What’s the Difference Between Dildos & Vibrators?

How to Pick What Best Suits Your Needs

WRITTEN BY SUPER SMASH CACHE / ILLUSTRATIONS BY SARAH WILLIAMSON


What’s the Difference Between Dildos & Vibrators? 1

If you’re over­whelmed by a plea­sure boutique’s gad­gets and giz­mos, you’re not alone. Let’s start with the two broad­est cat­e­gories of sex toys: dil­dos and vibra­tors.

What do dildos and vibrators have in common?

Both cat­e­gories include tools that stim­u­late gen­i­tals bet­ter than hands or a penis alone can. That may mean orgas­ming more quick­ly, more intense­ly, or over­all just hav­ing an eas­i­er time hit­ting the right spot for you.

However, they ful­fill dif­fer­ent nich­es. If you’re new to sex toys, read on to learn the crit­i­cal dif­fer­ences between dil­dos and vibrators.

What’s the Difference Between Dildos & Vibrators? 2


What makes a dildo, a dildo?

Dildos stim­u­late via inter­nal rhyth­mic “stretch­ing” and slid­ing. They’re often cylin­dri­cal and round­ed or tapered at the tip for easy inser­tion. There’s a vari­ety of sizes, shapes, and mate­ri­als among dil­dos, based on how much pres­sure you want and where.

What are dildos for?

Depending on your anato­my and the exact toy you’re using, a dildo’s move­ment can mas­sage a vari­ety of inter­nal eroge­nous zones. Such hot spots include the inter­nal cli­toris, ure­thral sponge (prostate and G‑spot), anal sphinc­ter, rec­tum, cervix, and A‑spot.

(Further read­ing: Le Wand Contour vs. njoy Eleven — a com­par­i­son of two deli­cious stain­less steel G‑spot/A‑spot/cervix mas­sage dildos!)

If you have a vul­va with a short clit-vag gap, you may also enjoy bend­ing squishy or tex­tured dil­dos for indi­rect exter­nal grind­ing dur­ing penetration.

As a gen­er­al safe­ty pre­cau­tion, though, if you’re using a dil­do anal­ly, it should have a flared base or loop to stop the phal­lus from get­ting lost inside!

What’s the Difference Between Dildos & Vibrators? 3

Toy care and cleaning

Dildos gen­er­al­ly take less main­te­nance than vibra­tors, since you don’t have to wor­ry about dam­ag­ing the machin­ery. Soap and water are enough for every­day clean­ing, but you may want to dis­in­fect sometimes.

If your dil­dos are made of body-safe mate­ri­als (as all the ones at Spectrum Boutique are) and aren’t motor­ized, you have a few clean­ing options:

  • Submerge and boil for 5 minutes.
  • Let sit in a 10% bleach and 90% water solu­tion, then rinse thor­ough­ly and wash with soap and water.
  • Use a dish­wash­er that can san­i­tize (just avoid dish soap)

Another thing to note about dildos

If you can’t orgasm via pen­e­tra­tion alone, that’s nor­mal! The exact num­bers vary, depend­ing on the sources you con­sult, but any­where between 55–85% of peo­ple with vul­vas need exter­nal stim­u­la­tion. Consider pair­ing a dil­do with stroking or a vibra­tor outside!


What makes a vibrator, a vibrator?

A key dif­fer­ence between dil­dos and vibra­tors is that vibra­tors — well, they vibrate. They have built-in motors for plea­sur­able mas­sag­ing, via small, quick move­ments. They have hard plas­tic shells and han­dles to encase the machin­ery, though some hide that under a cushy lay­er of silicone.

What’s the Difference Between Dildos & Vibrators? 4

What a cornucopia!

There is a strik­ing range of sizes among vibra­tors, from a needle-like point to wands for broad areas. Choose a vibra­tor based on how much pow­er you’d like and how much you want to focus the sen­sa­tion. The motors also vary, with some car­ry­ing more weight and momen­tum in their move­ment (rumbly), and oth­ers feel­ing more surface-level (buzzy).

Unlike dil­dos, vibra­tors often focus on exter­nal stim­u­la­tion. There are plen­ty of insertable and dual-stimulation vibra­tors out there, though. More on that later.

Cleaning and care of vibrators

Because vibra­tors have del­i­cate inter­nal com­po­nents, you’ll want to han­dle them with extra care.

Don’t sub­merge vibra­tors that aren’t water­proof, and don’t ever boil a vibra­tor. Instead, use a 10% bleach solu­tion if your toy is non-porous (for exam­ple, if it’s cov­ered in silicone).

