March 2020: I’m spotlighting this post, originally written for Valentine’s Day 2016, for a couple of reasons: (1) I have so many new readers now; (2) This post drew some marvelous reader comments, and I hope to encourage more!
“We need to acknowledge that solo sex (solo masturbation) is real sex,” I asserted, and ten people in the audience quoted me on Twitter immediately. I was speaking at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit in August 2015. This was my first time attending Woodhull, and it was an amazing experience:
The Sexual Freedom Summit features human rights activists, sexuality educators and researchers, professionals from the legal and medical fields, authors, sexual freedom movement leaders and organizational partners all working toward the time when sexual freedom is fully recognized as a fundamental human right.
It seems to me that “sexual freedom” includes freeing ourselves from our society’s outdated notions, especially as they restrict us, as seniors, from full sexual expression. No one is standing at our bedroom door proclaiming, “Thou shalt not masturbate” — at least I hope not — but many of us have internalized the idea that giving ourselves sexual pleasure is wrong, or a depressing substitute for “real” — aka “partner” — sex.
At our age, accepting self-pleasuring as “real” sex is even more important than it was in our youth. Here are some reasons:
- Many of us do not have a sexual partner at this time of our lives.
- Many of us who do have a partner are not able to have full sexual expression with that partner, due to medical or relationship issues.
- Our retreating hormones and decreased blood flow make it easy to forget about sex because there’s less urgency. Yet the less we experience arousal and orgasm, the more difficult it is to get there when we want to.
- Our responses change as we age, and the most direct way to stay in tune with what we need for sexual pleasure is to experiment with our own hands — and, of course, sex toys.
- Sexual arousal and orgasm are good for physical and emotional health. In The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50, I list 33 reasons why sex is good for you — and by sex, I mean with or without a partner.
For those of you who would tell me (as people do, surprisingly), “Hey, masturbation is inferior to sex with a loving partner,” I would answer, “There’s nothing inferior about sex with the person who knows you best.” Plus the obvious — “How nice that you have a loving partner. Many of us don’t.”
Whether we’re pleasuring ourselves because it’s sex with ourselves or no sex, or we enjoy private sex, or maybe we just want to have fantasy sex with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, let’s agree that solo sex is not only real sex — it’s delightful sex.
Readers of my Naked at Our Age Facebook page (which I hope you’ll “like”), had this to add:
- We are 58 and 57 and we both enjoy solo sex. Sometimes, we do it together. Watching can be quite erotic but more often, we’ll do it before bed (usually separately in that case) to help us sleep. Mrs. has a variety of vibrators and we’re both definitely in favor. – Mr. and Mrs. Average Joe, erotica author.
- I’m a 67 y.o. man, and in the famous words of Woody Allen, I’m good at sex (with women) because I practice a lot when I ‘m alone. (;-). Seriously, it has a lot to do with why I’m still so erotically alive. And yes, incorporating mutual self-stimulation into play with partners is really exciting, and in some ways can feel even more emotionally intimate than PIV [penis in vagina].
- I’m 53. I have been going solo for the past 11 years (not by choice), now that I am single I am looking forward to having a partner once again. The solo sex has been a necessity!
- I am 50. In my community sex is forbidden to singles and there is controversy about whether masturbation, therefore, is ‘sinful.’ My stance is masturbation is not sinful and not forbidden to those of us who are unmarried. I think “Solo Sex is Real Sex” but my Christian community may not accept such a statement.
- I am 58 and flown solo for quite a few years. On the one hand, it’s nice because I know all the best places and the exact technique. On the other, it’s obviously not as much fun as having a partner. However, that’s not always possible and I much prefer it over climbing into bed with a jerk. I wish I had more money for some of the great toys you’ve shown. I might never want a partner again if I did.
As Valentine’s Day approaches (note: I originally wrote this post for Valentine’s Day) and we’re bombarded with commercial messages about how to make the day more romantic with our loved one (soft lighting, mellow music, gifts of chocolate and roses included), let’s remember this:
Love starts with how we feel about ourselves, how giving and patient and accepting and loving we can be with the person who’s been in our life the longest. Let’s celebrate that with our own special touch (so to speak).