch your thighs to your calves to hit your limit either. This removes some of the need to set up on things like chairs, or to hold the toy—which is good because it’s quite heavy—and reduces maneuvering in general. In partner play the high length ratio lets your partner be farther away and take more comfortable postures themselves. I’ve mentioned the performer Keri Berry before in my first list of people I follow, but she has several works that highlight this feature far better than I could describe it—there’s one in particular you can check out here where even the preview video shows a lot of these benefits in action.
Other design features of Chance include the slightly flared out head with bumpy textures—there’s a version of Chance that is specifically flared more (this is something horses actually do), but both versions have a pronounced head feature. The head is one of Emily’s favorite things about Chance. It’s got pop and is aggressive. The flared version is somewhat notorious for being hard to insert, and even the unflared version requires some coaxing and/or working up with another toy to accommodate the blunt head. Between the two pictures you’ve probably noticed the vein texture added to the shaft, along with the ring towards the middle. Though some of you might manage it, don’t look forward to feeling that ring on a large—at least not vaginally—it starts approximately six and a half inches down and that’s deeper than many women can go total. Fortunately, the shaft is plenty textured and that texture is very perceptible.
The Size Factor
We ordered our Chance in large which comes with 12 glorious usable inches. The girth of the head is 7.25 inches in circumference, with the shaft clocking in at 6.75 inches around. This gives head and shaft D-scores of 2.6 and 2.2 respectively. That’s not anywhere close to the very large range but it’s also nothing to sneeze at. However, most toys that get to this length are at least 3.5 D-score somewhere along the length and that makes Chance slender by comparison.
Quick Reminder: D-score is a measurement that essentially gives us the number of median sized dicks to equal the girth of a toy. You can read D-Score more easily as “This is how many dicks this is worth in girth”. So a D-Score of 2.5 would be 2 and a half dicks of girth, to make it simple.
So what in the world are we going to do with all that length? As I mentioned before, at least vaginally, most of that length is going to be sacrificed on the altar of ergonomics and aesthetics as I mentioned above. Anal use is a different story. Though we haven’t worked up to attempting it yet, it’s no secret that Chance is a fan favorite for deep anal exploration for the brave, well beyond the sigmoid. I’ll say this explicitly, this is very advanced use and I can’t recommend trying it to anyone who wasn’t already considering it and very experienced with anal play.
If you want to get to a smaller size in the context of anal play we could see that for sure, we’d definitely have tried a medium by now, but vaginally we think going below large loses much needed girth.
There are a few factors playing into our choice for medium firmness. As slender as it is, Chance has some difficulty holding itself upright even at medium. I couldn’t recommend using soft even on the large, for that reason. However, if you went to firm and were using Chance for anal play, it might not comfortably follow your contours. That said, the firmer you go the more pop you’ll give the head and the more you’ll feel that shaft texture. You’ll also be making insertion easier as you go firmer. We however, think medium is the perfect firmness for a large unflared Chance.
The Cumtube Accessory
I find this accessory to be a mixed bag that largely depends on what toy you’ve paired it with. Sometimes a cumtube can be an excellent addition to play and other times it just gets in the way. We feel like a large Chance benefits greatly from the accessory. As I mentioned before, Chance is a heavy toy that stays where you put it, and although it isn’t suction cup compatible it’s easy to arrange things such that you have one or maybe two hands free to enjoy the accessory with. On smaller toys and without a partner, utilizing a cumtube can require you stop the action in a way that kills the moment. This is entirely avoidable with Chance. Chance is somewhat girthy and also well suited for depth play and the cumtube fulfills an important and practical role in keeping things lubed up without having to break the action up. A cumtube is a solid recommendation for Chance.
Purchasing & Cost
Our Chance was a Black Friday steal at 80 bucks but the normal cost for what’s pictured above is approximately 150. That’s high enough to issue our “bases covered” warning. What’s that mean? Well it means that before you drop that much cash on a toy this niche make sure you have your basic kit essentials covered. Have you found the lube that suits you yet? Do you have a more basic dildo? A strong vibrator? A womanizer perhaps? (We are in that price range after all). We absolutely adore our Chance, but we would not pay full price for one if we didn’t have all our kit needs covered first for sure. We’re passing that practice as a recommendation on down to you.
As for purchasing itself, due to current wait times for customs (dead on the edge of the terms of service limit for the bulk of people discussing such things with each other—4 weeks), we highly encourage you to watch for new pre-made inventory that suits your needs, as it drops 3 times a week. If you follow Bad Dragon’s twitter account you can be notified of drops that way. They’re usually on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the afternoon (from an eastern time zone perspective anyway, GMT -4), and there’s always a mad rush to grab them. 12 drops is an awfully long time to go without seeing a suitable Chance in my experience. I will say however that I am generally able to browse drops as they happen. If you cannot you may not have as much luck scoring a popular model in the configuration you want, but you should at least give it a try for a week and see how you fare.
