Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lunchtime Chat: Can Catholics Use Sex Toys?

Explicit sexual content discussed below. Please don't read if you are concerned it could affect the state of your soul, especially if you're not yet married.

A reader writes: 

I want to ask about vibrators. I have never been able to orgasm without one, no matter what the stimulation. My husband and I only use one ask [sic] part of actual sex, but I'm not exactly sure what part it should play in sex. With it, there is no possibility of simultaneous orgasms, and sometimes I wonder whether it is licit or something more akin to masturbation even though the context is intercourse. Before we decided to try one out,we had lots of sex with a great emotional connection, but I was always left frustrated. Ironically, with three little ones, we only have time for quickies, which means that quick access to an orgasm is very helpful. But is it wrong?

What a GREAT question! 
Sex toys, whether they be vibrators, c-rings, dildos, etc., are NOT discussed by most Christians, let alone Catholics. Do a search on Catholic Answers for 'vibrator' and what do you get? Zero results! But the reason is probably that the Church hasn't released a document on it; there isn't an Apostolic Letter on the Use of Sex Toys in the Americas and there isn't going to be any time soon (thank goodness, it was enough when then-Karol Wojtyla wrote about mutual orgasm). So let me start off by saying this: there is nothing in Catholic teaching that outright forbids sex toys being used between non-contracepting married couples. But there's still more nuance, so let me help you explore the topic a bit further. 

What does one do when orgasm is NOT happening, at any point? It sounds like this problem isn't stemming from lack of an emotional connection (phew). So long as the use of the vibrator is not upsetting to you or your husband, there is nothing wrong with using it. But I think the problem here is that you only feel not-frustrated when you use it; that is, it might be starting to feel like unless you orgasm (with a vibrator), the sex doesn't count. (the awesome Dr. Popcak addresses this 'doesn't count' phenomenon in his book Holy Sex - but he doesn't get quite as specific with sex toys). I know it's hard to hear, but orgasm is not the point of sex. Is it important? YES. But it's not the end! Most women do not orgasm during every act. So don't be too hard on yourself - you're not crazy!

The goal is to allow orgasms to flow naturally from your lovemaking. Obviously, you have to concentrate on orgasm when you introduce a vibrator - there it is, reminding you of the goal! But the real goal might be for you to try to wean yourself off the vibrator and explore other ways to orgasm. With three young children, though, that's a tall order! Here is a possible suggestion: try perhaps every other time, or every third time, to enjoy sex but not make orgasm a necessary act. Accept that you aren't going and focus on how much you love your husband, how much this time together means, what a wonderful lover he is. If you focus too much on orgasm, you'll feel pressured and sex will be even more unsatisfying (as I'm sure you know). 

But you can do other things to orgasm during lovemaking. You stated you haven't ever been able to orgasm without a vibrator. Does that mean you had your first orgasm with a vibrator? If so, okay - you've had one, now you can figure out how to have one without a vibrator! You've ruled out an actual physical problem. Here are some tips for orgasming, sans electronics: 
  1. Oral stimulation (this IS allowed) - your husband can either do this until you come close, then go to intercourse, or you can orgasm before intercourse.
  2. Manual stimulation - either his hands or yours ! If you are stimulating yourself during intercourse, this is NOT masturbation - you are giving yourself to him.
  3. Different positions - Many women orgasm by being on top, because they can adjust the amount of stimulation they have. You can try being on top and stimulating yourself, or having your husband do it. 
  4. C-rings - Have you heard of these? These are bands, usually of stretchy silicone, that wrap around the base of your husband's penis. Then, when you are on top, you have something to give friction to your clitoris. Some of them also vibrate. Don't worry, you don't have to go to some gross sex shop to buy them - Amazon carries them. Obviously, if these are not comfortable for your husband, they're not an option - but there are lots of kinds and they're relatively inexpensive. 
  5. Lubrication - were you using any? There is a BIG difference for some people between manual stimulation without lubrication and with lubrication. I personally hate the way 'store' lubricants smell (Astroglide, KY, etc.) - so we use coconut oil. Works great and I don't have to be embarrassed if someone sees some on my nightstand. You can also use olive oil (oldest known personal lubricant - the ancient Greeks used it!), but I find the smell to be quite strong. 

Although vibrators are permitted, they aren't ideal. That's the key here. I realize you may be at a time in your life where you are not into creativity; you don't have the energy or ability to try this or that - you're just lucky to get 30 minutes to have sex and then fall asleep before some little person is waking you up! If so, hey, no big deal - you're not doing anything wrong! But when you find you're getting to a new season of life, maybe you can get an afternoon at home just the two of you, leave the vibrator alone and try some new things! Ultimately, God wants to bless your lovemaking and have it be as pleasurable and fun as possible. Pray, ask God for help, and then approach your husband with love! 


  1. Thank you for writing so directly and clearly on this topic. And thank you so much for giving couples who may need help in this area some good (and very frank) advice.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and giving feedback! Please let me know if you think there's anything I should address in the future.

    2. I very much appreciated this article. I'm a 41 year old woman - my husband and I have been married 17 years and we have three children... and I've never had an orgasm without the assistance of a vibrator or without a long period of manual stimulation (with my hands only). We have incorporated our "bullet" into our lovemaking when we have the time, but I often simply do not have an orgasm. You discussed the fact that the female orgasm shouldn't be the goal of lovemaking - and, for my husband and I, we've had to accept that - but I'm afraid that your advice could be taken too far or misunderstood.

      If the female orgasm isn't the goal every time a married Catholic couple makes love, then we should also consider that the male orgasm shouldn't always be the goal, as well. My husband makes some of our lovemaking all about me... his pleasure takes a back seat. Those times make me feel so precious and so very loved by him. Very few of my friends have such attentive spouses... and I think that my inability to always orgasm has actually made my husband more aware of my needs.

      Again, thank you for your article. I wish we, as Catholic women, were more comfortable discussing these very real, very important issues openly with one another!

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  3. Actually vibrators are not allowed. It's mentioned in either "love and responsibility" or "theology of the body"

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  6. but i dont like these involving catholics

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  11. Again, according the parameters I established above this would obviously preclude viewing pornography (even inside of marriage) and any other sexual activity that involved someone besides your spouse. Masturbation Toys

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