June has been declared Adult Sex Ed Month (#AdultSexEdMonth) by Ms. Quote
(@GoodDirtyWoman on Twitter) who blogs at A Good Woman’s Dirty Mind. This idea caught on, and this month, hundreds of posts designated #AdultSexEdMonth from sex educators and bloggers appeared all over the Internet. View the list with links here.
In my world — advocating for senior sex and educating about older-age sexuality — every month is Adult Sex Ed Month. This month has been particularly fruitful.
This month, I participated in a Huffington Post Live event titled “How Old Is Too Old To Have Sex?” with fellow panelists Ashton Applewhite, Walker Thornton, Sidney Schwab, and Ken Solin, hosted by Abby Huntsman. Of course the answer to the question in the title is obvious to us (though not obvious to Abby, until we raised her consciousness), but you’ll find the discussion interesting even though you know the answer! Watch it here:
The annual conference of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors
and Therapists conference always makes my brain swell with new information and ideas from sex educators who are trailblazers in the field. Counselors, therapists, sex educators in community or medical settings, and other people who care about your sexual knowledge and enrichment gather to learn from the leaders. Then people like me come home and spread it around – to people like you.
As always, it was impossible to attend all the sessions of interest, and there’s no way I can share all of the 25 pages of single-spaced notes that I took on my laptop, no matter how many blog posts I write. But here are some highlights and tips that are especially relevant to our age group:
- Some sexual issues are psychological; some are medical or physiological. But even when it’s a medical issue, a sex therapist can be important to help you work with whatever is going on. Medical sexual issues affect your sense of self and your relationship. “Any pharmacotherapy for sexual dysfunction should occur within the context of sex and relationship therapy.” (Ricky Siegel)
- One more good reason to quit smoking: Nicotine has been shown to decrease blood flow to the penis and increase venous outflow from the penis — in other words, less ability to get and maintain an erection. (Ricky and Larry Siegel)
- Women with vulvar or vaginal pain have a difficult time getting the pain diagnosed and treated effectively. Possible causes of pelvic pain are varied, and with the wrong diagnosis (or no diagnosis!), the wrong treatment follows. Look for a three-pronged approach: a sexual medicine physician, a pelvic floor physical therapist, and a certified sex therapist, such as used by the Summa Center for Sexual Health in Akron, Ohio. (Kimberly Resnick Anderson)
- Pelvic floor physical therapists are trained to do internal evaluation of the pelvic floor muscles — evaluating muscle function, strength, tone, and any points of tenderness. Regular physical therapists are not trained to do this. (Amy Senn)
- Men with low libido: Anxiety, mood, relationship, and religious factors affects libido. “First know what’s going on in the relationship before throwing medication at it.” (Larry Siegel)
- “Nerve sparing” prostate surgery is “a bit of a misnomer.” Erectile nerves on the outside of the prostate are very difficult to see and avoid during surgery. “The prostate is deep in the pelvis, and they go pushing around with stainless steel instruments. If cauterizing instruments are anywhere near nerves, it damages them for life. Nerves recover from the pushing and pulling – it takes a long, long time. Nerves go into shock and stop sending message to blood vessels to relax and let blood in.” (Anne Katz)
- “Sexual arousal requires healthy blood flow for everything else to work. Otherwise, nothing happens. Take a 15 minute walk with your partner before sex. It will prime the pump.” (Ellen Barnard)
- After treatment for female genital cancer, using a vibrating wand internally will reduce scar tissue. “Vibration directly to the scar tissue starts breaking up that scar tissue, allowing it to expand, become more comfortable, and allow penetrative sex if we want it.” (Ellen Barnard)
- After cancer treatment, start getting to know “what is”: “What feels good? What doesn’t feel good? What’s numb? What’s painful? How does arousal happen? What does it take? How does orgasm happen and feel? When during the day do I have energy?” (Ellen Barnard) You need to learn this for yourself before you can teach your partner. (JP: This applies to aging in general, also.) A Woman’s Touch has excellent educational brochures for both men and women online at no cost, for example, Healthy Sexuality After Cancer. Visit www.sexualityresources.com, see the Educational Brochures link in the upper left hand corner of the menu bar for a complete selection.
The huge news this month for me as a senior sex educator was an invitation from Cleis Press to write a book for them: The Ultimate Guide to Sex after Fifty! I’m thrilled to have a new book to write on my favorite topic, and I’m proud to be part of the fabulous Ultimate Guide collection of sexuality guidebooks. You can be sure you’ll hear more about my new endeavor as it unfolds.
Meanwhile, if there’s a topic you want to be sure that I cover in this new book, please either post it as a comment here or email me. I love to hear from you. I’m too busy to promise to answer all your questions in detail, but I try to acknowledge your email and point you in the right direction. I admit sheepishly that I have about 400 unanswered emails waiting. If one of these is yours, I thank you for your patience! (I do give private, educational consultations answering your questions by phone or Skype for a modest fee — email me for more info about this.)
