Do Vibrators Affect Your Ability To Orgasm? How Sex Toys Affect Your Climaxes Long-Term

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

There's a lot of confusion about how your vibrator can affect your orgasms in the long-term. While some swear their vibrators have desensitized them, many sex therapists insist that vibrator use has no effect on orgasmic ability. As usual, the answer is somewhere in between.

First, it's important to be skeptical of the sex-negativity inherent in making masturbation out to be risky. From exaggerating the addictiveness of pornography to stigmatizing birth control, we live in a culture that discourages sexual expression beyond reproduction, with female sexuality especially taboo.

"Why is it that whenever there is something geared toward female sexuality, there automatically has to be something wrong with them?" Alexis Thomas, sex educator and owner of the sex-positive shop Taboo Tabou, tells Bustle. "Rarely do we question men watching porn or whether masturbating damages their penis. Women masturbating is a beautiful thing and amazing for a person as well as a relationship."

So, is "your vibrator will desensitize you" just another version of "masturbate and you'll go blind"? Or is there any truth to it? First, we need to tease out what exactly we mean by "desensitize." Here are a few things to know.

Vibration On Any Part Of The Skin Numbs It Temporarily

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A meta-analysis in Sexual and Relationship Therapy found that vibrations temporarily decrease the sensitivity of the skin on multiple parts of the body. However, this goes away within an hour. The effect on the genitals is likely the same, sex researcher and Liberos founder Nicole Prause, PhD tells Bustle. So, using a vibrator may numb out your genitals right after you masturbate, but it won't last. Plus, many find that touch on the clitoris post-orgasm is uncomfortable anyway, whether they've used a vibrator or not.

It Doesn't Permanently Change Your Body

"You will not alter your pleasure nerves with vibration," Alicia Sinclair, sex educator and CEO of b-Vibe and Le Wand, tells Bustle. Thomas agrees: "The most important thing to realize about vibrators is that they do not cause any permanent damage."

In other words, when people do become dependent on vibration, it's more psychological than physiological — and it's not permanent.

Many Vibrator Users See No Effect

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Given this, it's not surprising that plenty of people use vibrators all the time and orgasm just as easily as they did before they started using them. "It may take longer without, but I have no trouble achieving orgasm without one," Sarah, 33, who uses a vibrator two to four times a week, tells Bustle.

It's Easier To Orgasm With A Vibrator In General

It's important to remember that orgasming with a vibrator is quicker than other methods regardless of how long you've been using a vibrator, says Thomas. Some people who think their vibrator made it harder to orgasm actually had a harder time orgasming with their hands before they even picked the vibrator up. When you orgasm in a minute with your Hitachi Magic Wand or Satisfyer Pro 2, using your hands may suddenly seem like hard work in comparison, but that doesn't mean it's any harder than it was before.

Your Body Can Get Used To Any Masturbation Habit

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It's not that vibrators per say make it harder to orgasm, but any masturbation ritual that becomes a habit can make you less responsive to other kinds of stimulation, Vanessa Marin, sex therapist and creator of Finishing School, an online orgasm course for women, tells Bustle. Sinclair likens the effect to Pavlov's dog experiment: When two things occur together (whether that's a bell ringing and a dog being fed or using a vibrator and having an orgasm), one tends to trigger the other more strongly than other stimuli.

So, in the same way that always masturbating on your stomach can make it harder to orgasm on your back, always masturbating with a toy can make it harder to orgasm without one. But if you keep switching it up, this shouldn't be a problem. Marin recommends just using your vibrator half the time if you want to keep orgasming as easily without one. As long as you're still getting practice orgasming with your hands or your partner, you won't lose that ability.

Some Find That Vibrators Make It Harder To Orgasm

Some do report that after using a vibrator for a while, they have more trouble orgasming without one — and after they take a break from sex toys, orgasming in other ways becomes easier.

"I went through a period when I was using my vibrator every single time," Lea, 30, tells Bustle. "Even though I'm not someone who normally has trouble orgasming, I noticed that I was just not getting there as easily and that I wasn't feeling more subtle sensations as strongly. I took a big break from my vibrator — and, even masturbating, I found it took me much longer to orgasm. Now, everything's back to normal, and I just save my vibrators for certain occasions!" If you think you might be in the same boat, try giving up your vibrator or limiting your use for a few weeks and see if things change.

But That's Not Necessarily A Bad Thing

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If your vibrator makes it harder to orgasm without one, you could practice becoming less reliant on it — or, you could just bring your vibrator into the bedroom. Or save your orgasms for when you're alone. There's no wrong way to have an orgasm, and you can have great sex without orgasming at all.

You can also do a combination, engaging in other activities and falling back on your trusty vibrator if these methods don't work. "Allow your partner to manually and orally pleasure you, giving them explicit instructions on what turns you on," Sinclair suggests. "After experimenting, if you then need vibration to send you over the edge to orgasm, by all means, use it. Show your partner how it is done, and if mutually desired, allow them the pleasure of using the vibe on you."

If you venture outside your vibrator for an orgasm, make sure you're doing it for you, not your partner. "More often than not, the real issue is that the partner feels left out," Sinclair says. "Their ego demands that they must give their partner an orgasm in order to be a good lover. But truly, orgasm is the responsibility of the person experiencing it and not the responsibility of their mate. That said, partners can be invited to assist. Additionally, they can be reassured that there are other vital things they can do, like holding their partner, gazing into their eyes, talking to them, playing with their nipples, and letting their partners know that they are exciting and loved."

So, in short, regular vibrator use could affect your ability to orgasm a little, but this effect is reversible. But beyond that, orgasming with a vibrator and orgasming with a partner aren't mutually exclusive. There's room for all three of you in your bed.