NSFW: Play Things

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As some of you may know, my day job is as an editor of Penthouse Forum, the dirty little sister to Penthouse magazine. And you may also know that part of that job involves writing about sex toys for a monthly column called “Guilty Pleasures.” After five years, I guess you can say I’m an expert on the subject. (In fact, the old Penthouse publicist once put me on Sirius OutQ’s Derek & Romaine Show as such.) As the resident “adult novelty” expert, I get to write the occasional vibrator/dildo/lube/etc. article in Penthouse, too.

My desk is frequently covered in boxes and boxes of products that I’m sent for consideration, like when people want you to vote for their movie for an Oscar, only with more butt plugs and less Anne Hathaway. So when my editor asked if I could do a roundup of couples’ toys, I knew it would be a piece of cake. The real problem was narrowing down my list of favorites to fit in a two-page spread. Which brings us to the topic of this post: How do I choose what to write about?

Mostly, I choose things that my friends like—or would like—as they are my porno guinea pigs. After a year on the job, I’d already seen it all, so there’s little that surprises or excites me at this point. I have a handful of friends who will take the spare toys I have lying around and report back on how well they get the job done. I also keep a stash of batteries at my desk and frequently turn on vibrators while I’m sitting there working to test how strong they are. It seems weird if you’re stuck at the desk next to mine, but thankfully, my coworkers know what’s going on and never question my strange methods.

There are other things to take into consideration, too. Material is an important one. Some materials just don’t hold up, while others will last a lifetime without showing any signs of wear. But silicone and glass cost an awful lot more than jelly-like rubber, and I try to always consider price. Not everyone can afford a $150 dildo, or even a $50 vibrator, so I try to mix it up and make sure that everyone I write for can find and afford at least one item on my list. My friends are good about helping me with that. One friend in particular burns through vibrators like nobody else I know, and has killed at least three Rabbits in the past four years. She’s also changed jobs about as many times, so her financial situation has fluctuated. Whenever she needs a replacement, I need to figure out not only the best product to please her, but also the product with the best value; she needs something she can afford that will last at least as long as her previous toy and will do as good a job or better. It’s tricky trying to find something that meets all her needs, but it keeps me on my toes as a reviewer.

Sometimes, a product will cross my desk and won’t seem like anything that spectacular, so I’ll set it aside until I need it. It won’t necessarily be a bad product, but it may not fit my needs that month, or it may be too similar to something I’ve written about recently. Sometimes, though, I’ll pass on a toy because it does seem a little cheap or unappealing. There are thousands of products out there, and I can only review so many, so I really need to be won over to grant a toy space in my magazine(s). When the toy chest gets too full, I give all the spares away in hopes of finding them good homes and making space for newer items. And that’s usually when I find the best stuff. My friends happily take my “trash” in hopes of finding something good, and often will send me messages telling me how great some reject vibrator or kink product was. Then I have to go back, find its twin, and give it another once-over. I may have missed an important feature on first glance, or something that appeared shoddy may actually have turned out to be of much higher quality than I realized. Or some cheap jelly vibe may actually get someone’s motor running better than its more expensive silicone counterpart. Whatever the situation, I trust my friends to be honest with me about what works, and they’ve never let me down.

My favorite test, though, is the flavored-lube test. It involves opening a lot of lubes and, you guessed it, tasting them. It probably looks really comical to see me at my desk, snacking on strawberry lube or chocolate oral-sex aids, but it’s all part of the job. The good ones usually make me hungry—and it’s a damn shame when I find a good watermelon lube in the winter and can’t find a good, actual watermelon to satisfy my craving—and the bad ones send me to coworkers’ desks to ask them if it’s just me or if a particular cherry lube really does taste like NyQuil.

Like I said, it’s a strange job, but someone has to do it, and I’m honored (in a way) that people trust my judgment on such intimate matters. And hopefully it helps people find something that will make sex a little more enjoyable. Because, really, isn’t that the point?

To read about my latest finds for couples, which ran in a special spread in the February 2013 issue of Penthouse, click here.

Sex Toy Review: Vibrating Penguin

There’s an army of vibrating animals on my desk. I have a fish, a half-dozen ducks, and this penguin. Everyone thinks I’m joking about the fact that they’re sex toys, so I’m constantly putting batteries in and proving that nothing on my desk it what it seems. I can’t blame them for their confusion, though. This little guy looks so innocent that even I have a hard time believing he was designed for more devious things than keeping my ducks company.

Sex Toy Review: Pussy Whip

A couple I went to college with got married around the time I was reviewing this product, and though I loved it, I knew I had to give it to them as part of their wedding gift. I showed it to the husband first, wanting to make sure it wouldn’t upset or offend his new wife, and when he saw it, he broke into hysterical laughter. “She’ll love it!” he said. “Though I don’t know if I want to give it to her. She already busts my balls about how whipped I am….” He ended up taking it home that night, and sometime in the wee hours of the morning I got a text from him: “Best. Gift. Ever.” Apparently the wife was very happy to get a hold of the Pussy Whip.

Sex Toy Review: Impressions Paddles

The people at Sportsheets are some of the nicest to work with, and they always provide me with more samples than a girl can handle. When I wrote about their Impressions Paddles, they sent me the whole line. The one with BITCH carved into it resides in a vase in my apartment and makes for some interesting conversations when I have guests. There’s nothing like having a constant stream of “product testers” pass through the apartment—-after all, everyone wants to see if the paddle will really leave a mark. (FYI, it does. Every time.) The paddle that reads OUCH hangs on my desk. I like to think of it as a warning sign akin to “Do not feed the bears,” though mine clearly warns others to not annoy the editrix.

Sex Toy Review: Justine Joli’s Foot Stroker

When one of my best friends, Justine Joli, had her feet molded by Topco for a cool Penthouse toy, I was lucky enough to go with her to do some press. Lainie, the publicist for Penthouse, invited me to do The Derek and Romaine Show on the Sirius Out-Q network. It was such a blast! I was introduced as the “foot toy expert,” and I got to talk about Justine’s new toy (the first set of feet molded from an adult star—-and the first truly fuckable pair of fetish feet), how to enjoy foot play, and why people dig feet so much. I’d done news for my college radio station, but being on Sirius, in a real studio, on a show that people were actually listening to (we took callers and everything) was a much bigger deal. Afterward, Lainie took me to dinner and we had a fabulous night talking about writing, being redheads, and life in the porn industry. It was a night I’ll never forget—-and I have Justine’s feet on my desk for a daily reminder of the good times.

Sex Toy Review: Kimberly Williams’s Breasts

When these massive mams arrived from Topco, a friend picked up the box and said, “Holy shit, these are heavy!” My response? “Yeah? Try carrying them around all day and you’ll know how it feels to be a lady.”

I always threaten to set these up on the back of my chair as a neck pillow, or to prop them under my desk as an ergonomic footrest. For now, though, I keep them in their box on top of my cubicle, for all to see. I may get them a bra soon—-if I can find one big enough.