My conversations with patients, blog readers, and visitors to MiddlesexMD tell me that once a person’s gotten past her own discomfort with the idea of a vibrator, there can lurk another obstacle: How to introduce it to intimacy with a partner.
I’ve heard from both men and women on this topic: Both have asked how to introduce a vibrator into a relationship or how to overcome resistance. A recent study done at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University suggests some couples have figured it out. Half of both men and women have used a vibrator with a partner at least once. Slightly more men than women agree that vibrators can make sex with a partner more exciting, but for both the number is close to 60 percent.
And we know from other research that about two-thirds of women don’t experience orgasm with penetration alone; the IU study says half of women agree that a vibrator helps.
But in spite of that evidence that couples are using vibrators, and that women find them satisfying, there’s still resistance. I talked to Mary Jo Rapini, psychotherapist and one of the MiddlesexMD advisors, to learn more.
The first issue for some women is their preconceptions, Mary Jo says. “If you think of vibrators—or any other part of sex—as ‘creepy,’ you’re showing resistance. Resistance is a product of your own thoughts, which means you can change it and open yourself up to communication and growth. My first request would be that she use the word ‘uncomfortable.’ This opens up a wonderful conversation—if you’re uncomfortable with something, you can add something else to lovemaking, and not necessarily all at once. You might not be comfortable with a vibrator, but you may like being massaged during lovemaking with wonderful massage oil. Lovemaking is exciting and it’s so healthy for the heart, immune system, and hormone levels; I encourage women—and couples—to try new things, slowly, without rejecting the concept of lovemaking with new items.”
“Women are sometimes reluctant to own their own sexuality,” Mary Jo says, which works against introducing a vibrator—and other things—into a couple’s intimacy.
“Men are so visual in regards to sex,” Mary Jo says. “Many men enjoy watching their partner masturbate with a vibrator—especially if their partner is able to enjoy it. Men love watching the woman they love enjoy sex. They also want to please the woman. When the woman is able to let the man hold the vibrator for her, or use it gently on him, he begins to see the benefits.
“He may feel rejected if she prefers the vibrator to him, but including him and showing him what feels best being touched is a big turn-on for men. If she can talk about what feels good, how she likes to be touched, the intimacy will be a thousand times stronger.”
The IU study, by the way, confirms that seventy percent of men don’t find a vibrator intimidating during sex.
But that may be beside the point. The real focus, Mary Jo says, is something different: “Sex is not about the penis or vagina, but your ability to let go, explore, and broaden your awareness and understanding of your sexual self—and your partner. Being able to express yourself sexually and feeling safe and secure in that relationship heightens your health both physically and emotionally.”
We'd love to hear your experiences and questions!
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.