Use a Vibrator, Have Better Sex. Really.

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Two studies came out recently from researchers at Indiana University that proclaimed what most of us already knew: vibrators are popular. Whether it’s the humble ecru plastic massager that is still touted in Walter Drake-type catalogs as a “muscle relaxer”, or the high powered engine built by Hitachi, vibrators have found their way into the hands of a huge percentage of Americans – but some of the specifics that these studies shed light on may be a bit unexpected by those who aren’t keeping their fingers on the – ahem – pulse of sexuality and society.

These studies, led by the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at IU, were unique in that they researched both men and women in separate surveys to compare and contrast their experience with vibrators, as well as gather information on their overall sexual health and awareness. It probably comes as no surprise to learn that, according to the study, over 50% of women claimed to have used vibrators – and 25% of them said that they had used them within the previous month. But what some people didn’t expect was the prevalence of male vibrator users.

A whopping 45% of men who were interviewed as part of the study – regardless of their sexual orientation – stated that they had used a vibrator as part of their sexual interactions at some point during their lifetime. In fact, 10% of all respondents said they had used them within the previous month, giving us a window into the reality that, in the bedrooms of Americans, battery-powered toys are more often used between partners than some would have suspected (since many people still believe that vibrators are “substitutes” for sex, and are only used by people, without their partners).

What is empowering about this study, though, is not how often people use vibrators, or how many of us have – but how using vibrators is actually correlated with sexual health behaviors. Vibrator users of both genders were found to be more likely to perform sexual self-care – having regular pap smears, performing self exams, and taking other preventative measures to ensure their physical and sexual health. Additionally, both women and men who reported using vibrators rank themselves higher in measures of sexual well being and satisfaction, including arousal, lubrication, erectile function, and overall sexual pleasure.

It makes sense. Someone who is more likely to look for additional ways to experience sexual pleasure, both alone and with their partner, is more likely to explore various sex toys (including vibrators); and since vibrator users have had to overcome some of the shameful beliefs about sex that are still floating around in society, they’re more likely to be willing to understand that sex is a natural, healthy ability of their bodies – and be willing to take the necessary steps to ensure that their bodies can feel that pleasure for decades.

Perhaps former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders was right on the money when she said that we should be talking to our children about masturbation and self pleasure; if people are encouraged to take responsibility (and delight) in their sexual pleasure become more empowered adults, then they are also more likely to seek out sexual health education, and take care of their bodies without the shame, guilt, and bias that so many of us were raised with. Who knows – maybe vibrators can actually act as tools of social change, one person at a time!

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