Is Your Vibrator Ruining Your Sex Life?

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VIbes_01_revIllustrated by Sydney Hass.

“I’m breaking up with my vibrator,” my friend Kate,* 35, quietly informed me over lattes last week. “I love it, obviously, but my boyfriend thinks it makes me less responsive to, you know, him.” I wasn’t surprised by her confession. My therapist had recently asked me to try taking a vi-break of my own after I’d told her I had a hard time reaching orgasm without my trusty Hitachi Magic Wand. That is, I pretty much never have an orgasm without my Magic Wand. It’s been this way for years, ever since I first bought the legendary insta-orgasm machine that renowned sexpert Betty Dodson dubbed “the Cadillac of vibrators” back in the ‘70s.

Prior to my therapist’s suggestion, I’d never stopped to think about whether my reliance on the “massager” was healthy — it was helping me get off after years of having hardly any orgasms at all. That couldn’t possibly be a bad thing, right?
VIbes_02_revIllustrated by Sydney Hass.


According to psychologist and sex therapist Dr. Lori Buckley, the answer is, yes and no. “A vibrator can be a wonderful thing because for many women, it’s the only way they can have an orgasm,” she explains. But, she adds, “like ice cream, too much of a good thing isn’t always good,” and points out that “[becoming] dependent is definitely possible.”

Tracy Quan, writer and former sex columnist for Salon, agrees: “The intensity of the machine versus the human caress is the issue — [using a vibrator] can make other people seem a bit superfluous [in bed].” Yikes. Quan also notes that with excessive vibe use, “You can lose touch with your ability to respond to subtler stimulation.”
VIbes_03_revIllustrated by Sydney Hass.
Caroline,* 31, concurs. She fears she’s become “addicted” to her vibrator. “Somehow, using it pretty much every night became part of my bedtime ritual,” she says. “The orgasms were so quick and powerful — it would take me three minutes max to get off.”

But, something changed when she got into a new relationship with a coworker. Caroline realized she’d become nearly incapable of orgasm — from oral sex, manual stimulation, or intercourse — without her battery-operated buddy. “It made me almost embarrassed how resistant my body had become to everything but intense high-speed [vibrations],” she says. “Jon would try going down on me or using his hands, but it would take forever. Eventually we would both give up, and I’d turn back to the vibrator.”

Dr. Buckley stresses that giving up is the last thing Caroline — or any woman — should do. Instead, she suggests making an effort to shelve your little mechanical monster and try something a bit more old school. Doing so at least once or twice a week should help “expand your sexual repertoire.”
VIbes_04_revIllustrated by Sydney Hass.
Like what? Well, a prolonged dose of oral sex never hurts. Dr. Buckley also advises “using [your or your partner’s] fingers or a dildo to experience G-spot stimulation.” You could also try “[rubbing] against something — a partner, a pillow.”

The key is giving yourself ample time and space to explore your own unique body and discover — or remember — the nuances of what does and doesn’t feel good. (For this reason, you might want to do the bulk of the exploration alone.) And, don’t necessarily expect a quick climax while you’re experimenting. It takes some women much longer (30 minutes or more) to hit the big O when a vibrator’s not involved.
VIbes_05_revIllustrated by Sydney Hass.
And, you might actually want to reconsider the commonly held (mis?)conception that an orgasm is inherently the “be all, end all” of sex. Dr. Buckley stresses that focusing too heavily on climax could hinder your pleasure. “The problem in [primarily] focusing on orgasm is that we’re in 'doing' mode — a goal-focused place,” she says. "That takes away so much of what a sexual experience can be." Plus, Buckley notes, “Orgasm is the smallest part of a sexual experience — orgasm only lasts seconds.”

Keep that in mind if you still find yourself having a hard time reaching your peak sans vibrator — there’s nothing wrong with you, and there’s much, much more to good sex than a dramatic finale.

Once you’ve done some, er, sexploration, and you’ve started to feel more equipped to find new sources of non-battery-powered pleasure, you can try slowly adding a vibrator back into your routine. Buckley suggests using it to work yourself into “a state of arousal [with the vibe] and then use another way to orgasm.” (For instance, try finishing off with manual or oral stimulation.)

And, if you still feel unable or uninterested in climaxing from anything other than a vibrator, don’t sweat it. “If it’s the only way you can orgasm, great. If that’s what you need, do it,” Dr. Buckley encourages. Just remember, however your sexy circumstances happen to unfold, “allow yourself to be in the moment. This can be a life-changing thing for many women.” *Names have been changed.