“It’s hard for me to reach orgasm,” women over 60 often write me. “What can I do?” Although your stories are unique, the essential question is often the same: “How can I reach orgasm more easily?”
Consult your doctor for a medical cause.
- “I have a few illnesses and I’m on medications.”
- “I’ve always been able to orgasm easily but for the past year and a half, I’ve been losing almost all sensation. I have not talked with my doctor about this.”
Many of you mention your medical conditions when you ask me for advice. You need to have this conversation with your doctor who knows your condition or your pharmacist who knows the sexual side effects of your medications. If your medical professional is dismissive of you or embarrassed that you’re asking about sex, you need a new one who is sex-positive and age-positive. This is essential for your quality of life! See “Talk to Your Doctor about Sex” for help starting this conversation.
Expand your sexual repertoire.
- “I have been unable to have orgasms because my husband is impotent.”
About 75 to 80 percent of women do not reach orgasm through intercourse, and I suspect that percentage is higher in our age group. We need clitoral stimulation before, during, or instead of intercourse. Your husband’s erectile dysfunction does not need to be an impediment to satisfying sex for both of you — there are many other ways to give and receive sexual pleasure. Watch my webinar, “Great Sex without Penetration.”
Use sex toys for faster arousal and orgasm.
- “I would like to know how to reach an orgasm on my own, as my husband is not interested. I have a vibrator and sometimes it helps, but most often it doesn’t.”
- “I have started to buy some sex toys for solo play, but I just cannot get an orgasm.”
- “I prefer to use a device of some kind. But I don’t know what to look for.”
Read my advice above about consulting your doctor in case there’s a medical cause for your inability to reach orgasm. If not, it’s likely that you haven’t found the right vibrator to make orgasms happen for you. There are many different types, and each has a variety of shapes, sizes, and intensities. The vibrations can range from buzzy to rumbly and from mild to turbo-powered.
Start with my blog post, “How to Choose a Vibrator.” Then, armed with your knowledge of what you’re looking for, read my reviews of specific vibrators, all from a senior perspective. (There are many reviews, so keep selecting “older posts” at the bottom of the page.) A faster way to see and learn about a selection of my favorites is to view my webinar, “Sex Toys for Seniors.”
If you’re partnered, communicate what feels good and what doesn’t.
- “My husband is never very good at sex and consequently I suffer. I’m trying to find a way to achieve satisfaction.”
Does your husband refuse or “forget” to do what pleases you? Or does he not know, because you haven’t found a way to communicate what you need? We grew up during an era of embarrassment about sex, and for many of us, it’s still difficult to talk to a partner about our sexual needs. Work on asking for what feels good to you. My book, The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50, has an entire chapter on improving sex with a longtime partner, including how to find the right words for communicating your needs.
If you’re solo, enjoy self-pleasuring often.
- “My husband died 4 years ago. I haven’t had any sexual activity in about 10 years. I think I just want solo sex. Could you help me please?”
I’m so sorry for your loss. Grief often numbs our natural need for sex, though for some, it has the opposite effect. (Learn more from Sex After Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality After Losing Your Beloved.)
Be patient if you’re just getting back to sexual activity after a decade. Your body and brain became accustomed to doing without sex, and your drive and responsiveness receded. Some tips to improve this:
- Enjoy solo sex during the time of day you feel energetic and excitable. I call that your “tingle time.”
- Exercise first to increase blood flow to the genitals for faster arousal.
- Eat after sex, not before, so that the blood flow is not diverted to the digestive system.
“A Senior’s Guide to Solo Sex,” one of my most popular articles for Senior Planet (with 137 comments!), has more suggestions. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Your take-away tips:
- Consult your doctor for a medical cause.
- Expand your sexual repertoire.
- Use sex toys for faster arousal and orgasm.
- If partnered, communicate what feels good and what doesn’t.
- If solo, enjoy self-pleasuring often.
- The more sexually active you are — partnered or solo — the easier it becomes to reach orgasms.
(This article first appeared on Senior Planet as “Ask Joan: Easier Orgasms” on July 20, 2020.)
Question for you: If your partner wants a sexual behavior that not only isn’t your thing, but really turns you off, what do you do?
- Tell your partner no and expect your partner to shut down that desire?
- Do your best to accommodate your partner some of the time?
- Pretend to like it?
- Negotiate “I’ll do this for you if you’ll do this other thing for me”?
- Give your partner a pass to get that need met with someone else?
- Break up because you’re not sexually compatible?
If you’ve been at the other end of this — you have a passion for something that your partner doesn’t share — how do/did you resolve it?
