Say hello to your (new) little friend. Small, but strong. Sweet, but sassy, this little bedroom toy is a safer alternative for skin to skin intimacy. (Except if you’re married or living with a partner) While sex ed curriculums teach us that pleasure comes from skin to skin contact, what’s nice about this toy is that it helps vulva owners feel less alone especially when we’re still in a pandemic and rolling out vaccines.
The first time I saw a vibrator, it was in Sex and the City, where Charlotte York spent a night in bed playing around with a dildo-like tool with a rabbit’s head. Being the curious 14-year-old that I was, I knew that it was awkward for teens like me to even watch SATC as it was “too mature”. Given that my mom had a DVD set of season 1 tucked neatly inside a drawer, I took it out and played it on a portable DVD player while hiding under the covers. I didn’t have a visual rekindling with vibrators until I saw a music video on the history of vibrators in 2016 and it blew my mind that there were many more kinds in existence.
While I passed around sex shops in Singapore and NYC, I never dared to step foot in one as the exteriors looked seedy. However, it wasn’t until I got some e-mail pitches about vibrators that made me realize that this little tool is not as scary or strange as it looks in TV shows. In fact, this little handy tool is safer than what you’d think given that sales have surged due to social distancing measures last year. And hey, at least you’re not getting COVID if you go near a vibrator nor will you get pregnant nor die. (*cough* Coach Carr *cough*)
Now that I can go out to a mall (with a mask on) and take a little trip to the drugstore, there was a row that made me pause. Rather than stopping by to admire the colors of every Revlon lipstick, what made me stop was seeing a shelf of vibrators. Much to my surprise, who knew that a place like Guardian can carry these little battery packs?
If you’re a seasoned vibrator user, you can skip this article altogether. But if you are someone who is new to vibrators, I’ve roped in Hong Kong-based sexologist/podcaster Sara Tang of SARA SENSE and Singapore-based Smile Makers‘s Brand Director Cécile Gasnault to spill the tea.
Vibrators obviously come in all shapes and sizes, but for beginners, which ones should they use first?
Sara Tang: For versatility, a great toy to start with is an insertable vibrator that can also be used externally on different body parts – such as the clitoris, testicles, nipples etc. Generally these come in a longer bullet-like shape like the We-Vibe Tango, or are sometimes curved like the We-Vibe Rave.
For heterosexual couples, I recommend looking into custom-built vibrators that deliver stimulation to both partners, like a vibrating penis ring i.e. We-Vibe Pivot or a C-shaped dual vibrator like the We-Vibe Sync. These toys are designed to stay in place during intercourse while keeping your hands free so you can use them on each other!
Cécile Gasnault: When people ask us the question “what vibrator should I get?”, often in the context of a first purchase, our answer is always to invite them to start with some self-reflection or self-exploration. Ask yourself or observe how you like to be touched, what feels good for you and if there is a certain type of stimulation that you would like to explore. This will guide you for the type of vibrator that would be a good fit for you. For our collection specifically, we have created a quiz that people can take on our website to do this self-reflection and get a personalised recommendation.
Some other considerations to keep in mind:
· Pick a product that you find approachable and that you will it leave unused in a drawer.
· The design, the texture, the colour, the sound level matter to make this an enjoyable experience for you.
· Finally, check the material to make sure it is body-safe.
For couples who have never used vibrators before, which type of vibrators should they start out with?
ST: Firstly, I would recommend that the couple thinks about what kind of sensations they want to explore – whether that’s internal, clitoris, anal etc. Decide whether you would like to take turns using a vibrator on each other or have a toy that provides dual stimulation simultaneously. I recommend finding a vibrator that’s made of bodysafe materials like silicone because they are non-porous and easy to clean.
And if you’re starting out with your very first vibrator, picking something budget-friendly – that doesn’t sacrifice on quality – is a good idea as it may take a few tries before finding what works best for the both of you. I suggest that the couple visits a sex toy retailer either online or in person to pick something that appeals to the both of them. Visiting a shop in person gives the added advantage of being able to feel the actual strength and power of the vibrator’s motor in your hands.
CG: According to a recent study we commissioned in Singapore and surveying 1,000 women aged 20 and more, 75% of women need external stimulation to climax. An external vibrator would therefore be a great place to start for most. Adding an external vibrator during partner sex is a way to guide one’s partner to show what you like, and it can complement penetrative sex.
Another option would be a tongue vibrator that can be used on both partners as a way to explore each other’s erogenous zones, these areas of the body the stimulation of which triggers a sexual response.
What do you think about using portable vibrators in public?
