Is your vibrator ruining your sex life?

“Can you get addicted to a vibrator?”

As a veteran sex toy retailer and expert, this is the one question I find really hard not to roll my eyes at. As a sex coach, I do my best not to roll my eyes at anyone’s sexual concerns and since I hear this question (and the anxiety attached) quite frequently I thought it might be worth addressing seriously.

Initially I wanted to write about classic male “death grip” too, but coincidentally my friend and colleague Sarah Martin just published a truly excellent, sex-positive article on the very subject. Death grip is the increasingly popular name for an idiosyncratic style of masturbation where the penis is stimulated with excessive force, dryness and speed that partnered sex does not provide.

Based on the fast and furtive habits of youth, this masturbation style does not lend itself well to slowing down and enjoying sex play – especially if your partner wants to be involved in your orgasm. See Sarah’s article for more in depth exploration of male death grip and solutions for changing it.

“’Female death grip’  usually means vibrator addiction, but sometimes refers to a similar masturbation pattern developed in childhood, again using excessive pressure and force”

“Female death grip”  usually means vibrator addiction, but sometimes refers to a similar masturbation pattern developed in childhood, again using excessive pressure and force; sometimes with a stuffed toy or through the universal method of “humping” a mattress. This is also difficult to replicate during partnered sex, so although it’s less often spoken about it’s still a concern presented to sex coaches and therapists.

Generally the advice about women’s IMS (Idiosyncratic Masturbation Style) is the same as for men; gradually move your self-pleasure sessions away from your unique masturbation style and towards what a partner can replicate. If you have no interest in partnered sex or find someone who is into your specific style, please feel free to continue humping your stuffed toy to your hearts content.

“Idiosyncratic Masturbation Style” does not light up google the way “death grip” does (81,000 vs 67 million hits), especially if you add a “female” qualifier in there. So when writing about masturbation habits that impact partnered sex, I’m using the term death grip as a fairly big umbrella. Under this umbrella neatly fits “Vibrator Addiction”. I’m using quotes around this phrase as I don’t ever want to legitimize the idea more than it already is in the mind of the public.

“there is no empirical data to support the claim that you can become physiologically or biologically addicted to a sex toy. “

Despite the (frankly horrifying) amount of articles hysterically claiming vibrator addiction there is no empirical data to support the claim that you can become physiologically or biologically addicted to a sex toy. Psychologically, you may experience Compulsive Sexual Behaviour, but this is not the same thing as addiction and should not be diagnosed or treated as such. As a sex coach I adhere to the position of AASECT on this topic, and will probably write about the nuances of CSB versus sex/porn addiction in more depth soon (so please, save your pitchforks for that article).

While you may temporarily experience numbness from overstimulated nerves, this usually goes away within a few minutes of the stimulation ceasing. Your overall ability to orgasm from different types of stimulation will increase the more you practice them, focusing on one type of stimulation (e.g. vibration) is what produces the habituation and feeling of dependence on toys.

Fortunately, the majority of the articles out there on vibrator addiction do cede this point and lay to rest the (let’s be honest, patriarchal) idea that sex toys can be bad for you. Unfortunately the answer most of them give to concerned readers is to cut down on how much they use their vibrator; “Aim to use your vibrator about half of the time you masturbate.”

“This is based on the idea that the less often you orgasm from a vibrator, the more likely you are to become accustomed to receiving pleasure from other sources.”

Other suggestions focus on learning how to enjoy other forms of stimulation, like manual masturbation and oral sex. This is based on the idea that the less often you orgasm from a vibrator, the more likely you are to become accustomed to receiving pleasure from other sources.

If your goal is to orgasm with a partner without toys then this is the pathway to transition away from your idiosyncratic masturbation style (just like the stuffed toys). However, I’m left wondering why.

“Why is it so bad to only orgasm with a vibrator? I only like coffee with cream, but no one is telling me I need to change up my caffeine routine.”

Why is it so bad to only orgasm with a vibrator? I only like coffee with cream, but no one is telling me I need to change up my caffeine routine. Sure, variety is the spice of life, but shouldn’t spicy be an option like at Nandos?

In Betty Dodson’s book she brings up the excellent question; “Who has the right to decide if a woman has to learn NOT to use a vibrator?”

