Anyone who has read my work for any length of time will know how I feel about the concept of “sex addiction” – in short, that it’s medically meaningless, so broadly applied as to be useless, and the sole criteria to diagnose someone seems to be “has sex more than the diagnoser or in ways that the diagnoser finds personally distasteful.” Read Dr David Ley’s amazing book for more information if this interests you. Today, though, I want to talk about “sex addiction”‘s equally insidious little sister – the idea that you can get addicted to a vibrator.
I have a variation of this conversation at least weekly, either online or occasionally in real life:
Them: “I want a good clitoral vibrator for me/for my female partner.”
Me: “Try the Doxy! It’s great because…” (*sends link*)
Them: “Oh no, that looks like something I/she could get addicted to!”
Me: *facedesks into next week*
I am here to clear up this myth once and for all, and also to have a central resource to point people to so I don’t have to have this argument on a weekly basis. So:
You cannot get addicted to a vibrator.
Repeat after me: You. Cannot. Get. Addicted. To. A. Vibrator.
The fears here seem to fall broadly into three camps, so I am going to tackle each of them one at a time.
Fear the first: “I’ll break/stretch/loosen/desensitize my vulva if I use toys too much.”
Genitals are fucking cool, y’all. They do not “break” or “wear out” from overuse, and they are remarkable at bouncing back – for fuck’s sake, pushing an entire small human out of a vagina causes it more strain than even the most hardcore of sex toys!
I think this myth is closely associated with the (also false) narrative of a vagina becoming “loose” or “used up” if its owner has too much sex or has sex with too many different people. It fails to neglect the medical reality that the vagina is a muscle and muscles Do Not Work That Way.
You cannot break your vagina. You cannot stretch it out permanently in any kind of significant way. It won’t mold around a toy and become unable to enjoy anything else. It won’t break, get addicted to one single type of stimulation or become unable to have or enjoy sex in the future. Promise!
There is also no evidence whatsoever that prolonged or repeated usage of vibrators – even really high-powered ones like my beloved Doxy or the famed Magic Wand – causes any long-term loss of sensation in the clitoris or vulva. At most, some people report feeling desensitized for a short while after a toy session – especially with buzzier toys – but these effects are really short-lived (typically minutes or hours) and cause no long-term damage or change in sensation whatsoever.
I’ve been using my Doxy for years – probably for ten orgasms a week for two and a half years, on average? – and other vibes long before that, and I still squirm at the slightest flick of my partner’s tongue over my clit. Vibes will not ruin the nerves or the sensation in your bits. I promise. Just because I really love it and use it a lot doesn’t mean I am “addicted.”
Tangential but related: I also see a lot of questions along the lines of “I used a toy and now my bits hurt, did I irreparably damage myself?” No, you probably used a toy made from a toxic material, or used a toy made from a material you’re for some reason sensitive to, or didn’t use enough lube, or didn’t warm yourself up enough, or it’s just your body’s response to a new stimulus that it’s not used to. (A bit like your muscles ache the next day if you do a new form of exercise!)
Fear the second: “But what if using a vibrator is the only way I can orgasm?”
I’m going to say something truly radical now.
If using a vibrator is the only or the most reliable way for you to achieve orgasm, follow these steps:
- Use the fucking vibrator
- Enjoy your orgasms
- Don’t worry about it
Orgasms are great, and we should all be having as many of them in our lives as we wish to. There are countless ways to reach orgasm – from fucking, manual sex, oral sex, anal play, being punched in the butt (or is that last one just me?) And, of course, via the use of sex toys such as vibrators.
Here’s a secret: all these ways of reaching orgasm are equally wonderful, equally valid and equally real. ALL orgasms are wonderful as long as everyone involved in inducing them is consenting. That’s literally the only criteria.
I encourage everyone who wants to, to experiment with all different kinds of pleasure and see what works for them and what feels good. It’s also worth remembering that these things can, and probably will, change over time. I used to come reliably from clitoral fingering by a partner, but my clit got more sensitive as I got older and now this is a pretty rare feat. Conversely, I never used to have G-spot orgasms, but now I have them quickly, explosively and repeatedly. And my experience with using toys has been that it has broadened my experience of pleasure and the ways in which I am able to come.
