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So vibrators are disempowering now?

Fun Factory vibrators looking just cute and blameless.
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Now that Hysteria’s come out, everyone has an opinion about vibrators. Many of which I ignore. But I had not really heard this particular argument from a woman before, and I was intrigued by its logic. Brandi Megan Granett is troubled, just troubled, that there’s an entire movie!!! devoted to the history of the vibrator, and that her Twitter timeline is full of links to sex toy-related news stories. This is all very upsetting! Because in her mind, fingers are better, and vibrator users are just brainwashed.

I know I should let her have her little opinion in her corner of the internet, but… I have to say something. This shit bugs me because, while the article isn’t extreme or super rage-inducing, its message is insidious. Especially coming from a woman. Especially wrapped in “but really, whatever you do is okay!” language. It reminds me of the “girls who learn to use their hands do better at intercourse” guy, only not as overtly ridiculous and dismissible.

While I’m all for anyone expressing their sexuality and enjoying themselves, when perusing the pages of vibrators available, most, if not all, marketed towards women, I am left to wonder: Why all the hoopla? Why all the need for tools and batteries and life-like stimulation? Why can’t women just touch themselves?

Right out of the gate, I would bet $50 that this woman either has never tried a sex toy, or has never had a positive experience with one. To understand the hoopla, you have to first comprehend that vibrators are nothing like human hands. For one, THEY VIBRATE. For two, they come in all kinds of crazy shapes. They offer a wide array of sensations, from flickering to jackhammering to oscillating to flapping to rumbling. And vibrators provide variety — you know, that thing we’re supposed to nurture in our sex lives so we don’t get bored?

Never mind the fact that fingers in the vagina feel nothing like 99.9% of dildos out there…

Even with the rise in sex toys, this taboo remains.

Good girls don’t do that. There are no jokes about Rosie Fingers the way there are about Rosie Palm, a man’s best girlfriend. With the rise in vibrators, women don’t need to touch themselves to experience pleasure; they can use an intermediary device to put them one step back from the process, to remove themselves from the action.

Oh gag me with a spoon. “One step back from the process”? “Remove themselves from the action”? INTERMEDIARY DEVICE? Please. Vibrators help women focus on the action, because they’re not worrying about the discomfort in their wrists and the orgasm that feels perpetually out of reach. For many women, vibrators simply feel better than fingers. GASP, I know.

I can’t help but feeling women still need permission to pleasure themselves. We need the approval of a credit card swipe and a delicately labeled box with instructions to get in touch with one of our deepest, most natural urges. While I know this may not be true for every woman that rocks a vibrator, part of me worries that this is just another case where women’s sexuality is subjugated to the marketplace instead of celebrated and explored . . . We don’t need special pink magic wands to access this pleasure; all we need is the knowledge that it is okay, more than okay, a birthright, to experience and enjoy one of the gifts of being human.

I’m totally with her on the whole birthright thing. Obviously. But she is not giving women enough credit at all. In our world, it still takes guts to purchase a vibrator. People buying vibrators are not sexually repressed — that doesn’t even make sense. A swipe of the credit card just means taking matters into — dare I say it?! — our own hands. Buying a nice vibrator is an empowering thing, an investment, a commitment to one’s own pleasure. Which I think is what Granett wants, only she wants it to come solely from the pads of our fingers.

Also, should we outlaw every technological advancement that helps us out with our “most natural urges”? Let’s banish toilets and go pee in our backyards from now on. Let’s close down our email accounts and switch back to the sending letters via horse. Let’s trek to the nearest river to get our water, because fuck that indoor plumbing shit.

Vibrators are not the enemy here. If you want the taboo of female masturbation to come down, shunning vibrators isn’t gonna do it. You know why? Because vibrators have had a huge impact on how people of all genders view female sexuality. A positive impact. Vibrators allow people to have their first orgasms. Vibrators help people have orgasms during sex. Vibrators are a great tool for exploring sexual preferences. If not for sex toys, I’d still be masturbating by circling a fucking Sharpie cap around my clit, and I’d probably have gone my whole life without discovering my G-spot. And fuck. No.

I would really like to hear Granett say “all we need is the knowledge that it is okay” to someone who cannot orgasm without the help of a vibrator. Which, by the way, does not make a person damaged or imperfect. You are not a better, more empowered person for using nothing but your fingers; you are simply unadventurous.

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  1. Thank you! I can’t orgasm just by touching myself. I’ve tried. A lot. You know what I used before I got a vibrator? The torrential downpour of the bathtub faucet. I need SOMETHING besides my own two hands. Be it a vibrator, a dildo, somebody else’s hands (or other parts), or that faucet, I need some kind of boost. The kind of stimulation I need just does not happen from my tiny hands and weak wrists (I can’t even get the angle right). Period.

  2. I can’t help but feeling women still need permission to pleasure themselves.

    So we should be getting it from her instead? We must always be so so worried about women, silly little women can never take care of our own sexuality, we need people like her to tell us why we are Doing It Wrong. I don’t hear anyone claiming that the Fleshlight is undermining men’s ability to wank “naturally”.

