Is Your Partner’s Sex Toy Replacing You? (The Answer Is No!)

Sex can be an incredibly vulnerable act, so it comes as no surprise that people can be self-conscious about their performance. For some, that self-consciousness manifests as vibrator envy: the worry that a partner has more fun with their toys than with you. 

But not only is that simply not true, it doesn’t make any sense.

Sex toys can’t replace people.  

“Oral sex simulator” is a popular moniker for certain types of sex toys, because they have a function that imitates oral sensations in some way, like licking or suction. But air pulsation toys, sex toys with tongues, and so-called “blowjob machines” will never be able to fully duplicate oral sex. The human mouth is far too complex to replicate with robotics – but more important than that, a sex act shared between humans has enthusiasm, perception, and emotion that no machine can copy. 

Sex toys aren’t partners (although I’ve occasionally joked that I should buy my We-Vibe Tango a wedding ring.) Sex toys are tools. Just like the bed you have sex on instead of the cold hard ground, they exist to make sex more pleasurable. 

Sex toys can be a part of shared intimacy. 

Because they’re tools, sex toys require a human to function. A hammer doesn’t hit a nail on its own, and a dildo doesn’t fuck by itself. (Even self-thrusting dildos and hands-free fucking machines need someone to line them up and press buttons.) Tools enact our will. A partner reaching down and holding a bullet vibe against their clit during sex is no different than a partner reaching down to use their own fingers – except that the resulting sensation is different. 

Whenever I encounter someone who’s put off by a partner using sex toys, I always ask them: have you tried using a toy on your partner? What is the difference between putting your fingers inside them, and pushing a dildo inside them? Your fingers are also a tool, albeit ones that can cramp up or get tired. A dildo isn’t better, just different. It might reach deeper, or vibrate. But it can’t do that on its own. And if a dildo – a tool – makes you feel left out… why don’t you try being the person whose will it’s enacting?

Sex toys are not “better” than you.  

One of my nightmare exes liked to brag about how “good at sex” he was. But when I brought my vibrator over, he whined, “I can’t compete with that thing!” and told me he didn’t want me to use it. I had never compared them. Besides, sex (and your partner’s pleasure) isn’t a competition. 

What does being good at sex even mean, anyway? Far too often, people think being good at sex means being really skilled. But in my experience, skills aren’t universally applicable. You might consider yourself really good at giving blowjobs – but what happens when you hook up with someone who enjoys techniques you’ve never tried, or doesn’t enjoy blowjobs at all? 

Being “good at sex” doesn’t mean mastering specific sex acts. It means being a good communicator and being adaptable. It means if you hook up with someone new, you’re ready and willing to learn what they enjoy. My ex cared more about “being good at sex” than having good sex. He never asked me what I wanted in bed, or listened when I brought things up. So contrary to his bragging, he was actually really bad at sex.

Some people need sex toys.  

There are countless reasons someone might want and need a sex toy. Maybe they enjoy penetrating their partner, but aren’t able to do it on their own due to anatomy or disability. Maybe their body is very particular about sensation, and they can only orgasm from rumbly vibrations. Maybe their senses are dulled due to disability or medication, and only powerful stimulation can “break through.” Maybe sex toys help shorten the journey to orgasm, and as a parent they prioritize speed because they have limited time, energy, and privacy. Maybe they like having long nails, but their partner likes prostate stimulation, so prostate plugs let them enjoy both.

You can probably sleep on the ground instead of on a bed, it’s true. But you can’t punch a nail into a piece of wood. (Not without a lot of unnecessary pain, anyway.) Some tasks require tools – and that’s okay! That’s what they were invented for. If your partner needs a sex toy, it’s a wonderful thing that there’s such a wide selection available. 

Sex toys provide unique sensations

Sex toys can’t imitate people – but people can’t imitate sex toys, either. There are countless sensations that only toys produce: vibration, perfectly rhythmic stroking, powerful suction, etc. Are those sensations inherently superior to what you can do with your own two hands? Of course not. But it would be a shame to shun a sexual sensation just because it’s store bought. 

Sex is a never-ending adventure. You’re under no obligation to explore every single potential path. But I highly recommend venturing into the unknown-but-intriguing now and then, whether that’s trying out a new sex act or picking up a new gadget. You can even do it together with your partner(s) – you might be wowed at what they’re keen to add to the cart!

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