Can use of vibrators inhibit the more "normal/natural" stimulation?

Last night, we had a brilliant webinar chat about couples’ vibrators (watch the replay by signing up below).

Here’s a question asked in the chatbox (anonymously, thank you whoever you are!).

‘Can use of vibrators inhibit the more '“normal/natural” stimulation?’

So I’m assuming here that normal/natural refers to stimulation from body parts. This is a very common question, and it makes perfect sense to ask.

It’s a concerning thing to think that maybe using something mechanical could ‘change’ or even damage nerve receptors that were quite happy with receiving pleasure from touch. It can be understandably off putting if you think that exploring a whole new way of experiencing pleasure/orgasm might lessen ways that are more familiar/ feel more ‘normal’ (and we will go into a discussion what feeling ‘normal’ means when it comes to pleasure another day).

So let’s ask the literature about vibrator ‘side effects’ : Does using a vibrator change other feelings of sensation, or sexual function?

There is one study from 2009 investigating vibrator use from a random sample of Americans by Indiana University (3,800 women and 1,047 men). (summary, full PDF)

This study found that just more than half of women - and almost half of men - used a vibrator.

They asked the female subjects about symptoms of genital numbness/ lack of sensation from vibrator use. 71.5% of women reported no side effects. Out of the minority who did, the experience was temporary genital numbness, which subsided within a day.

Overall, vibrator users interestingly scored much higher in areas of general sexual function compared to non-vibrator users, including lubrication, orgasm and arousal. And even more interesting is that these positive side effects to overall sexual function were reflected in the male population too.

“Generally, men who had used vibrators reported fewer problems with sexual function than men who had never used vibrators, and this difference was more profound among men who had used vibrators more recently”

This suggests that rather than inhibiting stimulation that may feel more ‘normal/natural’, vibrators may in fact encourage and facilitate overall sexual function. There were no reports of vibrator use long term changing genital sensation, temporary numbness was experienced by a minority of women and this experienced tended to pass within a day

References :

Journal citations: Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Sanders, S.A., Dodge, B., Ghassemi, A., & Fortenberry, J.D. (2009). Prevalence and characteristics of vibrator use by women in the United States: Results from a nationally representative study. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 6, 1857-1866.

Reece, M., Herbenick, D., Sanders, S.A., Dodge, B., Ghassemi, A., & Fortenberry, J.D. (2009). Prevalence and characteristics of vibrator use by men in the United States. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 6, 1867-1874.

Image by Mark Adriane

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Victoria Cullen