We absolutely adore our Chance and it’s one of our favorite toys in our entire collection. While solo thrusting can be a bit awkward and clumsy due to the weight and size of a large Chance, the advantages in other forms of solo play and in couple play outweigh the downsides for us. We can simply reach for a different toy more suited to the one task Chance doesn’t do as well if we want to. While we do have large caveats on a purchase recommendation, which we mentioned just prior to our conclusion, if those aren’t deterrents for you then our recommendation to take a chance on Chance in this configuration is very high.
Over the course of this blog we’ve reviewed a bunch of indie-made dildos and I’ve reviewed a fair few books. Today I’m reviewing my first indie-published book, Open Bobs BB volume 1. There were some small challenges in reviewing Open Bobs BB—I’ll just call this OBBB from here on out—that I think are useful to go over. I was asking questions that didn’t have obvious answers, as I typically review from the point of view of the self-help genre with questions like, Who is this book for? What use is it? What’s the value proposition? We’ll be covering answers to those questions where they’re appropriate, but OBBB isn’t strictly, nor is it billed as, a self-help item, it’s a collection item which happens to contain some self-help segments.
Let’s start straight away with one of the most obvious things in need of an answer, what does that title mean? Funny enough, you won’t find that answer in the book, I think there’s an assumption that anyone reading the book will be familiar enough with the blog already to know. Well, I hope that changes, because I think more people should own a copy, but we’ll get to that later. So the short of it is, “Open Bobs BB?” was the first message performer/sex worker/author/more Tawney Seren received when she started working in the sex industry. You can learn more here. I do wish OBBB mentioned that in the introduction though.
From there we work our way through a curated selection of works from the Open Bobs BB blog itself. The formatting of this book really shines here, credit to Harper the Fox. The text is easy on the eyes, the breaks feel natural, and the design lends a sense of flow to the reading, which is very nice to see in a collection type book. As I alluded to earlier, the content itself runs quite a wide gamut of topics. There’s serious practical advice for removing cum stains but also interviews with mothers about their sex lives and body image and how they’ve coped after children, a topic that really hits home here and that I’ve written on at length. There’s windows into the lives of sex-workers and fetish practitioners. It’s not really possible to convey the range of topics here without kinda spoiling the contents in their entirety, so I won’t, let’s just say I found the change of pace from piece to piece enjoyable but formatted in a way so it wasn’t jarring. My favorite bit was the interview with the moms though, for the record.
So, there’s a good question some of you may be asking right now and it’s one that deserves an answer. Why would I buy a book that contains a collection of blog posts I can go read for free? Glad you asked, because while there are some answers to that question that are easy, there’s one I came up with that I found pretty surprising, and all of them fit into a general theme of the benefits of a physical item, though a digital version is available. One of the easy answers is as a show of support that gets you something a little more concrete than a thank you. I also have a thing for physical media, always have, I’m biased towards it, but that’s because of things like the next reason. This is a great book for what I normally consider to be a book graveyard, the coffee table, but this time we’re using it to start conversations instead of to sit unused. My self-help books really don’t accomplish this well. Many people avoid the self-help section of book stores specifically because being seen there means, to many people, that there must be some large flaw with them or something wrong with them, and maybe that’s true, but it’s a tough thing to admit in public for anyone. Draping that on your coffee table comes with similar concerns over the message you’re trying to send. Why would I keep She Comes First on my coffee table? What message would I be sending? Not too keen on telling my guests that I might just have an oral edge over them.
But let’s say I’m really high in openness and really need to be explicitly told borders early in a relationship of any kind. Let’s also say for a moment that people who have low openness are really terrible at communicating things like that. If I leave OBBB on the table, odd title and all, with that cover—getting to that soon—I’d find that to be a more subtle and at their own pace way of getting to know someone’s limits. It’s a world apart from sending them a direct link to the blog via text or something, that would be me shoving the conversation on them, but when you enter my house it would be hard to object to seeing the material there, this is my space. So yes, I’ve finally figured out a use for the coffee table as something other than a place where unwanted magazines go to die. Thanks OBBB.
So about that cover. Despite it’s usefulness in the prior scenario I have to give it the same minor ding I give the rest of the books I review that have the “I will never read this is a coffee shop” cover. I should call this the e-reader award honestly. Damn me and my need for physical items that cover sex but that I’d also like to read in public, or at least away from my utterly lovable but very distracting family.