Urologist Dudley S. Danoff, MD, FACS, is the author of Penis Power: The Ultimate Guide to Male Sexual Health (Del Monaco Press, 2011). It’s an upbeat and even entertaining guide to the complexities, myths, facts, and vagaries of owning a penis (or, in my case, liking penises and being endlessly fascinated by them). Dr. Danoff covers how they work and what’s going on when they don’t work—psychologically as well as physiologically.
My male readers often write me with age-related questions about their penises: what’s a “normal” change with age vs. what’s a medical problem, how they can deal with erection difficulties, how to negotiate new needs and issues with a partner. “We are tragically ill-informed about the penis,” says Dr. Danoff, and he aims to change that.
Although this book is not specifically aimed at our age group, all of it applies to us, and I guarantee you’ll say, “I didn’t know that” several times as you read, even if you’ve owned a penis for 50, 60, or 70 years.
I invited Dr. Danoff to answer questions that specifically address men age 60+ and the women in their lives. I welcome your comments.
Q: What is your big message to our older men?
A: Sex is good for you. It maintains overall physical strength and cardiovascular health, and most of all, it keeps you invigorated. A man’s penis is there to serve him from puberty to old age.
Q: What are the most common misunderstandings that men age 60+ have about their penises or about their sexuality in general? What do you wish all men knew as they aged?
A: By far, the most frequent complaint I hear from men is that they do not have the same level of sexual desire they used to have. It takes longer to get an erection, it takes longer to ejaculate, it takes longer to get aroused again after they make love, and their erections are not as firm. These conditions are all predictable changes that occur as men get older.
Attitude is the key to penis longevity. My super-potent patients tell me that sex gives them as much joy at 70 as it did at 20. Some say the sex is even better! Equal pleasure can be obtained from occasional, prolonged intercourse with one orgasm as with frequent, rapid intercourse with multiple orgasms.
All men, as they age, deserve active, healthy sex lives as long as they remain physically fit. Do not expect to do at 60 what you did at 40. Adjust your sexual activities as your body changes, just as you adjust other activities. Look upon the adjustment as both a new challenge and a new opportunity.
As you age, learn to use your mind and imagination to make up in creativity what you may lack in physical strength. As long as you are able to breathe, move your extremities, maintain relative control over your bodily functions, remain alert enough to identify the date and day of the week, and sustain a positive mental outlook, you can continue to exercise your penis power indefinitely.
Q: What would you say to many men age 60+ who tell me that they don’t get good information or direction from their urologists when they report undependable or nonexistent erections? They are commonly told, “Well, you’re older now,” or “It’s ED,” without a medical workup to see whether some underlying condition is causing the ED.
A: Find another urologist who is knowledgeable about erectile dysfunction and is willing and able to thoroughly evaluate you. A comprehensive evaluation, including a full cardiovascular evaluation, by a qualified urologist is essential. Endocrine issues, such as low testosterone or unrecognized diabetes, can then be treated, and erectile dysfunction will improve. Knowledge is power. There are many treatments on the urologic menu for erectile dysfunction, but first you need a proper diagnosis to identify the underlying cause. Treatment is both available and effective in almost all cases and will result in satisfactory erections.
Q: Many men would rather sever their own leg than admit to a doctor that they are experiencing erectile difficulties. Why is it important to see a doctor before self-treating with drugs or other assists?
A: Many serious medical conditions that are first manifested by erectile difficulties go unrecognized. It is absolutely essential to get a full evaluation by a qualified urologist in all cases of erectile dysfunction in order to determine the presence or absence of some serious (or not so serious) medical problem and treat it accordingly. For example, if low serum testosterone is found, testosterone replacement therapy can give spectacular results. Under no circumstances should a man self-treat his erectile dysfunction with over-the-counter preparations without first determining the presence or absence of an underlying medical condition that is correctable.
Q: How can women enhance their partner’s and their own sexual pleasure when erections and intercourse are not the main events?
A: Most importantly, do not think old! Sexual pleasure is all about attitude. If your mind is strong and your partner’s mind is strong, intimacy and sex without vaginal penetration can be enormously pleasurable. The key is not to lament what you have lost. Be grateful for what you still have and make the most of it. Age is not a deterrent to great sex. Rather, it is a challenge and an opportunity.
If you keep your enthusiasm, you can compensate for or even delay the effects of aging. You do not stop having sex because you are old—you get old because you stop having sex! Talking candidly with your partner about aging is the best way to find a solution for maintaining a healthy sex life.
Q: What else do you want women to understand about their male partners?
A: Older men are just as penocentric as younger men are, even though capacity may be diminished. I would encourage older women to become more “penis oriented.” Older women who are penis oriented have more fun and also have better marriages, more faithful partners, and greater personal fulfillment in all aspects of their lives. If you believe that each partner has the mutual responsibility to satisfy the other’s needs, then it follows that you will hold up your end of the bargain as a woman by making your partner’s penis one of your top priorities.