    I can orgasm using my fingers. Easily. Vibrators are just an extra tool, and a fun one. I don’t want to eat the same thing every day, why should I want to masturbate the same way every time? And dildos are another tool that absolutely cannot be replaced by fingers — a tool that women have been using for millennia.

    Then there’s the idea that women are somehow being manipulated into purchasing sex toys. Like we can’t decide on our own what we wish to buy. Poor little women, someone has to take care of us, we’re so bad at thinking for ourselves. Especially when it comes to our own bodies.

    Edit: Also, I can’t help but feel that the Huffington Post needs a better copy editor and that this woman should worry more about her own writing skills and less about what goes on and in other women’s bodies.

  3. What bullshit. I spent years trying to orgasm with just my hands. Guess what? I can’t. Just doesn’t happen. I NEED vibration. Or a dildo. Something. It’s just not happening manually. So am I supposed to go my whole life not being able to bring myself to orgasm according to this article? Yeah, no thanks! I’m glad she can get off with her fingers and all, but it doesn’t work that way for everyone.

  4. TERRIFIC post Piph!!

    La la LOVE every point you make… there are so many women who went YEARS with an orgasm… until they met the buzz of their dreams!

    Men LOVE watching their woman seek pleasure with a vibrator… or join her in couple-buzzing pleasure (We-Vibe!)… or bring her pleasure with a vibrator.

    And lets not forget our flying solo gals who need a BOB (battery operated boyfriend) to stay in their sexual groove.

    Thanks and MUAH!

  5. Gods I love you! Totally totally you grok this! I tried my fingers. Couldn’t cum. Thought I was “broken”. I was 49. My first experience with masturbation, and I thought I was incapable of cumming.

    Discovered you could buy sex toys online! Woot! Bought my first vibe later that year. Came so hard I thought I broke something. Once I could see and breathe again, I laughed. I laughed and laughed. So *THAT* was what all the fuss was about sex!!! (my spouse and I have not had sex in 9 years; I have my own bedroom.)

    I’ve come a long way, and cum many times in the three and a half years since… You do a wonderful job here of debunking the “natural” masturbation theory… “fuck that indoor plumbing”… mwhahahaha!

    Once again, Epiphora hits a grand slam!


  6. This article made me really angry. And then the comments yanked that anger up a notch. I applaud all these women for whom the orgasm comes so easily. For the rest of us? Thank Gandolf there are vibrators. But hey, thanks Brandi for reinforcing the thought I lived with for years that I’m “broken” because I “need” a vibrator.

    I couldn’t even respond to the article itself without sputtering and ranting like a lunatic, so my response was in response to a comment.

    Comment: Vibrators desensitizes your ability to have a nature orgasm with just intercourse stimulation. Its a lot like drinking because more you drink the more it takes to get you drunk. This is true especially for those of us over 50. (written by a man. Yes, because he knows it all)

    My response to his comment: This? Is absolute BULLSHIT. There is absolutely no evidence to support this. Just anecdotes and assumptions and guesses. Go talk to Dr Carol Queen, if you’re not too close-minded to listen.

    And then he directs me to the Vagina Monologues *headdesk*

  7. OH ALSO I can easily have orgasms while having piv sex with a man. Vibrators have not stopped that. Not that there’s some goal we should all be reaching for of “orgasm while a penis is inside our vaginas” as if that’s the alpha and omega. Everyone has different desires and needs. Even women like me, who enjoy sex with penis-bearing men, and have access to an extremely pleasing one, don’t always want them in the room while we’re playing with sex toys.

    Since I’ve thrown out my back, orgasms and sexual pleasure in general (it’s not all about the orgasm) aren’t as easy to achieve for me. I’ve found that vibrators sensitize me so that anything else I do sexually feels better. This is backed up by recommendations by medical doctors that women in my situation use vibrators.

    But we do not have to “need” vibrators to want them. Feeling we have to defend ourselves with “need” instead of simple desire is one thing women do that is a sign of how we’re sexually shamed and silenced.

  8. Great article, I for one cannot come without a vibrator… well I haven’t done so far in my life, I suppose I’ve got a long way to go yet (well hopefully!), and it’s certainly not for a lack of trying or not wanting to. I still do masturbate with my hands, but with a vibrator as well if I want to orgasm. Who cares? It’s a hell of a lot of fun and extremely liberating.

    I actually cannot get over some of the things this woman was saying….
    2 Stars

    Lucy x

  9. The first few months of experimenting with masturbation, I couldn’t come. I worked my way up to that, but had to take annoying little breaks during play because my wrist would be shot by the time I actually came. Since getting my first vibrator, my wrist feels spared, and my orgasms are actually better. I need SOMETHING inside me, and I need that initial stim on the clit to get me going.

    It’s nice to know that my orgasms are somehow a crime against humanity.

    Kudos to you, Piph, for spotting this!


  10. Though you can’t see me, I am totally giving you a standing ovation. I didn’t have the best experience with vibrators in the beginning, and I preferred my fingers (I still sometimes use them). But a couple of years ago, I upgraded from my $10 silver bullet to the Siri, and I am never looking back.

  11. I was a bathtub faucet fiend before moving away to college. By the time I left college, I had vibrators and never looked back.

