Changing Attitudes Towards Vibrators

Some recent research by Debby Herbenick and the Indiana University Center for Sexual Health Promotion is giving us lots of reasons to be proud here at Good Vibrations. It seems that men aren’t as worried about their female partners using vibrators as they used to be.

It wasn’t that long ago that vibrators were considered “marital aids,” a term that implied there was something wrong (in your marriage, of course). A lot of people considered using a vibrator as a sign that your sex life was somehow flawed, and that was especially true for men who thought that intercourse should be enough stimulation for a woman. Of course, now we know that a majority (in some studies, as many as 70%) of women need some sort of clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm. That doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy intercourse, but the mechanics of it might not be enough.

So we’ve been telling people about vibrators for years. They aren’t the only way to get that extra sensation, but they sure are a popular one. And obviously, there are plenty of uses for vibrators beyond intercourse. They can make solo sex lots of fun, they’re a great addition to anal play, and be can during sexual massage or almost any other kind of sex, with any partner of any gender.

This one vibrates along with music or other background sounds. The louder you get, the In that light, we were thrilled to read this article in LiveScience, which included an interview with Herbenick. Her research team asked 2,056 women and 1,047 men in an online survey about their attitudes towards vibrators. About half of the participants  “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with all of the positive beliefs about vibrators, and fever than 10% agreed with any of the negative beliefs.

It also turns out that women with positive beliefs who had used a vibe sometime in the past month reported higher levels of arousal, lubrication, orgasm and sexual satisfaction, and lower levels of pain during sex, when compared with women with positive beliefs who hadn’t used any vibrators recently. Previous research shows that 53% of women and 45% of men had used a vibrator at some point in their lives. And in both cases, vibrator users were more likely to report having taken steps to take care of their sexual health, such as having had a gynecologic exam during the past year or having performed a testicular self-exam.

Also significant was their finding that in response to the statement that vibrators are intimidating to women’s partners, 70% of men disagreed or strongly disagreed, while just 63% of women disagreed or strongly disagreed. This is probably a really big change from previous attitudes. While we don’t have any actual studies about beliefs about vibrators from 30 years ago, anecdotally, sex educators hear many fewer negative comments and we see a lot less resistance. Even though the plural of anecdote isn’t data, this does seem to be a more general trend.

It’s particularly relevant that the links between vibrator use and sexual satisfaction is strongest when a woman’s partner knows that she uses a toy and feels positively about it. As Herbenick says, “It’s not just the vibrator use but being able to share those parts of your sexuality with your partner that matters.”

We’ve been saying this for almost 35 years, and when Good Vibrations started out, it was definitely an uphill battle. Between all of our work to get out the good word and all of the other sex-positive sex toy stores that we inspired, things have changed in ways that lots of us hoped for. So we’re really thrilled to have some scientific proof that things are moving in a more positive direction.

So if you’re curious about adding a little buzz to your sex life, check out our how-to pages, with lots of info about how to choose one, tips on how to use one, and much more. Plus, we have lots of great toys to choose from, divided into categories to make it easier to find one that’ll curl your toes!

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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