I never worried that Terry would leave me. Having married in our sixties, we felt we’d captured an unexpected shower of fairy dust. For all our fourteen years together, we frequently joined hands for a warm, smiling moment. We were so lucky to have each other!
But one night, he did leave me. He placed a plastic bag over his head. The thin kind used to bag vegetables in the grocery store.
So begins The Sweet Pain of Being Alive: A Memoir of Love and Death by Ann Anderson Evans. Why did her husband Terry die?
“People are not always, maybe not ever, what they seem,” writes Evans. In The Sweet Pain of Being Alive, she unravels Terry’s pain and expands her own understanding of gender identity, shame, marriage, and the facades we build.
Evans was willing to share some thoughts with us here:
Q: Ann, The Sweet Pain of Being Alive, deals with the death of someone you loved who had a secret. Why was it important for you to reveal what Terry had kept hidden?
I wanted to honor what Terry had gone through as it became clear, after his death, that he yearned to be a woman. “Imagine what it took just for him to get through every day,” one person told me.
The secrecy around his gender dysphoria contributed to his suicide, and I refuse to keep this toxic secret. I want to lend my voice in support of people, especially those of my generation, who feel they must hide who they are.
Q: What did you understand about Terry’s gender dysphoria while you lived together?
There were many signs, but I didn’t know what I was looking at. I was shocked when I found a box of women’s clothes under the bed, for example, but didn’t know what to make of it. He also didn’t have the kind of sexual drive men usually have. But he was so much more than sex for me that I was willing to adjust to that, without realizing it was a symptom of dysphoria.
Q: This was more than cross-dressing. You say he wanted to be a woman, yet he kept that secret, even from you. How far do you think he wanted to go?
Terry didn’t realize how much transition would entail. Just wearing women’s clothes is barely a beginning. He would have to learn how to dress, do his hair, walk, and laugh. Men pretty much walk where they please. Women don’t. He’d have to develop the protective sense that women have as they move through the world. This is difficult choreography. He knew he would likely lose a lot, possibly including a job he loved and even his marriage, Maybe he didn’t want to risk that.
Q: What do you understand now that you didn’t before?
Terry never sat me down and said, “Ann, either I die or you become a lesbian,” but if he had, I think I would have tried to adjust, though I’m not sexually attracted to women. His transition would have required me to make deep changes in myself that I had not agreed to. I don’t know how that would have played out. I had not calculated the demands of transition on the person’s partner.
All the transgender people I know have been uncomfortable in their body from childhood. It is a condition as old as humanity. The challenge is not for them to pretend they are as we want them to be, but it is for us to make space for them. The acceptance of gay marriage and other deep societal changes prove that this can be done.
In my experience, there is a refreshing insouciance to transgender women. They’ve been raised as boys, had their fights in the schoolyard, been in the competitive locker rooms, carried expectations of professional achievement. They have an often humorous sense of the arbitrariness of many of our cultural habits. If we started out with the attitude that “Every member of the tribe counts,” then transgender people would be free to create roles that we have never imagined.
Q: How are you now?
Suicide is very common, yet the shock of it doesn’t wear off easily. There is an element of betrayal—a loved one has abandoned you.
Every death is unique and revisits every grieving person differently and in its own time. Three and a half years after Terry’s death, I sometimes feel untethered, left behind. This may be true of people whose loss does not include suicide, but in my heart, it is connected.
Joan, as you write in your book, Sex After Grief, widows and widowers are vulnerable for quite a while after their loss. We can be struck out of the blue. My special kind of loneliness is reliving of a situation where I thought I knew where I was, but it was just an illusion.
I have learned that suicide has its own agenda, unrelated to the gender dysphoria, and I do not feel responsible for his death. I know that he never for one minute had occasion to doubt my love for him, and I never doubted his love for me. We both did our best, and I don’t say that lightly. We took the best care we could of each other every day.
Both the Suction Stroker and Rotating Stroker from The One are penis strokers designed to mimic various aspects of fellatio. The One calls them “The Male Rose,” referring to a popular vulva toy called The Rose. “The Male Rose” brings to mind Juliet’s famous Shakespearean line: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell as sweet.”
