Vibrators can be a great way to enhance pleasure, solo or with a partner. But some people fear a vibrator can desensitize their clit. We’re here to set the record straight. There is no scientific evidence to show that properly using a vibrator can desensitize the clitoris.
Vibrators do not cause loss of sensitivity
While using a vibrator for a long period of time in a single session, or using high intensity vibration, may cause temporary numbness or desensitivity, it won’t last. Your clit’s sensitivity should return in less than a day. There are no studies showing that using a vibrator can cause long-term bodily harm, or impact clit sensitivity, so long as you are using your vibrator properly.
This was illustrated in a 2009 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine which surveyed 2,056 women, 1059 of whom used vibrators. The survey found that most women had never experienced any kind of numbness or desensitization from using a vibrator. Those who did experience numbness or desensitivity — 16% of participants — reported that it did not last for more than a day. Instead, most reported that the numbness lasted a few minutes to one hour.
This numbing sensation is nothing to be worried about, explains Dr. Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., in her book Becoming Cliterate. This sensation is actually the same cyclists can describe after a bike ride (6).
Can vibrators cause ‘dead vagina syndrome’?
No, vibrators cannot cause “dead vagina syndrome.” Dead vagina syndrome — the idea that repeatedly using a vibrator will cause you to lose sensation on your vulva, clitoris, or vagina — is made up and there is no scientific evidence that supports this “syndrome.” “Dead vagina” is simply not a thing, and it’s also important to note that a vagina is anatomically not the same as the “clitoris.” Read our guide to learn more about the difference between the vagina and clitoris.
Clitoral vibration is safe
Using a vibrator can be good not only for your pleasure, but for your sexual health. Studies have shown that people who use a vibrator have better rates of desire, arousal, lubrication and orgasm compared to people who don’t use a vibrator (3, 4). Vibrators may even be recommended by gynecologists, medical providers, and sex therapists for patients struggling with orgasm, arousal, getting wet, or desire (7, 8) .
Requiring a vibrator to orgasm doesn’t mean your clit is any less sensitive
People who can only orgasm with a vibrator often believe this is evidence that vibrators desensitize the clitoris. This is not true. A vibrator is designed to help you orgasm faster because it directly applies stimulation to the clitoris, an area with thousands of pleasure terminations. Vaginal penetration, on the other hand, stimulates the clitoris indirectly by stretching the surrounding tissues (2, 3). For this reason, many people find they can only orgasm using a vibrator or with clitoral stimulation. People who only orgasm with a vibrator should not necessarily see this as a bad thing. It can actually be useful as it adds more possibilities for pleasure.
Are there negative side effects of using a vibrator?
In general, using a vibrator is great for your health and sex life. However, a few people can experience symptoms such as genital pain, irritation, and tears. These symptoms can be related to allergies or improper use, such as using a high-intensity vibrator for a very long period of time, or not using any or enough lube.
In studies, those who experienced negative side effects from using a vibrator found their symptoms resolved within one day. If you find that a vibrator is causing irritation or is unenjoyable for you, consider experimenting with a different type of vibrator, taking a break from use, or trying another category of sex toy altogether, like a dildo or butt plug.
Other reasons your clit might feel desensitized
If you feel that your clitoris is desensitized, it’s unlikely that it’s caused by your vibrator and more likely to be caused by another underlying issue (7).
- Mental health and stress. Your body often reflects how your mind feels. Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and stress can impact your ability to get stimulated and enjoy sex and masturbation. In fact, a common symptom of depression is feeling a lack of pleasure and sensitivity. When people feel they are in a safe environment and in a relaxed mood, however, their chances of orgasm and pleasure increase. (7).
- Physical injury, trauma, or surgery in the pelvic area. “Issues after childbirth also have the potential to reduce clitoral sensitivity,” Sarah Melancon, Ph.D., sociologist and sexologist, tells O.school. Each of these physical injuries or traumas have “the potential to damage, or in severe cases, even completely severe nerves. This would reduce or eliminate a nerve's ability to transmit signals to and from the brain,” Melancon explains.
What to do if you’re not enjoying your vibrator
- Take a break from using your vibrator. Start by using your vibrator on a lower setting, over your underwear, or try a vibrator made for beginners, says Dr. Mintz. Eventually, you might try to masturbate with just your hand. Don’t worry about having an orgasm the first few times — give your body time to adjust to the new type of stimulus.
- Address the underlying cause, like mental health. If you’re experiencing stress, depression, or have a history of trauma, any of these factors could reduce how good your vibrator feels on your clit. The best thing to do is get support from a healthcare provider and / or therapist.
- Try arousal creams and lubes. Some types of lube can also make clitoral stimulation more pleasurable, enhance arousal, and lead to more sensitivity in the clitoris. If you’re not enjoying your vibrator, try using lube and masturbating with your hand. Similarly, there are various creams and gels that can increase blood flow and make touch feel more sensitive.
- Take up a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness has been shown to increase a person’s internal awareness of sensations and changes in their body, including arousal, according to a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine. Melancon says that practicing mindfulness, like body scans, can improve your internal awareness of arousal and sensations in your clitoris.
The bottom line
Vibrators do not cause any lasting or permanent loss of sensitivity to the clitoris if used properly. Vibrators are safe and correlated with increased sexual functioning. If you’re new to vibrating toys, check out the best clit vibrators to find what’s right for you.