The PrimeCrush Toy Tester Project. (Hint: You Need to Subscribe to Get All Our Reviews.) By Dish Stanley

The PrimeCrush Toy Tester Project. (Hint: You Need to Subscribe to Get All Our Reviews.) By Dish Stanley

. 11 min read

Note: this page is about our PrimeCrush Toy Tester Project, in which actual PrimeCrush Readers agree to try out and review for the rest of us a range of sex products (toys, lubes, books, vibrators, you name it). We are sharing our review of Great Sex Starts at 50 by Tracey Cox, but in order to get any of our other reviews you need to subscribe to The Crush Letter.

The Crush Letter
The Crush Letter is a weekly newsletter curated by Dish Stanley on everything love & connection - friendship, romance, self-love, sex. If you’d like to take a look at some of our best stories go to Read Us. Want the Dish?

PrimeCrush Toy Tester Review:

We Read Tracey Cox's Great Sex Starts at 50 and Here's What We Thought.  By Dish Stanley

After writing in The Crush Letter No. 31 about the doctor from the midwest who organized a retreat for five long-married couples from the midwest Field Trip: What Five Midlife Couples Learned on One Powerful Week End Away With A Sex & Relationship Therapist, Crush Readers started asking for recommendations on sex products and toys.  I got notes like this one.

"I really like learning about sex products and experiences because it is out of my comfort zone, but reading about it in The Crush Letter makes me think that maybe it shouldn't be."

So we asked for volunteers among our community, and the long and short of it is that your fellow CRUSH Readers have been testing (and testing) their first PrimeCrush Toy Box.  We thought we'd start with first things first, so we included a book about how great sex is in midlife in their first Toy Box, Great Sex Starts at 50 by Tracey Cox.

Equal parts celebration, empowerment, and how-to, Great Sex is a practical resource for anyone who wonders how the changes in their own--or their partner's–bodies may affect the emotions or mechanics of sex.  It is much more than that, as Cox approaches sex as psychophysiological, meaning she explores the ways that your mind links to your sexual responses.  In writing about sex she takes an expansive view of what it is and includes non-penetrative, non-orgasmic touching and play.  Cox focuses on the health benefits of regular sex (solo or partnered).  She addresses the practicalities (and upsides!) of having sex with the same partner over many years, as well as the significance of having sex (or not) on relationships.  She offers guidance on how to approach difficult conversations.  According to Cox's research, the couples who thrive sexually talk openly about sex.  
The most shocking thing she discovered in couples over 50 was realizing how many couples post-50 have just stopped having sex and never talked about that fact, even among couples who otherwise communicate well and feel close and deeply in love. Some couples decide not to have sex any more and live perfectly happily, Cox points out, but if you are going to cut out such an important aspect of your relationship it is worth understanding why. If it isn't discussed, all sorts of inferences are often assumed, which themselves have an impact separate and apart from the physical. For instance, not feeling desired.  Which, by the way, is a major deal.

Would you recommend Great Sex Starts at 50 to other PrimeCrush Readers?

5 out of 5 Toy Testers saidYes.”

Here are some of their specific comments on Great Sex.

What specifically was the most helpful?

The parts about how your bodies change - it is so important to be aware of not only your own (menopause in my case) but also what changes your partner’s body might be going through (in my case male); especially important because it is not like if he was aware he would necessarily feel comfortable sharing it. (He is shy and prone to embarrassment on such things.) I also read the parts about lube and sex toys, and the parts about what to do if you/your partner are no longer interested in sex. “Dawn”

Lots of topics related to the expansion of horizons. We needed a nudge on anal play and this helped.  “Greg”

The Motherf*cker That is Menopause was an informative and amusing chapter. It was helpful to read about other women’s experiences. The sex toy chapter was stimulating. The chapter on affairs was also (unfortunately) of relevance to me. “Dixie”

I thought it had good, practical ideas about how to be both sexual and intimate. I have friends who are clamoring for me to give it to them. I love that it includes 30,000 feet (how and why our bodies change) and the 3-foot view (how to give a blow job after 50). “Susie”

In general, the book was fun to read as well as informative. I read the chapters that were relevant to me first and then found I was curious about some of the others. I definitely DO feel sexy, but reading the chapter on NOT feeling sexy, I discovered the section “Who Decided Old Was Unattractive?” A very good question. One we should all ponder in our youth-obsessed culture. “Dixie”

Easy to jump around so it satisfies specific areas of interest and the attention span of men (me). “Greg”

This book answers the questions - in detail - that one might have after reading some other book about sex. I thoroughly enjoyed it! “Dixie”

A PrimeCrush Toy Tester Precursor.

