Sex toys can help, hinder relationships

Courtney Lewis

On the rare occasions I have been in the presence of digital cable, I would surf the wide array of distractions from my homework. Coming across a program called “Real Sex” on HBO, a street interview made me question the need for a partner. “Just turn it on and it keeps going and going. Who needs a man when you’ve got a vibrator?” she said. Genius. No more heartache, no more games – only batteries are needed.

Physically, a man’s penis will not swivel or swerve, gyrate or pulsate like a vibrator. It cannot change speeds with the easy touch of a button. It does not come multicolored or tiger-striped or leopard-printed. In contrast, the sex toy is completely under the owner’s control and will always leave you satisfied.

But the vibrator is not a replacement for a man.

The literature about sex toys is fairly simple – it includes how-tos and previous purchasers’ ratings, with the dollar amounts listed. Reading the package for The Rabbit, for example, I wondered why future additional “costs” were not also listed. Nowhere did it mention, “Men cannot multitask as The Rabbit does with its ‘ears’ because penises do not come with such extensions.” I didn’t see note of this item lacking the capability to hold me afterward – even if only for five minutes. Most importantly, the box does not say there would not be passion involved.

This isn’t to say there aren’t any benefits to such toys, but there are also problems that will arise. As an individual, they can help familiarize you with the necessary elements of your orgasm. They can increase sexual confidence. According to the Sexual Health Info Center, vibrators are more than just tools of sexual pleasure. They also contribute to good sexual health. For women who have suffered injury, disability or have sore genitals because of pregnancy, vibrators can ease their pain. The center also recommends vibrators to women who experience reduced sensitivity due to age.

In fact, the vibrator was invented as a medical experiment. A British physician, Joseph Mortimer Granville, created the instrument in the 1880s in response to women who sought medical help for “hysteria” – which literally means “womb disease,” given to the “problem” of female orgasms. Detailed in the book, “The Technology of Orgasm: ‘Hysteria,’ the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction” by Rachel P. Maines, the author claims hysteria was “a result of the sexual repression of Victorian American women.” Women would visit their doctor’s offices to be massaged to orgasm. This was obviously not the “cure” to hysteria, and when women began repeating visits, doctors became tired during massage. This is when Granville invented the vibrator.

Even though it is seen as a beneficial medical device, it wasn’t meant to replace a partner because it couldn’t provide intimacy. Once you’ve acquired a version of Granville’s creation to increase orgasms and add to your sexual experience, feel free to share it with your partner (doctors advise using a condom on your vibrator when sharing it with a partner). Your partner should be open and excited to use it, right? Not always. Some men see the vibrator as a threat to their “manhood.”

Men who are secure with their performances in bed tend to be more comfortable with their girlfriends owning vibrators. They can be incorporated into their acts. Although initially, most college men will fear the tool and hope it’s not bigger than him (even though watching pornos and trips to Sex World have showed him the unrealistic length and girth of some toys). I understand, gentlemen, the difficulties these toys present to you. While you want your girlfriend to be happy, you would rather it were you making her happy.

It’s a statement that is very valid. It is also a familiar one. I’ve heard it said by women whose boyfriends have an intimate companionship with porno films they’ve watched enough to recite the few (and cheesy) lines in the movie. Just as men might be threatened by the size or capabilities of a vibrator, women can be threatened by the size of Jenna Jameson’s breasts, even if they are implants.

The situations in these movies, while comical, are not typical and many women would feel awkward having sex on the hood of a car in an alley or against a chain-link fence. If men feel women’s expectations will be raised too high because they use vibrators, then consider the standards women feel they will have to meet in order to be better than your porno movie.

Strip clubs present a bigger dilemma. Now the high-heeled, topless thong-wearers are interactive. Not only can men observe, they can also be touched by the fantasy. Even if you swear to your girlfriend that you won’t get a lap dance or stuff dollars in their G-strings, she’ll still be angry because she knows it’s a stripper’s job to convince you to buy a lap dance from her. You might attempt to invite her along to the club – she might find it erotic – but if she says no, you’re out of luck. Honestly, how many times can you watch a complete stranger dance around naked? (OK, maybe that was a dumb question to ask.)

So what’s the deal? Enjoy sex toys, pornos and strip clubs all you want when you’re single, but say goodbye when you couple up? Yes and no. At the appropriate time, these individual acts can be enjoyed by the confident couple as a relationship adventure.

Obviously, someday, say in fatherhood, you’ll be past your strip-club days. Hopefully, someday, you’ll find a partner who makes having sex more wonderful than just watching sex in movies and makes Linda Lovelace look like a lamb. And, with luck, ladies, there will be a man that finally works with you in bed and not without you, making the vibrator an occasional accessory.

Courtney Lewis’ monthly column appears Mondays. She welcomes comments at [email protected]

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