The days were not kind to many of us in 2016, but luckily, sex toys were waiting as we turned in for the night. As a professional sex educator and expert, I’ve tried many different products over the past year, and while some impressed, others left me wanting… Not more, but… Something else entirely.
Here are my personal favorites of the past year, and a few of the embarrassments that are stashed away in my cabinet of curiosities, never to see the dark of my bedsheets again.
So what were my biggest disappointments in 2016? Ugh. Here we go.
5. Kawaii Macaron Vibrator
This adorable little cookie just didn’t do it for me. It’s silicone (check!), rechargeable (check!), waterproof and aesthetically pleasing (check, check!), but what it isn’t?
I wanted this little treat to work for me. It’s affordable and precious and checks all the boxes as far as features go, but the power just isn’t there. Its buzzy, tiny vibrations make my vulva sad. The shape does nothing for me either. I thought the texture on the sides might feel nice, but instead, it just disappointed: my clit didn’t even notice the ridges.
I did try to like this cutie, but I just couldn’t. I do think there’s a market for this toy, though! It would make a great first timer vibe or a bachelorette gift for a particularly shy pal who might not want anything more conspicuous. The packaging couldn’t be any more darling, either.
Check out the Kawaii Macaron Vibe over at Early to Bed!
4. Krush by Lovelife
As some fellow sex educators wrinkled their noses at the mere suggestion of this kegel exerciser, I begged to test it. It was so different! And it has an app! I could see my pussy power in real time!
As I laid back on the couch and maneuvered the hourglass into my vagina at exactly the depth needed, I pushed the vulva anchor (I don’t know what else to call it) up to my labia and — oh, it slipped out of place. I adjusted the toy again and — shit. It shifted again.
The concept for this toy is that after you calibrate the toy to your resting vaginal pressure, you squeeze your kegel muscles and the toy will vibrate, encouraging you to continue. Your strength shows up on your smartphone’s screen, sort of like one of those carnival strong-man-mallet games, except your vagina is the hammer.
A cool feature of the Krush is when you complete a certain amount of activity, you unlock more vibration settings. It’s meant to be a sort of sex toy-exercise combo tool, but what in reality it ends up being is a waste of iPhone storage and drawer space. I wish the Krush had stayed in place so I could get some Schwarzenegger-like PC muscles going on, but I guess I’ll just stick to the good old method of doing them whenever I remember. Oh well!
While I didn’t get a crush on the Krush, Lovelife does make some reliable products, and I think they have a lot of options that plenty of folks seeking rechargeable, well-made vibes at an approachable price point can appreciate. Or, if you think my vagina just might not be as competent as yours or one you love, you could give the Krush a whirl. I would advise against using any lube as it will only contribute to the slippage that makes this toy a big ol’ no-go for me.
3. Crave’s Duet Flex
Sticking my finger between the two prongs of this flexy “bass heavy” vibe, I thought it would surround my clit in beautiful surround sound sensation. What I got was a disappointing buzz.
Maybe others would disagree with me on this one, but I found the Duet Flex to be subpar. It’s very pretty in all-black silicone (it also comes in a Pepto-pink color and dusty navy) with a gold metal band around the base. The fact that it charges via USB is pretty cool, too, and it’s waterproof, just make sure you dry it completely before charging. The reason this one is on my worst-of list? Because for $109, I want a company as rad as Crave to deliver nothing but stunning orgasms to my junk.
The Duet Flex is not by any stretch of the imagination a spectacular failure; it’s just not my taste, and I was surprised by how little I liked this travel-friendly vibe. I am going to give it some more shots before I decide to retire it to the cabinet forever. As I later mention in my review of Crave’s Vesper necklace, I do love this design-focused company. I think their product line is superb. I’d recommend the Vesper over the DF, and I’d also recommend their other super cute kinky accessories like their cuff bracelets and nipple clamp necklace. You can read more about the Duet Flex at Crave’s website.
