Judy Kuriansky, PhD, clinical psychologist, sex therapist and adjunct faculty, Columbia University Teachers College, New York City. She is the author of five books, including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to a Healthy Relationship (Alpha). DrJudy.com
It’s not something that most people talk about, but behind closed doors about half of American adults use vibrators — plug-in or battery-operated sex toys often called “body massagers” that enhance sexual arousal and satisfaction. Used correctly, a vibrator creates pleasurable sensations that help the user reach heights of excitement and even orgasm… and the benefits don’t stop there. Research shows that using a vibrator can help both partners feel more comfortable and open about their sexuality, which in turn can help make a sexual relationship better. And in national surveys, Indiana University researchers found that both men and women who used vibrators alone or with their partners enjoyed better sex lives and took better care of their sexual health.
For expert insight into this phenomenon and practical advice for vibrator novices, I spoke with Judy Kuriansky, PhD, a clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist who teaches courses about intimacy at Columbia University Teachers College in New York City. She is author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex. She assured me that vibrators are a great asset to sexual health and that even those who are embarrassed — or worried about getting addicted to a machine — can get over those fears and get started. We began by discussing the Indiana study and then got down to the how-to of vibrator use.
Indiana investigators reported results from a nationally representative study of 2,056 women and 1,047 men (age 18 to 60), showing that both sexes reaped rewards from vibrators. Slightly more than half of the women (53%) reported having tried a vibrator at some point in their lives, and nearly one in four had used one in the previous month. Researchers reported that the female respondents who used vibrators…
Somewhat less than half (45%) of the men surveyed reported having used vibrators (one in 10 in the past month). These male users…
The study links vibrator use to positive sexual function but does not posit cause and effect. Dr. Kuriansky (who was not associated with the study) told me “it’s a circle — using vibrators (like any other sex toy) can make you more sexually open, and people who are generally more open and comfortable with their sexuality are more likely to use vibrators.”
Findings were published in the July 2009 issue of Journal of Sexual Medicine. While one might question the results, given that the research was funded by Church & Dwight, the company that manufactures Trojan-brand products, including vibrators, Dr. Kuriansky agreed with the findings, telling me that she has seen the same benefits in her patients who use them. She added that their popularity doesn’t surprise her , and she hopes that the results encourage other couples to take advantage of such aides — she says doing so can lead to greater intimacy.
Buying a vibrator is as simple as walking into a drugstore or shopping online. Dr. Kuriansky outlined several different types…
Don’t worry about your technique — just experiment to find what works best for you, Dr. Kuriansky advises. To determine the right spot and degree of pressure, first try applying the vibrator in the vicinity of the genitals rather than directly to them, and adjust the intensity of the vibration.
Dr. Kuriansky strongly recommends vibrators, especially for women who want to learn how to be more responsive, less hesitant and more comfortable with their bodies and their sexual responses. She cautions, however, that these are no substitute for human touch (your own or your partner’s) and says that in her view, a mechanical device is best viewed as “a pleasant supplement to, and not a replacement for, personal contact.”