Ask Emily: Do Vibrators Make You Less Sensitive?

Dear Emily,

My girlfriend needs to use a vibrator to get off, even when she is on top. And oral just didn’t get her there. Is it possible that she’s grown reliant on the vibrator and my manual touch just won’t do it? I’ve heard rumors that vibrators can desensitize and even numb women—is this true?



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Hi Sam, 

First of all, I want to note that there is nothing wrong with either you or your girlfriend. Many vulva-owners struggle to orgasm in the first place, so the fact that your girlfriend can reach climax with a vibrator is a great thing. Take a moment to appreciate that. 

Now, onto your dilemma. Despite all of the myths floating around about vibrators, they don’t “numb” vulvas or any parts of the clitoris. Vibrators are popular because they make it much easier for women to orgasm, which can enhance the overall sexual experience. And while the sex you two are having probably feels amazing, many sex positions can’t provide your girlfriend (or any vulva-owner) with the clitoral stimulation she needs to orgasm.  

So much of sex is mental. If your girlfriend only climaxes with a vibrator, that’s how her brain is going to remember how to orgasm. That doesn’t mean she can’t orgasm in other ways; it just means it might be harder for her to do so. Our brain becomes conditioned to respond to specific types of stimulation. If all your girlfriend knows is her vibrator, then she’s far more likely to respond to that particular stimulation. 

Think of it like you’re driving somewhere. It’s much easier to take the same road you’ve always taken because you know it will get you to your destination. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a different route—it just might take you a bit longer to get there. So I’d encourage you and your girlfriend to go without the vibrator from time to time so that you designate time to experiment with new methods, like oral. 

In addition to masturbating with her hands (or you using your hands on your girlfriend), oral can be an amazing way to provide a vulva-owner with pleasure. You mentioned that she currently struggles to get there with cunnilingus, so let’s discuss some things you can try tonight. 

Oral Techniques That (Often) Lead to Orgasm

Oral is great. We love oral. That said, sometimes giving oral sex can be totally confusing or intimidating. Here are some tips for going down on a vulva

  • Don’t go straight for the clitoris. Even though it seems counterintuitive, start licking on the outside of the vulva and work your way in. Lots of vulva-owners love the tease!
  • When the time comes to begin licking the clitoris, start softly and focus on the clitoral hood, located just above the clitoris.
  • For your licks: at first, alternate between wide licks and smaller licks on and around the clitoris. As she becomes more aroused, suck her clitoris into your mouth and rapidly flick your tongue across it.
  • If she likes it, keep doing it! Don’t worry so much about getting experimental and instead find what she likes and replicate it. There’s also nothing wrong with asking for a little bit of feedback. If her moans aren’t telling you what she likes, have her let you know exactly what feels the best.
  • Experiment with your girlfriend sitting on your face! This way, she can control her body by gyrating her hips and finding that pleasure sweet spot. 

Most important: If your girlfriend starts to get discouraged, it’s up to you to be the patient party. Tell her you could “do this all night.” Tell her that she tastes good. If your girlfriend is relaxed, there’s a far better chance that she’ll reach orgasm. And don’t worry if it doesn’t happen the first night (or second or third) that you try. You know that expression “good things take time”? It’s as true with sex as it is with anything else. 

I wish you both many orgasms to come, with and without a vibrator!