Get in touch with yourself. Shop Pleasure
Relationships

Overcoming Vibrator Anxiety in Relationships

| 11/05/2021

arc vibrator laying on a bathtub Illustration by Sophi Gullbrants

The experience of buying my first-ever vibrator was fun and exciting until my then-boyfriend rained male tears all over my parade. I had this grand plan that involved him using it on me, me using it on him, and initially, he seemed as jazzed at the prospect; hell, he even helped me pick out the best model. Once we got it out of the packaging, however, the storm clouds gathered. He neither liked nor trusted this new machine: If I had a reliable source of guaranteed orgasms, what did I need him for?

Forget the connection, companionship, comfort—apparently, this union had only ever been about (his) climax. I found his deep capacity to envy a hunk of plastic ridiculous, while he sulked about me outsourcing my needs to a battery-powered device. We fought endlessly.

Vibrator anxiety among cis, straight men is not exactly uncommon: Researchers from the University of Indiana surveyed over 1,000 men in 2011, and while the majority classified vibrator use as good and healthy, 35% said women become over-dependent on vibrators, and 30% thought vibrators were intimidating to partners.

To flummoxed couples locked in annoying, circular arguments about one party’s pleasure machine, I’ve been there and I feel your acute chagrin; I also have recommendations to help you come together (pun extremely intended) on this issue.

Use one together

Trite but true: People often fear things they fail to understand, and only by confronting those fears do we overcome them. Anyone who’s ever used a vibrator knows that the sensation is nothing like the sensation of human-on-human sex, down to the orgasm. Both are good, but there is simply not a world in which rumbly vibrations replace the feeling of interpersonal contact.

Anyone who’s never used a vibrator, though—who knows orgasm only through the lens of skin-on-skin contact—may have a harder time grasping this disparity. May in fact find himself feeling very irrelevant when faced with your Rabbit.

So. Pull out your Fin and show him what it feels like. Trace nipples, stroke the shaft, press under the penis head, pulsate the perineum. (Bonus points for blindfolding him.) Bring him to orgasm using just your vibrator, and then talk about the sensation. Or, whip out Eva and experience enhanced sensations together, neither of you feeling left out and both of you landing on the same page.

Buy him a sex toy of his very own

Male masturbation remains frustratingly stigmatized in a couples’ context: Whereas partnered women often masturbate as a complement to intercourse, male masturbation often gets framed as a stand-in for when you’re not getting any. Understanding masturbation as a replacement for PIV sex leads to misunderstandings about the purpose women’s vibrators actually serve.

Given the choice between sex with a person you love and sex with a hunk of plastic, very few people are going to choose the latter.

An easy way to highlight that fallacy is by introducing your partner to a masturbator of his very own, offering up an opportunity for him to spend some time in self-pleasure before reflecting on whether or not that solo endeavor dampens his desire for human contact. The answer will invariably be no, and should help him connect some dots.

Shop for one together

Granted, in my experience, in-the-moment excitement about matching a machine to my particular pleasure points didn’t prove an equally pleasurable experience once my partner and I got to the bedroom, but it can demystify things somewhat. Especially if you visit a shop with professionals on-hand to walk you through your options and how best to use them, the feeling of this being a together-activity should eclipse the feeling of exclusion. Also, exposure to the wide range of shapes—many of which aren’t phallic in the slightest—should help illustrate the point that vibrators aren’t replacement dicks, but rather, tools for extra stimulation (most frequently of the clitoris).

Let him use it on you

I think all cis, straight people would do better to disabuse themselves of the notion that PIV sex is the goal of any erotic encounter. There are so many pleasurable and bonding and satisfying sensations that neither begin nor end with a penis thrusting into a vagina.

So, women: Let your partner take the reins. Hand him your favorite vibrator and let him figure out what gets you off. Or, invite him in on your solo session, guiding his hand to maneuver the machine. Because anyone who gets butt-hurt about their partner getting theirs probably needs a few lessons in sharing.

That said, a fragile ego doesn’t necessarily deserve coddling, and in my experience, the vibrator isn’t the thing producing anxiety—insecurity does that all on its own. A partner who gets actively upset about or pouts at the prospect of your pleasure has deeper issues to deal with. Because realistically, given the choice between sex with a person you love and sex with a hunk of plastic, very few people are going to choose the latter. Unless the person you love is making a big stink about you having more orgasms. In that case, I hope you and the hunk of plastic have a beautiful life together.

Want more Dame?

Get more like this, straight to your inbox.