Can a Vibrator Numb the Clitoris?

By: Good Vibrations

"Dear Good Vibrations,

Can your clitoris get desensitized due to too much vibrator use?"

Let’s put it this way: If you press a buzzing vibrator against your clitoris for a period of time (your mileage may vary), it will make your clit feel numb in essentially the way your hand will go numb if you lean on it too long. That kind of pressure makes nerve endings fatigued, and numbness is the result. But just as the feeling returns to your hand after a bit, the blood rushes back into your clitoris after you stop squishing it with the vibrator; it’s a temporary state. (It’s also possible to use the vibrator more lightly so it doesn’t squish the clitoris in the first place. But some people get so into the sensation that they do use a lot of pressure.)

This is one of the two main reasons people can worry that vibrator users are causing their clits to become desensitized. The other reason has to do with the difference between orgasms you have with a vibrator and those you have (or try to have) with a partner. The fact is, for many cis women in particular, using a vibrator is the surest and quickest route to orgasm, to the extent that many who are very orgasmic with a vibe are sometimes not at all (or certainly not reliably) orgasmic with a human partner. People then sometimes assume that the reason is the vibe “desensitizing” them to the charms of human erotic interaction.

There’s a big catch here, though, that’s rarely addressed. Lots of the people who don’t come with partners but do come with vibes didn’t stop responding orgasmically during partner sex once they got the vibrator — they were never reliably orgasmic to begin with! The vibrator didn’t change anything, except to make them more able to come when it was used.

Here are the other elements to consider in this scenario. First, a vibe is often used alone, and the person holding it can put it in the perfect position, vary the pressure exactly as they prefer, and pretty much completely control the experience. That’s essentially true of any variant of masturbation, in fact, not just masturbation with a vibrator. Partner sex, while often a lovely experience, involves a (hopefully wonderfully) distracting human being in the room with you, touching you in possibly unexpected ways. It can take a while for people who are orgasmic through any kind of masturbation to get in the groove with a person.

Also, with a partner, many cis women (and some trans and nonbinary folk too) will often engage in vaginal penetrative sex. This is an awesome and pleasurable kind of sex to have, to be sure, if you’re into it and aroused enough to fully enjoy it. But statistically it results in way fewer orgasms than clitoral stimulation, over 70% fewer to be more specific, especially masturbatory clitoral stimulation.

And one more thing: a vibrator stimulates a particular kind of nerve in the clitoris that developed specifically to feel vibration and similar kinds of sensation. Humans are often very skilled — but they are neither as fast as a vibe, nor can they last as long when giving vibe-like stimulation.

Add to that the likelihood that a person who’s gotten accustomed to vibration-induced orgasm may be able to come faster than they can with a partner, and they may not take the extra time during partner sex to get fully aroused and responsive. During any sort of masturbation, with or without toys, we can actually train ourselves into a particular kind of response that may require some unlearning when we get with a human partner, and the end result is not that vibrators desensitize our sexual response, but that they create a particular kind of response that may differ from other kinds of stimulation.

Is it possible to engage in, and appreciate and orgasm from, both kinds? Absolutely! And the more orgasmic sexual experiences a person has, the more they can learn to respond in both/all ways. The answer to this dilemma isn’t to stop one kind of sexual sensation, it’s to engage in more of the other kinds you want to respond to. Your body actually grows new nerve pathways when stimulated (or when you learn any new skill based in motion or position), so keep engaging in the kinds of partner sex that please you the most — the likelihood that, with time and sufficient arousal, an orgasmic-through-vibration person will become able to transfer this ability to partner sex is really pretty good.