Let’s get into another use for putting this sort of thing into a collection piece and the value that can bring. Another artifact of doing a lot of book reviews on sensitive topics, and being as in the IT biz as I am, is that a lot of this stuff is not safe to link to or from work. Networks are increasingly monitored and even if you’re on a personal device you may be on monitored wi-fi. Your workplace, if it isn’t already, is getting increasingly invasive into your browser habits for reasons both good and bad. Passing someone a physical book removes these considerations.
I’ve spent a lot of time so far weighing on the pros and cons of physical versus electronic media, where that could have been it’s own post, and maybe it will be, but in light of what this product is, it seemed the right and necessary time for that topic to be covered. Also, this book is a short and quick read if you’re going to be doing it cover to cover style. I managed it with child distractions in about 2 hours, 137 pages.
So would I recommend Open Bobs BB volume 1? Absolutely, but excepting rare cases, my recommendations always come with a few caveats in the form of “if you are looking for X”. Let’s start with a recap of the stats. OBBB is a collected works style book with a great format, layout, a short length that lends it to casual reading or busy lifestyles without much opportunity cost for your time, and is inexpensive. Aside from my specific boundary probing scenario above, this book also serves the purposes of anyone who is even passingly curious about the lives of online sex workers, fetish practitioners, or people who are just curious about sexuality and the forms it takes in general—that’d be me. This is also the time to get some disclosures down. I normally have some boilerplate for these reviews, as I’m typically never tied in any way towards the source of the content. The ties here are really loose, but need disclosing. I have had some of—one actually, as of this writing—my content featured on the Open Bobs BB website and intend to submit more. I purchased this book to read out of my own volition and curiosity and Tawney was blindsided by the news that I’d be reviewing it. So there you go.
If you’d like to pick up Open Bobs BB volume 1 you can get a physical copy like I did—the most recommended option—but you can also pick up the digital version, both are available here.
Boy has it been way too long since I’ve done one of these. Sorry about that! For whatever reason, over the last couple of months I’ve found it hard to read at all, much less get through material as certainly dry as self-help genre stuff. On that note Getting To Yes isn’t generally found in the self-help section, but rather the business section. If I could make a simple and critical point however, many things in our lives are negotiations and especially our relationships and even more especially when they go south. So I’m not just going to review this book, I’m going to give you some advice on how to use it. The latter half of that sentence may have tipped you off, this is going to be a positive recommendation.
“Facts, even if established, may do nothing to solve the problem”
If I could describe Getting To Yes in a nutshell it would be to compare it to a book I’ve reviewed previously, What Makes Love Last, by John Gottman. Basically, the material in Getting To Yes is called principled negotiation, and it’s the basis for the negotiation techniques Gottman encourages you to employ to repair and retain trust, Getting To Yes is however more comprehensive. To put it another way, What Makes Love Last could be considered the application of Getting To Yes as strictly applied to romantic relationships.
I’m being a little simplistic in that statement, which isn’t entirely fair to either book, but that’s a quick and comprehensive tl;dr for Getting To Yes. On that note, Getting To Yes is a far more comprehensive explanation of principled negotiation while managing to come in a smaller, more condensed and quicker to read package. Throughout this review, I have peppered memorable quotes from Getting To Yes that I thought would have been helpful to include in What Makes Love Last.
“Give them a stake in the outcome by making sure they participate in the process”
Now for the cover critique, or should I say cover appreciation. Since Getting To Yes isn’t strictly a self-help section book it mercifully comes with a cover that can actually be read in public without drawing attention to yourself. Bye bye lipstick red covers, suggestive fruit, and vulva purses. You could actually be forgiven for casually reading this in a coffee shop, or on a lunch break at work, physically, sans the protection of an e-reader and its coverless covertness. What a breath of fresh air that is.
“…some people begin by announcing that their position is an issue of principle and refuse even to consider the other side’s case. ‘It’s a matter of principle’ becomes a battle cry in a holy ware over ideology.”
The prose is deadpan, dry, but well written. It’s what you’d expect from a book focused on business deals and other similar negotiations but at the very least it’s not laborious to get through or especially hard to read. The book is small in physical dimension, and while 200 pages is already fast to get through, the fact that the pages are also small and the font is still large enough to comfortably read, and adding in some white space for the generously peppered formatting, reading Getting To Yes can be done in an afternoon easily. One of my metrics for scoring any self-help book is how quickly the contents can be digested and put to use, and Getting To Yes scores very high here.
