Psycho-Sensory Comparative Testing of Three Different Types of Vibrators (Hitachi Wand, Prelude and Eroscillator used as Sensual Massagers).

Cuny Clinical

Psycho-Sensory Comparative Testing of Three Different Types of Vibrators (Hitachi Wand, Prelude and Eroscillator used as Sensual Massagers).

Louis Lieberman, Ph.D.
Mary Cuadrado, M.P.A.
City University of New York


The use of vibrators and massagers as a source of sexual stimulation appears to have existed at least as long as men and women were exposed to their stimulating properties through legitimate professional massaging session and in barber shops where "Swedish" type massager (one that is strapped on to the back of the hand) was used for neck and facial massage. This type and others similar to it can be traced back to the early twentieth century. The phallic shaped, battery operated cylinders appeared in the 1950s, seemingly designed to be inserted into the vagina as a penis substitute. No instructions for their use, however, came with the machine but it’s limitation at first to sex shops and sex publications left little doubt as to it’s primary function. 

Other types began to appear in the early 1960s ostensibly for scalp and facial and "spot" massaging, but again, their advertisements for sale by mail through sex magazines defined their more pertinent usage. By then, writers of popular sex manuals were already suggesting the use of vibrators for women who were having troubles with orgasmic response. For example, as early as 1949, Clark recommended its use in the Employment of Love in Marriage (Clark, L. The Enjoyment of Love in Marriage, New York : Crest Books, 1949) as did Kelly in Sex Manual (Kelly, G.K., Sex Manual, 8th ed. August, Georgia : Southern Medical Supply Co., 1959) and Albert Ellis in The Art and Science of Love (Ellis, A., The Art and Science of Love, New York :Lyle Stuart, 1960). 

It was not until April 1966 that the mention of the use of vibrators moved out of the sub-rosa press and the literature of "do-it-yourself" sex manuals, where its function was primarily as a sexual novelty. In the latter 1960s vibrators became associated with the scientific study of sexual functioning carried out by Masters and Johnson and reported in their book : Human Sexual Response

At about the same time, January, 1966, Mary Jane Sherfey, M.D., a traditionally trained psychoanalyst reported, in an article in the Journal of The American Psychoanalytic Association and later in her book The Nature and Evolution of Female Sexuality (Sherfey, Mary J., M.D. The Nature and Evolution of Female Sexuality, New York : Random House, 1972, p. 110) that :

" In clinical practice, a number of married and single women using the electric vibrator have come to my attention. From the standpoint of normal physiological functioning, these women exhibit a healthy, uninhibited sexuality – and the number of orgasms attained, a measure of the human female’s orgasmic potentiality". 

The very influential work of the renowned sex therapist and educator, Helen Singer Kaplan, M.D., Ph.D., then Head of the Sex Therapy and Education Program, Payne Whitney Clinic of the New York Hospital, also suggested the use of vibrators in the treatment of nonorgasmic females. 

In her book, The New Sex Therapy : Active Treatment of Sexual Dysfunction (Kaplan, Helen S., The New Sex Therapy : Active Treatment of Sexual Dysfunction, New York : Brunner/Mazel, 1974), Dr. Kaplan notes several ways in which a vibrator may be used as an aid in the treatment of orgasmic dysfunction. For one, she suggests a variant of combined penile insertion and vibrator assisted clitoral stimulation because : "Some women who are highly resistant to coital orgasm are able to climax when they are stimulated with a vibrator during coitus." (p.407) She also suggests that for those women who have never had an orgasm (primary absolute orgasmic dysfunction), should the manual masturbation not be of sufficient intensity to elicit the orgasmic response, then a vibrator is indicated. "The vibrator provides the strongest, most intense stimulation known." (p. 388) 

The study

The main purpose of these university testing is to compare the effectiveness of three types of vibrators on these two dimensions : 

  • the usefulness of the type to bring a woman to orgasm in as short a time as possible
  • the overall satisfaction with the physical shape and aesthetic aspects of the use of these devices. 

The three types of vibrators used for the study were the :

1) coil-operated Prelude III
2) motor-driven Hitachi Magic Wand and
3) an oscillating head, The Eroscillator

Since the oscillating head is a new type, specifically designed for stimulating the clitoral shaft and the mons area, the only brand that could be chosen for these comparisons was the Eroscillator. The Eroscillator is, strictly speaking, not a vibrator since the stimulation comes from the "oscillating" motion of the several heads (a three-inch finger-like head, a one inch diameter "grape cluster" and a one inch cup) from side to side, with 3600 constant movements per minute, rather than the up and down vibrations of the other types of vibrator. The sample for this study consisted of thirty (30) women volunteers, rs.  Al of whom were over the age of 21. The testing was carried out by themselves, in the privacy of their own home, and all interviews were conducted by a female interviewer with full assurances of confidentiality of information. The data collected was from self reporting sources since the success of using, and satisfaction with, these vibrators in different situations are essentially subjective in nature.

