Ask the Doctors: Solo Sex & Vibrator Addiction

I am a healthy 25 year old female with a very healthy sexual appetite. I never have a problem reaching orgasm multiple times during intercourse with my partner. However, I have always been lacking in the area of self-pleasure…I just can’t bring myself to orgasm while masturbating. Although it feels “good,” I just never seem to feel as “fulfilled” afterwards like I have heard many women say they do.

Recently, I have been considering buying a vibrator to help me in this regard. I have never owned one and have only had one used on me once or twice in a previous relationship. I am hesitant, however, because I was told that women can become addicted to their vibrators and even become unable to orgasm without it. I obviously do not want this to happen, as I love intercourse with my partner and we love making each other feel amazing. I really do want to be able to make myself orgasm on my own, and if a vibrator would help I would purchase and use one, however I don’t want to loose the sensitively that I feel during intercourse with a partner.

Do you have any advice for me?

There are a couple of different pieces to your question, so let me take the second one first.

A lot of people have concerns about becoming “addicted” to vibrators. And there’s a small grain of truth to the idea. Some women need extra strong stimulation for an extended period in order to have an orgasm and they may find that a vibrator is the best way for them to do so consistently. After all, hands, mouths, and other body parts get tired after a while, so vibrators may be the best option for some people.

The other way that this might play out is if you develop a very strong habit of vibrator use. Sometimes, people develop sexual habits (or other kinds of habits) and doing something different or unfamiliar can throw them off, which can be enough of a distraction to make orgasms more difficult.

But having said that, in both of these sorts of situations, you can learn new patterns. It can take a little practice, just like changing any other habit, but it’s not as hard as many people make it seem. Also, it’s not an “addiction” as much as it’s a habit.

In any case, the fact that you reliably orgasm with your partner tells me that it’s not likely to be a problem for you. You might find that you go through a phase of wanting to use the vibrator a lot, but that’s just something most people do when they discover something new and fun. Usually, we settle down after a while and it becomes simply one more option to choose from. Enjoying a vibrator or other form of solo sex simply isn’t going to replace sex with your partner.

OK, so coming to your first question, I think the starting point is to figure out what happens during sex with your partner that’s different from your masturbation. For example, are you only touching your clitoris? Have you tried using a dildo? Since you orgasm from intercourse, you might find that penetration helps masturbation feel better. Or if you’re only doing penetration, add a little clitoral stimulation at the same time, either with a vibrator or by hand.

What positions do the two of you have sex in, compared to your solo sex? For example, if you orgasm more easily when you’re in a rear-entry position (aka doggy style), but less easily when you’re on your back, that might indicate that the position you’re in during masturbation might be important for you.

Another possibility- do you find yourself getting distracted during masturbation? Some people have told me that sex with a partner is easier because they can focus on what their partner is doing, but when they’re on their own, they can lose their focus or become self-conscious. Have you tried self-pleasure with your partner? You might find that helpful (not to mention, fun).

It might also be helpful to discover some of the many options for self-pleasure. After all, there are as many ways to do it as any other kind of sex and it’s possible that you haven’t found the right combination for you, yet. Tickle Your Fancy is a super-friendly and fun guide with a lot of useful ideas, fun suggestions, and helpful information. I’m willing to bet that you’ll find something fun to try.

No matter what you try, see if you can let go of being goal oriented about it. One of the ironies of sex is that the more we try for a certain outcome, the less likely it can be. We  hear this a lot with erectile dysfunction and performance anxiety, but it can definitely happen for women, too. The more you can make pleasure and feeling good the goal, the more likely it is that things will go the way you want.


We’re dedicated to getting you the information you need about sex, pleasure and your health. If you have any questions, please email our staff experts, Dr. Carol Queen and Dr. Charlie Glickman, at education@goodvibes.com! For product-related questions, please email or call our customer service staff at customerservice@goodvibes.com.

Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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