What’s The Difference Between A Dildo And Vibrator?

Though they both help people reach orgasm, dildos and vibrators have very distinct differences between their texture, shape, size, and of course, vibration.
Photograph Of Woman Comparing A Dildo And A Vibrator

Phallic sex toys are as old as time, as we’ll discover in just a bit, but modern technological advancements over the last century or so have driven their evolution far beyond any cavewoman’s wildest dreams. 

With an ever-expanding sex toy market that will reach close to 40 billion dollars worldwide by next year alone, it’s no surprise that there are a LOT of different options when it comes to choosing, buying, and playing with a sex toy today.

Even within their own category, however, the stylistic and functional differences between vibrators and dildos vary widely.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Everything Vibrators hub, an in-depth and evolving resource that comprehensively explores all aspects of vibrators from the different types and how to use them, to materials and safety — created to help you achieve the sexual pleasure you deserve.

What Is The Difference Between A Vibrator And A Dildo?

Collage Of Two Dildos And A Vibrator, Comparison Concept

Although they can be crafted from the same materials, the main difference between a vibrator and a dildo has to do with the mechanical vibration of the toy — or lack thereof.

What Is A Dildo?

A dildo does not vibrate and is generally a semi-hard or hard phallic-shaped toy that is meant to be inserted into the vagina or anus as another form of penetrative sex.

Some folks even use them orally!

Dildos come in many different shapes and sizes, ranging from huge, hulk-sized dicks to petite, finger-like phalluses.

Some dildos are artfully crafted, bringing a touch of creative whimsy to sex play. If you fancy riding a fantasy-themed dragon-shaped penis, I can assure you — it’s out there.

Dildos have actually been around for over thirty thousand years; the first one was discovered in Germany and dates back to the Upper Paleolithic period.

Many ancient dildos were carved from rock, crystals, and ivory.

While it’s a good thing you won’t find many ivory dildos for sale anymore, a rose quartz crystal dildo has definitely made its way into my Etsy cart more than once.

You can use a dildo for masturbation or during strap-on sex and pegging — they’re really versatile.

Some dildos even come with a suction cup base that you can attach to the floor, wall, or window for extra fun and customizable positioning.

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What Is A Vibrator?

The one thing that dildos lack also happens to be the namesake hallmark of vibrators: internal motors that provide vibrating stimulation.

The first electric vibrator was invented by Joseph Mortimer Granville in the 1870s, so they’ve been around for well over a century.

He patented his design and sold it as a medical device used to treat what was known as female hysteria at the time.

(Basically, any condition that a doctor couldn’t accurately diagnose was chalked up to “female hysteria,” which was apparently soothed by an orgasm.)

Thankfully, not only has medical science come a long way — pun totally intended — but our society is far more understanding and accepting of female sexuality and pleasure.

We get to use our vibrators in the privacy of our own home — as often as we want — rather than at the hands of a doctor in an office (or because we’re “hysterical”).

Many modern vibrators feature spinning internal motors that create vibrations, while others use forward-thinking technology like sonic pulses or even air to create stimulating sensations.

A vibrator is great for the vast majority of clitorises — particularly for those that can only climax with direct or indirect clitoral stimulation.

You can use a vibrator externally on the clitoris or against its hood as a way to target and activate the thousands of nerve endings that live in the clit.

There are some vibrators that you can use internally if you like the feeling of penetration and vibration together at the same time.

Phallic vibrators designed for penetration typically look a lot like dildos, at least on the surface, but as we’ll discover, they’re quite different from one another.

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Vibrating Dildos Vs. Vibrators: What Is The Difference?

A vibrator comes with a built-in motor that’s powered in some way, either by battery or AC adapter, while a vibrating dildo does not.

Vibrating dildos are hollow in the center, an intentional design choice meant to accommodate a small vibrating bullet — which turns the toy into a vibrating dildo, instantly!

In order to use a vibrating dildo — at least while it’s vibrating — you must place an external vibrator inside of the dildo.

Otherwise, it’s just a plain old dildo.

That said, vibrating dildos do offer fantastic versatility because they can be used with or without vibration, depending on your mood and desire.

How Does Penetration Differ Between A Vibrator And Dildo?

If you’re wondering whether penetration feels different when using a vibrator versus a dildo, the answer is yes — it absolutely does!

The biggest and most notable difference is, of course, the vibration — or complete lack of one.

Differences in physical sensations during penetration will also depend on the material that your vibrator or dildo is made out of.

Many dildos, particularly those crafted from silicone, are on the softer, bendier side of things, which may feel a lot more like an actual penis.