If you’re having great orgasms with a vibrator but feel bad about it, it’s worth examining where these feelings are coming from. There’s still lot of stigma around using sex toys, particularly in the presence of a partner. Many people mistakenly believe a toy might replace their partner , or worry that their partner will feel replaced, causing unnecessary anxiety for all parties involved. They fail to see that toys can be a tool to heighten pleasure for everyone, rather than replacing anything they can enhance what’s already happening.

“This seems like a residual effect of outdated freudian ideas about how vaginal orgasms are “mature” and clitoral orgasms are “immature”.”

There’s a strong anti-vibrator sentiment even amongst some sexuality professionals, with many of the original sex therapy programs designed to teach women to orgasm suggesting that she learns to stimulate herself to the point of orgasm (with a vibrator or otherwise) and then stop, letting her orgasm come from her partner’s penis. Even well respected sex pioneer Helen Singer Kaplan generally guided her patients towards “achieving” an orgasm during partnered sex without a vibrator. This seems like a residual effect of outdated Freudian ideas about how vaginal orgasms are “mature” and clitoral orgasms are “immature”.

As a sex coach I believe that everyone is responsible for their own orgasm; it’s not up to your partner to guess what you want and how to do it. If we apply that frame to this idea of orgasm via toy during partner sex, then you’re not taking away your partners “job” if you self-stimulate.

“So if some anxiety about your partners reaction (or your own) is stopping you from enjoying a vibrator during partnered sex, perhaps try bringing up the topic with them and see where they actually stand.”

So if some anxiety about your partners reaction (or your own) is stopping you from enjoying a vibrator during partnered sex, perhaps try bringing up the topic with them and see where they actually stand. Once you’ve cleared that up, you might feel more confident about bringing your toy with you, and may not feel the need to find another way to orgasm after all.

However, if you’re still worried that you’re stuck in a sexual rut and want to change things up, here’s some ideas to switch up that self pleasure routine:

  1. Change up the *type* of vibrator you are using. This is probably because most people don’t even realize there are different kinds of vibrators and stimulation. If you are used to a wand style vibrator like the hitachi, you are used to very strong, “rumbly” vibrations, experienced externally through a broad medium. A bullet vibrator like the We-vibe tango can produce similarly rumbly vibrations, though less intense in strength they may feel stronger as the tango is smaller, producing what’s called “pin-point”clitoral stimulation.

 

  1. If you mostly vibe externally, try internally for a change. If you have tried internal vibration, have you tried it with a very textured toy like the fun factory tiger? What about their Stronic toys – they’re actually “pulsator” toys that are self thrusting. Internal pleasure can also come from “containment” sensations, produced by any object inserted inside. Unusual dildo shapes can produce some surprisingly pleasurable containment sensations.

 

  1. Blended orgasms are also a thing – achieved by internal and external vibration at the same time, which you can do with a combination of toys or a rabbit like the Ina 2.

 

  1. There’s now also air-wave toys like the classic Womanizer and Satisfyer, clitoral toys that use pressure waves to create intense sensations.

 

  1. What about g-spot toys? Do you own anything with the right curve for your body? Have you tried out different materials like glass or metal? There’s also other hotspots to explore, like the anterior fornix and posterior fornix.

This is why I find it absurd to own only one vibrator and will never complete my collection (or “fleet” as my friend calls hers) – there’s always something new to try or an upgrade on an old favourite.

“If you’re just enjoying sex play with your partner and don’t need an orgasm to happen to validate the experience, you might be surprised to find you aren’t bothered by the lack of it.”

Of all the articles I read on the subject, the best one happened to be from a wand company. Wand style vibrators are often maligned as the culprits of vibrator addiction, but that may simply be because they’re the strongest and often considered the best. Le Wand is a well respected company that has given more thought to vibrator addiction than simply reassuring their customers it’s not real.

It has some of the best advice I’ve ever seen on the topic, and even made a very sex coach like suggestion; remove orgasm as the goal. If you’re just enjoying sex play with your partner and don’t need an orgasm to happen to validate the experience, you might be surprised to find you aren’t bothered by the lack of it. Maybe those hard fast orgasms are something just for alone time, while slow sensuous full body exploration is what your partnered sex can give you.

They also end the article with a line so great I can’t help but steal it:

“Let go of shame! Enjoy your orgasms regardless of how they are experienced.”

 

 

 

Leave a Reply