However, no form of pleasure or orgasm is inherently any better than any other. Some vulva-owners spend their entire lives chasing the elusive vaginal-only orgasm, but the reality is that somewhere between 50 and 90 percent of vulvas simply don’t work that way. People often become deeply upset because they, or their partner, doesn’t reach orgasm from oral sex – even if they enjoy the sensation and the act itself. I think these beliefs are heavily tied in with the mistaken notion that we should be able to bring our partners to easy and explosive multiple orgasms with nothing but our hands/mouth/dick, and that anything else – whether it’s them masturbating themselves or using a toy or even just enjoying a session where orgasm isn’t necessarily the goal – is somehow lesser.
I am here to tell you that it’s not. If you come easily in fifty different ways, you’re beautiful and valid. If you only come with a vibrator or other toy or in some other super specific way, you’re equally beautiful and valid.
The overwhelming majority of the time, my answer to “Dear Amy, please help, the only way I can reliably orgasm is by doing this thing” is “….then do that thing.”
Fear the third: “Can toys become a replacement for partnered sex?”
The short answer is no. The long answer is this post in response to a worried reader who was afraid his girlfriend’s dildo would replace him.
A lot of people are afraid that they, or their partners, will find the stimulation they get from a toy to be so overwhelmingly amazing that they won’t have any need for partnered sex in the future.
Again, this is not only completely lacking in evidence, I’ve actually found the opposite is more often true. Exploring my sexuality through toys has increased my potential for erotic enjoyment and therefore improved the partnered sex I have. I am not the only person to have reported this kind of experience.
A toy, however much you love it, cannot be a substitute for a partner. Terms like “battery operated boyfriend” or “the perfect lover” to describe toys have a lot to answer for. Until a toy is sentient, there for me, makes me laugh, snuggles me at night, watches Netflix with me, takes me on adventures and brings me coffee, it is NOT a boyfriend/lover/partner – it’s an inanimate object, a tool through which to experience pleasure.
As I said to our friend who was jealous of his girlfriend’s favourite silicone dick:
Partnered sex is about so much more than just “does your body part satisfy my body part?” It’s about connection, about the feel and smell and warmth of a partner close to you, about the thud of body-on-body, about the rhythm and the dance and the responses between two (or more) people. Partnered sex is in-fucking-credible for so many reasons and a toy can’t fully replicate many of them. Pervocracy has a great article on some of the reasons people might love partnered sex.
So no. Your girlfriend isn’t going to dump you or stop having sex with you because she likes her vibrator more, and she’s not going to get so hooked on wanking with it that you never see her. (That stupid scene in Sex & the City also has a lot to answer for here!)
In short: “Vibrator Addiction” is a shaming tactic, and nothing more.
It shames people who struggle to achieve orgasm without a toy, people who don’t orgasm in socially sanctioned ways (i.e. by penetration with a penis,) people who need a lot of stimulation in order to come… and basically just adds to the stigma of vulva-owners masturbating and prioritising their pleasure.
It’s also sexist as fuck. If a cis man masturbates to porn two or three times a day, people will see him as a normal guy with a healthy sex drive. But if a woman or other person with a vulva uses a vibrator most days or every day, she may well face accusations of being addicted.
Also: let’s not minimise the reality of addiction.
Addiction is a serious medical problem with causes major issues in the sufferer’s life and the lives of the people around them. No-one, to the best of my knowledge, has ever turned to crime, alienated their family and friends, lost their job or run themselves into debt because their Magic Wand just felt too good and gave them too many orgasms.
Minimising the very real pain of addiction and co-opting it as a sex-shaming tactic is incredibly insensitive and harmful to anyone who has suffered from addiction or been affected by having a sufferer close to them.
So let’s stop with the “vibrators are addictive” bullshit and let people have orgasms in the ways that work for them, yes?