Sex & Relationships

What Happens to Your Partner When You Get Hooked on Your Vibrator

Many women depend on the intensity of their vibrators to orgasm. Is that a bad thing?

Photo Credit: bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock

For every great innovation in sex, there’s a backlash to follow. Now on the list are sex toys for women. Because somewhere down the line, the fact that vibrators can make women have orgasms turned into a fear that only vibrators can make women have orgasms. Of course, for some women, that’s exactly the case.

“Many partner sex experiences do not involve adequate clitoral stimulation,” says Carol Queen, the resident sexologist at Good Vibrations. Of the women she’s worked with, “most say they didn’t have orgasms at all before getting their vibe.”

In a 2009 paper published in the Journal of Sex Medicine, sex researcher Debby Herbenick and her colleagues found that out of the 2,056 women surveyed, over half said they had used a vibrator. The majority turned to the toys specifically for clitoral stimulation, which, at least in Queen’s eyes, is a very good thing. She reminds us, “70% of women, roughly, do not regularly orgasm during intercourse; many never do. One reason why vibes are such excellent devices for orgasm-seeking is because there are actually nerve endings on the clitoris that specialize in vibration.”

So yes, incorporating vibrator use into your sexual routine is an easy and reliable means by which you can secure an orgasm. But while fingers, tongues and penises are all pleasurable to interact with, they just aren’t armed with the same amount of power a vibrator is. And that's a fact that has been known to inspire a level of insecurity in some partners.

“I came to the realization that my use of [my vibrator] was interfering with my marriage. It was easier to use than he was,” says Brandy, who has been married for 13 years. “I was funneling all of my sexual desire toward the things that were easy for me to control and manipulate and required no work at all on my part, rather than channeling that same desire toward him. It was hurting him and making him feel undesirable and unwanted.”

Brandy has since cut ties with her vibrator. “Our sex life improved drastically after that point and so did our marriage,” she says.

But not everyone believes the issues attached to bringing toys into the bedroom can be remedied by a ban. “The thing that affects relationships really is a lack of understanding about the specifics of sexual response, and the need to communicate about each person’s own body and preferences, something even a pretty sexualized culture leaves many people hard-pressed to do,” says Queen. Still, other issues exist. 

Maureen, a married mother of two, started seeing her vibrator use as so problematic she actually cut the cord to one of her massagers. “I wasn't feeling much of other stimulation so I went to see my doctor.  My ob/gyn informed me that I may have desensitized my nerve endings and that I should try something a little more mild.”

Jordan Tishler, a doctor of internal medicine, confirmed, telling AlterNet in an email, “Vibrators can be very powerful and can lead to desensitization for some women. In these cases, partnered sex can become less pleasurable and even frustrating. The solution is simply to stop using the vibe and use less forceful means of masturbation, fingers in particular. Return of normal sensitivity shouldn’t take longer than a week or two.” He did note, “If a woman is intending to remain un-partnered then this discussion is moot.”

Not everyone finds it necessary to take the cold turkey approach, however. Alex Fine, co-founder and CEO of the sex toy company Dame told us, “I like to masturbate once a month with my fingers, just to remind myself I can… But at the end of the day, I really enjoy using toys to enhance my fantasies. I do feel, during solo play, and this is just my personal experience, that a vibrator, though sometimes too efficient, produces a stronger, more satisfying orgasm.”

Emily (a pseudonym) started experimenting with vibrators when she was in her early 20s. “At that point I thought I'd had an orgasm with sex... until I realized it could be so much better,” she told AlterNet. “Someone like me, who has more stimulation on the outside rather than the inside needs the extra help.” A few years later, Emily started incorporating her vibrator into her experiences with partnered sex. “Most guys love it. They love when a woman knows what she wants and how to please herself. I think it's a fascination to them. Many are still trying to figure out how we work.”

According to Queen, “A healthy sexual relationship can and very often does include vibes or other toys into partner sex." She added, "Having intercourse while using the vibe can help you associate intercourse with orgasm, which you might not have done before.”

Emily says her ex-boyfriend recently told her that while his current wife doesn’t use vibrators in the bedroom, he wishes she did. Because though Emily’s vibrator use was primarily about her own orgasm, there was an extra element involved: his pleasure. “He could feel it too,” she said.

As Fine tells us, “I don't think anything that gives women more orgasms is a problem. Ever.” And Queen notes, “Successful orgasmic experience helps lay a foundation for more orgasms in the future.”

Those who do put the vibrator on the shelf for the sake of someone else should remember it’s not about the partner, it’s about the orgasm. And sex extends a lot further than that one reflex. While a high-powered toy can help in ways a person cannot, it still can’t hug, and it can’t kiss either. 

Carrie Weisman is a writer focusing on sex, relationships and culture.