Good Vibes Only


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Dear Elizabeth,

I’m a little embarrassed to be writing this.

I’m a 63-year-old widower who has been dating my new girlfriend for just shy of a year. She’s helped me heal so much, we have a lot in common, and it’s been very fulfilling exploring sex with a new person after managing grief for a few years.

Here’s my problem.

She only reaches orgasm with a vibrator. I’ve been patiently playing along, but I can’t help thinking I’m doing things wrong if she needs a gadget to be really happy! My wife and I were both pretty young and inexperienced when we first met, so I don’t have a lot of people to compare my girlfriend to. Is this what most other women need? I want to be good company in bed, but I also want her to need me!

Good Vibes Only

Dear Good Vibes,

I’m delighted to hear you have re-entered the dating pool after a traumatic experience, and glad you are enjoying explorations with your new partner. It’s always intimidating to learn about a new partner’s body and you’re being a good boyfriend by asking how you can make her happy. I want to share some information with you that will hopefully reassure you that your new girlfriend is completely normal and you are too.

There’ve been a number of studies on women’s pleasure, many of them quite recently, and it’s a sign that science is moving in the right direction that this is a topic of serious academic research. While older studies often cited vibrator use at about half of the US female population, more recent studies cited on claim that 69% of women own and use vibrators (along with 54% of men). That’s not a small number. What is a small number? The percentage of women who can orgasm from penetration alone: roughly 20%, according to the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. This means your partner is one of the vast majority of women who requires additional stimulation to achieve orgasm.

The great news? She’s being honest with you and sharing with you what she needs to receive pleasure, and this tells me that she values your relationship and herself enough to get her needs met with you. You say you want her to need you, and this is one healthy way she is demonstrating the importance of her intimate time with you. People like to joke about women faking orgasms, but it’s still a common behavior. A 2019 study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that 59% of women had faked an orgasm. What would you prefer? Authenticity from someone who loves you enough to be that vulnerable, or a performance intended to boost your ego and uphold social norms?

Some more good news: changing technology has made vibrators even better than ever. For couples who struggle with orgasms, even if you’ve unsuccessfully tried vibrators in years past, I encourage you to try again. Newer technology has allowed for a wider variety of materials, greater variation in intensity levels and vibration patterns, remote technology for long-distance partners that can be controlled via an app on your phone, and an array of options for wearing or using them. Many websites and toy makers are women and/or queer owned, designing for all types of bodies using materials that are safe for bodies and the environment and gentle to your wallet. There are many types of vibrators specifically designed for couples, including ones that are worn on a penis or strap-on, or can be inserted into someone’s body with or without additional penetration.

Long gone are the days where you had to walk awkwardly into a shady adult store while avoiding eye contact (possibly wearing sunglasses and a fake mustache) to buy a sex toy. Now everyone and their grandmother can safely order online from merchants with discreet shipping that won’t arrive in your mailbox bearing a big red label that says, “THIS BOX CONTAINS SEX TOYS BECAUSE HUGE PERVERTS LIVE HERE”. Unless you’re into that – and Etsy has a variety of crafters that can embroider that on to a tote bag for you,­­ if you so desire.


Elizabeth R. Busbee earned a doctorate at Yale and specializes in issues of gender, sexuality, and communication. She has been helping people explore and enjoy intimacy for over 20 years. Her private relationship and intimacy coaching practice can be reached at

Have a question you’d like answered? Write to Elizabeth at

Elizabeth Busbee

Elizabeth R. Busbee writes a weekly column on sex and relationships, Unconventional Love, for the Connecticut Examiner. She also writes regularly on food and culture. Busbee holds a PhD in Anthropology from Yale.