Stress and Sex

Helping women decrease stress and enhance desire.

What's the Buzz? The Science Behind the #1 Sex Toy

Sex toys enhance desire and pleasure.

The goal of my blog is to provide scientifically-based information to help you decrease your stress and enhance your sex life. My last blog post focused on store-bought products that that had been shown in research to enhance sex drive and pleasure. I limited my review to products that had been shown in randomized clinical trials with control groups to enhance sexual desire and satisfaction. Three products met my criteria: Zestra, Argin-Max, and A Tired Woman's Guide to Passionate Sex. I didn't include vibrators, even though studies have found them to be associated with greater sexual functioning. I excluded them only because research on their effectiveness can't be conducted using control groups. So, for this blog, my focus is on vibrators--another for-sale product with scientific evidence supporting its positive effects on sex.

A recent study, conducted by researcher, author, and fellow Psychology Today blogger Debby Herbenick asked 2,000 women about their vibrator use. More than half said they used vibrators.

And, despite common images of vibrators being solo-toys, the study found that 41% of the women had used a vibrator during foreplay with a partner and 37% had used one during intercourse. Importantly, as compared to women who had never used a vibrator or who hadn't used one recently, women who used vibrators within the past month reported higher levels of sexual desire, sexual arousal, and lubrication. They also had less pain during sex and more orgasms. These results tell us what many women already know: sex toys enhance, rather than diminish, interest in and enjoyment with sex.

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Still, often women and their partners worry that a vibrator will take the place of sex they have together. There is no evidence that solo use of vibrators decreases women's interest in sex with partners. As is the case with masturbation without a vibrator, just the opposite may occur. Many women will tell you that their vibrating buddies increase their desire for sex with their partners. This makes sense, given that sexual stimulation makes one want more stimulation. Also, as eloquently stated by Joan Price, author of Better than Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty, in her blog about sex and aging, "A vibrator may give you quicker orgasms (that's what it's made for, after all), but it doesn't cuddle well or kiss or laugh, and pillow talk with a vibrator is really boring. It either buzzes or it doesn't..." Vibrators aren't a replacement for a partner. Used alone, vibrators can increase your interest in sex with your partner. Used during sex with your partner, vibrators can make reaching orgasm easier and more reliable.

If this is threatening to your partner, and it sometimes is for male partners, remind him of your physiology--women's orgasm hot button is the clitoris. As Joan Price eloquently suggests in her blog, "Point out to him where his penis contacts you during intercourse vs. where your clitoris resides. And when he arouses you manually, which I hope he does, point out that he's less likely to get carpal tunnel syndrome from your long arousal time if he incorporates a vibrator..."

My assumption is that Joan is referring here to hand-held vibrators that are used to stimulate your clitoris during foreplay or intercourse. Another fun option for clitoral stimulation during intercourse is "couple toys.: Again, drawing from Joan Price's blog, "It's not a choice between your parnter and it--Make it a threesome: the two of you using the [toy] together." As just one example, at the online Passion Parties store, you can buy a couples toy (e.g., the Vibrating Twin Rabbit) that is worn on the man's penis to stimulate a woman's clitoris during intercourse.  The increased clitoral stimulation that vibrators and couples toys provide is why they enhance sexual satisfaction.

 Along with increasing pleasure, vibrators also increase sexual desire. The explanation I give for this in my book, A Tired Woman's Guide to Passionate Sex (which itself has been shown by research to increase sexual desire and arousal) is novelty. Doing something new and interesting is exciting and motivating. Think about when you were little and received a new toy. You were excited to play with it! The same is true for sex toys: each time you get a new one, you will be eager to give it a try! In fact, perhaps that is why sex devices are called toys: they make us want to play more.

Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., is the author of A Tired Woman's Guide to Passionate Sex: Reclaim Your Desire and Reignite Your Relationship.

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