    P.S. Sorry for the stray downvote. Still getting used to Disqus over here!

  12. But we do not have to “need” vibrators to want them. Feeling we have to defend ourselves with “need” instead of simple desire is one thing women do that is a sign of how we’re sexually shamed and silenced.

    Fucking YES.

  13. I feel very lucky that I’m able to get myself off with my hands alone, because it means I can masturbate just about anywhere if I want to… but I still think it’s appallingly stupid when people (mostly men) try to make women feel defective for wanting to use vibrators all the time. Who are they to say what’s right and what’s wrong?

    I recently got accused by a man of having been “desensitized,” due to being a sex toy reviewer. He said that my desensitization was the reason I couldn’t get off from intercourse alone, and needed to rub my clit while being fucked in order to come. Uh, no – that’s how at least 70% of women are built, actually! Dumbass… (Not to mention the fact that vibrators don’t cause permanent nerve damage.)

  14. I too can get off with my hands alone, but sometimes it is easier, quicker or more interesting to use a vibrator. Variety is nice sometimes, you know?

    Stuff like this pisses me off and reminds of someone I used to have sex with. He claimed that vibrators were the reason I couldn’t get off during intercourse. Funny, now that I’ve found someone who actually cares about my sexual pleasure, I can get off just fine. Even if I couldn’t, it has nothing to do with vibrator use.

    And yes, healthy strokes guy much…

  15. First of all – Netflix-ing the movie. Secondly, when I bought my Hitachi, I thought I’d found God. Some people don’t get off so easily. I’ve never been able to finger myself to orgasm. Tasty Cakes to those who can, but that ain’t me. I’m all about “to each their own,” but homechick does sound as if she’s never had a positive experience with a sex toy. Someone should volunteer to help that poor girl. She probably has Hysteria.

  16. I think the root of Miss Garnett’s being so “troubled” is pretty obvious from this statement she made: “I can’t help but feeling women still need permission to pleasure themselves.” It sounds like she has some serious hangups, which apparently includes sex toys. So sad for her. Some of us like a little variety in life.

  17. I used to be able to orgasm with my fingers. But since I started taking an SSRI med it is a lot harder to reach orgasm and not doable with my fingers. Thank god for vibes! Rather than remove me from my sexuality, they put me back in touch with it. Losing the ability to orgasm as easily was really depressing for me, and I know many women experience this side effect.

  18. Whenever I use a vibrator it hurts really badly. And if I touch myself it hurts too badly. And when I have sex I don’t feel anything and when he goes for my clit it HURTS! My doctor says it’s normal to be this sensitive, but I really just want to get off. I don’t have a g-spot, and my clit hurts too much to be touched even lightly… WHAT CAN I DO?! 🙁

  19. Ridiculous argument. I’m an absolute pro with my hands, but there’s some places I can’t reach with just my fingers, and hey, what’s wrong with variety? Using a sex toy does not represent “shame” or give me “permission” to touch myself. I gave myself that permission when I was in elementary school. I hate it when people, supposedly in the name of feminism, try to tell me how I feel.

  20. This happened to me too, with SSRIs and other meds. My hands won’t cut it. I need strong vibration and/or half an hour or so of very skillful, tireless cunnilingus to get off. A partner is not always available/awake/able to lick pussy for that long at a stretch, so, yeah. Vibrators it is! All (consensual) roads to pleasure are valid. Touch yourself, touch yourself with an object, hump a chair, whatever gets you off. Shit like that drives me crazy.

  21. Ugh, that article. Yeah, I don’t need *permission* to jerk off. I need *assistance*. I’ve got chronic pain, weak joints, poor stamina, and medication side effects all making orgasms difficult to come (ha?) by. If the only tools at my disposal were my own damn hands, I wouldn’t have had an orgasm in a little over eleven years. Fuck that noise. Vibrators don’t keep me a step removed from the process; they give me access to my sexuality that I otherwise would not have.
    I know I’m late to the party here, but thanks for calling this bullshit out. <3

  22. I think you kind of missed the point a little, Ande. Sex toys aren’t just for heterosexual women to use with or for possessive men, or to use in place of a man when single. Women in relationships do still like to masturbate. Women in relationships with women like to masturbate, and to use vibes and dildos with their partners. Women who are single like to masturbate, and they don’t need to pretend a sex toy is a person or do it just to keep being sexual for some future partner.

  23. With all her “I’m left to wonder” and “I can’t help but feeling (sic),” I can’t help but think she watched too much “Sex and the City.”

  24. A little late I know, but I second everything said by FieryRed. Ande, that’s really not what the post was about. And on a personal note, I really hate the term “battery operated boyfriend”. It assumes so many insulting things- that I want or need a “boyfriend”, that I am only using the toy as a lesser substitute until said “boyfriend” comes along to magically save me from my must-be-lonely singlehood, and that I will no longer “need” (or want) the toy once I manage to do the proper thing and “snag” a man. None of which are true. Ugh. There is a Screaming O wand toy that is designed to look like a dude called the BOB “battery operated boyfriend” that I want to buy only so I can smash it against a wall. And maybe record a video of me doing that.

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