Hard dildos crafted from glass or metal, however, will be completely stiff and offer no give whatsoever.

Silicone-covered vibrators designed for penetration are generally more rigid to the touch and offer buzzy sensations, although there are some vibrators designed with a softer, pliable base for a more “natural” feel.

When comparing dildos and vibrators, one is not inherently better than the other because it all comes down to personal preference, as we’ll talk about in just a bit.

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The Pros And Cons Of A Dildo Vs. Vibrator

Close Up Photograph Of Woman's Hands Reaching For Phallic Sex Toys Laying On Bouquet Of Flowers

If you’re trying to choose between a dildo or a vibrator, my best advice is to try both to see what you like best.

That said, let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of each.

The Pros And Cons Of Dildos

The Pros Of Dildos:

  • They offer a variety of sizes and styles to choose from
  • They are super easy to clean
  • They can be used as a strap-on with a harness, such as during pegging
  • They never need to be charged
  • They’ll never crap out on you because of a dead battery
  • They’re usually completely waterproof

The Cons Of Dildos:

  • They do not offer much in the way of external stimulation, aside from manual sliding against the vulva
  • Those made from firmer materials like glass or metal may not offer comfortable penetration to everyone
  • They may not be a good option for folks with limited hand mobility, as they must be moved around manually

The Pros And Cons Of Vibrators

The Pros Of Vibrators:

  • They offer a variety of styles to choose from
  • They provide external or internal stimulation
  • Many offer a wide range of vibration patterns and intensities
  • Some offer dual stimulation, like rabbit vibrators
  • Some provide thrusting motions to target the G-spot

The Cons Of Vibrators

  • Not all of them are waterproof
  • It can sometimes be more difficult to clean a vibrator, particularly if there are additional moving parts
  • They generally can’t be used with a strap-on harness
  • They always require power — either through a battery or AC adapter

Still having trouble choosing between a dildo and vibrator? As I mentioned earlier, I recommend trying them both to see what tickles your fancy most.

You may find that you prefer a dildo in one sex setting or position, and a vibrator in another — which is all the more reason to expand your collection of sex toys.

When using a vibrator or dildo for the first time, make sure to include lots of lube — and select one that works well with your toy’s material.

For instance, you shouldn’t use a silicone-based personal lube with a toy that’s also made from silicone because the lubricant can break down the toy’s material over time.

If you’re not sure what your sex toy is made from, water-based lubes are the safest option for all toy materials.

Although using a dildo is fairly simple, vibrators can have a slightly higher learning curve — some far more than others. If you don’t know how to use a vibrator, or are overwhelmed by all the options, check out our vibrator guide for in-depth guidance.

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Do Women Prefer Dildos Or Vibrators?

Photograph Of Woman Holding Phallic Sex Toy Against Her Thigh In The Bathtub

Now that we know what vibrators and dildos do — or don’t do — which one do women actually prefer to use most?

This interesting study from 2014 compiles, categorizes, and analyses the sex toy sales from Lovehoney, a well-known sex toy and accessories company.

The highest selling products from that particular year were broken down by category, with vibrators making up 18% of their total sales compared to just 3% for dildos.

That same study also broke down the percentage of single and partnered women who bought dildos vs. vibrators.

65% percent of single women bought vibrators compared to 16% who bought dildos.

Many women enjoy a mixture of both vaginal and clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm and 36.6% need clit stimulation to cum, so it makes sense that vibrators would sell more than dildos.

What Is More Pleasurable, A Vibrator Or Dildo?

If you’re wondering what you might find most pleasurable, it really depends on your personal preferences.

You might like the feeling of deeply penetrating your partner or being penetrated by your partner, in which case, a dildo could be right up your alley.

This is especially true if you want or need G-spot stimulation to squirt.

If you want (or need) clitoral stimulation with or without internal stimulation, your best bet is to try a vibrator.

There is a common misconception that continues to circulate about vibrators causing desensitization to the clitoris. As we previously broke down, it is very unlikely for a vibrator to damage, hurt, or desensitize your clitoris.

So if a vibrator is more your style, you can use it as often as you like without fear of causing permanent damage.

In Conclusion

Dildos and vibrators are certainly different from one another yet ultimately, they’re both meant to get you off.

When it comes to choosing between a dildo or a vibrator, it’s best to think about what you plan to use it for — and with whom — and the type of stimulation you enjoy most.

The options are truly endless when it comes to the ways in which we express ourselves sexually and I think we should never stop exploring them.