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The Who, Where, and How of Vibrator Use Statistics

Research on Vibrator Use

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Updated April 19, 2010

The increasing visibility of vibrators in mainstream media, and in retail stores that don't specialize in sex toys is bringing some people to my door asking the question, how many people really use vibrators?

Until recently there hasn't been much reliable research on vibrator use. The people who collect most of the information about vibrator use tend to be, not surprisingly, the people who are trying to sell us more vibrators. These surveys are always tied to some form of marketing and methodologies are rarely described in detail.

In 2009 Michael Reece and Debra Herbenick, along with colleagues at Indiana University published to surveys of vibrator use which offered a much more reliable and detailed look into the hows and whys of vibrator use. Their findings are below. Beneath their findings I've included the numbers from earlier research some of which amounts to no more than marketing material but others represent serious study on vibrator use.

Overall Reece and Herbenick found that just under 50% of respondents reported using a vibrator at some point, with slightly more women (52%) than men (45%) reporting vibrator use.

When Do You Use Vibrators?

Women reported using vibrators most during masturbation (46%) and least during intercourse (37%). Men were most likely to use vibrators with a partner during “sex play or foreplay” (40%). Only 17% of men reported using a vibrator for masturbation. The paper on men reported on reasons for first using a vibrator, and the most common one men gave (67%) was “for fun”. 40% of men said they used one to help a partner with orgasms, and 7% said they used it to help themselves to have an orgasm.

Vibrator Use and Sexual Function

The researchers compared vibrator users and non-vibrator users on several measures of sexual functioning (asking questions about things like erectile function, intercourse satisfaction, pain, orgasm, lubrication, and sexual desire). Overall men and women who used vibrators reported fewer problems with sexual function. And people who used vibrators more recently (the past month) responded to surveys in a way that indicated fewer problems with sexual function.

Vibrator Use and Other Healthy Behaviors

Both men and women who use vibrators were more likely to do things that indicate a comfort with their bodies and an interest in taking care of themselves. Women who had ever used a vibrator were more likely than those who had never used a vibrator to have had a gynecologic exam in the past year and performed a genital self-examine in the past month. Men who reported performing testicular self-exams within the past moth were more likely to have used a vibrator.

Sex Toy Cleaning

The good news is that the majority of men and women do clean their vibrators. The bad news is that some don’t (20% of men and 14% of women report never cleaning their toys). Of those who do clean, habits could still improve. 60% of women and 53% of men report cleaning their toy before and after use, with the rest either cleaning before or after. It’s not clear if they asked this, but what I’d be most interested in knowing is whether or not they cleaned the toy before first use, something that I think a lot of people overlook but it important considering the serious lack of hygiene in most sex toy factories.

Side Effects of Vibrator Use

The researchers only reported on women’s responses to questions about negative side effects of vibrator use. They asked women about genital numbness, pain, irritation, swelling (the bad kind) and tears or cuts. Here are the findings:
  • 71.5% of women never experienced any side effects.
  • 16% reported numbness
  • 3% reported pain
  • 10% reported irritation
  • 8% reported swelling
  • 1% reported tears or cuts

In all cases, those who reported negative side effects judged them to be relatively short lived and minor in severity.

Keep reading...Other Survey Data on Vibrator Use

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