ST: I absolutely love the idea. Exploring and changing up locations is really important to add variety and novelty, which helps to keep the sexual spark alive especially for people in committed, long-term relationships. It can also be a fun game between partners on a date to know that you can get buzzed when you least expect it.
How often should you use a vibrator?
ST: As often as you masturbate! There are so many physical and mental benefits of masturbation in addition to the simple pleasure of doing it. If using a vibrator every time you masturbate feels good to you, just keep at it. One of the biggest myths I’ve heard about vibrators is that they can be desensitizing on the genitals, which is why people may hesitate with using them often. However, this is simply not true.
There’s a chance you might experience some temporary numbing if you’re using your vibrator for hours on end at the most powerful speed, but the physical sensations will quickly return once you give yourself a break. Rest assured there are no health risks or you won’t do any permanent damage this way.
CG: As often as you like!
Can vibrators be biodegradable?
ST: Yes they can. I believe this will be a growing trend even though there are only very few biodegradable vibrator models on the market currently. The ones that are biodegradeable are made from bioplastics i.e. natural materials (mainly corn starch) that offer an alternative to plastic.
CG: Some vibrators have biodegradable components but based on our understanding of currently available technologies, none is fully biodegradable for now. Hopefully soon enough, this will change.
For those who want to use sustainable vibrators, which brands do you recommend?
ST: Womanizer has recently come up with a biodegradable and recyclable version of one of their most popular vibrator models – the Womanizer Premium Eco. Not only does the vibrator feature Womanizer’s patented Pleasure Air technology, its also made of biolene, a biodegradable material.
The Womanizer Premium Eco also features a replaceable battery to extend the product’s run-time, as well as rechargeable and recyclable packaging. With every purchase of the Womanizer Premium Eco, Womanizer also plants a tree and works with One Tree Planted to do so.
How does Feng Shui relate to sexual wellness and what are its benefits?
ST: I love the alignment between fengshui and sexual wellness because they are both about bringing greater harmony, balance and energy to our lives. Feng Shui gives us a way to talk about sexual wellness in a positive light with less of a taboo. Talking about sex in the context of Feng Shui helps us broaden our understanding of sexual wellness beyond just the act of sex. We can think of it as more integrated, holistic lifestyle concept. It’s about connecting with your own life source or erotic energy, knowing your body, feeling good, enjoying intimacy and having more harmonious relationships.
Given that sex ed courses are taught on fear, Smile Makers has been giving out Vulva Talks classes. How has that helped you learn more about your body?
Developing educational material for our community has allowed me to understand much better my own anatomy. We are not taught about the details of our sexual anatomy besides our reproductive system. Most of us don’t know the difference between the vulva and the vagina, of the fact that the clitoris and the penis come from the same embryo cells and develop quite similarly in many ways.
Beyond all these anatomical fun facts, what I found most life changing by talking with sexologists to develop this program was the realisation that the definition of sex we’ve been given is very narrow-minded and scripted and it doesn’t work for most of us. That a happy and healthy sex life is one where the individual is in charge of one’s pleasure and writes their own story based on what works for them within the boundaries of consent.
For those who come from more conservative family backgrounds like yourself, how did you get over your fear of using a vibrator?
ST: If you’ve had a conservative family background, the fear of using a vibrator most likely stems from a more deeply embedded fear and resistance to masturbation, which you probably grew up thinking was considered dirty, shameful and taboo. So in order to overcome this, first educate yourself on the myths and misconceptions around masturbation. And then try to let go of any limiting beliefs and fears that you think are holding you back. This takes quite a lot of inner work, so seeking out the support of someone like a sex coach can be helpful.
Make a practice of connecting and pleasuring your own body in ways that are sensual, but not sexual. You can take baby steps to help you feel more comfortable in your own skin – from dancing naked, engaging in mindful self-touch or even just looking at your genitals in the mirror. Just follow what feels safe and good. Be patient with yourself. This will help you slowly build up sexual confidence to overcome the fear of masturbation, and explore using a vibrator.
CG: I would say it is a matter of educating our point of view with more information about it. The stigma around vibrators relates to two things. The stigma around female pleasure and gender roles. Both of these things are easily challenged with documented facts. First, sexual pleasure holds many scientifically documented health benefits, including pain relief, boosted immunity, increased levels of fitness and vitality, longevity and more.
Second, gender roles and the idea that female pleasure does not exist independently of one’s partner do not hold up against the findings of scientific studies that women are much more likely to climax during masturbation (96% of the time) than they are during partner, especially heterosexual sex (65% of the time).
Lastly, the recent survey we commissioned also showed that women who use vibrators are more satisfied with their sex lives, they know their body better and they are more likely to say that their partner knows their body well.