2. Everything* in the Jimmyjane Intro series
Never have I ever experienced a worse vibrator than Jimmyjane’s Intro line. The tacky-to-the-touch, gummy silicone is one thing, but the motors are another. When I fired up the Intro 1, I was surprised that it delivered such a buzz, until I place it against my bits. “That’s so buzzy” turned to “um, it is even on?” Somehow, this vibe buzzes the fingers and leaves my clit wondering what the hell is even happening, and not in a good way. The Intro 6 is another big dud. I guess the idea behind the JJ Intro series was the make Jimmyjane’s quality available to a more price-conscious customer and you know… They succeeded. I also really, really dislike the standard Jimmyjane products. Their motors are buzzy, and I feel the brand is popular more due to its beautiful packaging and name recognition than its actual merit.
*It’s true that I only personally test-drove the Intro 1 and Intro 6, but as I heard from my fellow perverts who tried the other models, they’re all the same lackluster quality.
If you want to see the line for yourself, check it out on Jimmyjane’s website, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
1. Bi-Stronic Fusion by Fun Factory
Oh, Fun Factory, I am so sorry to put you in this spot. I love you! I adore your Big Boss vibe and your the Share dildos and your Stronic Eins and that radical little $50 rechargeable bullet you make, I pretty much love everything you do… Except this.
I competed in an employer’s month-long sales competition to win first place and snag the FF vibe of my dream, keeping my eye on the Bi-Stronic prize the entire time. I picked up extra shifts just to up my sales! I wanted this thing bad.
It’s so cute in its hot pink silicone (I’m not a fan of pink in most things, but I really love FF’s fluorescent shade) and like so many Fun Factory products, it’s totally waterproof. I used to like dual stimulator vibes (also called rabbits) when I was in my earlier twenties, but now I find that they just don’t hit me in the spots I like best. The Bi-Stronic was no different, except it’s a “pulsator,” which means that rather than having a vibrating shaft, it thrusts.
The one cool thing about this toy is that if I pair it with my Liberator Wedge and throw my legs back, splayed open, I can slip the Bi-Stronic in and go totally hands-free all the way to reluctant orgasm. I’m not reluctant; my vagina is. It’s sitting there, going, “Really? You sure you don’t want to like… Get out something I like? Is this all I get? What did I DO to you? FINE! I’ll orgasm. But it’s not going to be a good one. It’s gonna be so disappointing. Are you ready? There it was. Yup, that was it. That tiny little shiver. A shadow of an O, that’s what you get for subjecting me to this mediocre bullshit. Do you even know who I am?!”
My vagina has no time for this nonsense.
I shouldn’t have to pair my $220 sex toy with a $90 fuck-shape for it to be cool. A $220 sex toy had better be a Cadillac. It just so happens that my #1 favorite of 2016 also costs $220. I think with a more pronounced G-spotting bump and a slimmer clit arm (seriously, not this butterfly-shaped business, get rid of those wings!) this toy could potentially be successful, though most dual stimulators aren’t. It’s a gamble, like any other toy in the same category.
Fun Factory makes some seriously delicious sex toys. I adore their shapes, colors, and innovation. The Stronic Eins is a game changer, and it very nearly made my top 5 of the year. It’s definitely in my top 10 favorite toys of all time.
Check out Fun Factory’s excellent lineup of high quality sex toys on their website.
And now, for the shining stars of my orgasmic 2016!
5. Fleshlight Quickshot Vantage
This little sleeve is a stroke of genius. Encased in hard plastic with two removable end pieces, the tunnel of the toy can be used for masturbation, handies, or as a blowjob aid. A big bonus for my partner with this one is it isn’t genitalia-shaped; it’s simply a clear-as-ice hole. The squishy, textured sleeve inside comes out for easy cleaning, and since it’s a see-through material in a compact size, you don’t have to display a giant fleshy tunnel draped across your dish drainer, unlike the other Fleshlight models.
While this toy is not one designed for my anatomy, it was a gift to my spouse that has ended up being one of the favorites in my household. I gave it the affectionate pet name “Ice Butthole.”
