Good Vibrations: The Increasing Prevalence and Acceptability of Vibrators

by aturne on April 5, 2013

Thank you David for paving the way for me this week and talking about masturbation. I’d like to follow suit and discuss one of the many tools used for masturbation, vibrators.

Trojan Condoms branching out with their new product, vibrators.

In case you are wondering. Why is this girl blogging about vibrators?  Prior to attending the school of public health I worked in research and development for Trojan condoms.  I happened to be there during the launch of their vibrator line. Drug stores across the country and adult novelty stores now carry their two lines Trojan Vibrations and the Trojan Midnight collection. Seriously, check out your local CVS for Pulse, Triphoria or Twister.

What is a vibrator?

A vibrator is a handheld electronic device that creates pulses of varying frequency and intensity to increase sexual arousal and delay orgasm in both men and women. Vibrators come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit individual preferences. They also differ on the areas they stimulate. External vibrators can be used on the clitoris, nipples or other sensitive body parts during solo or couples play. Internal vibrators are used for vaginal or anal stimulation and can be used in a similar manner. There are also vibrators that provide both internal and external stimulation. There is a wide variety among this product. A basic vibrator can cost about $15 and the fancier vibes can reach as high as $3500. 

A very brief history.

Vibrators have been around for quite awhile. In the late 1800s George Taylor developed a steam powered vibrating massager for doctors to treat women with hysteria aka depression or the blues.  Not your typical doctors visit, right?

Shortly after, the vibrator became a household device. Some women’s catalogues offered vibrators, often disguised as something else. Eventually vibrators faded away and weren’t mentioned at all. Then, in the 1970s the first one was marketed as a sexual accessory. This gave birth to the multi-billion-dollar industry of sex toys that we have today. Vibes and other goodies are available at adult novelty stores, online retailers, home parties and now major drug chains. Quite a leap from the doctor’s office.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?                                     Image Courtesy of

Who uses vibrators?

In a recent study, a team of researchers discovered that over half of women regardless of sexual orientation have ever used a vibrator. Vibrator use is more common in women who identify as lesbian or bisexual. Couples also use vibrators during sex or foreplay. The majority of women’s partners are aware that they own a vibrator. This did not have a negative effect on their relationships. In fact, most women felt their partners liked that they owned a vibrator.

What are the health benefits?

Besides the obvious that David pointed out about masturbation (it feels good); there are a number of health benefits to using a vibrator.

Women are more likely to…

  • Increase their sexual function
  • Visit their gynecologist
  • Perform a gynecological self exam

These benefits are interesting because they are health promoting behaviors. Indicating that vibrators may serve multiple benefits for the individuals that use them.

What do people think about vibrators?

For a while some believed that vibrators were for people who were single, alone or lonely. Or that vibrators are threatening in the bedroom. The same team of researchers found that men and women have positive attitudes towards women’s vibrator use. Vibrators were believed to contribute in a positive way to women’s sexual functioning. Only a few participants reported negative themes.

The large and diverse amount of people that use vibrators suggest a more positive outlook towards vibrators than previously believed.  Our culture may not accurately represent how accepted vibrators are in our society.

Why did people get vibrators?

What happens in the bedroom stays in the bedroom.       Image Courtesy of

  • Fun
  • Spice things up a bit
  • Curiosity
  • Easier to orgasm

Are vibrators going mainstream?

The recent launch of vibrators in drugstore chains suggests that things may be changing.  Vibrators are no longer limited to a doctor’s office.  They’re in your pharmacy, online and in stores across the country. But, eight states do not sell vibrators or other sexual health products.

Perhaps the more important thing about a greater availability of vibrators is that it opens up the possibility for a dialogue on sexual pleasure. Topics like masturbation, foreplay, and fetishes can sometimes take the backseat and be seen as taboo or unnatural. There is a large focus on diseases and risk reduction. But if we are able to be more comfortable talking about sex, maybe the negatives and positives can be discussed. And we can freely talk with our friends and partners about vibrators and sexual pleasure.

For more great resources on vibrators check out these sites


Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Sanders, S., Dodge, B., Ghassemi, A., & Fortenberry, D.J. (2009). Prevalence and Characteristics of Vibrator Use by Women in the United States: Results from a Nationally Representative Study. Journal of Sexual Medicine. 6(7): 1857-1866. DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01318.x

Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Sanders, S., Dodge, B., Ghassemi, A., & Fortenberry, D.J. (2010). Women’s Vibrator Use in Sexual Partnerships: Results from a Nationally Representative Sample of the United States. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. 36: 49-65. DOI: 10.1080/00926230903375677.

Herbenick, et al. (2011).  Beliefs About Women’s Vibrator Use: Results From a Nationally Representative Probability Survey in the United States. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. 37:5, 329-345

Dan Kegel April 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm

And then there’s, but their site looks less classy than it used to somehow :-(

Richard April 6, 2013 at 6:49 am
Angela April 16, 2013 at 8:51 am

Thanks for the post! I liked the structure, but I’m not sure if I’d put links only to commercial sites. Are there any forums where people discuss e.g. health or pleasure benefits of vibrators? Or are there any public health sites discussing them?

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