Exploring Women’s Vibrator Experiences and the Persistent Stigma (Study Review)

Exploring Women’s Vibrator Experiences and the Persistent Stigma (Study Review)

Vibrators: Pleasure, Power, and Persistent Taboos

A 2020 study in Sexualities by Waskul and Anklan reveals how women really feel about vibrators:

  • Over 50% have used one, but many still feel shame and confusion
  • Most first hear about vibrators as teens from media, friends, or finding their mom’s toy
  • Vibrators are seen as both empowering and taboo in these early encounters
  • 76% say vibrators revolutionized their orgasms, making them faster and more intense
  • Some worry about becoming too reliant on vibrators
  • Money, privacy, and lingering stigma are the main reasons some women hesitate to try them

The study highlights the need for more open discussion and education to break down remaining taboos surrounding vibrators. It also shows the tricky balance between sexual liberation and society’s enduring discomfort with women’s pleasure. Vibrators offer immense potential for satisfaction and empowerment, but to fully embrace this, the persistent shame and secrecy surrounding them must be confronted.

Key Statistics & Takeaways

  • Over 50% of women in the U.S. use vibrators (Herbenick et al., 2017)
  • 33% of women first learn about vibrators from media sources
  • 28.6% learn about them from middle/high school friends
  • 76.14% of women who use vibrators report it profoundly changed their capacity for orgasm
  • Nearly a quarter cite the ability to achieve quicker/more intense orgasms
  • 16.42% say vibrators increased their knowledge of sexual responsiveness and orgasm
  • Most women who haven’t used them are interested (73.9%) but cite financial constraints or privacy concerns as barriers
  • Lingering stigma remains, as 35.3% of interested non-users say embarrassment or fear of judgment prevents usage
  • Facilitating more open, judgment-free dialogue between women could help reduce stigma
  • Reliable safety/hygiene info should be more readily available to empower healthy sexual exploration

More statistics on vibrators use here.

Overall, the study reveals:

  • Vibrators are increasingly popular, but the stigma against women’s sexual pleasure persists
  • Early knowledge is contradictory – pleasure vs. taboo
  • Vibrators can profoundly transform orgasmic experiences & sexual self-knowledge when barriers are overcome
  • Privacy concerns, financial limitations, & stigma inhibit some interested women
  • More openness, access to information, and female solidarity needed to progress

Where Women First Hear About Vibrators

According to a 2020 study by Waskul and Anklan, most women first learn about vibrators in their early-to-mid teens from these top sources:

  • Media (33%): TV shows, movies, magazines, YouTube videos, social media
  • Friends (29%): Often in middle or high school
  • Family (14%): Usually by accidentally finding their mom’s toy

At this stage, girls typically just learn vibrators exist, not necessarily what they’re used for. Media portrayals send mixed messages – some make vibrators seem exciting, while others paint them as taboo, leading to lingering shame and stigma. Women usually first encounter vibrators as teens through media, friends or family, but the conflicting messages can cause lasting confusion and embarrassment.

The First Vibrator: Overcoming Embarrassment

A 2020 study by Waskul and Anklan reveals the challenges women face when buying their first vibrator:

  • Over 25% feel embarrassed or ashamed during the purchase
  • Secretive behaviors include:
    • Ordering online to avoid being seen in public
    • Waiting to have their own money so parents won’t find out
    • Having excuses ready in case someone discovers the package
  • Coping strategies:
    • 37% go to sex shops with friends for safety and comfort
    • 36% choose the privacy of online stores or sex toy parties
    • 22% brave it alone at places like Spencer’s, giving themselves a pep talk

The study points to society’s lingering taboos about female pleasure as the reason for this secrecy. Even today, many women feel nervous about exploring their sexuality. More open and honest conversations are needed to reduce this needless shame. With support from friends and a shift in societal attitudes, more women might feel empowered to take this step in their sexual journey.

Vibrators: A Game-Changer for Women’s Orgasms

A 2020 study by Waskul and Anklan reveals how vibrators are revolutionizing women’s sexual experiences:

  • 76% say vibrators dramatically changed their ability to orgasm
  • Nearly 25% report climaxing more easily and quickly due to intense stimulation
  • 16% say vibrators helped them better understand their sexual responsiveness and what makes them orgasm
  • Others describe having different, more powerful orgasms with vibrators

When using vibrators with partners:

  • Most women say their significant others are supportive and enthusiastic
  • Some men initially feel threatened or inadequate compared to the vibrator’s abilities
  • With open communication, nearly all couples end up enjoying vibrators together

While embarrassment around buying vibrators persists, once women start using them, they find them to be a liberating and beneficial addition to their sex lives. More open discussion could help reduce the stigma and encourage more women to explore their sexual satisfaction. Vibrators are a game-changer, making climaxing easier and more intense while helping women understand their own responsiveness.

Why Some Women Haven’t Tried Vibrators (Yet)

According to a 2020 study by Waskul and Anklan, among women who haven’t used vibrators:

  • Nearly 74% are curious to try them
  • Over 80% think vibrator use is common among women

The main reasons they haven’t tried vibrators yet:

  1. Money (44%): Many simply can’t afford to buy one
  2. Privacy concerns: Some worry about parents seeing the purchase or getting “caught” with a vibrator
  3. Stigma (35%): Embarrassment and fear of judgment stop many interested non-users

Most women who haven’t tried vibrators are keen to explore them once they have more independence and cash. However, restrictive social norms are likely to slow down their journey of sexual self-discovery.

With greater financial freedom and less shame around female pleasure, more women would likely feel empowered to embrace vibrators as a natural part of their sexuality.

The Vibrator Revolution: Progress and Persisting Stigmas

Waskul and Anklan’s 2020 study shows that while vibrators are becoming more mainstream, stigma and confusion still surround women’s relationships with these toys. This raises important questions:

  1. Access to reliable information
    • Better access to facts about vibrator safety and hygiene is needed
    • Arming girls with knowledge early on could help them explore healthily later
  2. Breaking down lingering stigma
    • Promoting sex-positive messages in media and girl talk could normalize vibrator use
    • Honest, open discussion is key to fighting stigma
    • Judgment-free spaces to share thoughts, fears, and tips could speed up cultural acceptance
  3. Valuing women’s sexual autonomy
    • Moving forward, prioritizing women’s sexual knowledge and autonomy over outdated norms can help unravel persistent stigmas
    • This will empower the next generation to write their own stories of pleasure and empowerment

The vibrator revolution is here, but there’s still work to do. By talking openly, sharing reliable information, and championing women’s right to sexual satisfaction, we can create a world where every woman feels free to embrace her desires without shame or fear.


The basis for this article is this study:

Waskul, D., & Anklan, M. (2020). “Best invention, second to the dishwasher”: Vibrators and sexual pleasure. Sexualities, 23(5-6), 849-875.

If you are interested in vibrators, here you can read my guides on the best in each category: remote-control vibrators, vibrating panties, wand vibrators, bullet vibrators, G-spot vibrators, rabbit vibrators, clit suckers, anal vibrators, prostate massagers.

Amie Dawson, Ph.D.

Amie Dawson, Ph.D.

As a certified sex educator and sex toy reviewer, Amie has spent her career empowering individuals and couples to embrace their sexuality.

With a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality and an ever-growing collection of over 200 vibrators, she's got the knowledge and experience to guide you on your pleasure-seeking journey.

Add comment