You can find out more about the Fleshlight Quickshot at Erika Moen’s fabulous webcomic, Oh Joy Sex Toy.
4. Vibratex Mystic Wand
The day I noticed my five-year-old Mystic’s handle had become weirdly sticky and covered in residue, I went to work and was offered my choice of toys to review — one of the options happened to be a brand new Mystic Wand! This vibe has served me well over the years, and it was my first “good” vibrator. Deep, rumbly vibrations in a small package covered in quality, textured silicone make me recommend the Mystic over and over. Since it’s battery operated, the price point is relatively low at a cheeky price point of $69. One bonus to battery operated toys? You’ll never worry about them going off in your travel bag — just take out the batteries and travel stress-free. That said, I have a pretty strict no-batteries rule in my bedroom due to sheer laziness on my part, and this is the only exception I’m willing to make (at least for products I purchase). While I’ve heard wonderful things about Vibratex’s new rechargeable model, I have yet to experience its magic.
You can grab a Vibratex Mystic Wand at most quality shops, but I can’t help but recommend my beloved alma mater, Babeland.
3. Speaking of magic… The Magic Wand Rechargeable — also by Vibratex!
It was made by Hitachi forever, and the world fell in love with the MW’s wildly rumbly vibrations. It’s a staple in most perverts’ toy boxes, but personally, I couldn’t get down with the intense vibration. It was too much! After receiving Vibratex’s new cordless, rechargeable, much quieter model of this classic vibe as a comp, I looked up “ways to use a Hitachi” (I’ll confess, I accidentally call it by its old manufacturer’s name as often as anyone else does) and ended up finding this post on Epiphora’s website that lead to my personal Magic Wand revolution! If you don’t read her work yet, get over there. Seriously. Life changing stuff. Her tip on using it tilted to the side? 🙌
While it’s a downside that the MWR automatically shuts off at the 20-minute mark, I can’t penalize it because… I mean, sex educators joke [in response to the concept of vibrator jealousy] that vibrators may satisfy you, but they can’t chat or cuddle with you after, but the MWR? It can massage you after. Or before. Or anytime. It’s superb at what it does. I may not have sweet pillow talk with it, but I swear, I keep it in my bed. I sleep between my spouse and my Magic Wand Rechargeable. I highly recommend taking this fine toy out for a spin, and maybe even cuddling it afterward.
I’d recommend using your purchase of the MWR as an excuse to visit the fantastic folks at SheVibe.
2. Crave Vesper in Gold
While considering my favorites, I was surprised this little necklace felt like the right fit for the number-two spot. I mean, it’s stunning, it’s gold, it’s personalized (mine says “gosh!” because I’m always on-brand) and it’s discreet. Even my fellow perverts don’t often recognize it, so your waiter, grandmother, or religious leader probably won’t, either. But why did it earn next-to-my-absolute-favorite of the year? Because I am shocked at how well it works, and it works. I wore this to a sexy party, and I didn’t even expect to use it, it just felt like the right touch for my outfit and the atmosphere. Late in the evening, I unscrewed it from the pendant it hung from, and I ended up having a super secret orgasm in a room full of people getting it on thanks to its surprisingly powerful and perfect mix of rumbly & buzzy vibrations. I also love that it’s rechargeable and comes with a little suede carrying case to ensure it won’t get scratched. Charging doesn’t take long — about an hour in my experience — and lasts for about two hours, but that’s way more than I need for an O. I was delighted by this gorgeous, well-designed toy and I’m even more excited to wear it out in the wild now!
The Vesper is available in silver, gold plating, and a silver/rose gold mix (where’s the straight up rose gold, though, Crave? Please?) ranging in price from $69-$149 at many fine retailers, but my favorite place to purchase them is through Crave directly.
- The Womanizer Deluxe
They say love is blind.
