Buzz Buzz: Your Vibrator Guide

Ever since I started writing about sex on LiftLaughKegel, there have been people asking questions about sex toys, specifically vibrators. Turns out that y’all have quite a few questions! Jean wrote in saying “So my friends and I have been debating this for a while. Can using a vibrator too much make your clit less sensitive?” Other readers have asked about what vibrators are most popular, how to pick the right vibrator, and how to clean a vibrator.

Vibrators

First, I started by turning to the research and I wasn’t very surprised to see that there is little about vibrators out there. Here's what I found: 

      - By report, using a vibrator during masturbation did not impair sexual satisfaction with a partner.

      - Vibrator use for genital self-stimulation alone and with a partner is much more common in women than men. Although 44.8% of men report having used a vibrator for sexual stimulation in their lifetime, only 6.8% of that sample initially started using a vibrator to facilitate their own orgasm. In contrast, 32.3% of women started using a vibrator to facilitate their own orgasm.

      - Vibrator use is related to better self-perceptions of genitalia and greater relationship satisfaction among female vibrator users whose male partners like their vibrator use. 

      - For men, vibration and visual stimuli together create the most arousal

      - Vibratory stimulation can enhance erections in men with premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction.

      - Vibrators also may be helpful in facilitating orgasm in men with inhibited/delayed ejaculation.

     - Female bike riders have been found to need a stronger vibration compared to runners.            
 
- Men and women with sexual dysfunction also need stronger inputs to reach the same level of stimulation.

Overall, vibrators have been used in research as a way to sexually stimulate study subjects in a somewhat "standard" way. Which totally makes sense. Researchers can't control a person's sexual preferences or desires, but they can control the amount of vibration a person receives. 

Can using a vibrator damage your nerves? 

Let’s start with basic anatomy. The dorsal branch of the pudendal nerve is responsible for sensation to the clitoris and penis, respectively. Men and women have receptors which sense vibration, pressure, temperature, and other sensations like heat/cold.

Here’s a fun fact though! The clitoris and penis have different types of receptors. The clitoris has receptors which are more sensitive to  vibrations between 5 and 15 Hz while the penis is more sensitive to a higher frequency (250Hz). Maybe there’s a difference between the ideal vibrations for men and women??  So far there isn’t research on this.

We do know that there’s a natural and temporary decrease in sensitivity to vibration. This also occurs with touch. All it means is that after a while, you are going to have to change the input (i.e. vibrations) in some way to continue to have the same effect. You can accomplish this by switching speeds, intensity, types of vibrations, or simply taking some time away from the vibrator.

When it comes to Jean’s question I have to say this: After a thorough search of different databases, I could not find a single article about vibrators causing nerve damage. Now just because there isn’t a published article out there does not mean that this has never or could never happen. I would say that physiologically it isn’t out of the question. For example, we know that people who work with jack-hammers all day are at a greater risk of developing nerve and arm problems. I supposed that if you were to use a high-intensity vibrator for hours on end, for many days in a row then yes, you could probably cause some irritation or damage to the nerve. 

Since the research on vibrator use is limited I decided to turn to the pros to get more answers. I interviewed Dana from Sunset Novelties about vibrators. This was a fun experience as Dana is very knowledgeable and I had lots of questions! According to her:

“Buying a vibrator is like buying a car. You can get anything from a Honda up to the Range Rover.”

Picking the right vibrator

Some vibrators may be too strong for you. 

Some vibrators may be too strong for you. 

Dana suggests that every woman has a bullet in her arsenal (pun intended), as these are easy to use and usually provide a variety of vibration speeds. Once you figure out what kind of vibrations you enjoy, you can graduate to other vibrators and the possibilities are endless!

There are vibrators made from all different materials, from glass to aluminum, to silicone. Vibrators also vary in their size, speed, use (internal versus external) and features. For example, there are vibrators which are curved to target the G-spot, couples vibrators, and even vibrators which can be remotely controlled through an app on your phone!

Bottom line: Vibrators vary widely because people do!  If you are completely new to vibrators then start with a small, inexpensive bullet and go from there. I suggest that you go into a store to look at the different kinds, learn about their features, and feel the different materials. It helps to find a shop you feel comfortable in and to be specific about what you are looking. Not every vibrator is going to work for you and that's okay! 

Vibrator care

You can extend the life of your vibrator and batteries by removing the battery when it’s not in use. Clean the toy before first use and after each use. You can use a mild soap like Dawn, but avoid antibacterial soaps as they may alter the natural pH and flora of your vagina if used internally. There are also specific cleansers, like the JO brand foaming cleanser which I use.

Note: If you are using a silicone lubricant then you need to use it on a 100% silicone sex toy otherwise the lubricant will break down the toy.

Dana says that well cared for sex toys can last for years! Happy shopping! 

Resources:

Clinical and research concerns with vibratory stimulation: a review and pilot study of common stimulation devices. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, published in 2012.