This was originally written for VICE.com
On the most recent episode of VICE’s People Who Just Had Sex, I interviewed a dominatrix named Samantha and her longterm boyfriend about bondage, love-making and masturbation. What didn’t make it into the edit was our conversation about how, judging from our own sexual experiences, women tend to be more comfortable using sex toys than men, both during sex and masturbation.
But why is that? I literally have a giant bag full of fake vaginas in my apartment right now (thus is the life of a sex writer), and I can’t even give them away. My girl friends all casually have vibrators on their nightstands, and swap sex-toy recommendations, but many of the guys I’ve dated have seemed embarrassed by the idea of sexual paraphernalia. Also, some have felt threatened by my wanting to use a vibrator during sex. I decided to consult my favorite sex therapist, June Tomaso-Wood, to ask her if it’s true that girls like toys more than boys.
So, is it true?
June Tomaso-Wood: Well, it’s true that some men find it emasculating to admit that they want or need a device in their sexual pay—even if it’s a girlfriend’s vibrator, which could potentially be stimulating to him as well—because young men want to be viewed as virile, sexually self-confident, and capable of satisfying a woman. There’s a lot of shame around sex for men in this culture, so even though masturbation is not necessarily taboo, because of course everybody masturbates, a lot of men choose to keep their mouth shut about it.
But are some of your male patients interested in toys?
Some are, yeah. I just sold an 82-year-old man a vibrator. He has a 92-year-old girlfriend, and he called me up and said, “The previous vibrator you sent me broke. Can you send me something better that’s going to last longer?” I kid you not. His girlfriend loves sex, but he can’t get as hard as he once could anymore, so to enable intercourse they use a product which decreases performance anxiety in the male, then he uses a bullet to get as hard an erection as possible, and he uses cock rings to keep the blood in his penis. During this she stimulates all her nerve endings down there with a dual stimulation vibrator, and then they have intercourse.
Wow, that’s amazing, but also seems really laborious. But I guess that’s OK because they’re old, and probably don’t have many other plans. Anyway, what about masturbation? The vibe I’ve gotten from some guys is, “I don’t need to jerk-off because I get laid all the time.”
What that signifies to me is cultural problem. Masturbation and sex are separate desires. Some men feel like it’s a feather in their cap to have many sexual conquests, and feel they need to be presenting themselves asa Don Juan and therefore don’t need to be masturbating.
When I’m having a lot of sex, I actually think I masturbate more. I always say: sex is like carbs, if you cut it from your diet, eventually you stop craving it. But as soon as I eat a bagel, all I can thinking about is eating another bagel.
Right, so often if you’re in the courting stage of a relationship, or really just in any exciting relationship, your dopamine receptors are very acute, so you’re sexually responsive, which means you’re thinking about sex all the time. And when you’re having a lot of sex you can remain engorged in the vaginal area, so you want to climax again and again.
As a girl, what are you supposed to do if your boyfriend gets weird about you wanting to use a vibrator during sex?
Well, that’s just an ego thing. He’s thinking, “What, I’m not enough?” They feel that their penis should be the be-all-end-all of your sexual life. But in reality, a vibrator can stimulate all of your 8,000 nerve endings very quickly, which gets you very wet and engorged with blood, and your muscles down there tighten, and a penis just can’t do it all—it can’t stimulate the woman on the outside. So you just have to explain to your partners that the toy isn’t a threat or a replacement, it’s just an added bonus. Of course, nothing can ever replace the penis, or the closeness of being with a partner.
Do you ever suggest to your make patients that they should use sex toys?
I’ve had men come to me addicted to porn, who are having trouble getting excited about intercourse, or who can’t reach orgasm during sex. See, when we watch porn, the dopamine receptors in our brains become very stimulated, so it’s exhilarating. Men know exactly how quickly and tightly to stimulate themselves while watching porn, and can reach orgasm quickly. But the problem is, when they then have actual sex, a real woman’s vagina doesn’t feel as good as their own hand, and they’re so depleted of dopamine that sex doesn’t feel as exhilarating. They’re used to holding their penises so tightly that it becomes less attractive to have intercourse than to masturbate watching airbrushed pornstars. So that’s when I transition men to male masturbator sleeves, because the sleeve is not gripped so tightly.
Yeah, Dan savage is always telling guys not to hold it so tight when jerking-off, because no vaj or butthole or throat will ever going to be as tight as your death grip.