That name, though! I know, I know, it’s horrible. And the colors, the branding, the whole aesthetic… It’s kitschy and gaudy and childish and… I love it anyway. I LOVE IT. The Womanizer is a clit blowjob machine. It’s not waterproof (it uses puffs of air to create a suction sensation), but I don’t mind. It holds a charge forever. I mean forever: since receiving mine more than six months ago, with routine but not super frequent use, it’s still going off the charge it came with in the box. THE ORIGINAL CHARGE.
Mine is covered in pink and red roses, adorned with a Swarovski crystal power button, and it’s the tackiest thing in my collection… I don’t care. I am in love with the hyper-focused clit stim it provides, the delicate and simultaneously powerful sensation, the quick orgasms, the drawn out orgasms — absolutely everything about this toy wins me over. I even met one of my very favorite people because of The Womanizer! My fellow sex writer, Charyn Pfeuffer, and I coincidentally met in person–– standing in front of the Womanizer display at Babeland–– right after we’d both published reviews of this product, we immediately bonded over our shared love of it, and we’ve been pals ever since. This toy brings people together. To be a little punny: it makes people come together.
Let yourself fall in love with this Liberace-Dolly Parton lovechild. Get yourself a Womanizer Deluxe.
As for sexy things that aren’t toys but won my heart in 2016?
Girl Sex 101 by Allison Moon and KD Diamond
A seriously savvy volume that offers readers A+ sex instruction with a queer focus. I even recommended this to my fine friends at The Nooky Box and it ended up in the Sex is Hot summer box! This book surprised me with its original illustrations and spot-on tips.
Sex From Scratch by Sarah Mirk
Reading this collection of essays took me just two days. Each one read like a good friend telling me stories about their love and lust life, all of them entertaining and full of interesting anecdotes, healthy doses of information, and wise advice. Everybody should own this book.
Ultra gentle and infused with a teeny hint of vanilla, this aloe-based formula spoke to my soul. It takes a lot to nab a spot on the nightstand beside Sliquid’s majesty, but GCL earned it. You can grab a bottle of this in The Nooky Box’s current collection: Sex is Cozy! Use promo code CALLIESENTME for 10% off, year-round.
I have loved this line of condoms ever since I found out I was allergic to latex seven years ago. What I didn’t expect in switching to polyisoprene condoms was that they actually feel better. This year, Lifestyles added the Elite condom to their Skin lineup, and I was skeptical that they would feel any different than the gold standard they’d already set, but… Folks. This condom is the holy grail. When I asked my spouse what he thought of them, he said that if the standard Skyns reduce sensation by 10%, the Elite Skyn reduces the overall sensation by just 5%. On the receiving end, I’ll say that body heat transfers a little bit better. The fact that my partner fell in love with them, though, it wins me over nearly completely. The only way they could get better? If they offered them in a larger size!
This Spain-based company makes some devastatingly beautiful accessories, and the whip necklace is one of my favorite necklaces, period. Between this and the Vesper, I’ve always got something hot to add to an outfit. The one way I wouldn’t suggest this necklace? Whipping someone! It’s metal, and unless the person on the receiving end sincerely enjoys a super stingy impact implement, I’d advise against using it for this purpose. It’s pleasant as a gentle sensation play object; dragging it softly across skin feels divine, and does fidgeting with it. I even gifted one to my supremely sophisticated sister who adores it. I’d love to try out the other products in the Magnifique line like this gorgeous shoulder & back chain!
I wanted to like the “nip gloss” and the “oral sex lip gloss,” but… They wouldn’t come out of the dispensers! Also, why does the lip gloss come with a pump instead of a wand applicator? I get that it may seem more hygienic to provide a touch-free delivery system but 1. it doesn’t work and 2. it’s lip gloss. The sugars in their products (these aren’t designed for vulvas, so no pH worries here) seem to clog the dispensers leaving me unable to review their products. Bijoux makes one of my favorite sexy accessories as mentioned above, but these were a massive fail.
There are more and more sexuality products all the time, and I’m really pleased — no pun intended — that I got to experience some of the industry’s great successes this year. Keep ’em coming.
Happy New Year, may it bring you many good vibes!
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All images ©️ Callie Little, 2016.