Sex Toys More Common in Women in Relationships

Not Viewed as Substitute for Partner, Survey Shows

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 7, 2004 - Nearly half of adult women currently use sex toys or have tried them in the past, research shows. And women in relationships are even more likely to use them.

The report comes from Chicago's Berman Center. Directed by sex therapist Laura Berman, LCSW, PhD, the center focuses on women's sexual health and menopause.

The online study, funded by an unrestricted educational grant from, was conducted by Knowledge Networks for the Berman Center. The results were presented at the Women's Sexual Health State-of the-Art Series conference in Chicago.

A random sample of almost 2,600 women aged 18 to 60 were invited to participate in the survey. About 1,600 agreed to complete the survey, answering questions about their relationship status and use of sex toys.

According to the survey:

  • Forty-four percent said they currently use a sex toy or had done so in the past. The most commonly used sex toy was a vibrator.
  • Young women aged 25-34 were the most likely to have ever used a sex toy, with 51% of participants in that age group reporting current or past sex toy use.
  • Women aged 55-60 were just as likely to have tried a sex toy at some point in their lives. However, they were half as likely as younger women to currently use sex toys.

Most current or past sex toy users were in relationships and said they did not view the devices as a substitute for a partner.

  • Of unmarried women living with their partners, 43% said they currently used sex toys, and 17% said they had used them in the past.
  • Among women in relationships who were not living with their partners, 35% said they currently used sex toys, and 21% said they had done so in the past.

Sex Toys Less Common Among Singles

Sex toy use was less common among women not in relationships. Twenty-two percent of single women said they were current sex toy users; 12% said they had used sex toys in the past.

The use of sex toys was most popular among white women and women with some college education.

  • Thirty-four percent of white women said they currently used sex toys, compared with 22% of black participants, 19% of Hispanics, and 8% of "other" races.
  • Thirty-seven percent of women with some college education (but not a degree) were current sex toy users, compared with 26% of women with a college degree and 29% of high school graduates with no college education.

Sex Toys no Substitute for Real Thing

Overall, women had a "neutral-to-positive" outlook on sex toy use.

After controlling for demographic variables, "current sex toy users, whether or not in a steady healthy relationship, were significantly more likely to report a higher level of desire and interest for sex and less pain during and following intercourse," says the report.

"However, current and former users who were not in steady healthy relationships were still less satisfied with their overall sexual life than their counterparts."

Most sex toy users (about 90%) said they were open about it with their partners. Almost two-thirds of women said their partners were supportive of their sex toy use.

The main reason cited for current or past sex toy use: curiosity.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Women's Sexual Health State-of-the-Art Series conference, Chicago, Sept. 11, 2004. News release, Berman Center.
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