Every Type Of Vibrator, Explained

Pleasure, unpacked.

woman looking at storefront with different types of vibrators in the window
(Image credit: Brittany Holloway-Brown)

When you think of the best sex toys of all time, you probably think first and foremost about vibrators. And while the concept of a vibrator seems pretty straightforward at first, once you begin shopping for one, you'll find yourself inundated with toys of all shapes and sizes that are intended for use on different parts of the body. Many of these toys, such as the phallic ones, appear intuitive, but there are also a slew of toys incorporating new sex toy technologies and more abstract (and inclusive) designs. 

Still, vibrators tend to fall into a few basic categories. Once you know what each one is and how to use each type of vibrator, you'll be more empowered to make the best decisions for yourself and/or your partner on your next sex toy shopping spree. Below, check out our expert-vetted explainer on each type of vibrator, so you'll be ready for your most well-informed (and most fun) vibrator experience yet.

The Wand Vibrator

Wand vibrators (also known as personal massagers) are among the most popular and recognizable sex toys of all time. In the words of sexologist and intimacy coach Marla Renee Stewart, this toy has a head with "a dome-like shape" that offers "a deep and strong vibration." Indeed, these vibrators can also double as massagers for erogenous zones or simply for tired or achy parts of the body.

When it comes to how to use them, Stewart says, "You always need to read the directions for whatever wand vibrator that you have, as many of them have different speeds and modes and even attachments. Some of them are rechargeable and some are battery-operated or plug-in, so make sure that you follow the directions according to the company. Typically wands are used on the clitoris, but there are attachments that can be used for penetration. If you are using it on your clitoris and you are a squirter, it's highly recommended that you use a waterproof wand because you don't want to cause the wand any damage from fluid, which could void any warranty you have."

The Bullet Vibrator

"A bullet vibrator is a small, handheld, typically cylindrical, sex toy that can be used for direct, pinpointed stimulation on the body," says Frye-Nekrasova. For this reason, they're excellent for both beginners exploring where they most like to be touched as well as experienced users who know exactly where they want their vibrator to stimulate them. Bullet vibrators are also excellent for stimulating other erogenous zones—something we explore in our guide on how to use them.

The G-Spot Vibrator

For people who enjoy vaginal penetration and the novel sensations of a vibrating toy, a G-spot vibrator is the way to go. Frye-Nekrasova defines these vibrators as "insertable vibrator[s] that [are] designed to stimulate the g-spot," which can be accomplished by thrusting the toy in and out of the vagina or grinding against it after insertion.

But what is the g-spot, exactly? AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Shamyra Howard explains, "The g-spot is said to be a sensitive area located at least two to three inches inside the vagina. One way to stimulate the area is by using a finger in the 'come here' motion." This mode of stimulation has inspired the distinctive shapes behind some of the best g-spot vibrator designs.

The Rabbit Vibrator

Are you a fan of both clitoral and g-spot stimulation? Then consider the widely beloved rabbit vibrator. "A rabbit vibrator is a classic sex toy that originally was designed with a long insertable portion for the vaginal canal and an outer clitoral stimulation portion that looked like bunny ears," says Frye-Nekrasova. "Over the decades the designs have changed where some rabbits now don't have the traditional bunny ears, but they still have the dual stimulation with an insertable portion and an outer portion that touches the clitoris."

In recent years, a variety of rabbit vibrators have also been designed for long-distance play, partner play, and solo masturbation.

The Clitoral Suction Vibrator

"Some clitoral stimulators are described as 'suction vibes,'" says author and sexologist Dr. Jess O'Reilly, but she points out that many of these toys don't actually suck on the clitoris. "Instead, they’re surrounding the head of the clitoris to create a suction-like sensation."

These toys are particularly appealing to people who enjoy oral sex or prefer clitoral stimulation that's gentler than the type provided by a wand or bullet vibrator. With a clitoral suction vibrator, Dr. O'Reilly says, a "unique pleasure massage is created by tiny changes in air pressure that surround the head of the clitoris — providing indirect stimulation that tends to create deeper sensations of pleasure and orgasm."

