Vibrators—available in the American colonies by the 1750s, and America’s first personal-care electrical appliance in 1899—now have the blessing of the New York Times.
Their Wirecutter feature, which for years has evaluated consumer products ranging from earbuds to toddler highchairs to boxed chocolates, this month researched and recommended vibrators.
In the real world, this isn’t such a radical step: Over half of American women use a vibrator, and 76 million Americans own one.
But Meta (Facebook) won’t accept ads for them. They’ll take ads for products that treat erection or ejaculation problems. Their new policy allows some ads for birth control, menopause products, and the relief of painful sex—ads that “promote sexual and reproductive health or wellness, as long as the focus is on health and not sexual pleasure.”
“Health,” but “not sexual pleasure.” Unbelievable. As if pleasure is dangerous, the opposite of health. It reminds me of my long-ago days in college, when students had to pretend they used vibrators for sore shoulders, and birth control pills to regulate periods.
On the ground, some states deliberately create obstacles to retailing vibrators. In Alabama it’s illegal to sell sex toys unless they’re marketed for a medical or educational purpose. In Georgia, some cities limit the number of individual sex toys a store can have in inventory.
Yes, in parts of the South, it’s easier to buy a gun than a vibrator.
In addition to pleasure, vibrators are helpful for a wide range of sexual difficulties: anorgasmia, dyspareunia (pain during intercourse), thinning and drying of vaginal tissue, low sexual desire, and pelvic floor dysfunction.
And while twice as many people use vibrators as drink orange juice every week, “vibrator” is still a punch line, a taboo object even for those who use one.
Here are some FAQs about The New York Times’ favorite new sex toy from my patients month after month, especially asked by women:
~ Can you get addicted to a vibrator?
No. You may get used to the stimulation of a vibrator, but with some communication and experimentation, your partner can duplicate much of the intensity with their hand and your own movements. And remember that a lot of what triggers orgasm is emotional, not physical.
~ Every vibrator I try seems too powerful. Maybe I’m too sensitive to use one?
If your vibrator feels too strong, put a sock on it, or wear cotton panties (with a menstrual pad if necessary) when you use it.
~ Shouldn’t sex be natural? A vibrator is so artificial.
People use the “natural and spontaneous” sex myth to discourage the use of birth control, lubricants, toys, and sex dates. We don’t live “natural” lives—we enjoy electricity, pain medication, telephones, and the use of money. While no one wants sex to be mechanical, additions like vibrators, condoms, planning, and socks on cold feet make sex safer and more enjoyable.
~ I’m afraid that if I have a vibrator, my kids will find it. If they do, what should I say?
It depends on their age. It also depends on how much you’ve already told them about sex. An explanation of your vibrator shouldn’t be your first conversation about sex with them. In any case, there’s nothing wrong with telling kids it’s an adult toy, which you sometimes use to create good physical feelings.
~ How do I tell my partner I want to use a vibrator?
Let your partner know that this is an addition to your personal and partner sexual repertoire, not a substitute for partner sex. Don’t hide it, and if you use it as part of partner sex, make it clear that it’s “our toy,” not just your toy. Experiment with it together, and talk about what feels good. When you use it together, eye contact and kissing can increase your sense of connection.
~ What’s the best vibrator?
As with shampoo and sunglasses, everyone has their own preferences. Think about shape, intensity, and ergonomics when shopping. And feel free to use Wirecutter as a guide.
Enjoy short videos about sexual topics like infidelity, erections, BDSM, menopause, and fantasy? See my channel at www.YouTube.com/@Marty_Klein/videos