Vibrators are by far the most popular sex toy. According to a recent nationally representative survey by University of Indiana researchers, 53 percent of American women have used them. But some women don't use vibrators for fear of harm, and many men wonder what a woman's use of a vibrator means. I hope to set the record straight.
Myth: Vibrators are for loners and losers.
Truth: According to the Indiana study, married women are more likely to use vibrators (50 percent) than singles (29 percent).
Myth: If women need vibrators to have orgasms, there's something wrong with them.
Truth: Not at all. Some women just need more intense stimulation than fingers and/or a tongue can provide. In the Indiana study, compared with women who never used vibrators, those who did reported greater likelihood of orgasm, greater sexual desire, easier arousal, more self-lubrication (meaning less discomfort during intercourse), and equal or better sexual satisfaction.
According to a 1999 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 25 percent of women have difficulty having orgasms, or can't have them. Fortunately, sex therapists enjoy great success teaching women to have the orgasms. The program is detailed in the classic self-help book, Becoming Orgasmic by two sex therapists. Guess what they recommend as part of the learning process? A vibrator.
Myth: If women need vibrators to enjoy sex and have orgasms, there's something wrong with the way their men make love.
Truth: Not necessarily. Many perfectly normal women cannot have orgasms without the intense stimulation vibrators provide. Others can, but it takes them longer than they or their lovers would like. Couples should discuss the kinds of erotic play they enjoy, and coach each other about what turns them on.
In addition, men should base their lovemaking on whole-body massage that includes the genitals, but is not fixated on them. Men should understand that only 25 percent of women are consistently orgasmic solely from vaginal intercourse because it doesn't provide much direct stimulation of the clitoris, which sits outside the vagina and above it, nestled beneath the top junction of the vaginal lips. To enjoy orgasm, three-quarters of women need direct clitoral stimulation from fingers, a tongue, a vibrator, or anything else that lights an erotic fire. Assuming a man engages in leisurely, playful, creative, whole-body sensuality--and pays particular erotic attention to the woman's clitoris--there is absolutely nothing wrong with him if the woman needs or prefers a vibrator to bring her to orgasm.
Myth: If women enjoy vibrators in partner sex, men are left out.
Truth. Absolutely not. Vibrators provide only one thing, intense stimulation. They can't kiss women, embrace or massage them, warm the bed, tell jokes, say, "I love you," or do anything else lovers provide to support and enjoy each other. Vibrators don't replace men. All they do is provide especially intense erotic stimulation.
Myth: Vibrators are unnatural.
Truth: Vibrators are as natural as any other erotic enhancement: perfume, music, candle light, or lingerie.
Myth: Vibrators are addictive.
Truth: Do carpenters become addicted to power tools? No, power tools just get the job done faster. Many women really love their vibrators, but that's a personal preference, not an addiction. Addiction involves tolerance--over time it takes more of the addictive agent to obtain the desired effect. That's not true with vibrators. In fact, as women become more comfortable with vibrators and use them to explore the full range of their own erotic responsiveness, many find that it takes less vibrator stimulation to provide the enjoyment they want.
Myth: Vibrators ruin women for sex without them.
Truth: Does driving ruin you for walking? No, it just gets you there faster. The same is true for sex with and without vibrators. The body responds to erotic stimulation no matter where it comes from: fingers, tongue, penis, or vibrator. Using a vibrator-even frequently-does not change the body's ability to respond to other types of sexual stimulation.
Myth: Vibrators numb the genitals.
Truth: Sometimes, but not often. In the Indiana survey, 11 percent of vibrator users reported occasional numbness and 3 percent experienced it frequently. If a vibrator causes numbing, don't press it so hard into the vulva and clitoris.
Myth: Vibrators cause urinary tract infections (UTI).
Truth: UTIs are caused by digestive tract bacteria that exit the body during defecation. As a result, the anal canal and the skin around the anus become contaminated with them. If a vibrator (or anything else) comes in contact with these bacteria, and then touches the vulva, the bacteria can travel up the urethra and cause a UTI. Keep track of what your vibrator touches. If it touches the anus, wash it before it touches the vulva. Or cover it with a condom for anal play and remove the condom for vulva/vaginal play. It's not vibrators, per se, that cause UTIs, but rather careless use.
The study: Hebernick D. et al. "Prevalence and Characteristics of Vibrator Use By Women in the U.S.: Results from a Nationally Representative Study," Journal of Sexual Medicine (2009) 6:1857.