The Remote Vibrator

Dr. Laurie Mintz, a tenured Professor of the Psychology of Human Sexuality, says that this type of vibrator "can be controlled remotely," meaning that you don't need to press any buttons on the actual toy in order to get it to work. 

"There are generally three types of these toys," Dr. Mintz tells us. The first is "those that are controlled with a separate remote, within a certain radius (kind of like remote-controlled cars you may have had or seen when a kid)." 

The second type of remote vibrator allows you or a partner to control the settings and switch between modes by using a mobile application, but, again, "within a specific radius."

Finally, the third type of remote vibrator "can be controlled locally via Bluetooth connection or remotely from anywhere with an internet connection," Dr. Mintz says. "These are terrific for long-distance relationships, yet there is a caution associated with them, and that is that it’s important to choose a toy with proper security and anonymization to avoid being vulnerable to the image of you being exposed."

For that reason, check out our comprehensive list of the best remote vibrators, which have been vetted so you can have fun without worrying about any invasions of privacy.

The Vibrating Panty

In the mood for some clandestine fun? Then consider vibrating panties. Frye-Nekrasova says, "Vibrating panties are vibrators design to sit in the underwear and stimulate the clitoris. They can come with a specific panty or be designed to fit into any and all panties. You use them by placing them in the portion of the panties that sits against the clitoris or other parts of the vulva you want to stimulate and you can control the functions with the remote that comes with the panties or the vibe." 

Just be sure, when you buy, that you test out the toys before wearing and using them in public. No one wants to find themselves accidentally reenacting that notorious scene from When Harry Met Sally.

The Anal Vibrator

Frye-Nekrasova tells us that, in the simplest of terms, "anal vibrators are anal toys that vibrate." As examples, she lists "anal beads that vibrate, vibrating butt plugs and prostate massagers."

Our experts remind us, though, to be sure to only use sex toys that are specifically marked as and made for anal use. Dr. Zhana Vrangalova, a LELO Sexpert and NYU Professor of Human Sexuality, explains that anal vibrators "are typically shaped differently to fit the anatomy of the rectum rather than the clitoris and vagina, and they typically have a tapered end so they don't get lost inside the rectum (something that's not of concern with clitoral and vaginal vibrators)."

Furthermore, she reminds us to "apply plenty of lube that's compatible with the material of the vibrator." For clarification on how to find the right lube that's compatible with the material your anal toys are made of, check out our guide to the best lubes.

Finally, when it comes to anal stimulation, remember that slow and steady wins the race. "Go slow," says Dr. Vrangalova. "Build it up slowly and gently, going from a finger or a thin vibrator to a larger one as the sphincter relaxes." Plus, to avoid embarrassing and/or messy situations, she advises taking precautions.

"Go to the bathroom a couple of hours before anal play. Make sure you don't feel like you have to go right before you're about to play," she says, adding, "Clean out your anus with soap and water. You could do an enema, although it's not really necessary unless you're planning on stuffing really big vibrators in there. Don't eat spicy or otherwise diarrhea-inducing types of meals the night before."

For more specific tips on how to use an anal vibrator, take a look at our comprehensive guide on how to use every type of vibrator as well as our round-up of the best anal vibrators you can buy online.

For more, visit our Sexual Wellness section, where we unpack topics around consent, kink, sex toys, and more so you can have your safest and very best sexperiences yet.

Meet the Experts

Javay Frye-Nekrasova
Javay Frye-Nekrasova, MEd

Javay Frye-Nekrasova, MEd, is a sex educator, pleasure professional, and sex expert for Lovehoney. Specializing in pleasure, communication, and sex toys, she is passionate about making comprehensive sex education accessible for all and is in the process of earning a PhD in Human Sexuality from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Her research focuses on sex work, porn, as well as the relationship between the media and society's understanding of sexuality. She also provides sex education via YouTube and social media for her digital series, In Bed With a Millennial. You can find her on Instagram here: @MillennialSexpert.