Our question is, do these strokers offer blow jobs as sweet as a partner’s mouth? Well, no, but they sure do suck and rotate!
The One Suction Stroker
For this penis owner, the Suction Stroker is the more successful of the two. Its sleeve for insertion has a small 3/4” opening, the size of a penny. Your penis must be erect and lubed to fit through the stretchable opening into the 4” deep chamber. Once you’re inside, three easily accessible buttons control five suction modes, ten vibration modes and the power level. Combine these to find many settings to your liking.
When operating, the toy clamps onto your member. You can even let it dangle hands-free while stroking your nipples or other erogenous zones. It not only sucks on your cock, but when hanging down, it also reverberates pleasantly against your balls.
Caveat: Once you’ve cleaned the Suction Stroker after use be sure to turn the motor on over the sink with the handle pointing down to eliminate any water that hasn’t already shaken out. Otherwise you’ll be sprayed by a tiny opening in the handle end when next you power up to play. The One should have mentioned this.
The Suction Stroker is 8” long and 3 1/2” wide, considerably larger and heavier (just under a pound!) than Body Kisses by Gender X. Even so, the large variety of pattern combinations is delightful, and for me, this “Male Rose” is a “keeper.”
The One Rotating Stroker
The Rotating Stroker requires hands-on at all times because it has a 2-1/2” wide mouth that doesn’t close around your penis. It has nine vibrating, rotating, thrusting patterns and a warming function. Frankly, these make me feel as if my member is a stick in a tug-of-war with my dog. Although personally I don’t find the wild thrashing actions sexy, you might like the sensations. A lubed and erect penis is required to successfully access the toy. The Rotating Stroker is 10” long, 2-1/2” wide, and 3-1/2” deep.
These strokers are rather heavy and cumbersome compared to other penis toys I’ve reviewed. They are somewhat noisy, especially the Suction Stroker when it’s in full “enthusiastic mode.” Each toy comes with a USB magnetic charger, and they hold a charge for quite a while.
The “action ends” that envelop your penis are of silicone. Their chambers contain lots of soft silicone nubbles to surround your cock, which I enjoy. The handles that contain the motors are made of ABS plastic.
Neither stroker is waterproof. You’ll need to wash the silicone chambers of the strokers with warm water and gentle hand soap while being careful to keep water away from its handle.
I considered titling this review, “The Ray Gun and the Carp.” The Suction Stroker resembles the ray guns of science fiction fame. The opening of the Rotating Stroker looks like the mouth of a hungry carp. The “ray gun” definitely has the means to blow you away, and if you’re not careful the “carp” will swallow you in a thrash. I recommend the Suction Stroker with enthusiasm — the Rotating Stroker not so much.
—Shamus MacDuff, age 80, was oblivious to the delights of sex toys for penises until age 73. He’s been making up for lost time! Read his other posts at https://joanprice.com/tag/shamus-macduff.
How age-affirming that Cosmopolitan magazine — usually aimed at a readership of young women — devoted a special digital issue on “Sex After 60“! No less than 11 articles, from celebrity quotes to true “sexcapades” to — you knew this was coming — an article on sex toys, written by me!
In “10 Sex Toys to Fit Your Every Need,” I discuss why senior women, especially, benefit from the added oomph and intensity of vibrational assists. Since this article will be read by folks who may not have experienced sex toys and/or consider them shameful, icky, or an indication that their bodies or partners are defective, I assure readers,
And don’t think that because a sex toy isn’t “natural,” you shouldn’t need it. We take pills for headaches, wear reading glasses, and cook on stoves instead of building fires. Give sex toys a chance. You deserve sexual pleasure at this time of life! You can even invite your partner to enjoy them with you. (If they’re reluctant, try, “My body responds differently now; I need extra sensation to reach orgasm reliably. Just as we need lube, I need this. I’ll show you how it can work for you too.”)
The main thrust of the article is a list of 10 toys that I recommend particularly for senior vulva owners, from those who need a gentle assist to those who require or prefer major power. You can read my quickie blurbs about each one, and for lots more information, read my full reviews on this blog by clicking on the name of each sex toy below. Enjoy!