Being penis oriented does not imply a belittlement of female sexuality. It simply means learning to understand and accommodate an older man’s penis needs by approaching that task with all of the pride and skill that you would bring to any other endeavor. I assure the older woman that if you take the steps to become informed, you and your man will reap rewards you have only dreamed about.
Images are from Penis Power: The Ultimate Guide to Male Sexual Health by Dudley Seth Danoff, MD. ©2011 Dudley Seth Danoff. Reprinted by permission of Dudley Seth Danoff. Copies of the book are available at your local bookstore or may be ordered through Amazon.com.
for a good vacuum seal. (Both the Revive and the Rapport come with a tube of surgical gel lubricant, which works very well.)
(Note from Joan: I am sad to tell you that my friend, sex therapist David Pittle died December 2017. We value his sex toy reviews. Read his other reviews here.)
8/18/11 update: I’m bringing this older post to the top because it answers so many of the questions about erectile dysfunction that my readers are asking. Michael Castleman is also one of the experts in Naked at Our Age and I respect his knowledge and ability to convey important information simply and compassionately.
So many readers–both male and female–have been asking for information about erectile dysfunction that I asked Michael Castleman, a sex educator, counselor and journalist specializing in men’s sexuality to answer some questions. His interview starts here and continues here.
Q: Explain erectile dysfunction (ED) and why it happens.
MC: Only a small fraction of men from age 45-60 have true ED. A larger but still modest fraction of men over 60 have true ED. True ED is the inability to raise an erection despite vigorous extended hand massage of the penis. True ED is usually the result of a medical problem, either a problem with the nerves that control erection, or more likely, narrowing of the arteries that carry blood into the penis. Like the arteries of the heart, the arteries into the penis can become narrowed by atherosclerotic plaques. Causes of plaque formation: heart disease, diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high-fat diet, sedentary lifestyle. In other words, all risk factors for heart disease are also risk factors for ED. In addition, ED can be caused or aggravated by stress and anxiety, which constrict the arteries and limit blood flow into the penis.
Q: What about men who are capable of erections, but they’re less reliable than they used to be and require more stimulation?
MC: While only a fraction of men over 45 experience true ED, just about every man experiences what sex therapists call “erection dissatisfaction” (EDis). After 45 or 50 or so, men with EDis can still raises erections, but they don’t rise as quickly as they used to. They no longer rise from fantasy alone–seeing an attractive woman or some erotic scene. Men begin to need direct penis stimulation by hand or mouth. When erections rise, they may not look/feel as firm as they were in the man’s 20s. They may also droop from minor distractions, anything from donning a condom to hearing a motorcycle roar up the street.
The good news is that EDis is a normal and natural part of aging. If older erections wilt a bit, hand massage and/or oral stimulation bring them back up again–IF the man remains relaxed and patient with himself. If the man gets stressed and anxious, this reduces the likelihood of a return to fullish erection.
Many (most?) older men are unclear on the distinction between true ED and EDis. Many mistakenly think they have ED when they experience the normal age-related erection changes of EDis. Now EDis can be disconcerting. I’ve been a sex educator for 30 years. I knew all about what happens to erections after 50. But when those changes started happening to ME, I found them unnerving. P.S. Erection medication (Viagra etc) helps treat EDis. In fact, most men who take erection drugs don’t have true ED. They have EDis.
Q: Many men fear that they can’t please a woman without an erection, or they give up on sex altogether. Is an erection necessary for sex?
MC: Of course not. As you know, women’s pleasure organ is the clitoris. Many women prefer cunnilingus to intercourse. Surveys show that only 25% of women are reliably orgasmic from intercourse, no matter how vigorous or how long it lasts. So women know that an erection and vaginal insertion are not necessary or sufficient for sexual pleasure and orgasm. But many men DON’T know this.
Q: How did men’s sexual education skip that important concept that women’s orgasms are based on clitoral stimulation, and that most women don’t need penis-in-vagina penetration for their pleasure?
Most men get most of their sex ed from pornography. Porn is totally penis-centered. Porn actors have monster cocks, which makes normally endowed men feel they’re “too small.” Mainstream porn includes a bit of massage and cunnilingus, but it’s mostly about sucking and fucking, so that’s what men come to believe sex is all about.
I’ve spent my life as a sex educator and counselor trying to persuade men that they’ll have better sex and get better reviews from women if they ditch their preoccupation with their penis and focus instead on leisurely, playful, whole-body, massage-based sensuality. But compared with porn, which is viewed overwhelmingly by men and is by far men’s #1 source of sex ed, the combined voices of every sex expert on earth amount to a little whisper in the hurricane of porn porn porn.
Here’s where I plug my book, Great Sex. Its message to men: If you want great sex, if you want women to sing your praises as a lover, stop trying to imitate porn. In fact, do the opposite of what you see in porn. Not only will she be happier, you will be, too. You’ll enjoy sex more and have fewer sex problems–more cooperative erection and better ejaculatory control.