Vibrators should be covered by health insurance, says former US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders

Crystal Cox/Business Insider

Stress levels were already at an all-time high, and then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The internet is awash with tips on how to de-stress and self-care, but according to Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the former US Surgeon General, there is something we’re not discussing, and it could be just the ticket.

Vibrators should be covered by health insurance, Elders told Insider.

“A prescription vibrator just means you go in and you can get your insurance – Medicare, Medicaid, whatever – to cover it,” Elders said in a phone call on Thursday.

Elders has long held strong views on the benefits of sexual stimulation. She was asked to resign from her post as Surgeon General in 1994 for her progressive stances on teaching young people about masturbation.

Speaking to Insider, Elders said she believes the US medical community, and the general public, still underestimate the benefits of intimacy. She said vibrator can have a much greater effect on overall health than we give it credit for, and health care professionals need to open their minds to the benefits.

Dr. Jocelyn EldersAP Photo/Mark LennihanDr. Jocelyn Elders

Elders, who has partnered with the vibrator company WeVibe in honour of Masturbation Month, told Insider she believes prescription vibrators could be a big step towards reproductive justice in the US.

As masturbation has been linked to better overall self-esteem and lower stress levels, Elders said prescribing sex toys could have profound health benefits.

Given research that masturbation is linked to better cognition as you age, Elders believes vibrators could be particularly beneficial for seniors – moreso, she suggested, than mobility devices.

“We need to make sure that our Medicare pays for a vibrator for all women,” Elders said. “I think it’s probably more valuable sometimes than a walker or walking cane or hence all of these motorised wheelchairs that are not needed.”

Sex health sexual genitals female male anatomy orchid flower crotch anus anal orgasm pleasure reproduction period underwearCrystal Cox/Business Insider

Vibrators have become synonymous with self-care in the same way bubble baths and Korean sheet masks have in recent years.

This particular sex toy has a confusing and contentious, mixed history. Some historians have it that vibrators were created by Victorian-era doctors in the 1800s to treat women with “hysteria,” inducing a forced orgasm, sometimes under duress. But two centuries later, they are a sought-after device that people all over the world use for pleasure.

The concept of prescribing a vibrator is not entirely unheard of. In recent years, vibrators have been prescribed by some doctors to treat orgasm dysfunction, or when people have difficulty orgasming.

An estimated 4.7% of women in the US have anorgasmia, or struggle to reach climax and have weak orgasms when they do. Unfortunately, vibrators still carry a stigma in some parts of the US, and until 2017 it was even illegal to purchase a vibrator in Georgia, Mississipi, and Alabama.

Dr. Elders believes vibrators could eventually be used to teach young people about sex in schools

Sex education curriculums in the US rarely discuss forms of sex outside of intercourse between a penis and a vagina – including forms of self-pleasure like masturbation.

Elders said she believes the US education system does a great disservice to young women, as they are oftentimes not taught about their own pleasure in mainstream sex education courses.

While vibrators are oftentimes categorised as “adult” toys, Elders said giving them to people at a young age could help with their sexual development and to dispel a lot of the stigmas around self-pleasure. Access to sex toys could also discourage people from having unsafe sex and reduce STI rates and even unplanned pregnancies.

“I feel that young women should be told about vibrators at a very early age, and if they want to use them, they can,” Elders said.


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