Lubricants for the fun of friction

I recommend sex educator Corey Silverberg’s “Lubricants That Changed the World: Reviews and Recommendations of Personal Lubricants for Sex,” an updated look at a selection of modern lubricants formulated specifically for sex play.As we age, the right lubricant is the difference between pain and pleasure for both partner sex and solo sex. These differ widely by feel (how much slickness, whether it feels natural, for example) and duration (how well it lasts before getting dry or tacky), so it’s good to start with information like Corey’s.

Your neighborhood drugstore offers just a few of the dozens of brands available, so don’t limit yourself. If there’s a woman-friendly sex shop near you, plan to hang out and, one at a time, rub a drop of a few different lubes on your hand (no, no fair to try take the tester bottle to the bathroom with you) and see what you like. If taste is important, you can, uh, lick your hand.

If you’re not sure what you’d like and there’s no convenient place to find out, try buying small samples of a few different types or a sample pack, available from many online sex shops that you’ll find in the right-hand column of this blog. Enjoy!

Sex after Menopause: Good Vibrations magazine

I was pleased to be interviewed by The GV Weekly about sex after menopause. Excerpts are reprinted below — you can view the whole interview here. Update: this interview is no longer on the original site, sorry.

Menopause Q&A with Joan Price

Recently The GV Weekly sat down Joan Price,, advocate for ageless sexuality and author of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, to clear up some of the mysteries surrounding sex and menopause.

1) What are some of the possible effects of menopause on sexuality? What sorts of things can folks expect and what are some ways to respond to them?
Many women experience hot flashes, night sweats, sleep deprivation, and mood swings – which sometimes feel like PMS on steroids! – and who can get in the mood for sex with all that going on? Trust me – it gets better after menopause, once your system calms down and adjusts to hormonal changes. Meanwhile, communicate clearly with your partner and your family, and try to take time for yourself – a “pause” – while you’re going through this emotional and physiological upheaval.

Once the extreme changes have ebbed, the ongoing challenges from diminishing estrogren at menopause and beyond include decreased vaginal lubrication and thinning of the labia and vaginal tissues. These changes can result in painful intercourse, a burning or stinging sensation, or even tearing. In addition, we may take much longer to become aroused and, after arousal, to reach orgasm.

For both of those challenges, it’s crucial to use a good, slippery lubricant. Even if you think you’re wet enough, your natural lubrication has changed – it’s thinner and less protective for your more delicate tissues. So experiment with a slick lube that feels good and doesn’t dry out or get tacky quickly. Personally, I love both Liquid Silk, which feels most like natural lubrication and stays moist through prolonged sex, and Eros, which is very slippery and comfortable.

Never use Vaseline, baby oil, cooking oil, or other greasy stuff you might have on hand. These are difficult to clean out of your vagina and can cause irritation or even infection. Use a lubricant made specifically for sexual comfort and pleasure.

You can buy samples of several different lubricants to find the one(s) that you and your partner prefer. Rather than being embarrassed about needing lubricant, make it part of your sex play by letting your partner apply it gently with caresses.

2) What are some of the relationship changes that people going through menopause might be dealing with? How might they choose to address them?

The hardest part is talking about it. If you feel less sexy, or more self-conscious about your aging body, or frustrated with your changing sexual responses, talk to your partner and plan ways that your new needs can be incorporated into your love play. For example, you may need to communicate that you need longer foreplay, with more whole-body touching before your lover arrives at your hot spots. You may need to change the time of day that you have sex to times that you feel a combination of relaxed and alert – maybe morning, maybe late afternoon.

It’s also helpful to do other physical activities together, such as dancing, hiking, working out or even walking the dog. Being physical together – even when the activity is not specifically sexual – can lead to a enhanced body awareness and closeness. Exercise also increases blood circulation, which – ahem! – sends more blood to your genitals and brain as well as to your muscles! You may find that you feel sexier after exercise, more open to sensual exploration, so make use of it!

Realize that as our biological drive gets less urgent, we may find that leisurely sex is more satisfying than the frantic sex that was so exciting in our youth. Even something as simple as making love in the daytime instead of after dinner (I find I can’t digest and have satisfying sex at the same time!) may make a huge difference.

Juicy is an attitude, I’ve come to realize, based not on the flow of our vaginal secretions but on physical well-being, emotional state, mental attitude, and love of sex. Here’s to post-menopausal zest – and understanding lovers!

Does Your Doctor Talk to You about Older-Age Sexuality?

