May: Senior Sex Month + Masturbation month!

senior-sex-monthWhat a lovely coincidence! May is “International Masturbation Month,” according to Good Vibrations. It’s also “Senior Sex Month,” thanks to Senior Planet, the senior site that advocates “aging with attitude” and is launching my new “Sex at Our Age” column this month. In this column, I’ll answer reader questions about the realities and challenges of staying sexual in aging bodies.I love that International Masturbation Month and Senior Sex Month happen at the same time. I propose that we combine the two! We’re not all fortunate enough to be partnered at this time of our lives, and many of us who are in relationships are not having sex with our partners as much as we’d enjoy. Pleasuring ourselves is a way we can stay vigorously sexual, give ourselves wonderful jolts of joy, and enhance our health simultaneously.

Oh? You doubt that solo sex enhances health? Here are just a few of the benefits of sexual activity and orgasm with or without a partner that I list in The Ultimate Guide to Sex after Fifty: How to Maintain – or Regain! – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life, coming soon from Cleis Press:

• Reduces stress
• Enhances mood
• Strengthens the immune system
• Helps fight infection and disease
• Lowers diastolic blood pressure
• Keeps sex organs healthy
• Improves blood flow
• Helps with sleep
• Relieves headaches and other body aches
• Relieves depression
• Reduces risk of heart disease
• Reduces risk of prostate cancer
• Relieves chronic pain
• Increases blood flow to the brain, increasing mental acuity
• Makes your skin glow
• Relaxes you
• Makes you happier
• Feels really good

Reasons not to self-pleasure? Hmm… Can’t think of any.

And if you need an assist, check out the many dozens of sex toys I’ve reviewed from a senior perspective here — keep scrolling down to “older posts” because there are about a hundred reviews. (Don’t worry, you won’t end up with a list of 100 toys to buy — some of the products are horrid and you’ll just laugh at those reviews. But the wonderful ones? Ah, your body will thank you for adding these to your sexual repertoire!)

My current fave, Palm Power


No Sex for 12 Years, Now Vagina Too Tight for Penetration

[1/19/14: So many readers are landing on this post from 2007 as they search for information about vaginal tightness and pain that I updated it, including current links. 
— Joan]

Frustrated in Florida, age 61, had not had sex for nearly 12 years, until recently. She wrote in an email to me:

Apparently one’s vagina does change after not using it for a long period of time. I always thought sex was like riding a bicycle, but it is not. One can’t just get back on and ride! I experienced such pain during the attempted penetration that we had to stop. What a disappointing and embarrassing moment. My partner was very understanding, however I was just frustrated and disappointed.

I went to my GYN for an examination soon after and explained my circumstances. She gave me a thorough exam and said although I had many tiny lacerations and redness, my vagina seemed normal. She explained how one’s vaginal lining becomes thin after menopause and her advise was to abstain from sex for two weeks, using lubrication to aid in healing.

When we engaged in sex again, very gently, I was once again disappointed with the level of pain even though using lots of lubrication. We once again had to stop.

So now I am wondering if there is some way I can stretch my vagina for it seems like it has shrunk. (Perhaps it is just my imagination running wild!)

Have you had anyone else write you with a similar problem and if so is there a solution? For your information I have never been on hormones and my partner’s penis is of normal size.

No, it’s not your imagination, and yes, it’s true that the vagina will seem to shrink after a long period of abstinence, especially after menopause, and penetration will be painful or sometimes impossible. You’ll find a helpful chapter in my book, Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex and several other posts about vaginal pain on this blog.

I’m disappointed that your gynecologist is not this helpful. Telling you you’re “normal” while you have lacerations and pain is not helpful, is it? Most doctors do not know how to diagnose or treat vaginal pain, and it ‘s wise ask for a referral to a sexual pain specialist.

Please read Vaginal Renewal Program  by Myrtle Wilhite, M.D., at A Woman’s Touch, a wonderful sexuality resource center in Madison, WI. It tells you step by step how to massage and stretch your vagina. Here’s an abridged version:

* External Moisturizing and Massage: Increase the suppleness and blood circulation of the skin of your vulva and vagina with a five- to ten-minute massage with a moisturizing sexual lubricant like Liquid Silk®, a water-based lotion that will soak in and moisturize your skin, won’t get sticky, and will help you massage with very little friction.

Push in to the skin with circular strokes, and massage what’s underneath the skin, rather than brushing across the skin. Include the inner lips, the hood of the clitoris, the head of the clitoris and the perineum.

To complete your external massage, massage into the opening of the vaginal canal, using the same circular strokes. The massage itself does not need to be self-sexual in any way, but if that is comfortable for you, by all means explore these sensations.

* Internal Vaginal Massage: To massage inside your vaginal canal, we suggest using a lucite dildo which is very smooth and will not cause friction or tearing. Choose your size based upon how many fingers you can comfortably insert into the opening of your vagina.

After a session of external vulva massage, apply the same massage to the inner surfaces of your vagina with your dildo with lubricant applied on both skin and dildo. Rather than pushing the dildo in and out, use a circular massage movement. You are increasing skin flexibility so that your body can adjust to comfortable sexual penetration if you choose it.

You might also choose to use a slim vibrator for massaging the vaginal walls. Coat it in Liquid Silk and then insert it gently. Turn it on and let it run for about five minutes. You don’t need to move it around, just lie there and let it do its work.

