Can You Become Too Reliant On Sex Toys?

Tucked in many of our bedside table drawers (or proudly on display on bedheads) are our sex toys. For myself and many others, the experience of buying your first sex toy is a memorable one. The simultaneous nerves and excitement? How titillating! 
Sex toys have shed their immense taboo; it’s not uncommon for friends to give unfiltered reviews of their newest vibrator, or swap stories about using them in partnered sex. These toys can be empowering — they can deepen people’s understanding of their pleasure, encourage bodily autonomy and add spice to sex. 
Is there such a thing as too much sex toy use? We joke about the woes of “going acoustic” (masturbating without toys) when batteries die, but can we actually form a dependence on our silicone tools? 

Is it possible to become addicted to sex toys?

“No, it's not possible,” Sydney-based sex therapist Selina Nguyen tells Refinery29 Australia. “You can absolutely have a reliance on them and that slight distinction in language can be important. When we talk about addiction, it implies a lack of control or withdrawals which we don't really see with sex toys."

Can a reliance on sex toys impact your sex life and sexual relationships?

“It absolutely can,” Nguyen says. While she and other experts say sex toy addictions aren’t legitimate (and neither is the myth that sex toys can desensitise your genitals in the long term, by the way), sex toy usage can change the way we view and engage in sex.
“What I actually see more of in sessions is that women and AFAB folks are masturbating only ever with vibrators with this really intense stimulation, and they can start and finish in two to five minutes flat. The common complaint I hear is that these orgasms are often underwhelming, and even though they get the job done, it's more about ticking a box and moving on with your day,” she says.
Nguyen explains that this approach shortcuts the body’s experience of arousal and desire. The process of blood flowing to the genitals, vaginas becoming more lubricated and expanded, and nipples becoming more sensitive, typically takes at least 20 minutes. “The reality is that this build-up that prepares our bodies and our brains is actually what makes orgasms better and more intense”, she says. 
“If we're only ever doing these quickie sessions with our vibrators, it also means we're never really exploring our bodies and learning what types of touch we enjoy. It may also be that we struggle to build desire organically. We expect this zero to 100 feeling that our vibrators can take us through, when in reality, organic desire can fluctuate, it can ebb and flow. All this can skew our expectations and experiences of partnered sex."

Does extended sex toy masturbation use make it unappealing to self-pleasure without them?

“The common responses I hear is that ‘going acoustic’ takes too long, it requires too much work or our minds wander too easily without toys. They're all valid reasons,” Nguyen says. 
While sex toys are dependable and convenient for many, Nguyen asks whether a success metric of masturbation should be convenience. “What does it say about how we view our bodies or our pleasure? There's always something more to learn and experience in our bodies and our pleasure if we take the time to explore,” she says.

If someone feels ‘addicted’ to sex toys, how can they manage their use? 

According to Nguyen, it’s all about “introducing variety into your sexual repertoire”. In line with sexual exploration and experimentation, she encourages people to play around with their sex toy use. “This can look like challenging yourself to introduce toys later into the experience rather than immediately, or not using toys at all. This could even look like rotating between different toys or using them simultaneously with other forms of stimulation like massaging your chest or grinding on something like a pillow.
“Toys aren't inherently the issue — it's the quickie and repetitive habits we often use them with. As a result, we’re rushing ourselves or we're only experiencing a small window of pleasure that's possible.”
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