Have you ever consulted your doctor about your changing sexual responsiveness or about reclaiming your sexuality when you have a medical condition that makes sex more difficult?

What happened when you asked your doctor for advice about sex? How did he or she respond? Did you get the information you needed? And for the benefit of the medical professionals reading this — how would you have liked your doctor to respond to questions about sex? What advice would you give professionals about how and when to talk to their older patients about their sexuality?

I am planning to write a magazine article about this topic, so please feel free to comment here or email me and let me know if you’d be willing to be interviewed.

As background, I wrote the post that follows in March 2006, and I’d like to revive it now that I have many more readers. I invite your comments.

[post originally dated 3/29/06:]

I’ve been speaking to groups in the midwest and the San Francisco Bay Area, and corresponding with readers who send me emails. Over and over, this comment comes up: older-age sexuality is a huge gap in the education of medical professionals.

I keep meeting doctors, nurses, therapists, and alternative practitioners who are hungry for information for their patients and clients — and often for themselves. One woman’s eyes got teary when she said, “I’ve been so lonely wishing I could talk to someone about this.”

I’ve heard from women who have read my book and ask, “Why didn’t my doctor ever tell me that I have to ‘use it or lose it’?” These are usually older women who are not in relationships right now and didn’t realize the importance of internal massage, regular orgasms, and Kegels to keep their vaginas tuned up and healthy, or penetation in the future might be painful. (For more information about what to do, read Vaginal Rejuvenation & Health from A Woman’s Touch, a wonderful sexuality resource center which I had the pleasure of visiting in Madison and Milwaukee.)

I’m also talking to many women over sixty who didn’t know that lubricants and sex toys can enhance their sexual pleasure — solo or with a partner — by heightening arousal and speeding up orgasm. They thought that slow arousal and difficulty reaching orgasm were a part of aging that they had to accept. I’m distressed that many doctors tell women this — often without running tests to see whether hormone levels or other conditions which may be treated might be affecting sexual response.

I’m not dumping on doctors, just on their training. I’ve been thrilled by the response of medical professionals to my book. One Santa Rosa, CA gynecologist bought 14 copies of my book for her patients — and then, after she had given them all away, she bought 10 more!

Several readers have written in about their medical challenges since this post originally appeared. To read more on this topic, check on “medical attitudes towards sex and aging” or “cancer” in the “labels” column to the right, and you’ll see other related posts.

Unsafe Sex Toys & Practices

“Sex toys are an awesome gateway to an incredible sex life,” says sex educator/author/blogger Violet Blue. “These silly, bizarre little (or big) things can lead to hours of orgasmic exploration, self-discovery, sexual self-reliance and even deeper intimacy between couples (or a hilarious comedy of errors, depending).”

But not all sex toys are safe, says Violet in her article, “Unsafe Sex Products,” also available as a podcast. For example, some sex toys labeled “for novelty use only” are made poorly and cheaply, may break easily, and/or may contain chemical materials that you don’t want in contact with your delicate parts.

Fortunately, many high-quality sex toy manufacturers and vendors take your pleasure and sexual health seriously. (The woman-friendly sex shops I recommend in Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty care about your health and your pleasure, and are careful to carry quality products.)

I’ve paraphrased some of Violet’s tips here, with her permission, about a few products and practices to avoid:

* Nonoxynol-9: an agent that is supposed to kill HIV/AIDS, but can cause cervical abrasions and strip away rectal lining.
* Numbing lubricants and desensitizing creams such as Anal-Eze: If something you’re doing hurts, you want to know it and back off, or injury or infection can occur. “When you can’t feel pain, you are getting injured, period,” says Violet.
* Sugar/ glycerin: Avoid lubricants with sugar, colorings and flavors in them. Glycerin/glycerol is a sugar. Sugar feeds yeast, causing vaginal irritation. (That also means no whipped cream or chocolate as “dessert” during oral sex — keep sex and food separate!
* No Back to Front: Never go from anus to vagina with body parts or sex toys. Even if you’re squeaky clean from the shower, internal fecal bacteria can transfer. If you like anal stimulation with a sex toy, cover it with a condom.

(Violet Blue is the author and editor of over a dozen books on sex and sexuality, a sex educator who lectures at UC’s and community teaching institutions and writes about erotica, pornography, sexual pleasure and health. Her books include Best Women’s Erotica 2007, The Adventurous Couple’s Guide to Sex Toys, and Lust: Erotic Fantasies for Women. Caution: if you’re not used to in-your-face, graphic sex writing and photos, tread carefully when you visit Violet’s blog!)