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The Man’s Guide to Vibrators

As more couples include vibes in partner sex, here’s what men need to know.

Forty years ago, most Americans viewed vibrators as only a refuge for lonely or frustrated women. How things have changed. According to recent studies by researchers at Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute:

  • More than half of adult American women (53 percent) now own at least one vibrator. This figure comes from a nationally representative survey of 2,056 American women. Coupled women are as likely to own vibes as singles. And compared with non-users, women who use vibrators regularly enjoy several sexual benefits: more libido, greater arousal, more self-lubrication, greater likelihood of orgasm, and more erotic satisfaction. And as vibrator use increases in frequency, so do all these elements of sexual pleasure.
  • Almost half of adult men (45 percent) have included vibrators in partner sex at least once, with 14 percent using them during the previous year, and 10 percent in the last month. This comes from a similar survey of 1,047 adult American men. Compared with non-users, men who incorporate vibrator play into lovemaking report more libido, better erections, better orgasms, and more sexual satisfaction. Among men who play with vibrators during partner sex, 82 percent use them to pleasure the woman’s clitoris during vaginal intercourse.

Why Vibrators Boost Men’s Sexual Satisfaction

A generation ago, many men felt threatened by vibrators. I don’t want to be replaced by a machine. But in partner lovemaking, vibrators don’t replace men any more than power tools replace carpenters. On the contrary, as the studies just mentioned demonstrate, vibes add new dimensions of pleasure and satisfaction to partner lovemaking. Vibrators don’t hug, kiss, converse, tell jokes, take women out, or whisper, “I love you.” They do just one thing, deliver more intense sensation than fingers or tongues can provide.

Note the finding that men who incorporate vibrators into lovemaking enjoy firmer, more reliable erections. Why? Several reasons:

  • Vibrators increase women’s arousal, and arousal is contagious. Men who see the toys arousing their lovers get more turned on themselves.
  • Having vibrators in bed as erotic back-ups reduces the stress many men feel about maintaining firm erections and lasting as long as long as they'd like. Stress is an erection-killer. Stress/anxiety/worry releases the hormone, cortisol, which constricts the arteries in the central body, including the ones that carry blood into the penis. The more stress, the less blood in the penis, and the more likely men are to suffer erection problems. But when couples use vibrators during partner sex, men relax and those same arteries open up. More blood enters the penis, and erections get firmer.

Simple Secrets of Pleasuring Women with Vibrators

Men interested in incorporating vibrators into partner sex can use them in several ways:

  • Whole-body massage. Vibrators have been available since the early 20th century. Around World War I, major catalogues and department stores carried them, notably Sears, but they were euphemistically called “massagers.” Accompanying graphics invariably showed women applying them to their sore necks and shoulders. That old catalogue copy clearly dealt in euphemisms. Many women knew how the devices were really intended to be used. But the dissembling contained a germ of truth. Vibrators can be used on the entire skin surface, and they do, indeed, provide the benefits of massage—relaxation and relief for sore muscles. That’s one way men can use them on women, as whole-body massagers. When you get into bed, ask her to lie on her belly and coach you where and how she’d like the vibrator used—on her neck, shoulders, back, and anywhere else she enjoys.
  • Genital play. When used sexually, women usually press vibrators into the area between their legs: the clitoris, vulva, vaginal lips, and/or anus. Many women also insert phallic-shaped vibes into their vaginas and possibly anuses. Unless a woman specifically requests that you press a vibrator into her vulva, clitoris, vagina, or anus, don’t assume she welcomes this. The vibrations may feel too intense, may cause discomfort, and possibly even feel painful. Instead, tell her you’re going to hold the device near her genitals and invite her to dance what’s between her legs against it. That way she controls the sensations she experiences—and you learn what she enjoys without causing any discomfort.
  • Ask her for coaching. Vibrators are available in more than a dozen varieties, from thumb-size battery-powered bullets that produce modest vibration to plug-in, arm-size Hitachi Magic Wands that provide much more intense sensations, to variable-speed vibes that allow users to select intensity. Depending on the vibrator, women may feel differently about where, how, and for how long to apply the device. Men should ask repeatedly, “Is this OK? Tell me how you like it used on you.”
  • How vibes complement intercourse. Note that more than three-quarters of couples who take vibes to be with them use them during intercourse. The goal here is often to bring the woman to orgasm while the two people are locked in genital embrace. In movies and on TV, the women almost always come during intercourse. Actors typically pant and writhe and then both climax and collapse into each other's arms. But in real life, a great deal of research (elucidated in The Case of the Female Orgasm by Elizabeth Lloyd) shows that only about 25 percent of women are consistently orgasmic during intercourse. Adding a vibrator to partner sex can raise that proportion substantially. In the man-on-top (missionary) position, place the vibrator (usually a bullet or other slim phallic vibe) at the junction of your two pelvises. In the woman-on-top position, the man or woman can position the vibrator on or near the woman’s clitoris. And in the rear entry (doggies) position, the man or woman can do the same. In addition, some couples want simultaneous orgasms—ordinarily, they’re rare, but much more likely with the help of a vibrator.

As couples incorporate vibrator play into intercourse, initially the woman should handle the device, and show the man how she likes to use it on herself. Men should pay special attention to how women want vibes used on them. Both the penis and clitoris contain around the same number of touch-sensitive nerve receptors, but in the clitoris, they’re packed into much less tissue, which makes the clitoris more sensitive to touch than the penis. Many women’s clitorises are too sensitive for direct touch with a vibrator (and sometimes with fingers or mouth). Discuss this. If the woman has a super-sensitive clitoris, use the vibrator around it, not directly on it.

For lovers new to using vibes during intercourse, the best position is woman-on-top. The woman can easily use the vibe on herself and show the man how she likes it touching her. And the man can easily hold the vibe near her pelvis and invite her to rock into it.

In addition to enhancing lovemaking, the discussion involved in partner vibrator play also increases couple intimacy. As lovers share how they’d like to play with vibes, they get to know each other more deeply. Intimacy is a key element of sexual satisfaction. Vibrators not only supply intense sensation. They also bring lovers emotionally closer.

But enough about the research and my advice. Now it’s your turn. Have you used vibrators during partner sex? What’s been your experience? Have I missed anything? Please comment.


Herbenick, D. et al. “Prevalence and Characteristics of Vibrator Use by Women in the United States: Results from a Nationally Representative Survey,” Journal of Sexual Medicine (2009) 6:1857.

Herbenick, D. “Women’s Vibrator Use in Sexual Partnerships: Results from a Nationally Representative Survey in the United States,” Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy (2010) 36:49.

Herbenick, D. “Beliefs About Women’s Vibrator Use: Results from a Nationally Representative Probability Survey in the United States,” Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy (2011) 37:329.

Lloyd, E. The Case of the Female Orgasm. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2005.

Reece, M. et al. “Prevalence and Characteristics of Vibrator Use by Men in the United States,” Journal of Sexual Medicine (2009) 6:1743.

Reece, M. et al. “Vibrator Use Among Heterosexual Men Varies by Partnership Status: Results from a Nationally Representative Study in the United States,” Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy (2010) 36:389.

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