Review: Umie by Tantriss (with a word on gender, representation, and appropriation)

photo against a white and grey chevron quilt; pink dildo-shaped vibrator with a smartphone illustration featuring a screenshot from the Umie app; white text box with black text "Review: Umie by Tantriss" and teal text "Chronic Sex"

Disclaimer: I was given the Umie for free in exchange for my honest review.

There’s a lot to say, so let’s just dig in.

Product details

The Umie is 9.5 inches long and made of silicone.

It charges via USB and the cord is included in the package. You can take the Umie underwater with you for up to 30 minutes.

There is a partner app that makes the Umie incredibly accessible. I’ll touch more on that below, but it’s the thing that makes this toy worthwhile.

Testing

Without the app, I’m not sure how much I’d be able to figure out the toy. The buttons are small to not get in the way, but also don’t lend themselves to great accessibility. It’s not always easy to tell which button you’re touching in the moment – or to press it.

A sun symbol controls the heat while a symbol similar to a wifi one cycles through the patterns. The arrow at the bottom of the toy turns it on, which seems to be different for many toys. I doubt neither myself nor my husband would be able to remember any of this.

I honestly just mashed the buttons until they turned on each time I used the Umie.

Solo use

For me, the app really saved the day. It allows you to control and access a number of features that would be tricky to move through with the Umie alone. You can turn the toy off, control intensity, move through preset patterns, and more.

There was no accessible way to enjoy this toy without the app.

I really appreciated the warming feature in the toy, especially now that we’ve gotten freezing temperatures here in the Midwest. It takes a few minutes to warm up, but that feature needs to be included in so many more toys.

A lot of learning about and playing with this toy was through trial and error more than having a roadmap. There was more explanation in the app itself, but that’s also not accessible for many people.

The presets were great for changing up the sensations Umie doles out. I appreciated the draw-your-own-pattern/custom mode as well, though I wish there was more information on this. The sound mode seemed like a fun idea, but didn’t seem to correlate that great with sounds in our bedroom, whether I was alone or not.

Partner play

I made the mistake of giving the hubs control of my phone while playing with the Umie. It was a fun mistake, but also led to me getting vibrations from Andrew Gurza’s Disability After Dark podcast, the Beauty & The Beast Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack, and videos of the guinea pigs.

The problem is that, while you can access media to sync with the vibrations you feel, there’s no separation. Podcast episodes were alongside voice memos and songs with no way to access playlists through the app. The videos were even worse, though that’s probably because all my videos are of our guinea pigs or my niblings.

It was, uh, weird.

Plus, there seemed to be little correlation between the intensity of the vibrations and the media being played. A rap song with heavy bass gave the same constant vibration as Andrew’s beautiful voice. Vibrations went 0-100 very quickly. While this was a nice potential feature, it feels like these things weren’t fleshed out fully before release.

There was a lot of fun in letting T control the app and not knowing what was going to happen. That was really the end of that excitement, though. Maybe if I were better at being serious and communicating what I like or if we got a little more serious in the bedroom, this would’ve worked better. The design needs some tweaking, though.

I can see this being fun for play when I travel or if we were long-distance. It would really have to be combined with a call or Skype, though. We didn’t try to access the actual long-distance features.

A word about gender, sexuality, and appropriation

I’ll admit that I’m a little… I fell odd about the gendered nature of this toy. The marketing is geared towards women, either single or in a relationship. Even the colors – pink or white – tend to be more femme-geared ones for toys. They even label the toy the “PREMIER PLEASURE TOY FOR BOTH WOMEN AND COUPLES.”

In the app’s social component that allows you to interact with other users if you so choose, you can only select between male and female. It felt odd to be misgendered by a sex toy – and their company.

There seems to be some cisheteronormativity going on, too. In everything I could find, the only couples interviewed or featured were cis-appearing male/female couples. They were also white… which brings up another issue. I know that it’s not always easy to display diversity, but you can’t rely on white abled-appearing cishet couples to sell a sex toy. You just can’t.

There are a lot of comments on Umie/Tantriss’ social media around unlocking enlightenment using this toy. Even the preset vibrations are names related to Asian religions – Nirvana, Chakra, etc. Without being able to find much about Umie/Tantriss’ background, this feels very appropriative to me. It’s essentially a sex toy version of commercialized yoga or Buddhism… especially since there’s no education around Tantra on their site or in their app. The site mentions breathwork, for example, but nothing more about it.

Look, my undergraduate degree was in religious studies and I focused heavily on Asian religions, so this really irks me. There’s so much appropriation of these cultural ideals and beliefs in our society. When someone adept at internet searching can’t find much about the background of your company in relation to these ideals, it’s definitely not a great look.

Verdict

As problematic as this is, I enjoyed the vibrator. I liked being able to switch things up on my phone, that I can do it one-handed. There’s an app for this toy that makes it more accessible when my hands are having a rough arthritis day. It’s lightweight and easy to move around.

All the problematic stuff, though, brings me down. I’m post-orgasm and should be super happy. Instead, I’m relaxed but super irked. This isn’t something I feel comfortable endorsing because it goes against so many things I fight for – gender neutrality, cultural respect, diversity, social justice, etc. There’s not enough transparency about the company to even know if this is appropriative or not, but it feels that way. It shouldn’t be hard to find the background of your company, either, and that’s off-putting.

I don’t know that I’ve ever had a sex toy cause me to feel so much shame. If you made it to the end here, I wish I had something awesome to give you.

You can always save 10% off more ethical gear over at Vibrant when you use the code ‘CHRONICSEX’ (not applicable for use with other coupon codes). Likewise, you can save 10% at Peepshow Toys using ‘CHRONIC.’ At the very least, maybe check out Pink Label. They have amazing porn full of diversity, representation, and beautiful consent!

If interested, you can snag the Umie directly from Umie/Tantriss.

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