If it’s porous (TPE or TPR), it can’t ful­ly be san­i­tized. Keep such toys to your­self or con­sid­er cov­er­ing them with a con­dom or, where pos­si­ble, a sil­i­cone cap.

What’s the Difference Between Dildos & Vibrators? 5

Vibrator power isn’t everything: other factors to consider

If you find the right type of pow­er for you, high inten­si­ty isn’t necessary!

Versatility is key when find­ing out what kind of vibra­tor works for you. For cli­toral vibra­tors, con­sid­er one that has a round or flat face and a pointy tip, like the We-Vibe Touch, Mini Marvels Marvelous Flicker, and Clandestine Mimic+.

You may find that you like rumbly and low-speed vibra­tors, or that weak vibra­tions can still work for you as long as the tip is pointy enough. For an afford­able but rumbly bul­let vibra­tor, con­sid­er the BMS Mini Swan Rose.

If you tend to be sen­si­tive after orgasm, con­sid­er a vibra­tor with many speed options and but­tons for increas­ing and decreas­ing inten­si­ty, like the Fun Factory Volta.

Also, large and rumbly wand vibra­tors can feel great against a cli­toris and a penis. The Magic Wand Plus and Doxy Die Cast can be fun ways to explore vibra­tion on dif­fer­ent sets of gen­i­tals.

What about internal vibrators?

Some vibra­tors can be used as dil­dos, as well! Fantastic insertable vibra­tors include the double-ended BMS Swan Wand Classic. Also, con­sid­er the Pillow Talk Sassy for G‑spotting and the Blush Nude Impressions line in gen­er­al for inter­nal vibrations.


Gray areas when discerning the difference between a dildo and a vibrator

There are some in-betweens where the dif­fer­ences between dil­dos and vibra­tors aren’t super clear. Here are a few of them.

Linear pulsators

Fun Factory’s pul­sators have mag­net­ic motors inside that shut­tle the whole unit back-and-forth. Like dil­dos, they focus on stroking the inter­nal cli­toris. Since vibra­tors tend to have small­er, faster move­ments with rotary motors, many sex shops con­sid­er pul­sators to be their own category.

(Further read­ing: Stronic Surf pul­sator review.)

What’s the Difference Between Dildos & Vibrators? 6

Vibrating dildos

Vibrating dil­dos are also in the mid­dle of the spec­trum between dil­dos and insertable vibra­tors. It’s like telling the dif­fer­ence between yellow-green and green-yellow: maybe not the most use­ful dis­cus­sion since people’s inter­pre­ta­tions vary!

If the focus is on the feel­ing of the plush and thick sil­i­cone, and the vibra­tions are just the icing on top, sex toy crit­ics would gen­er­al­ly agree that you’re look­ing at a vibrat­ing dil­do. If there’s a notice­able hard shell around the motor or the vibra­tions are a vital fea­ture, you have a vibrator.

Rabbit-style vibrators

Dual stim­u­la­tors com­bine ele­ments of both dil­dos and exter­nal vibra­tors! They mas­sage two eroge­nous zones at the same time, which sound deli­cious on paper! In prac­tice, rab­bit vibra­tors are high­ly anatomy-specific.

As such, you may want to try a flex­i­ble and adjustable dual stim­u­la­tor, like the We-Vibe Nova. If the dis­tance between your cli­toris and vagi­na is close to the aver­age (about 1 inch), you have a lot of options. Consider a self-thrusting rab­bit like the Lush Iris.


There’s plenty to love about both dildos and vibrators!

Neither cat­e­go­ry is bet­ter than the oth­er — it comes down to what fits your body’s wants and needs. Depending on your mood, you might enjoy either one or both simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, and over time, your inter­ests may shift.

Ultimately, though, learn­ing the dif­fer­ence between a dil­do and vibrator’s pur­pose is the first step to pick­ing the right sex toy for you!

Read other sex-positive articles at Spectrum Journal

I orig­i­nal­ly wrote this arti­cle, "What’s the Difference Between Dildos & Vibrators?" for Spectrum Journal. Find oth­er fan­tas­tic writ­ers or browse my chan­nel there.

2 Responses

  1. Prudence says:

    Thanks for clar­i­fy­ing this. The divid­ing line between vibra­tors and vibrat­ing dil­dos has always been con­fus­ing to me.

  2. D. Dyer says:

    Very well-written, I had not real­ly giv­en con­sid­er­a­tion to where Pullsators fit here but I guess they real­ly are their own sort of category.

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