Cost is another serious metric to consider. If a certain book is 40 bucks but there are two other books for fifteen each that cover the topic more helpfully and more completely I’ll generally give the nod to the two. It’s an opportunity cost to read a book, and combined with the length and difficulty of the read it can make one book not worth reading over two or even three others. Getting To Yes knocks this one out of the park as well, usually under 20 bucks, but at the time of writing, UNDER EIGHT on Amazon for the paperback.
“If you want the other side to accept a disagreeable conclusion, it is crucial that you involve them in the process of reaching that conclusion”
So that’s the short of it, and that’s why Getting To Yes comes with a quick and strong recommendation. There’s something else I’d like to talk about though, that really makes this book very useful for me, and highlighted by a recent catastrophic failure to use the techniques therein—though I am unsure if that would have effected the outcome of said event.
Here’s the thing. You don’t need advanced negotiating techniques about unimportant things. You don’t necessarily need to know the difference between positional and principled negotiation to win the battle of the pizza toppings. You may win more battles of pizza toppings with such techniques, but losing the pizza topping battle isn’t a hill many of us are willing to die on in the first place and I hope something many of us wouldn’t even consider ‘losing’.
When an argument gets serious, consequential, and important however it also tends to be emotionally charged, and like many of you, that emotional charge on its own may rid me of the use of my toolbox of knowledge. Stress physiologically takes us out of our executive function and puts us into more primitive modes of thinking. I’m the good guy, you’re the enemy, at least, that’s what the stress is making me think. If you’re the source of my stress you’re dealing with the same part of my brain that teaches me how to deal with a hungry lion. People vary in this response, some freeze, some flee, some fight. I fight. This gets us into a bit of a circular conundrum. If the best time to use this knowledge is the time I’m least able to access the areas of my brain that contain it, how is it useful?
I don’t have a specific answer for that, but I know that for someone as prone to emotional flooding as I am, I’m going to need some sort of technique, some trick, some device, that backs me out of flooding the moment I hit it, because anything less is too late. The other participant in the conversation willing, I can postpone or even stop needless suffering while I recompose and remember all this training I’ve put myself through. I don’t have that technique yet, and I’m going to have to practice it once I come up with one. My major point here is that simply knowing this stuff may not be sufficient for you to start employing it. I flood very quickly relatively to my circumstances. General levels of pre-exisitng stress will effect how quickly each of us emotionally floods compared to our normal rate. But if your rate is generally high like mine, neither What Makes Love Last or Getting To Yes is going to help you when you need it the most. Practice detecting flooding in yourself, and in others, and have others, and particularly those that care about you the most, practice detecting flooding in you. Build a safety net, and use it, and then by all means, leverage what you learn in Getting To Yes.
Today’s review is singularly and easily the most work I’ve had to put into any review to date. I’ve noticed that when I’m on the fence about something the urge to do the deep dive gets very strong. When something is obviously bad or obviously good there’s a lot less work to do in parsing where something falls short and where personal preference is or isn’t asserting itself. But we go a bit further than that today, our little journey is going to take us straight into the heart of the manufacturing process, cross a bridge of changing preferences, and coin the term soft-spoiled.
I was mulling over my older and newer reviews a week back and thinking I might want to return to the format I used for the Apollo review, but after I started to write this one I realized that the format of each individual review was going to vary by what I needed to say about it. This one is going to be more of an essay. For those of you who need a tl;dr version, the Hookah we purchased is a rough ride due to the combination of shape and hardness, but on the balance Emily enjoys it. There are big caveats though, including the fact that your Hookah may be substantially softer and squishier than ours. Before we really get started with that in earnest though, have some pretty pictures of Hookah. It’s mirin’ time.
All hand poured silicone toys are going to have some variance in them, and the Hookah is no exception, but the variance in the Hookah’s hardness was so substantial that Tantus made some changes to the manufacturing process as a result of our investigation. Kudos to Tantus for taking feedback seriously enough to do that in the first place, but now it’s time to start our story in earnest.
When Tantus released their Magma model it stuck out to me as a lot bolder of a design than I was accustomed to seeing from them. Up to that point Tantus was the manufacturer that offered body safe silicone design in mainstream shapes, to us anyway. That’s not really a criticism per se, that approach was effective in securing a lot of our business as we transitioned out of potentially toxic toys—shout out to Dangerous Lilly—to body safe toys, but Emily quickly desired something more than a proximal penis out of her toys and we both got sucked head-long into the world of fantasy dildos. For a while, we didn’t buy from Tantus anymore, and the reasons why are very important. Tantus’ toys did not get worse, they are as good as ever, the company didn’t do something bad to us, our experiences had been great. Heck, we own an O2 from the original discontinued run. We were changing and leaving their target demographic. I saw the Magma and was excited. Was Tantus moving in our direction? We went to their website and saw it even came in two sizes and two colors. Surely, we thought to ourselves, this is Tantus dipping their toe into the unusual designs side of the market, Steamhunk not withstanding. We read the dimensions on Magma, too small for Emily in either size really, but we started keeping a very close eye on what Tantus was doing and had very positive feelings about this direction.
