A Sex Expert Answers Your Vibrator Questions

Will regular sex eventually lose its appeal if I use a vibrator frequently?
PHOTO: Chris Coppola/Studio D

At 17, I bought my first vibrator—a plastic neon pink model I plucked from the shelves of my sketchy hometown porn shop as my friend and I struggled to contain our laughter—and I’ve barely masturbated without one since. As capable as I might be, I can’t deliver 2,700 to 6,300 vibrations a minute to my 8,000 clitoral nerve endings without the help of a Magic Wand, and as long as mine is charged, it plays a starring role in my solo sex life. (I’ve thankfully graduated from AA batteries to wall chargers since age 17.)

My dedication to vibration did leave me with questions, though: What is the effect of prolonged vibrator use, both over a single session and over years? Could it make it harder for me to orgasm in other ways, or lead me to need more stimulation to feel the same amount of sensation? For answers, I turned to Zoë Ligon, sex educator and founder of sex-positive toy store Spectrum Boutique, and Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist who teaches the online course Finishing School to guide users to their first orgasms.

VIBRATORS DON'T DECREASE SENSITIVITY

“Applying vibration to the clit, or anywhere else on the body, does not cause desensitization,” Ligon says firmly. While we’re not sure exactly why vibration can feel so damn good, Ligon says that that blood flow has something to do with it: “When the clit is aroused, it swells with blood much like a penis—they're analogous parts—and the increased surface area exposes more nerve endings.” 

Vibrators don’t alter nerve function. It’s just that when we get used to the intense sensation they provide, other types of stimulation can feel less intense—and after you've had some vibrator experience, you might like more intensity than you did when you were a beginner because you have more reference points. “It's all about the relative perception of stimulation,” Ligon explains.

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She compares vibrators to massage chairs: If you sit in a powerful massage chair for an hour and then immediately get a shoulder rub, the shoulder rub won’t feel as intense as it would have if you hadn’t sat in that massage chair first. If you wait a while, though, a hand massage will feel as good as ever has. (It's worth noting that the placebo effect is a powerful thing: If you think that vibrator use decreases sensitivity, you may in fact feel less sensitive.)

VIBRATORS WON'T RUIN UNENHANCED SEX...

You don’t need to worry that the sex you have with body parts alone (hands! clits! tongues!) will lose appeal if you incorporate a vibrator in your sex life. “I think this is an idea that has been perpetuated in part by folks who fear that vibrators are ‘replacements’ for people, which they are absolutely not,” Ligon says. “Can a vibrator cuddle you after it makes you come? Nope! Vibration is truly a blessing in that it makes achieving orgasm much easier with less physical effort than manual stimulation, and I'm all for anything that brings more orgasms into the world.”


... BUT THERE ARE TIMES YOU MAY WANT TO TAKE A BREAK

"There's way too much fear-mongering out there when it comes to vibrators,” Marin begins. “Here's the bottom line: You're not going to get addicted to or dependent on your vibrator.” That said, there are times you may want to leave it in the drawer. “If you're currently in or are planning on being in a relationship in the future, think about the role you want your vibrator to play in your sex life,” Marin suggests. “If you're down with having your partner use a vibrator on you, or using a vibrator with your partner, by all means, buzz away! If you want to be able to orgasm from your partner's hands, their tongue, or from intercourse, if you have it, then it's worth taking it easy with the vibrator and learning how to orgasm with your hands.”

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While frequent vibrator use doesn't make it harder to orgasm in other ways, per se, it can mean that you don't spend as much time figuring out what else makes you tick (and communicating it to a partner) as you otherwise would. “It's hard to give a partner feedback if all you know how to do is hit the power button,” Marin points out.

REMEMBER: THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO HAVE AN ORGASM

An orgasm is an orgasm, whether or not a toy is involved—and what’s more, sex doesn't have include one to be great. “Many adults are pre-orgasmic or struggle to become regularly orgasmic, but these people can still experience extreme sexual pleasure without coming,” Ligon points out. “And if you are only able to come from the most intense vibration known to humankind, then that is also amazing and awesome!” You get to choose the role that toys to play in your sex life, whether that role is starring or nonexistent or somewhere in between—and you get to do it without fear of nerve damage. Which is a relief, because my Magic Wand is just about fully charged.

Follow Hayley on Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors. 


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