Machine-takeover syndrome

Since my girlfriend started using a vibrator, it's hard for me to get her off. Must my John Thomas suffer the fate of John Henry?

Published December 3, 2003 8:01PM (EST)

Dear Tracy,

My fiancée and I have a good sex life. We live apart and can only be together sporadically until we're married. She started using a vibrator, and now I'm having difficulty getting her off. I want her pleasure to be from me. We've experimented unsuccessfully with oral sex for her. Are there intercourse positions where she could orgasm? How do I get good enough at the oral sex to defeat the vibrator?


Dear L,

Vibrators should come with a warning label and their use should be rationed. It is politically incorrect to say one word against these dangerous pleasure machines, but vibrators can and do ruin love affairs. And yet they do not have to. Vibrators serve a useful purpose on special occasions, or when you're learning how to have orgasms, as some women must. But they are overused to the point of "self-abuse" in some cases. It's as if the body gets jaded from overstimulation.

No human being can do to another (or to herself!) what a vibrator does -- after getting accustomed to a vibrator's high intensity, it's easy for an orgasmic woman to grow attached to her vibrator. The risk here is that connecting physically with a lover is less emotionally urgent -- if the vibrator takes over, the relationship can grow into an affectionate emotional bond devoid of sexual need. This is a recipe for dissatisfaction. Great sex with a steady partner produces the happy sense that all your emotional needs have been temporarily sated. By this wonderful person! If you are getting off with a vibrator and not with your partner, this healthy illusion is not available and distortions may occur.

A sure sign of vibrator-takeover syndrome is the woman with 10 functioning fingers who never brings herself to orgasm manually. If your fiancée is still capable of bringing herself to a climax without a vibrator, there is hope. And even if she thinks she can't, it's a question of whether she once did -- or never learned to in the first place. Some women have successfully weaned themselves from a vibrator by going to a sex therapist who specializes in teaching people how to masturbate (again or for the first time.) Some women consciously decide to put their vibrators aside and find it easy to readjust on their own.

If she can still masturbate to the point of orgasm, she should make a point of doing so. She should focus on slow gentle treatment, instead of trying to replicate the vibrator. She might want to try this on her own before she spends time doing it with you at her side. The first step to connecting with your body is reconnecting with her own -- with or without you present. If you can't be at her side during this process, perhaps you should think about being there for her on the phone. If you ignore her sexually when you are physically apart you can't really blame her for seeking the attention of a machine.

If you're interested in what she does when you're not around, she might be willing to follow your suggestions. See if she will renounce her vibrator for a few weeks or months. Perhaps she will agree to have no more than one orgasm a month with the vibrator. You might both enjoy making a little game out of the process. You don't want to make her feel self-conscious or cranky. If she likes being bossed around, make the best of it and use that to initiate a playful change of policy. But, whether she likes to be guided by you or not, she has to want to change her ways. She won't come around unless she has some basic curiosity about what the next orgasm with you will feel like.

Another experiment you might suggest is to deprive yourselves of orgasmic release for a week before your next tryst. No masturbation on your part or hers, with or without a vibrator. However, you may send her flirtatious e-mail and leave adoring messages on her voicemail. You don't have to tell her that you're concerned about her vibrator addiction, but do tell her to bury it for that week. Have some fun with this problem and it may resolve itself.

You are fortunate to have a partner who enjoys her orgasms, and she's fortunate to have a partner who wants to bestow pleasure. It's a shame to let a vibrator come between you! But you must be tactful and chivalrous in your campaign. Any hint of petulance or resentment on your part will make her cling to that vibrator. You must be heroic -- tolerant, masterful, patient and generous. She will only separate from that vibrator if she admires you in some primal sense.

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By Tracy Quan

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