Sex Q&A

Sex Question Friday: Is It Normal For Guys To Use Vibrators?

May 16, 2014 by Justin Lehmiller

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who wanted to know the following:

“Is it normal for guys to use vibrators or other sex toys?”

Great question! However, I’m going to answer by focusing on whether vibrator and sex toy use is “common” among men instead of focusing on whether it’s “normal.” My reason for saying this is because I don’t want to turn this into a discussion about whether you should or shouldn’t be using sex toys. In my view, that’s something that you and (if applicable) your partner should decide for yourselves based on what you’re comfortable with. After all, you can have a great sex life with or without the addition of toys.

That said, there’s not a lot of research on men’s sex toy use. I suspect that part of the reason for this is because vibrators and other sex toys have traditionally been viewed as things that exist more for female pleasure than for male pleasure. However, a couple of recent surveys suggest that it’s actually not that uncommon for guys to use sex toys. For instance, a national survey in Australia found that about 12% of the men surveyed reported having used a sex toy in the last year [1]. In addition, a national U.S. survey focusing specifically on men’s vibrator use found that 24.2% of guys reported having used a vibrator in the last year [2]. The U.S. study also revealed that if you look at whether men have ever used a vibrator in their entire lives, the numbers are even higher, with nearly half (44.8%) saying they have done so!

So how do men typically use vibrators and why do they use them? Most guys say that they use vibrators with their partners during foreplay and/or intercourse [2]. In fact, although almost half of the men in the U.S. survey mentioned above reported having used a vibrator before, only 16.6% said that they had used one alone during masturbation. In light of this finding, it is perhaps not surprising that when men were asked why they first began incorporating vibrators into their sex lives, some of the most common reasons included wanting to please one’s partner, to help one’s partner have an orgasm, or to “spice up” one’s sex life. Far fewer guys reported using vibrators to help themselves have an orgasm, although that’s certainly a reason that some guys use these sex toys.

Who are the men that use vibrators? Research suggests that these men are more likely to be married or living with a partner; in addition, they tend to be less religious and less politically conservative [2]. Also, while some people might assume that vibrator use is primarily driven by gay men, that’s not the case. In fact, large numbers of heterosexual- (44.5%), bisexual- (66.7%), and gay-identified men (50%) report having used a vibrator before [2].

One last thing worth noting about men’s vibrator use is that guys who have used a vibrator recently tend to report better erectile and orgasmic function, greater sexual desire, and more satisfying intercourse than men who have never used a vibrator before [2]. However, we have to be cautious in interpreting these data. Although it could potentially be the case that use of vibrators actually improves men’s sex lives, it is just as plausible that these results could be due to men with higher sex drives or men who are more comfortable with their sexuality perhaps being more willing to experiment with vibrators.

I realize I’ve focused primarily on use of vibrators here, which is obviously just one kind of sex toy. Men can and do use other types of toys too, but far more research is needed on what kinds of toys guys are using, how they’re being used, and how they’re related to men’s sexual functioning.

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[1] Richters, J., Grulich, A. E., Visser, R. O., Smith, A., & Rissel, C. E. (2003). Sex in Australia: Autoerotic, esoteric and other sexual practices engaged in by a representative sample of adults. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 27(2), 180-190.

[2] Reece, M., Herbenick, D., Sanders, S. A., Dodge, B., Ghassemi, A., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2009). Prevalence and characteristics of vibrator use by men in the United States. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 6(7), 1867-1874.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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