The use of sexual aids and devices is often a sensitive and embarrassing topic for women, but a new landmark study on sexual aid usage conducted by the Berman Center and funded by an unrestricted educational grant from the Sexual Well-being store may help change women's acceptance of sexual aids and their ability to talk more openly about use of sexual aids with their spouses, partners, and friends.
The research was unveiled in Chicago on September 11, 2004 at the second annual Women's Sexual Health State-of-the-Art Series conference in conjunction with the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. This Continuing Medical Education program is one of the largest-ever gatherings of physicians on the topic of women's sexual health.
The study is entitled The Health Benefits of Sexual Aids & Devices: A Comprehensive Study of their Relationship to Satisfaction and Quality of Life and is one of the first to explore women's use of sexual devices and bring the topic of sexual device use "out of the closet" and into the realm of normal behavior. Knowledge Networks conducted the study by mail with a random national sample of 2,594 women, in the age range of 18 to 60, from March 5 to April 5, 2004.
The purpose of the research was threefold:
- to produce an academic study in an underreported and emerging area of interest in women's sexuality,
- to determine the instance of use of sexual aids and devices, and
- to identify women's attitudes toward such aids and devices and their role in overall health and well-being.
Among the more remarkable findings from the study is the prevalence of sexual device usage. One in five women uses self-stimulation at least once a week, which would equate to more than 17.5 million women nationwide. Of the women that use self-stimulation, nearly 60 percent currently use a sexual device to do so. The research indicates that, in all, 44 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 60 have used a sexual device.
Based on the study results, the author suggests a connection between the use of sexual aids and devices with overall quality of life. Women who use sexual devices report experiencing higher levels of sexual function and satisfaction with their partners than non-users. This includes higher levels of sexual desire and arousal as well as less pain during and after intercourse. Sexual device users also find it easier to reach orgasm when compared to non-users, who tend to have moderate success. With these findings, we can safely suggest that all of these characteristics were significantly correlated with higher levels of quality of life in the respondents.
In addition, the study also reveals that women overwhelmingly believe that using a sensual enhancement product is nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, nine out of 10 study participants report being comfortable talking to their partners about their sexual device use. Most women view sexual devices as a complement to their sexual relationships and not a substitute for their partner.
Despite a popular misconception, it is women who are in relationships -- not singles -- who are most likely to use a sexual aid. Of the study participants, 78 percent of women who use or have used a sexual device were in a relationship. Of the women who were most likely to use a self stimulation device, 43 percent were living with their partners, but not married; and 35 percent were in a relationship, but not living together.
"The research findings only confirm what we have been telling couples for years," said renowned sex therapist and educator Dr. Laura Berman, who is also director of the Berman Center in Chicago. "Using sexual aids and devices is a normal and healthy part of life, but it is clear that we still have a long way to go. Many women don't know what's right for them, where to find sexual aids, or how to use them. In my practice, I educate women about sexual aids and prescribe devices tailored to their individual needs."
The study findings indicate that approximately 75 percent of women purchase sexual aids and devices at specialty stores, although an increasing number of women are opting for the privacy and safety offered by Web-based stores.
The study found that top reasons women purchase sensual products online were:
- Anonymity - 80 percent (of respondents)
- Convenience - 75 percent
- Less Embarrassing - 71 percent
- Ability to Take One's Time - 64 percent
- Larger Selection - 42 percent
According to Sharon Wikstrom, director of merchandising for the drugstore.com(TM) Sexual Well-being(TM) store, an online resource offering sexual products and expert advice, "More and more women and couples today are choosing to shop online because of the convenience, selection, and most importantly, privacy. Over 70 percent of our customers are women, and sales in our Sexual Well-being(TM) store are up 34 percent year-over-year. This trend, combined with the important findings in this latest research, suggests we are only in the infancy of a new sexual awakening for women."