Then the Hookah dropped. This was even more obviously targeted at the fantasy crowd, or perhaps people leaning that way. We think that’s great either way and I in particular am critical of the human penis replacement design philosophy for dildos and much prefer a designed for pleasure approach. That could and perhaps should be its own blog post. It was enough that we committed to give it a try. It was cast in the new ‘super soft’ formula and that appealed to us too. We checked out the dimensions and they were definitely enough for Emily. We placed an order fairly quickly.
It wasn’t long before our Hookah arrived. We chose blue, we had more than enough pink toys and Emily deliberately wanted more blue in her collection. It doesn’t seem to matter how many of these toys we get, sometimes we misjudge the size. Hookah was significantly bigger than we anticipated, but what we anticipated was at the low end of Emily’s tastes, so we were quite happy about this particular misjudgment. On close inspection of the toy we found some beads of silicone in the grooves that form the ‘swirly’ look for Hookah. I must say we were a little disappointed by this. Yes these are hand made toys, we get that imperfections happen, but this seemed like a lot of them and for a simple detail. We own a lot of toys with much finer and more detailed features in softer silicone that are absolutely flawless. Something with that mold? I dunno, but it was a bit of a hype killer. The finish was nice and satiny, similar to the Vamp, also from Tantus, and we prefer this finish to the glossier one found on a lot of our Tantus toys. Emily wasted no time giving it a go, and that was the first time we noticed something was off.
Almost immediately Emily was complaining about how rough of a ride Hookah was. I found this very strange as Emily typically gets the firmer options from our favorite fantasy toy makers, enjoys glass toys, and enjoys toys much bigger than Hookah. Emily had to stop using it and didn’t find it pleasurable. I reminded Emily that she may still be sore from having ridden her firm Nova from the night before. Nova dwarfs Hookah and always leaves Emily sore for a few days, and she begrudgingly agreed to try it again later—yeah she was that convinced it was a no go. Nova by the way, is purportedly in Shore 8A hardness. That purportedly bit is going to get some attention later. Hookah felt firmer than that. This struck me as odd. “Super soft compared to what?” I asked myself.
My curiosity could not wait until Emily had recovered, I went and purchased a deurometer to test the hardness of our toys. It was something I felt I needed for the blog anyway but it was one of those eventually kind of things, at least up until that point. My curiosity demanded I get to the bottom of this. I had recently been educating myself on the finer details of silicone firmness ratings at Felicity’s blog. She has a lovely comprehensive guide to toy firmness on her website that I encourage you to check out. I immediately went to town on everything measured on the A scale in our collection. I wasn’t getting the numbers I thought I would, our 8A firm toys from Bad Dragon for instance were measuring at ~3A, and our Shore 5A toys from the same manufacturer weren’t even registering on the scale. I tested on other manufacturers toys. Tantus’ older—and I do mean old, like Echo w/handle and the version of Vamp with the bullet hole old—models were measuring between ~30 and ~40 where I expected them to. A Shore 10A tentacle from Pleasure Forge was registering about where it should, between 7A and 10A depending on where I poked it. I could never get the Shore 5A tentacle from Goblin to register either. The ‘bases’ of any of these toys seemed to be a place where the reading would be lower. Hookah was consistently getting between 10A and 14A, 10 being the lowest measurement at the base. This lined up with hand feel and experience, for us ‘Super Soft’ super wasn’t.
I had to sit back and stew on the numerical facts, Emily’s period had arrived and while that’s not a problem for me it tends to make her feel very unsexy and she typically doesn’t engage in any pleasurable activity while that’s happening, especially on heavier days. So here I was spinning my wheels about this ‘super soft’ branding while waiting for that to be over. I could see labeling it as that from the standpoint of comparing it to the 30A and 40A toys they have for sure. We however, review from a fantasy toy enthusiast perspective and when we hear ‘super soft’ we’re thinking 3A tops, maybe 00-50 or 00-30. It was jarring for us, and I was starting to wonder exactly who it was Tantus was marketing to, because it didn’t feel like it was us. I also considered mass market appeal and the details that go with. I don’t actually consider 00-30 and 00-50 hard enough for mass market, not because they aren’t enjoyable, but because it takes enthusiast level care to keep those things around. Silicone that soft is prone to nicks and cuts from almost anything, especially finger nails. I can just see the support tickets now from launching a mass market toy in that firmness. In fact, that original O2 we have? We retired it. We keep it around for memories sake and because we think that maybe one day we’ll try to repair it, but it has scratches and nicks and lacerations in the soft outer layer that appeared not only from finger nails and things like that, but just by being stretched repeatedly during thrusting. That’s where the largest tear came from actually, located just beneath the coronal ridge. I also ruminated on the idea that Emily used to enjoy those 30A and 40A toys. Even on our own blog the Vamp gets a glowing review. So why was 10A-14A suddenly a problem? Why could Emily still enjoy glass toys and not this one? Well, I think that’s two things. One, Hookah has much more aggressive features than those toys, and two, Emily has gotten very used to the much softer firmnesses of fantasy toys. I remarked to her that her vagina had become soft-spoiled. We had a giggle over that one.