The findings

The thirty (30) women in the sample ranged in age from 24 to 47. Most (24 of the 30) were living with their husbands or were living alone but had an ongoing sexual relationship. Over two fifths were high school graduates or had some college. An additional 40 percent were college graduates and the remaining five had completed some postgraduate work. Two thirds were white, one quarter were black and there were 2 Hispanics.  In total there were 252 completed trials in which the women used only one vibrator for the session. (In addition there were 110 trials in which all three were used during each session for comparative purposes. These will be reported on later in this paper). Slightly more than half of the trials (52%) took place with a partner while 120 were conducted while alone. Two thirds of the women engaged in some form of erotic activity, either alone or with a partner, before using the vibrators.

Length of time to orgasm

In most cases (83%), once the erotic stimulation was initiated with a vibrator, the women reached orgasm. The length of time this took ranged from a reported "twenty seconds" to a maximum of one hour. In comparing the efficacy of each type to help bring the women to orgasm, we find that when the Eroscillator is used, the women are more likely to report that they reached orgasms than when they used the other types.

Intensity of orgasm

The women were asked to rate the intensity of the orgasm during each trial on a scale of 1-10 with ten ranking as the highest. The scores were then grouped into Low (1-4), Medium (5-7) and High (8-10) Intensity. On this scale, 50 percent of the women rated these orgasms as High while 13 percent scored them as Low. The Eroscillator was most likely to produce the High Intensity orgasms.

Table 1 : Type by intensity of orgasm

Intensity Level Prelude Wand Eroscillator
Low 1-4 5% 34% 4%
Medium 5-6 43% 35% 33%
High 8-10 52% 31% 63%
N 58 62 89

Multiple orgasms

In 56 of the trials the women said that they had separate and distinct multiple orgasms during a single session of using the vibrators. The numbers ranged from a low of 2 to a high of 7 with 3 being the number in the majority of trials in which multiple orgasms occurred. Use of the Eroscillator was most likely to result in multiple orgasms.

Subjective comparison of types

Since the use of a vibrator has become so integral a part of the therapeutic regimen recommended to patients, distractions due to the physical and mechanical nature of the vibrators should be minimized. However, since dislikes and discomforts associated with the use of vibrators has not been researched to our knowledge, it was important to learn which of the main types of vibrators would most likely be used by patients and thus be most efficacious in the therapeutic process. 

The women had also been instructed that after each session they were to fill in a questionnaire consisting of 6 items to which they were to write in their subjective determination of which vibrator used best provided an answer to the questions. This is presented in Table 2:

Table 2: Comparisons Between Instruments

(Percent Choosing Each Vibrator in Each Category)


  Prelude Wand Eroscillator
1."most natural for you to hold and use" 7% 16% 76%
2."most erotically stimulating" 14% 20% 66%
3."which one did you finally settle on to bring you to orgasm" 17% 19% 53%
4."which was least tiring to your hands" 9% 15% 76%
5."quietest to use"  29% 11% 60%
6."which seemed gentlest to the various parts of your vagina"  11% 10% 79%

The overwhelming positive response to these questions in favor of the oscillating head type, represented by the Eroscillator, is probably due to the original design of this vibrator since this was the only type specifically designed and created for the achievement of orgasmic response through clitoral and mons area stimulation. This appears to be supported in the depth interviews conducted by the female interviewer after all trials were completed. 

In these interviews, 22 of 30 women (73%) responded to the question "Taking everything into consideration, which instrument did you prefer during this time period" with the citation of the Eroscillator. In probing for the reasons for their preferential choice, the 58 mentioned of the positive qualities of the Eroscillator covered a wide range of attributes. The response could be broadly categorized as those falling into positive comments about the shape, handling and mechanical attributes and those referring to the stimulation function.


If the sole function of vibrators is to assist in helping a woman achieve orgasm, our findings indicate that any of the three types would be equally adequate for this purpose. However, as our findings also indicate, preference for the use and satisfactions with the outcome of using a vibrator also involves other considerations for many women. The handling, the physical characteristics the size, the shape, the quality of the stimulation may all have a bearing on the perceived satisfaction with the orgasmic response and the willingness to continue using the instrument until orgasm is reached. Since perception of response is an important part of the sexual dysfunction therapy process, elements of the negative qualities of some vibrators on the market and make specific recommendations rather than merely suggest that a patient purchase one for the indicated exercises.


1. Clark, L., The Enjoyment of Love in Marriage, New York: Crest Books, 1949
2. Kelly, G.K., Sex Manual, 8th edition, August, Georgia: Southern Medical Supply Company., 1959
3. Ellis, A., The Art and Science of Love, New York, Lyle Stuart, 1960
4. Sherfey, Mary J., M.D. The Nature and Evolution of Female Sexuality, New York: Random House, 1972, p 110
5. Kaplan, Helen S., The New Sex Therapy: Active Treatment of Sexual Dysfunction, New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1974