Who’s Using Vibrators: Survey Results

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: August 9, 2016

Contributed by Dr. Barb Depree- Red Hot Mamas Medical Expert 

The times they are a-changin’. At least that’s what I think we’re seeing with the results of a survey we at MiddlesexMD conducted.

We asked readers of our website and newsletter to respond to several questions about whether and how they use vibrators. Granted, our sample size is small and not exactly random, since it comprises MiddlesexMD readers, and we’re a forum on sexual health for midlife women. The responses were skewed, as I’d expect, toward women in peri- and post-menopausal middle years, from 50 and 70.

That said, there’s a lot to be gleaned from the stats. An interesting place to begin might be in what I interpret as a generational and cultural shift in attitudes and comfort level toward using a vibrator. Those are the cracks within which I think the times might be changing.

There’s a lot of anecdotal and scientific evidence that vibrators have gone mainstream in the past decade or so. In a 2011 study co-authored by Debby Herbenick, PhD., director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, over half of the 2000 women between the ages of 18 and 60 who were surveyed had used a vibrator and felt positively about both sex and their vibe.

In our survey, about 80 percent of the respondents under 60 have used a vibrator alone at least “rarely” and over half have used one with a partner. Of the respondents over 60, about 68 percent have used a vibrator alone and 37 percent with a partner. That means about twice as many women over 60 have never used a vibrator alone compared to women under 60. In our much smaller subset of women under 50, all report using a vibrator at least rarely.

Granted, these numbers may be less revealing since our respondents cluster around the menopausal years and are women who are interested in their sex lives. But I think they do reinforce a sense of the cultural shift that has occurred.

Those of us who came of age during the rollicking 1960s and 70s may have partaken of, um, many things, including the sexual freedom of birth control options and evolving cultural morés. At that time, however, vibrators weren’t really on the radar. We were still striving for the elusive simultaneous orgasm (vaginally and without help). And what the heck was wrong with us if we couldn’t manage it?

“…by the 1970s, scientific publications stated that vibrators were harmful and never to be used by ‘normal’ women,” writes Lauren Streicher, MD., associate clinical professor at Northwestern University’s medical school in a recent blog post.

Well, guess what? The times have certainly changed since then. By the time Charlotte fell in love with her “rabbit” (a vibrator for both clitoral and vaginal stimulation) on the first season of
Sex in the City in 1998, vibrator use had gone mainstream. Now, guys use them; partners use them; same sex couples use them. Far from being stigmatized, vibrators are associated with a whole bunch of good things, including a more robust sex life.

Some of us older gals may have missed the memo, but we’re catching up. That’s what our survey suggests: younger women use vibrators more, but our over-60 cohort is coming of age, so to speak. That’s a good thing, because vibrators are most critical during those drier, less sensitive, post-menopausal years. We’re not ready to give up on intimacy or satisfaction–whether because of our own loss of sensation or our partner’s loss of agility–and we don’t need to.

So don’t be surprised if your doctor prescribes a vibrator just to keep your downtown tissues healthy, as Streicher did for one of her 70-year-old patients, who had to adjust her hearing aid to make sure she understood correctly.

Dr. Barb DePree gynecologist, NAMS certified menopausal provider and  founder of the website middlesexmd.com , a website for promoting women’s  sexual health.