I’m happy we kept the old retired O2 around though. I like that we can still include our old O2 in pictures like this.
Eventually we got to a place where we could try Hookah again. Soreness from Nova was indeed a factor, and Emily managed to bring herself to orgasm with Hookah this time and even engage in some DP play. Hooray! Emily noted that Hookah was still on the very edge of too firm for her and that while the ride was worth it, it was still rough. It should be noted at this time though, that for those of you who like ‘knot’ play Hookah is essentially a series of knots. Neither of us feel comfortable calling those features merely ridges.
I sat down to prepare our review, but something didn’t feel right. My investigative curiosity was not satisfied. Something felt off to me. Surely, this wasn’t what ‘super soft’ was meant to be. As luck would have it, a brief engagement with Felicity regarding her Magma review revealed that Tantus had intended Hookah to be a ~8.5A experience. I inquired further as Shore 8.5A is a firmness I think this toy would absolutely shine in. We got into a brief chat about deurometer technique and it seemed I was doing everything right. We talked about Bad Dragon firmness and yep, we both got low readings from their toys, wasn’t just me. What did seem to be just me however was how hard Hookah was. I reached out to Tantus for comment informing them that I’d be delaying my review slightly to give them a chance to respond to my inquiry about the seemingly abberant hardness of our Hookah. I was about to go ahead with the review, having not heard from them in six days when I got a curious but short response in my email from Tantus support.
Thank you for alerting us to this issue. After much digging we found a procedural issue in production that ended up making the toys inconsistent. This has now been addressed and the shore hardness of the Super Soft is now consistently soft. Quality Control is also empowered and encouraged to stop the line if they find any more inconsistencies.
Again, your voice really matters, and we are very grateful for your input.
Well okay then. My gut instincts win again. Seriously I always get into trouble any time I ignore those. However, without any offer to send us a toy in the intended verified firmness, we can only review what we have. I imagine there are also still plenty of Hookahs made with the old process sitting in the channel, which means if you buy one today, by Tantus’ own admission, the firmness you’re getting could vary significantly which kinda makes the Hookah hard to review in the first place.
So what’s the bottom line here? Well we think we’ve hit a situation where our personal tastes and acclimation to softer toys are already pre-disposing our experience to be worse with Hookah than yours might be. I think the combination of 10A+ firmness in our Hookah and the aggressive features of the design make for a rougher experience than intended. Even in the intended ~8.5A of the Hookah I think that might be the case. As I stated earlier, Emily still enjoys her glass toys, like her Twist from Crystal Delights, she loves her girthy Nova even if it leaves her a bit sore later. It’s not even necessarily that Hookah’s girth is the issue, it’s the changes in girth that are resulting in this experience. Some of you though, some of you really enjoy a rough ride, especially you knot enthusiasts, and if that’s you, hoh boy I think you’ll have fun with Hookah. We have to be a little more careful about when and how we use it than we were expecting. Hookah by the way, even with the production flaws I was talking about earlier, is a beautifully crafted toy and sits with the rest of our collection not looking a bit out of place. On that note, that confirms to us that Hookah is an attempt to market towards the fantasy crowd and in that capacity I have some advice for Tantus, don’t call anything 5A or higher super soft if it is indeed those people you are trying to make into satisfied customers, our crowd looks at Shore 8A with skepticism about comfort.
I’d like to reiterate at this juncture that our second go round with Hookah did provide a significant degree of pleasure and we did end up enjoying it on the whole. It won’t however be enjoying reach-for-first status with that degree of firmness. Hookah also comes with some classic Tantus staple features, like harness compatibility and that same flared base makes Hookah anal safe. We don’t think we’ll be trying Hookah that way though. If you go to Hookah’s product page here, they also have a very well done sizing chart that describes every single knot on this the toy. Very handy indeed as we generally don’t bother with anything but ballpark measurements on shapes this irregular. You can get Hookah in two colors, as we mentioned before we chose Rockabilly Blue, but it also comes in Punk Rock Pink and both models have a high degree of sparkle to them.
