by Lauren Streicher, MD
“Edna, are you all right?” My 70-year-old patient was looking at me blankly and finally burst out, "Did you really just say I should buy a vibrator?”
Actually, that is exactly what I had told her, and if you have never entered the wonderful world of vibrators, dildos, and erotica, you may want to give it some thought. And while you may think it odd that this slightly unorthodox recommendation comes from a board-certified gynecologist on faculty at a major medical school, it’s not so strange.
Historically, vibrators were originally not sexual items that women bought for themselves, but medical devices used as treatment by doctors during Victorian times. This gradually fell out of favor, and by the 1970s, scientific publications stated that vibrators were harmful and never to be used by “normal” women. Twenty years later, attitudes began to shift again and polls showed that many women, while they didn’t own a vibrator, were “interested.” Interest turned into practice, and by 2004, almost half of American women had at least tried one.
Fast forward to today. Vibrators are routinely used, and as a physician and sexual health expert, there are a number of situations and medical conditions that prompt my recommendation to use a vibrator.
Many of my patients have never had an orgasm. Ever. They expect to have an orgasm during intercourse, and when it doesn’t happen, they are not only at a loss, but also often feel like there is something wrong with them. It was Sigmund Freud that set the stage for the notion that women should expect to have vaginal orgasms. This myth was propagated until the more realistic (and scientific) team of Kinsey and Hite reported in 1953 that “sexual intercourse is an extremely inefficient way to stimulate the clitoris.”
According to recent scientific studies, only about 5-10% of women are able to reach orgasm with vaginal intercourse. The rest require digital, oral, or other form of clitoral stimulation. But for many normal women, the intensity of a vibrator is the only way they are able to climax.
As women’s hormones decline, very often so does sensation. Many post-menopausal women find that achieving an orgasm becomes a lot more difficult. In addition, medical conditions, such as diabetes cause nerve damage requiring more intense stimulation to achieve the same effect.
Spice Up a Stagnant Sex Life
Face it – spending years with the same partner can get a little boring. As I once said on The Dr. Oz Show, “If you have cornflakes for breakfast every day for 30 years, you get to the point where you don’t even want breakfast any more. If one day a chocolate chip pancake shows up on your plate, suddenly breakfast is a lot more appealing.”
This is actually one of the most common reasons women buy and use a vibrator. Many women have no partner, or have a partner that is physically incapable of intercourse. Sometimes men who suffer from erectile dysfunction avoid intimacy knowing that they can’t follow thorough. They are thrilled and relieved to find a way to pleasure their partner without intercourse.
It’s not surprising that a 2009 scientific study found 52% of women reported not only having used a vibrator but having increased sexual satisfaction as a result. And far from being something that is used only for masturbation, vibrators were used by couples 80% of the time.
So next time you ask your doctor for a prescription to help your sex life, don’t be surprised if he or she gives you the address of the local erotica store. If you bump into Edna, be sure and ask her how things are going and tell her she is overdue for her annual exam.
Originally published Jan 30, 2013 doctoroz.com