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Dr. Carol Queen Helps Troubleshoot Why Vibrators Might Be Rubbing You The Wrong Way, Plus Tips For Getting Into The Groove

by Debbie Stoller

Carol Queen’s latest book (written with Shar Rednour) is The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone

Vibrators changed my life, and maybe yours, too. I’ve been promoting vibe-induced pleasure for roughly half my life (and that’s just in public. I also had nice things to say about them way before vibrators basically became my day job). But not everyone feels the same way. And I’m not even talking here about those “but that’s not natural!” vibe abstainers who want to orgasm only during partner sex, or maybe by hand alone,
with shower massager assistance being the only tech outlier they’d consider. (Because if you close your eyes, you can kinda imagine it’s a waterfall. Or go all out and imagine Annie Sprinkle leading you in a guided meditation!)

I have nothing at all against going natural. Hey, I’m an only partially recovered hippie. But we have nerve endings that help us process vibration for a reason—and there are
lots of them on the clitoris! (Penile head, too, or whatever you’ve got and whatever you call it.) And many vibe fans count on those nerve endings and the vibration they respond to for their first orgasm, and sometimes all the subsequent ones to boot.

Nevertheless, I have spoken to many people who told me they did not like the feeling of vibration. It was too strong, it was too buzzy, it was too different from the delicious sensations of skin on skin. It wasn’t what they expected, or it just wasn’t what they liked. And maybe that’s you. Vibrators did not change your life, even if you hoped they would. There are a few reasons why that might be the case. I’m not trying to sell you on vibes here, if that’s not of interest to you. But if you want to try again for some reason, or even just if you’re into a “know thyself ” kind of thing, I’d like to share some ways of thinking about what happened if a date with a vibe went wrong.

• Just like what happens when you swipe on Tinder, you chose an incompatible one. It was too much, or it wasn’t enough. Whatever it was, Goldilocks, it was not just right.

• Maybe it was wrong in the size, shape, or texture department. Any of those qualities can be personal preferences that—if the vibe isn’t right—can make your toy either “meh” or just wrong. By which I mean, the wrong one for you, because others might like it even if you don’t. There isn’t one vibrator that is perfect for every user, because we are different in the ways we respond and what we prefer.

• Some people don’t have the experience they expect because they bypass the clitoris for the vagina. The basic belief here is usually sex = intercourse, and masturbation = sex, but by yourself. While there are people who truly love insertive vibrator play, there are way fewer vibe-happy nerve endings inside the vagina, which responds more to pressure, motion, and fullness than vibration. This is even true for many people when it comes to G-spot stimulation. If you love your G-spot vibe, a G-spot dildo might be just as pleasurable.


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• I’ll just repeat: CLITORIS. But some clits are quite sensitive, and even the softest vibrator is too much for some. For others, the size and shape of the clitoral stimulation area might be too pointy and focused—this can feel super-intense even to many vibe fans—and a larger toy (like a wand, or those vibrators that fit in the palm) will be a better choice.

• The clit and the vagina are close together (in people who have one of each), and great to stimulate simultaneously— many of us have two hands and keep both of them busy when masturbating! But there are twice-as-nice toys and their subset, rabbit vibes, that stimulate both.

• Finally, some people try a vibrator when they aren’t turned on, and their arousal doesn’t ramp up quickly enough, or at all. So a sensation that might, in a higher state of turn-on, feel lovely, instead feels irritating or just so-so.

Remember, you don’t have to get into vibrators! You don’t have to have any erotic experience at all, if you don’t want to. But so many of us have had no pleasure-inclusive (much less toy-inclusive) sex education—it really isn’t surprising that some some first dates with toys don’t go much better than some first dates with humans. If you decide on a second date, go with a partner with more than one speed, start slow, enjoy the tease and the journey, see if it’s nicer with lubricant (but no silicone lube on a silicone vibe!), and just explore. Those factors might make human second dates better, too.


2nd photo: https://unsplash.com/photos/n87IdOaYZCE

 This column originally appeared in BUST’s Spring 2022 print edition. Subscribe today!

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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