Good Vibrations

Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. Whether incorporated into solo or partner based play, vibrators have been causing a buzz for years. Today’s vibrators are easy to purchase, come in a variety of colours, shapes, materials, and sizes, and are popularly endorsed by many TV shows. However, things weren’t always this way.

Historically, vibrators were created as a “cure for women’s hysteria.” This diagnosis was given to almost any ailment, including insomnia and nervousness. Early vibes were large steam-powered massage machines, and their invention came about when Victorian-era doctors tired of providing manual stimulation to female patients to cure them of “hysterical paroxysms.” At a time when female sexuality was a taboo topic, this “pelvic massage” method was simply viewed by doctors as a medical cure, with no sexual connotations. The pelvic massage method of relief was so popular and effective that it was only a matter of time before smaller hand-cranked mechanical and electrical vibrators were unveiled for home use, thus making the vibrator the fifth electrical appliance introduced to the home (after the sewing machine, fan, tea kettle, and toaster).

A climate heavy with denial surrounding female sexuality may not seem ideal for vibrator sales, however it was strangely beneficial. Vibrator usage was viewed as a medical treatment, creating an atmosphere that led women to feel comfortable purchasing and using their vibrator in the comfort and privacy of their home. However, this outlook was not to last forever. In the 1920s pornography started to feature “personal massagers” and vibrators, and the jig was up. Vibrators, which had previously been available for purchase anywhere by anyone, disappeared from store shelves.

Despite a lack of availability, women were not deterred. During this time electric toothbrush sales soared, and by the 1950s vibrating massagers for woman became popular for everything from spot reducers to weight loss. Once more women could buy vibrators without reproach, and by the 1960’s feminists reintroduced the vibrator as a symbol of female sexuality. From the 1980’s onwards vibrator sales have buzzed along, and today, approximately 52% of Canadian woman report having used a vibrator. In fact, with vibrators available on the shelves of Wal-Mart and Shoppers, easy and discreet purchasing available online, and a wide variety of sex shops in most cities, purchase has never been easier.

However, what if you fall in the 48% who have never used a vibrator? Perhaps you are just not comfortable with the idea, you never knew how to go about purchasing one, or you never thought of the variety of mental and physical benefits often associated with vibrator use. Victorian-era doctors prescribing sexual stimulation as a cure for hysteria might actually have been onto something. A 2009 study found that the 52 percent of American women who used a vibrator tended to be physically and psychologically healthier than those who didn’t.

So, you want to know what the buzz is all about. If you’re a vibrator newbie, the first step is to determine which one is right for you. If you are worried about discretion, vibrators are available in a wide range of non-assuming shapes, such as rubber ducks, lipstick tubes, and shower loofas. For your first vibrator look for one offering an external stimulation feature, as 75% of women achieve orgasm through clitoral stimulation. In fact, 84% of users rely on their vibe for this purpose. Look for something relatively small, with different speeds or settings, and the ability to be recharged or have the batteries changed out. Although the temptation is to go cheap (and I would advise not buying the most expensive vibe out there your first time in the saddle), keep in mind that cheaper products are often lower quality, leading to a shorter product lifespan.

As you increase your comfort level, perhaps try a G-spot penetration vibrator. Penetrative vibes can be purchased to provide internal and external stimulation, and come in a variety of shapes for use with your partner. If shopping for a vibrator primarily for penetration-based play, look for one that is smooth (without any painful sharp edges) and made of a material that won’t absorb bodily fluids. If you are using your toy for penetration, keep in mind oil-based lubes are not sex toy friendly, and silicone-based lubes shouldn’t be used with silicone-based toys. However, silicone-based lubes do work well with harder material toys, such as hard plastics, aluminum, or steel. If unsure, your best bet is water-based lubricants, as these are safe for use with silicone-based toys and latex condoms.

As mentioned, vibrators need not only be used solo. Try using one on your partner, or have them use one on you. Vibrating cock-rings can be a fun hands-free option, and cheap ones are available in local drug stores. Vibrating nipple clamps can also be purchased for added stimulation during play. Next time you’re in Halifax, check out Venus Envy, which carries a wide variety of toys. If you’re uncomfortable purchasing sex toys in person, try looking online. Sites like often have sales, and provide discrete to-the-door shipping. As always, make sure you’re buying from a reputable site, look up reviews on your toy of choice, and check for discreet shipping options. If you plan on travelling with your new toy, make sure to check regulations at your destination. Some locations, including India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and even Alabama, prohibit sex toys.

Remember, it doesn’t matter if you’re using it at home or abroad, solo or with a partner, or if it’s your first toy or an old favorite, always sterilize sex toys after use. You can do this by cleaning them with warm soapy water, or buying a pre-made sex toy cleaner. Most non-motorized toys can be sterilized in boiling water, and motorized toys can be wiped down with a 10 to 1 water-to-bleach solution. When you are done using your battery-operated vibrator, take out the batteries, as leaving them in leads to the risk of your vibe turning on and running the motor down, not to mention some awkward questions about the source of buzzing noises! If you are leaving your vibe alone for extended periods, you also run the risk of the batteries corroding and destroying your toy, so remove them during periods of inactivity. It’s best to store silicone toys in a dry and sealed container, as silicone tends to attract lint and dust.

So, use, enjoy, clean, and repeat! Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.