Sex File: Worried I'm dependent on my vibrator 

Sex File: Worried I'm dependent on my vibrator 
Sarah Jessica Parker AKA Carrie Bradshaw examines some vibrators in a scene from Sex and the City.

Q.  We've got in the habit of using a vibrator during sex, but I am worried I am becoming dependent on it. Does using a toy like this make having an orgasm without it more difficult?

A. Some vibrators are very powerful and provide very intense levels of stimulation. However, they don't change the way your body works or make you less sensitive to gentler forms of stimulation, so using a vibrator should not make it harder to climax without one.

Several studies have explored vibrator use in relationships, but one, in particular, concluded that, although using a vibrator can numb the genitals immediately after use, the sensation is typically restored within an hour and, crucially, there is no long-term damage to the nerves.

The issue of dependency is different, and it is one that both men and women worry about. When Dr Bat Sheva Marcus at the Medical Center for Female Sexuality in New York conducted the study Changes in a Woman's Sexual Experience and Expectations Following the Introduction of Electric Vibrator Assistance, "dependency" was a theme.

In the study, she asked 17 women who had never used a vibrator to use one once a week for a month.

At the end of the study, eight women expressed concern about the possibility of becoming dependent on the vibrator. Their reaction was a mix of shock at how easy it was to achieve orgasm and anxiety about the impact that it may have if they allowed themselves to enjoy the experience.

"It was, like, 'Wow. Gee. I did not know this could do this. Let's turn this off.' You know. That was my reaction. I was nervous and did not know it could [bring me to orgasm so easily]. And I just stopped. I thought that I might like it, so I thought I should stop."

Although there is no doubt that vibrators deliver reliable female orgasms, there is no scientific evidence that women, or indeed couples, become dependent on them. In fact, women who use vibrators report better sexual function and higher levels of sexual satisfaction. It makes sense because only 25% of women can orgasm through penetration alone, so vibrators give women certainty. In the absence of the required level of clitoral stimulation, they know that they can achieve orgasm regardless.

However, the ingrained belief that "natural" orgasm shouldn't require artificial stimulation makes some women feel guilty about using them, alone or with a partner.

How women feel about vibrators can be an indication of how open they are about sex in general. This may explain why women who use them repeatedly score higher on levels of sexual confidence.

Having said that, as with much else in life, vibrators are best used in moderation. If you use a vibrator each and every time you have sex, the 'buzz' soon wears off. Even when you are flying solo, it is worth taking the time to have a languid tour of yourself. The build-up may be slower, but the finish is definitely more powerful.

Within a relationship, integrating a vibrator into sex is fine as long as you are not using it as a substitute for stimulation that your partner is unwilling to provide. If the sex is otherwise great, don't worry about it.

A vibrator may help to take you to the peak when you have reached a certain level of arousal, but it can never provide the physical intimacy that gets you up the hill in the first place.

Send your queries to suzigodson@mac.com

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