A friend of mine has developed a sort of vibrator phobia. She read about some doctor who claimed that vibrator use has been linked to urinary incontinence in women due to electrical stimulation of surrounding muscles. To me this sounds like baloney, yet another example of fear and guilt-mongering surrounding this pleasant device. It would seem reasonable that continued vibrator use would result in better muscle control (i.e., stronger Kegel muscles). Have you ever heard anything about this? I wonder if this doctor was confused about female ejaculation; did he mistake ejaculation for incontinence?
My friend said that she never experienced any actual incontinence but threw her vibrator out due to her anxiety surrounding this possibility. I wish I knew the doctor's name who is responsible for this hooey. But perhaps you have access to someone who could set this record, well, straight. --Needs to Know
Whenever I need the vibration record set straight, I access one of my many lady friends in the retail sex-toy industry. Carol Queen works at San Francisco's Good Vibrations (1210 Valencia in San Francisco, 2504 San Pablo in Berkeley, 800-BUY-VIBE, www.goodvibes.com). Good Vibrations is the 20-year-old grandmammy of the woman-owned, anticreepy, sex-positive sex-toy-store movement. Queen has been pushing vibrators at Good Vibrations for the last seven years, and "I've been using them for longer than that," she says.
In all those years, she hasn't become incontinent herself and has never heard from or of a single woman who became incontinent as a result of vibrator use. And that's saying something: In 20 years, Good Vibrations has sold more than 300,000 vibrators to women in San Francisco and beyond. If even a tiny percentage of their customers were pissing all over themselves, you can bet Queen and Good Vibrations would know. And they would tell us, even if it meant going out of business. Because they're women. And women are better than men.
If the article did exist, Queen agrees that the doc and whatever female patients came to him complaining about wetting their beds may have mistaken ejaculate for piss. "When some women orgasm, a fluid gushes out, or dribbles out, from the urethra, which is located between the clit and the vaginal opening." It comes from a gland which surrounds part of a woman's urethra, analogous to the prostate gland in men. "This fluid is not urine," says Queen. "It has a different chemical composition; though some women I know find that urine is sometimes mixed with their ejaculate, the ejaculate is not urine. Sex toys can get to the G-spot area, and a woman who's never ejaculated may experience it and be confused. She'll go to a doc who doesn't know what he's talking about, and he'll tell her she's incontinent and blame her vibrator." Queen thinks the article was bogus for another reason: "The reference to electrical stimulation is very suspicious. Though electricity powers vibrators, it is not electricity that stimulates the surrounding muscles--it's the vibrations!"
Finally, Queen wanted to praise your instincts. First for doubting the story that freaked out your friend--she also felt it was "another example of fear and guilt-mongering surrounding this pleasant device"--and second for your take on orgasms in general. "Her sense that more orgasms equals greater muscle control is right on. Vibrator use does not lead to worse muscle control, it leads to better."
I have recently added the use of toys to my playtime. What's with the warnings about the use of vibrators and "unexplained thigh or calf pain"? Is there some kind of weird medical condition that could develop with the use of a vibrator? --Kid with a New Toy
According to Mary Martone, who works at Seattle's sex-positive, woman-owned sex-toy emporium, Toys in Babeland (707 E. Pike, 800-658-9119, www.babeland.com), the warning is there to keep you from accidentally killing yourself. "You can get blood clots in your legs. If your calf is sore, you might go, 'Hey, my leg hurts,' vibe it, and accidentally loosen up a blood clot. Then the clot zips up to your head, and that moment of calf-soothing pleasure is followed by a stroke and then death."
Martone thinks there must have been a dislodged blood clot lawsuit at some point in vibrator history. "Someone died massaging mysterious thigh pain and the family sued, got a huge chunk of change, and now every vibrator has to have that "do not use on unexplained thigh and calf pain" sticker on it. Tragic, but that's product liability for you."
I'm 30, female, bisexual, and just started having orgasms three years ago with the help of a vibrator. I didn't masturbate a lot as a teen or a young woman and have never actually had an orgasm by simply stimulating myself with my hand. I have also never had one with a partner that didn't involve me using a vibrator to get myself off. When I discovered I could orgasm with the help of that miraculous tool, I got addicted. Furthermore, I have never actually been able to come while someone else is holding the darn thing.
I am shy to introduce my vibrator into the sex I have with partners, but my new girlfriend is into it. The sex with her is fantastic and fun; she gets me so worked up that I wonder if I could orgasm without the vibrator--a goal I'd like to work toward.
Should my girlfriend and I continue to experiment with my vibrator? Or should I put it away for a while and try to work on having orgasms without my 12-volt fix? And does it need to be a complete moratorium on using it, or can I pull it out occasionally when I'm lonely? --Loves Vibrators
"Her concerns are pretty common," says Ellen Barnard, co-owner of A Woman's Touch in Madison, Wisconsin (600 Williamson Street, 608-250-1928, www.a-womans-touch.com). "I don't think she needs a moratorium, she just needs to know that her arousal time is longer without a vibrator. She will have to allow more time--a lot more time."
Furthermore, Barnard feels that the problem may not be your vibrator, but you. "It sounds like she may have some control issues. If she can't have an orgasm without holding [the vibrator] herself, she may need to be entirely in control of the process of having an orgasm. She may need to learn how to let go of herself, not her vibrator. [And] why is it important for her not to use the vibrator? Orgasms are only a small part of sex. If she needs a vibrator to have orgasms, well, that may be how she orgasms. She shouldn't feel like she's flunked sex--there is no right way or wrong way to have orgasms."
Do women get addicted to vibrators? "That's everyone's fear, but no, women don't become addicted to vibrators. What some women may become addicted to is the shorter period of time it takes to have an orgasm with a vibrator. But even women who become orgasmic using vibrators can learn to have orgasms without them by following the arousal patterns they learn with vibrators. If you can re-create the pattern over a longer period of time, you can have orgasms with oral sex, with hands, or whatever. But remember, without vibrators, it usually takes women from 45 minutes to an hour." Another reason I'm glad I'm gay--45 minutes? I've got things to do!
Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.