It’s that time of year again, time for my Favorite Things! I always think of my favorite things list as something that was, for a long time, a list of products until I (in my head very recently) changed it dramatically in 2016 making for a whole new version of the list that was a totally different thing and (once again in case you missed it) very NEW. But this is my third list since that big shift and prior to said shift, I made lists the old way for 3 years, so we’re about even.
So, once again, my list has evolved. These days what the list is is a bit more fluid. For example this year doesn’t feature favorite companies but features the most books I’ve ever had on one list (and I had to cut some, it was getting ridiculous). It features the most products I’ve had on the list in years, including some of I’ve loved for a while but was hesitant to include in the past (because, reasons).
And once again, the list ended up kind of huge. This year it features 8 products, 7 books, 1 “game changer”, and 1 big one that will, just like in previous years, make sense when you get there. I’d love for you to read the whole thing but I recognize that there’s a lot to see here so I’ve set it up so you can use the menu to hop right to the sections you want to see (you can hop back up too!). Go check it out!
JoEllen’s 2018 Favorite Things
Products ★ Books ★ Game Changer ★ The Big One
Okay so this first one is interesting on a couple of levels.
- It’s the first thing on this list that I’ve been into for a while (since last year, at least) but was hesitant to put on my list before.
- It’s not really sex-related, though I argue it has great sexual benefits.
- It’s the first time I’m recommending an entire genre of item rather than any specific product.
Now that we’ve gone over all of that, I’ll get to the point. I freaking love bidets. They are amazing. Don’t just take my word for it, check out Michael Che’s recent bidet-fueled appearance on SNL. Honestly, for years I didn’t really understood the appeal of a bidet. They seemed expensive and kind of awkward to use. Then Megan Andelloux turned me on to the wonder of affordable toilet-mounted ones that install in minutes. Now I’m so enamored of mine that I get antsy when traveling because I hate not having one. Luckily my best friend and the boyfriend whose house I spend lots of time at both have them. We all have inexpensive ($25) dial-control models (we may all have the same one actually) but there are so many options available! Some allow for warm water (mine doesn’t and while generally the room-temperature water is fine but at my partner’s chilly house, it is cold), some have heated seats and electric controls, some are even self-cleaning! Basically, the world is your bidet oyster. No matter your model preference, I swear, a bidet will change your freaking life.
I have noticed that the world in general doesn’t seem to “get” bidets, and given my history with them, I understand this. It seems to be improving a bit, more friends seem to own them and during my summer trip to LA I even noticed some for sale in The Pleasure Chest but I’ve had way too many conversations where people got defensive, seemingly seeing the suggestion as having something to do with a belief that they are failing at hygiene. My boyfriend makes makes an excellent point about this, though: There is literally no situation in which you would get feces on a part of your body, wipe it off with a dry piece of paper and call it “good”. Enter the bidet. It’s just a better way to do things.
Get one here: Amazon
Electro-Whip Neon Wand Attachment
I saw this Neon Wand accessory at ANME in January 2018, had someone send it to me for review in February 2018 and then proceeded to spent the rest of the year raving about its satisfying zappy bite. Designed to be plugged into a Neon Wand, it works just as well when held in the hand of someone using the Power Tripper… actually, I like it better that way, it’s just a touch less intense. In any event, the Electro-Whip Neon Wand Attachment is fabulous. LOVE. THIS. THING.
Get it here: LuvToyz, Stockroom
Le Wand Petite
As a company, Le Wand has really worked its way into my heart. After taking my time to come around on the original Le Wand, it’s now a favorite and I had a terrific time repping Le Wand at the Playground Conference in February. Then, along came Le Wand Petite. Despite giving its review a completely ridiculous title, I actually fell hard for this mini version of the Le Wand and it’s been in pretty heavy rotation ever since.
Get it here: Good Vibrations, SheVibe, Peepshow Toys
I saw the O-Wand around a bunch before The folks at Peepshow offered to send me one and you know what? I was kind of resistant. Kind of like how I’m suspicious of things that everyone is talking about or of people who are too attractive (yeah, I know…). Also, it just seemed too damn heavy. Now, while it might be too heavy for some folks (be warned), I actually kind of love it. And the “wands I love” collection just keeps growing…
Get it here: SheVibe, Peepshow Toys, Betty’s Toy Box
Sliquid Sea Water-Based Lubricant
I know, I’m super late to the party on this one! I’ve always believed that my preference for very thick water-based lube was non-negotiable. My bestie Elle Chase repeatedly told me how great Sliquid Sea is, often citing its “slip” and, I can admit this, I was always like “whatever, with your fancy lube jargon!”. Now I must admit that she was right and I was super-wrong! Sea is just delightful and I figured out what Elle meant by “slip” (it’s something I like!)