I’d love to hear from you whether you’re encountering this situation now, or did in the past, or you’re thinking about how you might handle it in the future. Please describe the sexual behavior, fetish, role play, or desire if you’re willing and if it wouldn’t embarrass your partner or ex (no “revenge comments,” please). I’m also happy to hear from counselors, sex therapists and sex educators about how you advise clients.
If you want to answer anonymously, please pick a name that isn’t yours instead of using the name “anonymous” so that we don’t have a string of comments by “anonymous.”
I hope we can start a discussion about how to work with dissimilar and conflicting sexual needs.
Q: I have recently started to have a physical relationship with a more mature woman. She happens to be 12 years my senior. I normally use lubricant because she is normally dry, regardless of how much foreplay we engage in. She has approached me about engaging in a small orgy. We were wondering if there would be any issues with a few men?
It’s completely normal for women to need lubricant for sex as they age. A woman can be extremely aroused and still not lubricate the way she used to. You’re right to use lubricant, as you’ve discovered already. Prolonged intercourse – whether with one man or “a few” – will require frequent application of lubricant.
Besides the dryness, though, she may find the group sex she’s considering physically uncomfortable sooner than she expects because of the thinning of her vaginal walls. If you plan to go ahead with this scene, be sure everyone understands that not every sex act has to culminate in intercourse, and make sure the other men involved agree not to push that part of it.
For everyone’s health and safety, be sure that condoms and dental dams (or the female condom, which works for both uses) are within easy reach and used with every interaction. Don’t forego this because the other men insist that they are “safe.” Your sexual health and your partner’s are your own responsibility. (Please read the FAQ, “Six Basic Facts Seniors Need to Know about STIs”)
I can’t tell from your question whether your partner has had sex with multiple partners before and wants to do it again, or whether this is a fantasy of hers that you’d like to help her indulge. Don’t go into it lightly. Talk a lot first. Try roleplaying, just the two of you, pretending you have a third (or fourth) by “talking dirty” about what you’re fantasizing is going on. That may help you each understand what you’re imagining and wanting from expanding your relationship.
I could write pages about the issues to think about and talk about, how to negotiate what’s okay and what’s off limits, how to choose and invite new partners, how to test your fantasy in stages, how to make sure your partner (or any of you) can stop or leave if it doesn’t turn out to be right after all, how to care for each other afterwards.
As you see, I’m not moralizing – if you both really want this and it fits with your own beliefs, go into it thoughtfully and with plenty of dialogue and preparation.
If I’ve left you worried, frightened, or dismayed, then maybe this would be too big a step for your relationship to handle.
This question and my response were first published on the Safer Sex for Seniors website where this question was originally submitted — direct link to this Q &A here. Here’s what I wrote about this site when it first went live.
I’d love to know what my readers think about this topic and my response. Please comment!
When I give a talk about senior sex, my favorite part is answering your questions. I feel both proud and humble that you trust me (and the audience) enough to voice your concerns.
I’ve been traveling to tell people about my new book, Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex and talking at bookstores, sexuality shops, a senior center, a restaurant, and my 50th high school reunion (!) about the myths and realities of older age sexuality. Here are some of the most frequent questions and topics you’ve been sharing:
The #1 question from partnered seniors is how to revive a dull, infrequent, or nonexistent sex life. I talk about scheduling sex and understanding that at our age, desire often follows physiological arousal rather than the other way around. In other words, getting started with touching and kissing will get you in the mood after your body starts responding — don’t wait to be in the mood.
- Single seniors ask about the importance of safe sex, hoping (from the wording of your questions and the looks on your faces) that I’ll tell you we probably don’t need condoms at our age. I tell you the opposite of that — yes, we need to use condoms, and we should do so whether someone tells us his or her health history or not. The fastest growing population for new HIV infections is the over 50 age group.
Women whose partners experience erectile difficulties often don’t understand what’s going on (“Is it because I don’t attract him any more?”) or what to do to keep the sensuality going in the relationship (“Isn’t it cruel teasing if I want to touch and be touched?”).
Both men and women scoff at the idea of sex toys until I tell them why a well-placed vibrator can mean the difference between orgasm or not.
Is it any surprise that that one place people were reluctant to ask questions was my high school reunion? It’s understandable — we were with people we hadn’t seen since we were 17 and our main sex problem was how to hide our activities from our parents! When I saw that my classmates were uneasy about asking questions, I said, “If you’d rather talk to me privately, I’ll be giving consultations in the corner.”
For the rest of the weekend, people came up to me to request their “consultation in the corner”!
If you want to be in my audience for real, click here to see my upcoming events. I’d love to meet you!