Everything’s Better Wetter: A Few Words About Lube! By Dish Stanley

Lube is a Toy Box favorite, but make sure to check the ingredients. The same standards for clean products that have infused other parts of the health & wellness industries are not as widespread in the intimacy products market.

Reviews from our PrimeCrush Toy Testers will be com’ing (ahem) very soon. Our testers are (at this very moment, some of them), sharing their thoughts on the variety of items we sent them in their first Toy Box.  

What one thing was in a lot of the toy boxes? Lube. We’ll wait to say more on any particular lube brands until we collate more of the Toy Tester’s reviews, but I thought we’d slide into the topic of lube with a little precursor. It’s a highly subjective area, yet there a couple things most people should consider when considering lube.

Wetter Is Better (or Why Lube Is Liquid Magic).  Lube is like a liquefied Silk Sonic song as far as I'm concerned. It turns me on. It makes everything feel smoother, more intense and like we're leaning into something exciting.  One of my best friends is adamant about only one thing when it comes to sex.  (She's a fluid sort.) It’s better, and she has more orgasms, with lube than without it. Why? It’s silky and soothing, it’s fun, it can become part of a foreplay ritual (eg, a hand job that glides smoothly while applying the desired pressure), it can allow you to have sex longer (if you want!), and if you use it every single time it eliminates not only dryness but also (even more importantly) anxiety about potential dryness. (Because even if you are naturally well-lubricated, some day-to-day variation is inevitable.)

Consider this: I have another girlfriend who had never tried it because, she said, she didn’t need it. But she’s a game person and with some urging from me and another girlfriend (in a Sex And The City moment over brunch), gave it a shot. What’d she say?

“I’m wet enough that I didn’t think I *had* to have it. But the sex was wetter. Wetter is always better when it comes to sex. We’ll definitely keep using it.”

What’s In the Lube Matters. I have some friends who aren’t particular about what lube they use - whether it is silicone-based, water-based or oil-based (though you don’t want to use most oil-based lubes with most toys because it degrades latex). They don’t notice or care about feel, consistency, smell, packaging.

I have become more particular.  That’s because (and I hate to be alarming) the more I learned about lubes, the more I realized that the “clean” movement that has spread through much of health and wellness-focused products has not extended as deeply into to sex products. There is toxic shit in a lot of lubes.  I try to avoid additives and chemicals in my food and other body/cleaning products, and I sure as hell don’t want them up my vagina. A lot of lubes have ingredients, like various forms of sugar, that whether or not you are limiting them in your diet, you sure as hell should eliminate from your lube.

I started taking the ingredients in lube seriously a couple years ago after trying a major brand’s “Organix” lube in a pinch and ending up with a yeast infection two days later. My doctor pointed out that many lubes contain forms of sugar, like glycerin. Sugars are a food source for microbes, particularly yeast. I checked the label on that lube and sure enough, it had “Xanthan Gum” in it, which I looked up and sure enough, it’s essentially sugar. So the lube was “all natural” but not healthy. That’s not sweet.

Now I use a few highly trusted brands (more on them when we publish our Toy Tester reports), check all ingredients, or go without my beloved lube.

What do I like in a lube? I like brands that use products that are formulated to be consistent with a woman’s natural pH. I like aloe (it’s soothing), and prefer water-based. I like to see “organic ingredients,” “unflavored” and “unscented” in the description, also “safe for toys and condoms”.

What ingredients do I avoid? Anything on this list: DEA, gluten, glycerin, glycol, parabens, propylene, sorbitol, hormones and sulfates. To learn more about lube ingredients, here is an article from SELF magazine with more detailed information. I can’t do a better job on it myself: 6 Lube Ingredients You Might Not Want to Put In Your Vagina.

So, lube up! But for you and your partner’s sake, check the label first.

Want to read more about the PrimeCrush Toy Tester project? See below.

Let's Get It On: The PrimeCrush Toy Tester Project.

