Are vibrating sex toys on the way out?






One of my favourite sex toys looks like a slice of jelly. It’s a psychedelic shade of bright green and shaped like a tiny rectangle and has a slippery silicone texture. It also requires zero batteries or power at all. It sounds simple, but it’s the simplicity of the TENGA Uni toy that I love so much. Able to slip over fingers or a penis (or whatever else you fancy) and usable by yourself or with partners, each colour of this toy provides a different barrier of texture, giving that contact a little something extra. For a long time, vibrators were a woman or person with a vulva’s first port of call when it came to self pleasure, or adding a toy to partnered sex to elevate sensations. Rabbits, which vibrate on both the clitoris and the G-spot, have been knocking around for literal decades and women have been masturbating with massage guns since the moment they realised it was possible. But now, toys like the Uni — ones that don’t buzz but instead offer other types of sensations — are on the rise. Over the last few years, we’ve watched as the iconic Womanizer toy developed air pressure technology and became a staple on every woman’s bedside table, a clit sucking toy received viral acclaim as the world’s best sex toy, Lovehoney released a popular water-based toy, and toys that require no power at all like grind pads entered the scene. Mashable looks into whether we might be moving away from vibration and shifting towards toys that provide other sensations instead, speaking to sex toy retailers on the trends they’ve noticed. Why vibration doesn’t work for everyone Now that I think about it, I don’t really get on with vibrators as much as I used to. Having vaginismus (a condition that causes involuntary vaginal contractions that make penetration difficult), internal toys like rabbits were never for me. I did once love my trusty massage wand (which focuses on the external) and it was a perfect first toy but I found that once I discovered the other sensations and technologies available on the market, vibration simply couldn’t live up to it. Most of the time, I get pins and needles in my vulva before I’ve got anywhere near to finishing and toys that prioritise other sensations simply do the trick better than vibrators ever have with me. 

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34-year-old teacher Charlotte feels similarly. “I have never got on with vibrators to be honest. I think I just used them because everyone was,” she tells Mashable. “I much prefer using texture based toys like grind pads now. They don’t look like much but they provide so much incredible sensation — it’s actually amazing.”
“I have never got on with vibrators to be honest. I think I just used them because everyone was.”

And this makes sense, since massage wands were never invented for women in the first place. Massage wands were created as a medical device for men. It was later, when it was discovered that their wives were using them for sexual stimulation, that they were repackaged and sold as a sex toy. Of course, since then, plenty of sex toy developers and retailers have updated the massagers and other buzzing toys to suit women entirely. That’s why they still remain so popular. But there’s no doubt that 

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Annabelle Knight, sex and relationship expert at sex toy retailer Lovehoney, says that the arrival of the Womanizer clit sucker in 2014 created a huge momentum shift in which sensations women look for in a sex toy. “In recent years, as the options have increased several fold, this has snowballed even further. Clitoral suction vibrators have been the best selling category on Lovehoney for a number of years now, outselling the next biggest category by more than double in 2023,” she explains.She adds that both Lovehoney’s best selling product – the Lovehoney x Romp Switch – and Lovehoney’s most famous product (the viral Rose toy) use air pressure, which shows how popular that technology has become over vibrators. Kelly Gordon, sales and creative lead at sex toy brand Hot Octopuss, tells Mashable she’s also seen a rise in people looking for sensations outside of vibration for its sex toys. Hot Octopuss’s  best selling toy is not a vibrator, but toys that use its PulsePlate Technology™. This technology essentially works by using oscillation as stimulation, rather than traditional vibration. “The result creates deep rumbly sensations that stimulate whole areas of the anatomy,” Gordon explains. “We use this tech and the design of our toys to ensure that you can use our products in whichever way suits the user,” she adds. For example, the flat side of the products can be used for wider stimulation or the tip for a more targeted sensation. Since these products have been made with women and vulva owners in mind specifically, with decades of technological advancement under the developers’ belts, it makes sense that these toys would be preferred over vibes.Advancements in sex tech Advancements in technology mean that companies have been able to produce new products and new forms of pleasure that, for some people, work better than their predecessors, according to Knight We’ve come a long way from misusing medical devices until they were offered to us directly. From air pressure technology to pulsating technology, and the embracing of AI and Virtual Reality technology in toys, sex tech has made leaps and bounds. Knight suggests the excitement of having new things to try may be the reason why so many of us are swapping out vibrators for other options. 

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One example of this is Womanizer’s new water technology. In 2023, Womanizer created yet another non-vibrating sex toy with the potential to make as many waves as the Womanizer toy did. They launched a shower head as a sex toy, which Knight says has been extremely popular. This toy works by manipulating water to stimulate the clitoris and other erogenous zones, rather than any physical ‘vibrations’ of sorts — looking exactly like a regular shower head (you can replace your current one with it).Sexual wellness is accepted more into the mainstream, the consumer and the industry alike are becoming more innovative in what they are willing to try or create, leaving room for these ‘less traditional’ categories to grow.  28-year-old marketer Caitlyn collects sex toys, telling Mashable that she loves to have a “variety of sex toys that offer different experiences”. She’s a big fan of the Womanizer toy, the shower head they developed, and Hot Octopuss’ pulsating technology. “For someone who just loves sex toys and is a bit obsessed with them, these new technologies are just way more exciting than vibrators are,” she adds. 
“Using texture based toys, especially ones that can slip over the hands, is much more friendly for my disability than using vibrators.”

How new tech helps accessibility Another reason why these new technologies are giving vibration a run for their money is accessibility. 33-year-old receptionist Daisy tells Mashable that being disabled leaves her with limitations in the bedroom sometimes. “Using texture based toys, especially ones that can slip over the hands, is much more friendly for my disability than using vibrators,” she explains. Having Endometriosis, she adds that vibration can also “rub the wrong way” and finds that grind pads offer her the much gentler sensation she needs during a flare up.All this isn’t to say that the Rabbit, the Bullet, or the Wand are dead – quite the opposite in fact. 45-year-old property assessor Eleanor tells me she’s tried “basically every sex toy under the sun” and “the rabbit reigns supreme”. “I grab every rabbit I can get my hands on,” she tells me. “Double vibration will never be beaten for me”. 

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In fact, Lovehoney shares that one of their rabbits is still in their top five best selling products this year. They’re just seeing other kinds of sex toys on the list for the first time.What the shift does demonstrate is a better understanding of women’s pleasure from sex toy developers and retailers, an acknowledgment from toy designers that different stimulations work for different people. If you’re still clinging to your vibrator, more power to you. But there’s now a wealth of choice on the market available to those who — like me — are over it, and that’s really exciting. 

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