I think the hardest thing about this review has been that Hookah is neither a recommend or a don’t recommend. It comes with a pile of caveats that essentially boil down to the idea that you’ll have to use your past experience as a guide for whether or not you’ll enjoy Hookah. With that comes the only concrete recommendation we can make. Hookah is not a toy I’d recommend to newbies. I think the strongest recommendation we can give for the toy are to people who are really into knotting and people who crave a rough ride now and again. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading and sticking with us to the end. I hope you’ve found this useful. Until next time!
We get a double header today with two lovely items from Pleasure Forge. The Illithid we reviewed a bit over a week ago came in the same order with these two and we figured it was high time to finish reviewing that order as it was a month old. Also I really wanted an excuse to post this picture I took of them for funsies when they arrived in order to pay homage to the D&D roots of these toys. Chaos Beast is first up, followed by Merfolk XL.
Introducing the Chaos Beast. This is a tentacle class toy with a twist—literally. Ours came in Miami Heat, a swirly marble of black, purple, orange, and pink (We updated the Illithid review to correct the reference to this color, Illithid was in Miami Vice). Topping this hot quadruple marble is a mica sparkle and UV reactivity. Firmness is Shore 10A which is normally what we’d consider approaching uncomfortable firm but the Chaos Beast doesn’t feel that way. This is largely owed to the wild dimensions of the toy and I suspect it would have a harder time keeping its shape if you went softer. It’s definitely a firmer silicone than we’re used to but we can tell if this were a normally phallic shaped toy we’d feel that a lot harder than we do. The Chaos Beast tends to twist, bend, and give rather than resist.
How do I even begin to describe the physical appearance of this toy? You should click through that gallery to help you follow along. The shaft of this tentacle is a sinewy double helix. Filling the void of the helix is more fleshy goodness, smooth on the front, suckers on the back. As you go down the shaft the texture on the double helix itself goes from smooth to this sorta micro-ridged printer texture. The joint of the shaft and base is adorned by…..something. Is that hair, is that tentacles, is that fire, is that hair-tentacle-fire? It’s chaos, that’s what it is. I will note that ours had some very minor casting imperfections towards the base. These are tiny, purely cosmetic, and you’ll find imperfections like these fairly routinely in hand-poured silicone toys, however, we will be pointing these out wherever we see them. Topping off the already chaotic features of this tentacle is a, head? A sucker? A sucker-head? Okay, it’s a sucker head, with…teeth? The backside of the head is adorned with 3 nicely sized ridges, but that other side, there’s a lot going on there. Honestly, I expected to find casting imperfections here if anywhere, but on our Chaos Beast there are none on this crazy, tooth filled…what are those bumps anyway? Our sucker-head mouth is apparently full of clitorises. We’ll be getting to those in more detail soon.
So with all that going on how exactly are you supposed to use this thing? Emily put the Chaos Beast through its paces and some of the answers surprised us. Let’s start with that head. You can feel all of that texture internally, the ridges, the sucker-mouth-bumps, all of it. What surprised Emily about the head though was how great it was as an external stimulator. Her clitoris loved all those little sometimes also clit looking bumps rubbed all over it. The shaft is roughly the same story, surprisingly good for external use and feels-like-it-looks when used internally.
We’re not going to bother with our typical D-score table for this beasty. The shape is too irregular for that to really mean anything here and the girth is not the main star of this attraction, nor is the overall length, and most of you should be able to fit this comfortably. Even the measurements themselves are tricky, sure 6.7 inches is actually decently long but the Chaos Beast bends, folds, twists, and gives, and I think those of you with shallower vaginas might be surprised how much deeper you can take Chaos beast than the measurements would suggest, but for the sake of completeness here’s a quick rundown of the basic numbers:
Length: Overall 8.7in / Usable 6.7in Circumference: Max 6.3in / Min 3.9in Diameter: Max 1.97in / Min 1.0in
Like most toys in this size class, Emily found Chaos Beast very comfortable for dual penetration play. One warning though, we don’t consider the base flared/obstructed enough to be anal safe and we did not attempt to use Chaos Beast that way. Illithid, myself, or Goblin’s Tentacle played back door partner to Chaos Beast in our trials and the results were pleasant.
