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Have You Become Addicted To Your Vibrator?

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Have You Become Addicted To Your Vibrator?

[Dear Duana,

I’ve been single for a few months, and my vibrator and I have gotten rather close.  I’m starting to worry I won’t know how to respond to a flesh-and-blood guy.  Is there such a thing as vibrator dependence?  If so, how do I deal with it?

Erica

 

Dear Erica,

I’ll admit it, when I first read your letter, I thought:  How close?  Do you call out Oh My Vibrator! at crucial moments?  Is one of its designated speeds Who Needs A Man?  And most ominous of all:  Have you chipped a tooth?

Seriously, let’s get a grip on the issue.  Scholarly investigations on Vibrator Dependence—the inability to climax without vibrator assistance—are exceedingly rare.  None of my sexuality resources includes the term; the one article I located online was shaky at best.  And the remaining pieces were about engineering, and not about engineering better vibrators.  Soooo not sexy.

Perhaps this is a topic so taboo, science won’t touch it:  “Dear Dr. Getoff, we regret that your intended study, ‘The Eternal Buzz: Vibrators’ impact on partnered orgasm’ fails to meet our ethical standards…”  That sort of thing.  But I doubt it.  Not only is there mounting research on other touchy topics—like masturbation—, but there’s science specific to vibrator use.

 

Exhibit A: Yes!  Yes!  Oh My God, Yes!  Sex With Machinery Is Good For You.

You’re likely aware that vibrators were created in the 1860’s to help doctors treat female ‘hysterias’.  The medicos—smart enough to earn MD’s, yet largely ignorant that what they were causing was orgasm—were literally tired of taking 20-40 minutes to please m’ lady.  They and their patients were relieved when a machine enabled the docs to temporarily heal more patients at a fraction of the time, effort, and repetitive-motion injury.

We’ve come a long way, baby.  Behold the EROS, the first and only non-pharmaceutical device intended to enhance clitoral blood flow for long-term relief of numerous female sexual disorders.  Place the little suctiony thing over your clitoris, follow the timing directions—60 seconds on, 60 off, 60 on, 60 off, three to four times per week—and according to author Mary Roach’s very personal trials, you’ll be so satisfied, the damned thing will convert you into a “masturbatory layabout.”  Experiments show the Eros causes women to get hornier, wetter, orgasmic-er, and just plain happier with their sex life.  Whether or not you’ve experienced sexual dysfunction or even radiation treatments for cervical cancer that can physically impair sexual function and feeling, EROS works.

Despite smart women’s collective willingness to do whatever we can for science, the $375 price tag—about 8x the cost of the Cadillac of vibes—plus the EROS’ by-prescription-only availability in the USA may keep the EROS out of reach.  But if our curiosity must remain unsated, at least our libidos can still run wild, because an ordinary vibrator may well supply what the EROS does.  Although no lab has yet compared the two, vibrator-wielding survey respondents’ results seem eerily similar to experimental results via the EROS:  The near-53% of American women using vibrators report higher desire, arousal, lubrication, and orgasmicity than non-vibe-using women.

 

Exhibit B: Can Sex With Machinery Can Teach You To Only Come With Machinery?  Maybe.  But that’s easily fixed. 

With results this positive, it’s no wonder few scientists are examining a possible bad side of Good Vibrations.  Yet letters like yours, plus dozens of Google hits about normal people experiencing or worried about Vibrator Dependence, plus some guys telling me their partner can only get off with a vibrator—get me wondering.  And when I couple those observations with facts of learning and sexuality, things get curiouser and curiouser.

Consider what we know per science:

—A major mode of learning is operant conditioning, where whenever we do a thing that gets rewarded—like plugging in, then getting off—we become more likely to do that particular thing again.  Repeated rewards strengthen the rewarded behavior:  The more we vibrate, the more we wanna vibrate.

—Unlike men, women must generally learn to have an orgasm.  Most women learn most easily with masturbation, and research shows it’s easiest for women to learn to orgasm with a vibrator.

—Women are highly variable from one to the next in terms of what gets us off.  We have better sex when we teach partners to replicate what we know works for us.  And champion banjo-pickers notwithstanding, few partners can create or sustain the stimulation of a vibrator.

 

So based on all that, here’s what I think: If you rely *only* on orgasm by vibrator, you could indeed train your body to be responsive mainly, or maybe exclusively, to the vibrator.

 

What’s The Fix?

