What To Do When You Feel Too Dependent On Toys

We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto today's topic: what to do when you can only orgasm with strong vibrators.

Q: I’ve been using vibrators for many years. I started with a simple bullet vibrator and had some earth-shattering orgasms. The longer I used it, the higher I had to go with the power setting. After about a year or so, it just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I found that I had to upgrade to the Hitachi Magic Wand. I’ve been using the Magic Wand for three years and it is now hard to have intense orgasms, even with this vibrator. I’m terrified because I’ve heard that the Magic Wand is the most powerful vibrator available. Have I permanently harmed my ability to reach orgasm? For what it’s worth, I used to be able to reach orgasm with my hands too, but I haven’t done it in a while (and I’m admittedly a little scared to even try now). Also, I remember that it was never as intense of an experience with my hands as it was with a vibe.

A: Thanks for the question! The story of your relationship with vibrators is actually pretty common. Lots of women report having to increase the intensity level of their vibrators, or having to keep “upgrading” their vibrators to more powerful models. I know you’re scared right now, but this is a very fixable problem. Here are eight steps for evaluating and transforming your relationship with your vibrator.

1. Don’t Freak Out

First things first: there’s no evidence that vibrator usage can cause lasting physical damage. Vibrators can’t “ruin” your ability to have orgasms in the future, nor can they prevent you from learning how to orgasm with your hands or learning how to orgasm with a partner. It may take a little bit of time to develop a new relationship with your orgasm, but it’s not the end of the world. Take a deep breath, and don't shame yourself.

I also want to take a moment to point out that vibrator-induced orgasms are almost always going to feel more intense than any other type of orgasm. Vibrators are able to create way more stimulation than hands or mouths, so it just makes sense that this would be the case. If you have the desire to learn how to orgasm with your hands or with a partner, don’t let a vibrator-induced orgasm be your gold standard of orgasms, because they are different.

2. Know Why This Happens

Let’s go back to your bullet days. Bullet vibrators tend to be cheap (most are around $10-$20), and cheaply made. They are known to lose their intensity over the time, and eventually sputter out altogether. It’s actually quite possible that you had to keep increasing the power setting because your bullet was dying a slow death. In other words, you weren’t really creating more intensity, you were just being forced to use a higher setting to get the same level of vibration. Understandably, you may have gotten it into your head that you needed something more powerful, leading you to upgrade to the Hitachi.

Let’s talk about that Magic Wand. You’re right — the Hitachi Magic Wand is a very powerful toy. It is possible that your body eventually became accustomed to having a high level of pressure and intensity. Again, this doesn’t mean you’ve caused any sort of lasting damage or become addicted. It simply means that your body may have gotten used to a lot of horsepower.

If you use your vibrator to reach orgasm the vast majority of the time, your clitoris can start to become acclimated to that one particular type and intensity of stimulation. Unfortunately, there haven’t been any conclusive studies that have shown whether or not an actual physiological dependence can develop, but many women report that frequent vibrator usage makes it harder to reach orgasm in other ways (like through manual masturbation or oral sex).

3. Be Honest About Your Habits

There could also be one other factor at play — I'll call it "masturbatory laziness". I know that sounds insulting, but hear me out for a minute: Vibrators can make it so easy to reach orgasm that they can sometimes make us get a little bit thoughtless about masturbation. I mean, all you have to do is fire it up and hold it in place!

In doing orgasm coaching with my clients, I’ve found that a lot of women wind up spacing out when they’re using a vibrator. They don’t pay much attention to their bodies, and basically just wait around until they reach orgasm. It’s fine to want to kick back and just relax occasionally. After all, orgasm can be a big stress relief. But if you masturbate that way every single time, you eventually become so tuned out and disconnected from the experience of masturbating itself that even your old-standby toy can suddenly become less reliable. Take a moment to be honest with yourself — do you space out when you masturbate? If so, it might be time to get to work.

4. Get Clear On What You Want

Before we get any further, now’s your opportunity to think about the role you want vibrators to play in your orgasmic life. I’m giving you plenty of tips for changing your relationship with your vibrator, but do you want to keep using one? Do you want to go back to masturbating with your hands? Which method would you prefer to use with any current or future partners? If you put some thought into it, maybe you realize that you want to use keep using vibrators because they’re the easiest and best way for you to reach orgasm when you’re with a partner. Or maybe you want to focus on relearning how to orgasm in other ways. There are no “rights” or “wrongs” here, but it’s good for you to get some clarity on what you want, versus what you think you "should" want.

5. Take A Break

Regardless of what you decide, I would recommend taking a two to four weeks hiatus from your vibrator. This will give your body the opportunity to essentially “reset,” so you can start learning to enjoy different types of stimulation. Think of this time as a palate cleanser for your clitoris. At the end of your break, if you’ve decided you want to keep using vibrators, I would recommend gradually reintroducing your body to your toy. Aim to use it every other time you masturbate.

6. Try Taking Orgasm Off The Table

I would also recommend that you spend another two to four weeks exploring your body with your hand or your vibrator, but without allowing yourself to orgasm. Orgasms are awesome, but when we get overly focused on orgasm, we miss out on the opportunity to experience pleasure during the journey to the top. It’s also easier to zone out or get distracted, as I mentioned above.

See what it’s like for you to try to masturbate without orgasming. It might feel frustrating or even anxiety-inducing at first, but try to remind yourself of your goals when in the moment. (For example, saying to yourself, "I know this feels different, but I'm excited to get to know my body better.") How much pleasure can you make yourself feel without going over the edge?

7. Try New Types Of Stimulation

During this no-orgasm period, try to allow yourself to explore different ways of touching yourself. Play with your inner and outer labia, and vaginal opening. Experiment with different types of strokes, like moving your fingers in circles, up and down, or side to side. Use different numbers of fingers, or try using your palm.

If you want to keep using a vibrator, I would suggest switching to a more moderate toy. I really like the Minna Life Limon because it operates using squeeze control. The harder you squeeze, the harder it vibrates, so it naturally forces you to be a more active participant. If there’s another vibrator you want to take for a spin, try playing around with different power and pulsation settings. You can also try moving it around to different parts of your vulva instead of just holding it on your clitoris.

8. Pay Attention

Perhaps the most important tip I could give you is to try to really tune in to the level of stimulation you feel when you’re masturbating. Lazy masturbation is fine every once in awhile, but you don’t want to get sucked into that mode every single time you masturbate. Regardless of whether you’re using your hands or a toy, being more present in the moment and more connected with your own body will make for a happier relationship with masturbation.

Good luck!

Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.

Images: Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle; Giphy