We picked up our Chaos Beast for 50 bucks before shipping, another steal from Pleasure Forge. We would be remiss not to include that the aesthetic took a small amount of time to get over. Chaos Beast certainly lives up to its name and there was a, albeit brief, moment of what do we even do with this? We can see some people, even fantasy inclined people, being put off by that, but fortunately this isn’t going to be a huge surprise, you should be able to work out whether you’re going to like how it looks simply through the pictures provided above. For everyone else Chaos Beast promises an intriguing, versatile, and unique set of sensations with premium colorations in an entry level price tag—entry level in the context of fantasy silicone toys anyway.
For those of you building out an existing collection the Chaos Beast is a strong and easy recommendation. Newbies to toys in general would be taking a bit of a gamble with unknown preferences in our opinion but we thoroughly enjoyed the sensations. We think there are better basics and first-buys though if that’s you. For those of you experienced with toys but perhaps just looking to dip your toes into the fantasy market, buy with confidence.
Alright size queens and size-aspirational onlookers, this next one is for you. Welcome to Merfolk XL in Shore 00-30, the gentlest fisting warm-up this side of a game table. Let’s take a moment to just gaze and take him all in; you’ll be spending at least as much time getting him in you.
Also lets talk about this King Cake coloration. We typically avoid green as a component color in our toys and we really don’t get the whole carnival thing, but here it just worked and we had to have it. I usually save the size chart stuff for later, but the whole point of the Merfolk XL—there are other sizes available if you’re not into the whole stretch thing by the way—is the size.
Quick Reminder: D-score is a measurement that essentially gives us the number of median sized dicks to equal the girth of a toy. You can read D-Score more easily as “This is how many dicks this is worth in girth”. So a D-Score of 2.5 would be 2 and a half dicks of girth, to make it simple.
Size queens should know this already, but for the sake of completeness we’re going to remind you that under no circumstances should a toy with these dimensions be deployed without copious amounts of lubricant handy and you should have a warm up toy, or two.
One thing we really like about Merfolk XL is the length and the top loaded max diameter. Merfolk XL measures just over 10 inches long with 8.7 of those inches usable, enough to satisfy the depth play needs of anyone vaginally. Emily isn’t even remotely in a place where we’d consider reviewing this for anal play and the shape isn’t technically anal safe anyway, just as an aside. In other toys with dimensions close to these, we’ve had issues hitting the max length of Emily’s vagina before we ran out of max girth—our large Spritz was in this boat and so is our large unflared Chance—but the Merfolk XL delivers that punch upfront in the large bulbous head. This is where the Shore 00-30 firmness(is that even an appropriate word to use when referring to something this soft?) really stretches its legs and shines. This stretch won’t leave you sore as the 00-30 squishes and accommodates.
There is minor gentle but noticeable texturing on Merfolk XL as you can see in the pictures, but this thing seems designed to scale up without becoming uncomfortable and it definitely accomplishes that. On that note, we know a few owners of the smaller sizes and they just adore the overall shape of this toy as well and we’re considering getting a ‘normal’ large for this reason. The lack of aggressive textures may also be responsible for the fact that our Merfolk XL is flawless, completely free of any perceptible imperfections cosmetic or otherwise. Winning.
As I alluded to before, the Merfolk XL has been our best fisting prep toy that we’ve ever owned. That was curious to me as we own toys that have a larger maximum D-score like our large Apollo. Also for the record, as these things vary a bit, my fist(duck-billed) is 10.5 inches around. I’m not sure if that is large or small on the scale but there it is, and that’s what Merfolk XL excels in prepping Emily to take. We think that has to do with the 00-30 silicone not leaving things sore before we start. Whatever the reason, as subjective as it may be, Merfolk XL just does this job better for us than anything else in our warchest.
Silicone toys in sizes like this typically come with hefty price tags to match, and Merfolk XL is no exception. However, Pleasure Forge delivers excellent value in this area again. At 100 bucks even before shipping, this is a lot of silicone for your money. The size queens reading this probably raised an eyebrow or two at that, there are much smaller toys that hit triple digits, much less hit it even. That price tag however, is still three digits and puts Merfolk XL way outside of beginner territory, though I’d argue the size already did that. But lets put aside paragraphs of who this toy isn’t for, because Merfolk XL is targeting a specific group of people—size queens—and y’all won’t be disappointed with Merfolk XL.
That wraps up our purchases from Pleasure Forge, and boy do they live up to their name, providing consistent value, beautiful toys, excellent craftsmanship, and stellar customer service. Whether you’re a size queen, fantasy newbie, or looking to expand an existing collection, you can’t go wrong with Pleasure Forge. We are truly impressed. We hope to bring you more reviews of their inventory in the future.
I am not a paid reviewer. My content comes from me and I was not solicited in any manner for this review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.