We still get this question every now and then, and since it's 2021 I think it's time this myth was put to rest.
Will using a vibrator cause permanent numbness of the genitals, or make other types of sexual touch less effective?
Experts and science agree that there's no correlation between using vibrators and loss of sensation or sexual function, and studies even indicate that vibrators can be beneficial to health of their users.
A little historical context
Concerns about the negative repercussions of using vibrators have existed since the invention of personal vibrators. Historically, critics have decried everything from books to bicycles for their supposed negative effects on women's health, and, as with most innovations that are perceived as granting women autonomy, cursory research into the origin of this concept brings us to the sources of most easily-busted sex myths: good old-fashioned misogyny and antisexualism.
Gone but not forgotten
So why is this myth still bumping around when it's been thoroughly debunked? I think we can attribute that to three things.
First, unlike, say, the link between riding bikes and sexual promiscuity, there's at least a general connection to scientific fact that could lend this myth credibility. Injury as the result of long-term use of vibrating tools or machinery in the workplace is a recognized health concern. Having said that, clearly using a vibrator- even a strong one- for as much time as one would care to is still no where near the same as holding a jackhammer for eight hours a day, five days a week.
Second, it's harder to destigmatize a practice that is, by it's very nature, private. Using vibrators isn't something that's openly discussed or highly visible the way riding bikes, wearing pants, or being allowed to open your own bank account are, so it's not as easy for people to recognise that it's a common practice without negative repercussions. As a result, many people's only exposure to information about vibrators, like many other private or taboo subjects, may be hushed warnings that are never corrected.
But what if I feel numb after using a vibrator?
If you've been reading this and thinking "well that's great, but I/my partner still feel numb after using a vibrator", you're not alone- up to 3% of vibrator users report frequent temporary numbness after using a vibrator.
If you're among them, you may be using the wrong kind of vibrator for your body. Using a lower setting, less pressure, or trying a different kind of toy material or design altogether may solve your problem. Air pulsators are a type of toy designed to stimulate the clitoris indirectly using fluctuating air pressure rather than vibration, and some people with clitorises find them to be a great way to enjoy powered sex toys without over-stimulation.
Persistent numbness or a loss of sensitivity of the clitoris, vagina, or vulva can be a symptom of an underlying health condition or an effect of a new medication or treatment. If you think this might be the case reach out to your doctor.