Dr. Zhana Vrangalova
Dr. Zhana Vrangalova

Originally from Macedonia, Dr. Zhana Vrangalova has always been interested in transcending traditionalism and cultural boundaries in order to foster better relationships and self-esteem. Now, in addition to teaching at NYU, she offers online courses to help people be their most authentic selves and engage in fulfilling relationships.

Angie Rowntree
Angie Rowntree

Canadian-born Angie Rowntree is an award-winning indie filmmaker who pivoted into ethical porn when she founded Sssh.com, a porn site that exclusively produces ethical, feminist material. The site has won numerous awards and is the longest running feminist porn site on the internet.

sex expert Marla Renee Stewart
Marla Renee Stewart

Marla Renee Stewart, MA is a professional sexologist and intimacy/relationship/sex coach. In addition to working as a speaker and author on these topics, she is also a sexpert for the sexual wellness brand Lovers ,owns a sexual education company called Velvet Lips, and is a faculty member at Clayton State University, where she teaches Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies. Co-Founder of the Sex Down South Conference and a board member of both PARK Reproductive Justice NOW! and the Diverse Sexualities and Research Education Institute, Stewart is passionate about bringing together diverse voices in order to spread sexual education and liberation.

You may also know Stewart from the media: She has been featured on over 60 podcasts and and television shows, making appearances on the likes of Netflix’s Trigger Warning with Killer Mike, VH1's Love & HipHop Atlanta, GPB's Personal Injury Court, and Oxygen's Bad Girls Club: Atlanta. In addition, she also sits on the Boards for SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW! and the Diverse Sexualities and Research Education Institute.

Shamyra Howard
Shamyra Howard

Shamyra Howard is an international award-winning sexologist, licensed clinical social worker, and AASECT certified sex therapist committed to helping people improve their relationship and intimate lives. She is also the founder of On the Green Couch, where she helps people overcome sexual obstacles, and has authored two books.

Dr. Jess O'Reilly
Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, PhD

Dr. O’Reilly is an award-winning sex and relationship expert. Through her company, Happier Couples Inc., she provides online and in-person relationship education to couples. She also works with corporate executives and business owners to help them form stronger professional relationships, and she has performed extensive research on making classroom-based sexual education more robust and accessible. In addition to working as an expert for Lovehoney, she is also featured on Global TV’s The Morning Show and PlayboyTV’s Swing, and co-hosts the Sex With Dr. Jess Podcast with her partner, Brandon Ware.

Dr. Laurie Mintz
Dr. Laurie Mintz, Ph.D.

Dr. Laurie Mintz is an award-winning tenured professor at the University of Florida, where she teaches the Psychology of Human Sexuality. Her work has been published in over 50 peer-reviewed academic research journals along with six chapters in academic books, and she has maintained a private practice for over 30 years that helps couples and individuals with sexual issues. A Fellow of the American Psychological Association, she has also authored two books: Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters and How to Get It and A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex: Reclaim Your Desire and Reignite Your Relationship. Her overall mission is to provide scientifically accurate, sex positive education that prioritizes female pleasure. Currently, she also works as an expert for LELO.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, politics, culture, and fashion at Marie Claire and at publications including The New York Times, HuffPost Personal, Bustle, Alma, Muskrat Magazine, O'Bheal, and elsewhere. Her personal essay in The New York Times' Modern Love column kickstarted her professional writing career in 2018, and that piece has since been printed in the 2019 revised edition of the Modern Love book. Having studied history, international relations, and film, she has made films on politics and gender equity in addition to writing about cinema for Film Ireland, University College Cork, and on her personal blog, gabrielleulubay.medium.com. Before working with Marie Claire, Gabrielle worked in local government, higher education, and sales, and has resided in four countries and counting. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, and spent two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy.

Deeply political, she believes that skincare, haircare, and sexual wellness are central tenets to one's overall health and fights for them to be taken seriously, especially for people of color. She also loves studying makeup as a means of artistic expression, drawing on her experience as an artist in her analysis of beauty trends. She's based in New York City, where she can be found watching movies or running her art business when she isn't writing. Find her on Twitter at @GabrielleUlubay or on Instagram at @gabrielle.ulubay, or follow her art at @suburban.graffiti.art