I hear you.  The single most recurring request I get from CRUSH Readers is for more recommendations on sex toys, products, techniques, sites and information.  Honest, independent reviews on things CRUSH Readers might want to try from the CRUSH community.  This was true when I published the first product recommendation, on the suction vibrator that Dame Products sold out of shortly after its launch (reprint below), and then again when I wrote about arousal gels (reprint below).  After I published the article a few weeks ago Field Trip: What Five Midlife Couples Learned On One Powerful Weekend Away With A Sex & Relationship Therapist, I got more.

I really like learning about sex products and experiences because "it is out of my comfort zone, but reading about in The Crush Letter makes me think that maybe it shouldn't be."

It's a big reason I'm here writing The Crush Letter, focusing on providing the information on relational well-being that CRUSH Readers want. In the Five Midlife Couples article one of the (long-married) retreat participants said that it was at the urging of sex and relationship therapist Dr. Jess that she and her husband tried sex toys.  Changing things up, doing new things, having a laugh over it (even if it doesn't work), has become such a fun way for she and her husband to be close, she said.

To that end, PrimeCrush has launched its Sex Toy Tester group.  We have over a dozen volunteers, solo and partnered up, who will be testing a wide range of toys, books, props, lubes and apps (etc) and then (confidentially) letting us know what we might want to try.  They will be getting their first box in November, and we will be reporting back to you in December.

It's not toooo long to wait, but to hold you over here are some sex toys, products, and tips we’ve already shared some quick takes on.  (By the way, we don’t get any affiliate fees or other compensation, we just honestly enjoy these:-0).

Arousal Gels, Babe. Arousal gels for women have been piling into my ad space lately, so I ordered three from natural brands I trust: Dame Products, Simple Jane, and Foria. They all feel good (not at the same time!), amplified the feels, made me tingle, heightened the experience, and felt more "organic" than a lot of lubricants.  Here's my quick take: I like them all, but Temptress from Simple Jane and Awaken from Foria both have CBD in their formulas (maybe I imagined it, but I felt calmer and more open, and I really liked that).  Temptress (with CBD) has a spicy/clove smell that I wouldn't pick for a beach vacation but is great for a cold night (and, let's be real, it also has the best name). Foria's Awaken (with CBD) had a subtler taste and smell (and I preferred that on a warm night) (and Foria has a version called Pleasure that also has THC in it, which I'd like to try but couldn't get). Dame Product's straightforwardly named Arousal Serum had the most tingle, my favorite smell and taste (mildly minty) and is the least expensive (and if you prefer it without CBD, this may be your pick). Pro Tips for all of them: start with a very small amount because the sensations can be strong. And they might take a few minutes to rev up (especially the CBD products).  Arousal gels are distinct from lubricant, and don't replace lube.  It's kind of wonderful to try them at the same time, tbh.

Literal Good Vibrations. Dame Products has been making sex toys for women (by women) since 2014, so we expect good moves from them. But under the heading, "T.M.I." a reviewer in Refinery29 says that Dame’s just-released latest, a suction vibrator, made her feel like she was getting oral play from a cloud. (The review itself was pretty exciting, truth be told.) “Dame's Suction Vibrator Feels Like Getting Oral From A Cloud". And if this toy sounds maybe a little too advanced, depending on how far along you are in your toy journey (not judging here), it might make sense to first dip into this seminal piece by Liza Lentini, Features Editor at perennially hip rock mag Spin. “The Sex Files: A Crash Course in Sex Toys

Traveling with sex toys. A few pro tips for traveling with your toys:  go small with the toys (for instance, I wear this, bring this and know guys who don't travel without this "it's f*cking fabulous, Dish!"; wrap/pack up your toys in separate silk bags or stash them in this (so they don't go off!);  to get around the 3.4-ounce liquid size limits plan in advance by stocking up on these lube packs; do NOT pack your toys in your carry-on - they will disappear! (TSA evidently only hires people who want to try your toys!); and - most importantly - if you do find yourself standing in front of TSA security while they rifle through your silk bag of sex toys, there is only one way of handling it.  Look them straight in the eye, shrug, and say "Yeah, it's going to be a good trip.  I've got a handle on it (wink.)."

The Crush Letter
The Crush Letter is a weekly newsletter curated by Dish Stanley on everything love & connection - friendship, romance, self-love, sex. If you’d like to take a look at some of our best stories go to Read Us. Want the Dish?

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