Get it here: Good Vibrations, SheVibe, She Bop, Early to Bed, Lovehoney, Peepshow Toys, Betty’s Toy Box, LuvToyz,
Tantus Bido Palm Flogger
I first encountered this gorgeous flogger at ANME in July and I immediately became obsessed. I got mine a couple of months later and my obsession has continued. I LOVE the Bido Palm Flogger! It is gorgeous, beautifully made, features a handle that is not only very cool but also comfy AF (seriously, it fits perfectly in the palm of your hand!), and, due to the high quality leather, the Bido feels fabulous in a super-thuddy way. The Bido flogger’s falls measure 22 inches and it is available in black, brown, and purple (my favorite, don’t @ me), individually or in pairs.
Get it here: Tantus
Touch Lubricant Warming System
My relationship with lube has been a long and winding road featuring a whole mess of stops at different storage/dispensing solutions. Then I got a Touch. Not only does it look good and dispense reliably, but my partner is now conditioned to get all excited about the sexy warmed lube. Seriously, it’s like Pavlov’s dogs… it’s pretty impressive.
Is this a necessary item? No! But it is really cool and I think a lot of folks would enjoy the hell out of it. Also for folks who want to buy sex stuff for partners during the holidays, something like this– that doesn’t require you to predict what will work for their body AND feels sexy and luxurious– is an ideal pick.
Get it here: Good Vibrations, SheVibe, Peepshow Toys, Betty’s Toy Box
Wicked Sensuals Flavored Lubricant
I have been mildly into this stuff for literally YEARS but was always hesitant to talk about it (long story). This year, though, it became my go-to for use during fellatio and now I’m just full-on obsessed with it. Most fun part? All the flavors! It’s available in Candy Apple, Cherry Cordial, Cinnamon Bun, Mocha Java (a favorite of mine), Pomegranate, Salted Caramel (another favorite), Vanilla Bean, Sweet Peach, Pink Lemonade & Peppermint Cocoa (a Limited Edition flavor that I’m dying to try!).
Get it here: Good Vibrations, SheVibe, Early to Bed, Betty’s Toy Box
A Dirty Word: How a Sex Writer Reclaimed Her Sexuality
by Steph Auteri
When I first heard about this book I felt like I had found a kindred spirit in Steph Auteri (a chat over a Jersey Diner breakfast confirmed that feeling). Sex writing can make one feel like they are “supposed” to be performatively sexual at all times and I pretty much never want to do that… It was amazing to read the work of a smart and talented writer who agrees.
Get it here: Amazon
Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick
by Maya Dusenbery
As a woman who has struggled for YEARS with unexplained, mysterious health issues and who spent years feeling like no one believed me, and who has often suspected that doctors see the symptoms they don’t understand as ploys to gain attention rather than something they should learn about, this book made me feel seen, heard, and so much less alone. It also made me angry AF. I have quoted this book CONSTANTLY since reading it.
Get it here: Amazon
Unscrewed: Women, Sex, Power, and How to Stop Letting the System Screw Us All
by Jaclyn Friedman
I read this book twice this year. Once in hard copy and again via audiobook (my preferred method for reading these days) and I have just fallen harder and deeper in love with it. Unscrewed is an important look at sexual politics, feminism, and the rules of power in America and also, perhaps unexpectedly, it’s a really enjoyable read. Unscrewed spoke to many things I already believed and challenged me to think differently and with more care about the world we do live in and the world we should live in.
Get it here: Good Vibrations, Amazon
Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships
by Stella Harris
Stella Harris is someone who I so dearly admire; a fabulous person and awesome sex educator and I whole-heartedly recommend reading anything she writes. Tongue Tied is extra-special though. So many folks struggle with sexual communication and Stella is a sexual communication ninja who makes the topic fun and accessible. This books belongs in all sex geek libraries.
Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment
by August Mclaughlin
In a world that is simultaneously obsessed with and terrified of sex, this book is so very important. August does an amazing job delivering valuable information in an exceptionally comfortable way. This book feels like talking with a trusted friend.
Get it here: Amazon
Love’s Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities
by Kevin A. Patterson
I can’t say enough about how good/useful/necessary this book is. Love’s Not Color Blind is, I believe, a must-read. Our communities have serious issues and Kevin breaks them down beautifully. Also, it must be said, his writing is FUN to read.
