Teenagers and vibrators

This summer seems to be the summer of teenagers contacting me about how to get a vibrator. I have gotten at least a few comments or e-mails every week, and sometimes every day, from young women who want help getting a vibrator. (I have also gotten the occasional e-mail from a young man interested in a masturbation sleeve, but these have been far less common. My response, while tailored to the young women, is equally relevant to the young men.)

My heart goes out to these young women. They are sexually frustrated and they feel like society generally, and often their parents specifically, are directly hindering them from sexual release. These young women are often confused, and rightly so, about why the people who tell them not to have partnered sex want to keep them from releasing the physiological desire to engage in partnered sex through solo sex.

The thing is, masturbation is good for young men and women. Moderation in all things, of course, but nevertheless, masturbation is good. It helps release sexual tension in a safe and solo environment. (“Look Mom! No STIs or unplanned pregnancies!”) It helps them get to know their bodies so they can feel more confident in themselves when they do eventually choose to engage in partnered sex. It’s fun, releases stress, and increases immune functioning! There is really very little to dislike about teenagers masturbating.

Regrettably I have little hope to offer them in obtaining a vibrator.

Most of these young women have tried talking with their parents, or are deeply aware of how anti-masturbation and anti-vibrator their parents are. Sometimes there have already been big fights in their homes over the issue.

There are ways that these young women can obtain a vibrator without their parents’ knowledge, of course. They can have an older friend or family member purchase one for them from a good sex shop. (Forbidden Fruit in Austin or Good Vibrations in San Francisco, Berkley, or Brookline Massachusetts are great examples of female-friendly sex shops!) They can ask for an Amazon.com gift card (or perhaps they have their own debit card), and they can order one without their parents necessarily knowing. But both of these paths to vibrator ownership are potentially problematic because they are relatively easy for parents to find out about.

So here’s the ultimate and somewhat depressing advice that I have to offer you, young women who are in futile search of a vibrator:

Try varying your masturbatory routine, while still relying on your fingers and hands. A vibrator might seem like the greatest thing in the world, and they are pretty great, but you can do a lot without one. Take your time and explore. You’ll get through the next few years, maybe very sexually frustrated, but you’ll live through it, and on your 17th (or 18th, depending on the store) birthday, you’ll be able to get yourself a vibrator and your parents won’t be able to stop you. Just be sure and hide it really well if you still live at home.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. I get that boundary issues make it unwise for a parent to get too involved in helping a daughter (or son) through this (even if willing) … and I get the reality is such that these young women (and young men) can’t buy this products on their own legally… and I get that many parents are totally squicked out by the thought of their child masturbating, thereby triggering the sort of confrontations you refer to… and yet reading this makes me so, so, so sad…

  2. I agree, DairyStateDad, it is sad. Although I do think it’s fine – maybe even great! – for parents to be involved in this process, most parents and some teenagers just aren’t comfortable with it.

  3. A number of the larger chain drugstores now carry a selection of vibrators- you might want to comparison shop which chain has the best selection and recommend some to the teenagers. Also, have you seen this trailer for a movie coming out this fall about the invention of the vibrator? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zf4IlHaPRUg

  4. While they might not be able to buy vibrators per se there are other options. They should be able to buy personal massagers. that would help with external stimulation. some of them take batteries, some plug into the wall. many of them are quite noisy but they should have no problem finding them in the drug store or (i shutter) a big box store.

  5. It’s true, as Joel said, that lots of the big drugstores now carry vibrators as “personal massagers” with pictures of people using them on their shoulders…

    but there are other options. I think one of the most important and least obvious things for girls to know is that many people prefer not to insert them. That is, they’re used externally on the clit instead of inside the vagina.

    …and if you’re NOT inserting it, lots of things from electric toothbrush handles to washing machines vibrate…

    and some women enjoy a heavy stream of water from the bathtub faucet, too.

    of course, if it wasn’t designed for insertion it shouldn’t be inserted.

    But maybe it doesn’t have to be.

  6. You can also get them in the gag gift section of a novelty mall store like “Spencer’s.” They don’t sell good ones there, but even a crappy one is a good start and this has the added advantage that everyone will think you’re buying a gag gift, which lessens the embarrassment factor.

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