- Eroscillator. My go-to favorite vibrator for decades for clitoral stimulation during solo or partnered sex.
- Inya Rose: This lovely stimulator feels like a skilled partner is sucking gently (or strongly) on your clitoris.
- Hot Octopuss Kurve: The most festive fun you can give your vagina with two motors throbbing and thrumming independently.
- Tenga Iroha Yuki: If you only need a mild assist, and you want a vibrator that doesn’t look like a vibrator, this one is adorable and good for beginners to sex toys.
- Fun Factory Volta: The most versatile, all-gender vibrator, with unlimited uses for your erogenous zones and your partner’s.
- We-Vibe Touch X: This palm-sized clitoral vibrator is terrific for travel and mighty strong considering the size.
- Womanizer Premium Eco: the best of the Pleasure Air Technology vibrators, in my view, and its recyclable parts are good for the planet.
- We-Vibe Melt: This streamlined version of the Womanizer’s Pleasure Air Technology is slender enough for partnered as well as solo sex, yet still strong.
- Magic Wand Rechargeable: It wouldn’t be a “best sex toys” list without the king of vibrators, would it? If you prefer a lighter, somewhat smaller version than the hefty original, try the Mini.
- Fun Factory Limba Flex Dildo: Older vaginas are often more comfortable with penetrative toys like these that are slender, smooth, bendable, and bodysafe.
And of course, at our age, we need to use a great lubricant with all sexual touch including vibrators. These recommended sex toys are silicone, so choose a water-based or hybrid lube, such as the new simply® timeless line from Wicked Sensual Care, with ingredients so healthy and effective that you can use simply® timeless as a vaginal moisturizer as well as a sexual lubricant.
Masturbation is a harsh-sounding word for an activity that’s immensely pleasurable and self-loving. It’s sex with the person who knows you the best: yourself. Self-pleasuring is delicious sex, and it doesn’t matter how old we are, what gender, whether or not we have a partner, if arousal and orgasms are our happy place or we’ve grown up to think of masturbation as shameful. Sexual pleasure is within our own power.
Here are some reasons that we, as seniors, might want to enjoy solo sex:
5 Reasons to Self-Pleasure
- What used to bring you to orgasm doesn’t do it anymore. Our responses change as we age, and what aroused us in the past may not work best for us now. The best way to figure out what does work now is to experiment on your own. What kind of touch do you like? Where, exactly? What pace? What intensity? The most direct way to stay in tune with what you need for sexual pleasure is to experiment with your own hands — and, of course, sex toys. Once you find the path to pleasure on your own, you can teach it to your partner if you have one. And if you don’t, that doesn’t have to mean a lack of orgasms!
- You don’t have a partner. Many of us have no sexual partner at this time in our lives. Too often, I hear this from older women: “When I meet someone, I’ll think about sex again. Until then, it doesn’t matter.” It does matter. If we put sex on hold for months, years, decades, it will be much more difficult to enjoy sex if a partner does show up later on. It’s up to us to stay healthy and sexually vibrant with regular arousal and orgasms. Even if you don’t care about being partnered again, sex with yourself is important for health and wellbeing.
- You have a partner, but little or no sexual interaction, or it doesn’t lead to orgasm for you. Many of us can’t have full sexual expression with our partners due to medical or relationship issues. Perhaps one partner has lost interest or is no longer able to engage sexually, so the other gives up on sex. Or you and your partner are no longer sexually attracted to each other, but for other reasons, you want to stay together. Maybe what you need is not what your partner is able or willing to give you, or you don’t know how to ask for it.
- Orgasms are gifts you can give yourself. Our reason to masturbate doesn’t have to be because something else isn’t going well. It can be because we like it, we know how to please ourselves and we’re good at giving ourselves orgasms. It can be as simple and as joyful as that.
- Best reason of all: it just feels good!
How to Make Solo Sex Work for You
From planning to sex toys, take these steps to give yourself the best chance for an orgasmic experience.
