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Is My Vibrator Ruining My Relationship?

I thought my boyfriend would be amused when I ordered another sex toy. Apparently, it was one too many.
 
 
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Not long ago, I informed my boyfriend that I had ordered a Hitachi Magic Wand to keep at his place in New Jersey. (Yes, Amazon sells them, and as of this writing, it’s theirbestselling toy). I thought he’d be excited, perhaps — or, at worst, simply amused. Instead, I could practically hear the disdain over Gmail.

“Do you even need me to come home anymore?” he asked.

As a sex writer, I have a lot of toys, and this wasn’t the first time I’d bought the so-called Cadillac of vibrators, an extremely powerful plug-in electrical massager that’s been my go-to sex toy for over a decade. I already had one at my apartment in Brooklyn, but I wanted one for the long stretches of time I spent at his place, and the toy is way too large and unwieldy to cart back and forth.

“It’s just a vibrator,” I told him. “Of course I need and want you.” That seemed obvious to me, but it wasn’t as clear to him. As I probed further, I discovered I had tripped into sensitive territory. Owning one Hitachi Magic Wand was all right, but apparently two was overload, even for a boyfriend who once worked in marketing for a sex toy company.

“It’s not that I think you’re going to leave me for your Hitachi,” he told me, “but there’s a caveman part of me that thinks, I should be able to satisfy you. You shouldn’t need a magic stick.”

Uh-oh. I’d heard about guys feeling threatened by their girlfriend’s toys, but I always made certain assumptions about them. They were the same guys who didn’t want their girlfriends to wear short skirts or low-cut tops, the kind of guys Cyndi Lauper was singing about in “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” when she said, “Some boys take a beautiful girl / And hide her away from the rest of the world.” I lumped them all together into one unenlightened, close-minded group of dudes who thought vibrators were for desperate single girls.

I believed that toys were accoutrements of a good sex life, not a replacement for one. Some of the best lovers I’ve had came to the bedroom with their own arsenal, along with novel ideas about how to use them. I didn’t need to date King (or Queen) Dildo, exactly, but I did need a lover who was open to their use.

And my boyfriend certainly was. Up until that moment, he’d been game for most anything. Handcuffs, vibrators, rope, a ruler, a flogger. I’d been sent so many toys to review that we had to arrange the bedside table to accommodate the stash. And yet, a girl can have too many vibrators for her lover’s comfort — and I guess I had crossed the line.

It surprised me. My boyfriend was open-minded, nothing like the Neanderthal men of my anti-sex-toy imagination. He loved when I dressed up in sexy outfits when we went out. Once I wore a very revealing dress to the grocery store, and he reported back to me who’d been checking me out. He laughed when I told him about random emails I got saying things like “‘Cupcake Wars’ producer wants to bone you.” He’d been open with me about his sexual past and had never so much as hinted that there was anything wrong with mine. But now, the Cadillac of vibrators had him worried. Was I no longer happy in bed? Why did I have to seek out plug-in stimulation?

Maybe part of his unease stemmed from our different ideas about masturbation; he preferred to hold off on masturbating when we were apart, whereas I considered masturbation a complementary part of my sex life. The truth is, when I use my Hitachi, it’s often about stress relief as much as sheer horniness. When I’m on the verge of having a panic attack, binge eating, or generally freaking out, I can always bring myself back to my body. It’s a selfish time of pleasure and indulgence. I’m not thinking about what I look or sound like, or what’s going to happen next. Ideally, I’m not thinking about much of anything.

And OK, yes, the blunt fact of the matter is that by design, the Hitachi is going to be able to stimulate in a way that even the most ardent, talented lover can’t. It’s a machine, unrestricted by the limits of the human body. While I’ve read that the Hitachi can desensitize the clitoral nerve endings with prolonged use, I haven’t found that to be true (though I do get more out of it when I don’t use it every day). Betty Dodson, famed masturbation advocate and author of “Sex for One,” calls this claim “crap.”

“Imagine telling a guy he has desensitized his penis from too many blow jobs,” she wrote.

But even if it were possible for a person’s fingers or tongue to move at the speed of a motorboat, I don’t always want that kind of breakneck arousal from a fellow human being. Sometimes I want the warmth and passion of a lover, whether that means kissing, cuddling, nipple stimulation or oral sex (all of which, I must note, no vibrator can replicate). By the same token, sometimes I don’t want two-person sex. I want to be alone with my vibrator, not because I’m unsatisfied or feel like something is missing in my relationship. I like to lie in bed thinking about my boyfriend and what I want to do with him the next time I see him. I also entertain fantasies that don’t involve him (and that I would feel weird thinking about in bed with him). But the more I use my vibrator, the better a mood I’m generally in, and the more aroused I become, which is what I’d call a win-win. I was hopeful that we’d even use it together sometime – that is, until I learned how much it worried him.

And so, I tried to assuage his concerns, because we all have them in some form or another. Nobody can tell someone else the “right” way to have sex — or to masturbate. That’s part of what makes sex so special. “My using a vibrator isn’t about you or what’s happening between us,” I explained. Sometimes I go a week without even thinking about getting myself off, and some days I linger for hours with it next to me in bed. I don’t know why some days I’m more eager for my magic wand than others, and the same goes for my overall sex drive. Some days I want to tear my boyfriend’s clothes off the instant he walks in the door, and some days sex is the last thing on my mind, but that doesn’t mean I love him more on the days I’m hornier. Sex is mysterious that way.

But I began to wonder if I should have mentioned it in the first place. Perhaps I should have simply ordered the sex toy and kept it a secret, a private daytime ritual to indulge in when he was at work, just tucking it away in the closet when I was done. Then again, I’m a believer in full disclosure. And while it was scary to share those fears, I knew it was the kind of moment that could bring us closer.

After a long, intense conversation, he told me he loved me. “I trust you,” he said.

That’s something my Hitachi was never going to say to me, and whether he got it or not, I knew the difference.

 

Rachel Kramer Bussel (http://www.rachelkramerbussel.com) is a New York-based author, editor, blogger and reading series host. She has edited over 38 anthologies, including Gotta Have It, Best Bondage Erotica 2011, Fast Girls and Orgasmic, is Senior Editor at Penthouse Variations and a columnist for SexIs Magazine, and offers up daily food porn at Cupcakes Take the Cake (http://cupcakestakethecake.blogspot.com).
 
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