Get it here: Good Vibrations, She Bop, Amazon
Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger
by Rebecca Traister
I was hesitant to even start this book because, frankly, I feel like I’ve been super angry for years and didn’t know that I wanted to get myself more riled up everyday. I’m glad I didn’t listen to that instinct. Good and Mad made me feel seen, heard, and understood… it also may have planted the seeds for my next book.
Get it here: Amazon
“Everybody says that depression kills sex lives. I really don’t think that. I think it’s resentment that does that.” – @JoEllenNotte #pgconfgiveAF
— darkestembrace (@darkestembrace) February 24, 2018
In this, year four of working on my book about sex and depression, I had a HUGE revelation that has figured largely into said book and changed a lot about how I function in life: resentment is relationship cancer. Once it gets in there it grows and festers and takes the whole thing down with it. Resentment is why, during arguments we sometimes think of something that bothers us from a year ago and want to bring that up– we’ve been resenting the fuck out of it this whole time and now, in the present argument that festering resentment has bubbled over. No bueno.
I noticed that in the interviews for my book, the people whose relationships weathered depression well were the people who felt seen, heard, and supported while the relationships that fell apart involved a lot of resentment. I looked back at the relationships I’ve had where the sexual portion of the relationship died and realized (regardless of the “women want less sex” and “sex dies out after the first couple of months” lessons I’d bee taught) that they involved a metric fuck-ton of resentment and a lot of me feeling something akin to “fuck you, I’m not giving you pleasure because [myriad resentments]” that I had never been able to identify before.
This year I saw some of that resentment slipping into my current relationships. Frankly, being a woman who sleeps with men is complicated in a time when we are FINALLY talking openly about assault, harassment, and general male sexual entitlement. By February I felt like I was bubbling over with anger and resentment.
@JoEllenNotte is talking about #metoo and feeling like your sleeping with the enemy. #pgconfgiveAF #PGconfTO
— Rogue (@Comicfanbbw) February 24, 2018
So, in the interest of applying what I was learning (and keeping my relationship alive) I started talking openly with my partner about things that were making me feel resentment. I started keeping an eye out for potential resentment causes and nipping them in the bud. The result? I’ll be honest, it’s not always fun. As a woman who was socialized to be accommodating and likable, I felt like I was ALWAYS nagging my partner but we talked about it! Now my relationship is becoming a resentment-free zone. It’s good, it’s healthier, and it involves far more sex. In short, preventing resentment has become one of my favorite things.
The Big One: My Favorite 2018 Concept (That I’m looking to carry into 2019)
Taking Care of Myself
This year has been big… well, at least it has been building towards something big. I’ve had that “on the cusp of a major shift” feeling for about a month now.
This year my anxiety became completely untenable. I found myself frantically working in ways that served others while financially struggling myself. I found myself in a constant tug of war with my body where I tried eating less and less and exercising more and more and it still refused to budge. I noticed that there was constantly a knot in the pit of my stomach, I was barely breathing and by 4pm everyday I was ready to collapse. Something had to give.
So, I did a couple of things:
- I fired all of my healthcare professionals. This is a long story (I’m currently working on a piece on it for a website I just adore, so more to come) but the upshot is that after a LOOONG time of feeling unheard, unseen, and disregarded by doctors and therapists I ran out of patience and took care of myself by seeking out new ones. This may sound like no big deal but my brain kept telling me that it was SO HARD and maybe completely impossible.
- I brought on a mental health professional specifically to help with my life-long tumultuous relationship with my body and food.
I turned to exercise. Remembering that some of my most functional times were back when I was teaching fitness classes, I paid a perhaps irresponsible amount of money to the Pilates studio around the corner from my house so I could go there, move, breathe, and bask in the glow of their supportive, nonjudgmental staff every single day.
Now, I know, several of the things on that list came at a financial cost and, to be frank, I took on some extra work to support that. I know that’s not an option for everyone. The bigger point, though, is that I have been making a concerted effort to take care of myself. I’m trying to get enough sleep (the dog and I are negotiating), I’m finally taking advice about lowering stress, I’m working to wipe out the constant voice of judgment that has been running through my head for 5 years, and I’m taking steps to get past the “you aren’t qualified” feelings that have kept me from pursuing better-paying writing work.
For a long time I couldn’t take these steps because I felt like I hadn’t “earned” them. I needed to be more successful, make more money, have people offer the options/opportunities to me. That’s how I found myself trying to serve others from a vessel (me) that was completely empty, totally spent. Now, I’m working hard on doing what I have to to support myself so I can do my best work, so that I can help others, so that I can give more to the world.
Curious about what my past lists have looked like? Check them out!
My Favorite Things: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, Master List