Man vs. Machine Issue can threaten, excite

On the hunt for a stray sock in your significant other's drawer, you make a stunning discovery: a rubber object that vibrates, batteries included.

Suddenly, it hits you: This is a machine, it makes her feel good and it does not involve you.

This can be very confusing for men, according to experts, because it raises the dreaded "Am I not good enough?" question of sexual adequacy. But demystifying the subject and learning why people use sexual aids can settle a lover's frantic mind.

Lurking in the shadows of even a modern man's mind is the suspicion he might have lost his mojo. "I would be very concerned," said Josh, a 25-year-old from Minnesota. "Why would she need that when she's got me?"

"I'd want to know the reason if there was something lacking in our love life," seconded Henry, a 27-year-old from London.

Many men don't know much about the subject outside of raunchy films or magazines, according to sex therapist Joani Blank, founder of the Good Vibrations store in San Francisco. Blank believes men should realize women who use vibrators are not necessarily dissatisfied with their sex lives.

"There are negative ideas that vibrators are too mechanical and may be habit-forming," she said. "There's a tendency to think masturbation is a second-rate sexual activity that you wouldn't do much at all if you had the choice."

Giselle, a mother of two from Maryland, admits her husband doesn't like the idea. "Richard hates it. He thinks he's been replaced. That's so dumb as if a battery could replace the real thing."

Giselle said she tried to convince Richard her new toy wasn't hurting their sex life, but he was having none of it.

In fact, some experts say, sexual toys can even increase drive by bringing a woman closer in touch with what feels good. Quite simply, some devices are capable of physical feats that exceed the limits of human physiology.

That distinction is especially important for women who have difficulty reaching some forms of sexual climax. "I'm 62, I've had all sort of partners, and I've never had an orgasm with intercourse," Blank said. "Learning that women use vibrators largely for clitoral stimulation helps some men," since it means that they are not being replaced only supplemented.

Time for Reassurance

For women who want their man to know, there is no perfect way to share the news. But there are some guidelines to follow, Blank said:

• Be enthusiastic and confident, "approaching him with excitement and curiosity rather than fear."

• Don't reassure men it is not a replacement in a patronizing manner, because that will only give voice to their greatest fear.

• Express to your partner how embarrassed or scared you are, and find a way for a man to feel safe to say they're fearful or worried, as well.

• "Tell your partner to lighten up about the whole thing; change the whole feeling of the conversation into something more playful," said Blank.

• Emphasize it will enhance the experience for both partners, rather than saying it is the "best" way for you to reach orgasm.

Most importantly, women should

avoid using the devices as a rhetorical weapon. "If [the woman] is using it to send messages the machine can do something he can't, that's obviously not good," Blank said.