Make a date with yourself. Don’t leave self-pleasuring to chance. Our arousal capability ebbs and flows, so schedule your dates with yourself during the time of day when you feel most sexually charged: your “tingle time,” as I call it. Not sure when that is? Orgasms are easier before a meal, not afterward, and not when you’re tired. You might get aroused most easily in the early morning after your first cup of coffee, or just before lunch, or after a quick afternoon nap. Experiment to find out what your special time is. Set aside enough private time to enjoy the experience without rushing.
Exercise first. Be physical in your daily life. Exercise increases blood flow. This translates to sexual arousal, because the blood flows to your genitals as well as to your muscles, making arousal easier and faster. For surprisingly effective results, exercise right before your solo sex time.
Prepare. Have everything ready that you might want: lubricant, a small towel, massage oil, pillows for hip, back and neck comfort. Leave your phone and computer in another room, gather your favorite sex toys and settle in for pleasure. You don’t have a favorite sex toy, or you’ve never used one?? Read “Vibrators for Seniors – especially for first-timers.”
Set the mood. Read erotica if you enjoy it (try Ageless Erotica, by and for our age group!), play music, write sexy thoughts in your journal, take a bath, massage your body slowly—whatever turns you on. You might like candlelight, lingerie, visual stimulation…Let your imagination run wild.
Choose your lube. A lubricant that keeps you moist and slick will increase comfort and intensify your pleasure. Keep the lube within reach so you can reapply frequently. Choosing a lube that contains only healthy ingredients is important: try Wicked Sensual Care’s simply® timeless line developed for menopause and beyond!
Explore your body slowly. Sometimes racing to an orgasm is fun, but at other times, take time to slow down and explore all your erogenous zones and the kind of sensual stimulation you like. Maybe you like your breasts or thighs stroked, or maybe there’s a special place on your neck or the inside of your wrist that makes you shiver when touched just right. You may discover that the kind of touch that turns you on and/or the places you like to be touched are different now than they used to be, so don’t rely on past history.
Use sex toys and other erotic helpers. Our hormonally challenged bodies often need extra help to reach orgasm these days, and our wrists may tire before we reach our goal. That’s where your vibrator comes in. Use it on a low speed to get aroused, then turn up the intensity to take yourself to orgasm. Or you might experiment with having an assortment of toys charged and ready, and switching as you wish.
Fantasize. Let your fingers and sex toys help you imagine an intimate date with… who comes to mind? Let yourself explore fantasy scenes and partners. Your brain is your main sex organ, so invite your fantasy to your private party. No fantasy is “wrong,” and no one has to know what images or scenarios turn you on.
Why Are We Reluctant or Embarrassed to Self-Pleasure?
If masturbation is good for our physical, emotional and relationship health, why is it so hard for us to talk about or even think about it? We were brought up during a sex-negative era, meaning that we were taught that sex and sexual desire were shameful, sexual pleasure was never discussed, and our sex education was mainly “don’t do it.”
That applied to masturbation, too, although you’d think a culture that wanted us to delay partner sex would encourage this safe and private outlet. But no, we were taught that our genitals are dirty and we shouldn’t touch them, except for hygienic needs.
We’ve thrown off many restrictive teachings from our early youth, thank goodness. But for many of us, this one is especially tenacious, filled with shame and guilt. Girls, especially, were taught, “Don’t touch yourself down there. It’s dirty.” Can we change that view of ourselves and our needs now? Touching ourselves is healthy — orgasms are good for us, and hurray, we can give them to ourselves.
What To Do If You’re Not Inspired
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. If it’s already difficult for you to arouse yourself to orgasm, that’s a good reason to masturbate more rather than less. Sexual arousal and orgasm bring blood flow to the genitals and help to tone our pelvic floor muscles. The more we do it, the easier it becomes. Give yourself at least a couple of orgasms a week and you’ll feel the difference. You’ll find that the physical arousal will happen that will trigger your emotional arousal, which triggers more physical arousal, until it’s all working just right.
Solo sex is a lovely gift you can give yourself. Instead of seeing it as a poor substitute for partner sex, see it as a celebration that your body is still capable of such delights. Give yourself this gift often, whenever you want. I wish you joy!
Parts of this article first appeared in “A Senior’s Guide to Solo Sex” in Senior Planet, February 2017.