Fortunately, even if you were Vibrator Dependent, there’s a simple solution:  Unplug until you’ve fully reconnected with yourself via hands-only masturbation—techniques a flesh-and-blood guy can replicate.  Then—after you’ve gotten back in touch with yourself acoustically— you can turn up the amp again and play electrically, taking acoustic breaks as needed or desired.

And maybe include toys in some of your human interactions.  As sociologist Pepper Schwartz has so aptly put it, vibrators aren’t guys’ competition; “they’re your colleagues.”

Whatever you do, don’t toss out your toys.  Variety is the spice of sex-life.  Orgasms are literally great for the heart and the head, not only the loins. And no study yet has discerned any but positive outcomes from Good Vibrations.

 

Cheers,

Duana

 

All material copyrighted by Duana C. Welch, Ph.D., and LoveScience Media, 2012.

 

The author wishes to thank the following scientists and sources:

Debra HerbenickMichael Reece, and others, for research in 2009 showing vibrators’ popularity; about53% of women and 45% of men in the USA use one, alone and/or with a partner.   These surveys showed only positive outcomes associated with women’s use of vibrators, such as women having higher desire, arousal, lubrication, and orgasmicity if they used vibrators.  And the men’s use was also correlated with outcomes such as improved erectile function, satisfaction with intercourse, orgasmicity, and sexual desire.

Robert Crooks & Karla Baur, whose 11th edition of the textbook Our Sexuality provided the only science-based advice or justification for occasionally masturbating without a vibrator so that a real-life partner could have a shot at replicating what gets a particular woman off.  They said advised that a woman can learn to orgasm from vibrator use, but after that….“it is helpful for her to return to manual stimulation….because it is easier for a partner to replicate a woman’s own touch than the stimulation of a vibrator.”  (From pp. 425-426, under the heading, ‘Becoming Orgasmic’.)

Ricardo Munarriz and others, for research on the EROS Clitoral Therapy device that showed the EROS does indeed increase blood flow to the clitoris.  (Another study by other researchers showed enhanced blood flow to the vagina as well: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11480099.) Others’ research using the EROS on women with and without various sexual disorders finds that the EROS is helpful in enhancing sensation, lubrication, orgasmicity, and over-all sexual satisfaction: http://www.eros-therapy.com/index.cfm?option=view&newsitemid=1044&optionid=546.  It even works to enhance these qualities for women who may suffer a loss of sexual function following treatment for cervical cancer:http://radonc.ucsd.edu/news/Documents/CTD_FSD_CA_Survivors.pdf.

However, none of the studies assessed EROS’ efficacy versus manual masturbation and/or use of commercially available vibrators—which some of the scientists admit might do just as much good, sans EROS’ $375 price tag!

Mary Roach, author of Bonk: The curious coupling of science and sex.  Her chapter on vibrators, dildos, and the science behind the EROS Clitoral Therapy device (which she jokes will turn women into ‘masturbatory layabouts’) is not to be missed.  In fact, the entire book is screamingly funny and informative.

Cindy Meston & David Buss, who expound on their research on Why Women Have Sex in a book by the same name.  In it, Meston points out that women –unlike men—*learn* how to have an orgasm.  And by the way, if you’re a human who just wants to know more about why humans (male and female, not women only) have sex—here’s a PDF of Meston & Buss’ free article:http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Group/MestonLAB/Publications/WhyHaveSex.pdf

Rachel P. Maines, who wrote a history of the vibrator.  The vibrator was invented in the 1860’s to relieve doctor’s tired hands (they were treating ‘hysteria’ by giving women hand-jobs).  If you’d like to take a virtual tour of the vibrator’s history, visit the Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum, in person or online here: http://antiquevibratormuseum.com/index-1.html

Joani Blank, founder of Good Vibrations, and author of Good Vibrations, The New Complete Guide To Vibrators 

The Guide To Getting It On, 6th Edition, wherein ‘vibrator holidays’ of one week a month are recommended for anyone finding non-vibe stimulation to no longer be enough during partnered sexuality.  They didn’t provide any scientific justification for the recommendation, but based on the science I reviewed on learning/operant conditioning and women’s sexuality, it makes sense.

More important is The Guide’s discussion of phthalates, pliable plastics present in many vibrators and dildos (non-vibrating items for insertion); if you use vibes/dildos made of glass, 100% silicon, and/or very hard plastic, you should be able to avoid ingesting possibly hazardous chemicals in your nethers.

Duana C. Welch, Ph.D., is the author of Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do, coming in January, 2015. She also contributes at Psychology Today and teaches psychology at Austin-area universities. Get a free chapter of Love Factually!

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