Masturbation is a socially-distant activity that makes “self-isolation” more like “self-investigation.” But after months of going to town with your favorite sex toy, (the pandemic version of “going out”) you may be wondering if you’re getting too reliant on your vibrator. You think about her when you hear a love song at the supermarket. You dream about her at night. At this point, you can’t even picture getting off without her. Are you addicted? Codependent? Do you need to scale it back? Is it time to kill the buzz?
Before we dive into the “vibrator addiction” debate, I’d like to bring your attention to, well, you. If you’ve found a sex toy that brings you pleasure—congrats! Unless you went to a super progressive private school where you called teachers by their first names, your sex ed class likely skipped over pleasure/masturbation/orgasms, (especially for women/humans with vaginas).
The lack of sex-positive sex education, plus the lack of positive media representation, plus the immense societal stigma and shaming of “female”/humans with vaginas pleasure hinders women/people with vaginas from learning about their bodies and their orgasms in an empowering, safe, and non-judgemental way. It’s also a large reason behind the orgasm gap, or the studied and documented discrepancy in orgasms between cis men and cis women. (Like this 2017 study from Chapman University, that found on average, straight men orgasm 95% of the time during partnered sex, while straight women only finish 65% of the time).
Needless to say, women/people with vaginas aren’t exactly set up for sexual success. From slut-shaming to contraceptive deserts, the road to “owning our pleasure” is hardly an easy one. It’s a big deal to charge of sexuality, prioritize your pleasure, and find what works for you and your body. And if your vibe is bringing good things to your sex life — you don’t need to feel embarrassed or worried about it. The “don’t get too reliant on your vibrator” rhetoric isn’t rooted in science or anatomy, it’s rooted in sexual shame and fear-mongering.
Take this 2009 study from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, Indiana University, Bloomington, and The Kinsey Institute, of 3,800 women aged 18-60 that found vibrator use was linked to heightened physical and psychological well-being and positive sexual function. Or this 1996 study from Syracuse University that found the majority of assigned female at birth (AFAB) vibrator users had better and more orgasms when using vibrators during both solo and partnered sex.
Pretend for a second that you’ve never used a vibrator. Let’s, say, you only masturbate with your hands, and you manually stimulate yourself when having partnered sex. Would you be worried you’re “too reliant” on your fingers? Addicted to hand stuff? Probably not.
So, let’s get rid of this fear of “vibrator addiction.” Marie Kondo that shit and put it in the Goodwill bin with that paisley Free People top you were always iffy about. If “vibrator addiction” doesn’t exist, (and for the record, vibration addiction doesn’t exist) then what are you questioning? Why are you worried you’re “too reliant” on your vibrator? That’s where you’re gonna find your answers.
- Are you getting bored of your masturbation routine?
- Are you losing sensation on your clit? Are you unable to finish without a vibrator?
- Are you sheepish about using toys with your partner? Are you afraid that toys make sex less “intimate” or “natural”?
- Are you intrigued by using your hands and wondering why you stopped using them?
Some of these are practical problems with practical fixes. Yet, some of these are more emotional/societal issues that call for open communication and an attitude adjustment.
What to do if you’re in a masturbation rut:
It’s time to switch things up. Masturbate in front of a mirror, on a chair, or in a new position. Listen to audio porn. Try using your hands instead of a toy. Masturbate in a different room or different part of your bedroom. Try a metal or glass toy. Try a butt plug. Masturbate on FaceTime with someone. Use lube. Make masturbating a novel experience for yourself, treat it like you would treat a hot hookup, put on your sex undies, light a candle. Romance yourself.
What to do if you’re worried about losing sensation or have noticed some sensation loss:
First and foremost, don’t panic. You haven’t broken your clit. If you really like to crank your vibe, or if you tend to put direct pressure on your clit to orgasm quickly, you’ve likely gotten used to the intense sensation, and may “rely” on that to finish. (I.e. your tolerance for sensation is higher, ergo it takes more sensation to finish.) For now! Rest assured you can ease yourself back into finishing from other types of stimulation. Try using a lower setting, or using your hands for a bit, and masturbating without the “goal” or having an orgasm, meaning playing around and following good sensations, not rushing to finish. Use lube. Use more lube. Take deep breathes and try to relax into it. You’re not going to cum if you’re stressed out about not cumming.
Yet, this is where the attitude adjustment comes in, if you’ve scaled back on the sex toys and you still find you’re unable to cum without a vibrator…then my dear, use your vibrator. Lest we forget, the majority of people with vaginas can’t orgasm from penetration alone. That means, we need extra stimulation (most often clitoral) as we’re getting it on. If you’ve found something that makes you feel good, use it! As long as everything is consensual, there are no bad orgasms.
What to do if you’re sheepish about using toys with a partner or worry that it makes sex less “intimate”:
Using toys doesn’t make sex “intimate” or “natural”. It just doesn’t. Frankly, if something is making you have a better time, that sounds more intimate. Using a toy with a partner will likely take the pressure off when and if you’re going to finish and let you relax into the moment. It will nip any “How can I never finish” resentments, and let you connect deeper to your partner. It will help your partner understand what sensations you like. It may even help you and your partner orgasm at the same time. If all of that is not intimacy, I don’t what is.
Adding a toy in the bedroom doesn’t have to be some big or weird conversation, you can talk about it the way you’d talk about protection, “Hey, mind if I grab my vibe?” Or express that toys are there to heighten the experience you’re having, “It feels so good when you’re in me, I’m gonna put my vibe on my clit to really send me over the edge.” There is no competition between your partner (or your own hand!) and a toy, consider them all like sexy tapas, they all taste different and there’s room for them all.
What to do if you’re intrigued by using your hands and wondering why you stopped using them to masturbate:
Good question! Why did you stop? Are you uncomfortable touching yourself? Were toys quicker? Do toys feel better? Do you like them more? If you’re feeling intrigued by your hands, try ditching your toy for a week.
Bring a hand mirror and watch yourself. Learn what sensations you feel in different places. Use lube. Remember you can always grab a toy when you need it. And if you realize you prefer using toys, great. We welcome all pleasure, manual or mechanical.