* Orgasm: For women who stop having orgasms, the blood vessels literally can get out of shape, preventing future orgasms. If you are able to bring yourself to orgasm, do so at least once a week (for the rest of your life — seriously). This is preventive maintenance of your body.

* Kegel Relaxation: Kegels increase both the strength and flexibility of your pelvic floor muscles. Pay attention to the relaxation and deep breath part of the exercise. Learning to relax your pelvic floor will help you to avoid tensing up before penetration. (Read A Woman’s Touch’s Step-by-Step Kegels in this article about pelvic floor health.)

In my earlier book, Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, I had interviewed a 75-year-old woman who had been celibate for 38 years and was in a new relationship. She was unable to have intercourse because her vagina had dried and narrowed to the point that penetration was impossible. She sought help from her gynecologist (a wonderful woman who bought dozens of copies of Better Than I Ever Expected to give to her patients!), who helped her.

Best wishes for a joyful resolution to this problem — please keep me posted.–Joan

Sex after 50 Applies to All Ages: Guest post by Penny

Joan and Penny

 Note from Joan: CatalystCon West 2013 was filled with amazing educators, new information, and a sense of community that I wish we could all feel everyday, everywhere. Normally I would write a synopsis of this conference, sharing what I learned.

 But this time, I give the floor to Penny, a remarkable, 26-year-old sex blogger, who attended the session I gave: The 5 Biggest Myths About Sex and Aging. She started this guest post on the plane going home, she told me, tearing up as she wrote it. I’m proud to share it — and her — with you here. With allies like Penny, we’ can indeed change the world.

Why Sex after 50 Applies to All Ages: 
Guest post by Penny
I went into Joan Price’s panel The 5 Biggest Myths About Sex and Aging at CatalystCon with the
attitude that I was going to take a leap and learn about something that doesn’t
apply to me, at least not yet. I told Joan this when we ran into each other in
the hall before her panel, and she smiled and said with a chuckle, “Maybe
you’ll find what I have to say useful in about 30 years.”

But I quickly
realized that what Joan was teaching in her panel didn’t only apply to people
aged 50+ — it was relevant to anyone, including myself now, at age 26.

The first myth that Joan debunked about sex and
aging was the idea that what felt good to us in the past should still make
us feel good now, and that when it doesn’t, there must be something wrong, and
we might as well just give up.

photo by Roman Roze

She explained that as our bodies change with age
later in life, the ways we experience arousal and pleasure change as well, and
that this is perfectly normal. She went over specifics, like the differing
needs that seniors may require in a toy, such as very strong vibrations, the
ability for the toy to last long enough to endure a longer cycle of arousal,
ergonomically comfortable designs for arthritic hands, easy to use controls,

Sure, Joan was describing the specific sexual needs of
people outside of my age demographic, but the underlying message was universal:
We must remember that sexuality is fluid and that it changes. Our
bodies change, our lives change, our needs and wants change. Self-exploration is a continuous process.

I may not be 50 yet, but what turned
me on when I started having sex at age 16 is dramatically different from what
turns me on now. My challenges with arousal are not the same as senior
challenges, but they’re there. Some weeks I feel down and emotional, and I
don’t want to take the time to give myself the self-care that I need. I have moments when I think, why isn’t this working like
it usually does? Why can’t I just orgasm like I usually do?

Joan made me realize that in these moments, I need to give
myself the compassion I would give a friend. If someone came to me and said
something wasn’t working for them, I would encourage them to keep trying
because they deserve pleasure. I would try to help them find new ways to
experience arousal and suggest new toys and techniques. I would also tell them
that there is nothing wrong if something just isn’t working right now, and that
pleasure and orgasms don’t always come easily.

Everyone deserves that encouragement
and support. We must allow ourselves to exist as we are right now, instead of
trying to conform to what society expects of us or even what we expect of ourselves.

Like this myth of feeling like an “alien in our own bodies”
because we’ve changed, and we feel like we aren’t ourselves anymore, everything
Joan discussed was not only relevant to seniors, but to
everyone. The importance of communication between partners, adaptation to
change, making time for pleasure and practice, and continual commitment to
self-care, sexual health, and sex education are always important.

Towards the end of her talk, Joan shared a personal story
about her grief in losing her love and partner. Her words shook me deeply, and
as tears streamed down my cheeks, my sniffles were echoed by a woman sitting
near me. Grief is incredibly personal, and I cannot pretend to know what Joan
has gone through, but in that moment I felt like her grief was somehow also
mine. Grief for her loss, for everyone I’ve lost, and for myself and the deep
fear I don’t usually even realize that I carry with me: that I am alone, that
nothing is certain, and that any day could be my last or my partner’s last.

But as I listened to Joan share her story, I also felt her
strength. She said that what lives on after us is what we pass on to others,
what we give to people, what we share, our love and compassion. In that way,
she said, we become immortal. I’m often so wrapped up in my own needs, wants,
concerns, challenges, and privileges that I forget to seek out others’
experiences, to listen as much as I speak, and to share what I have.

As she ended her talk, Joan asked us all to help her with
her cause, to speak out against ageism, to stop and say, “That’s not funny,” if we hear malicious, ageist “jokes,” and to tell
people that they are beautiful exactly as they are. In return, she offered up
her own voice, to help us in whatever injustices we battle.
Her words echoed
Yosenio V Lewis’s speech from the Opening Keynote, when he called us to take on
someone else’s cause because it is our cause as well, to come together instead
of staying in isolated groups, to collaborate and realize that we are all
ultimately fighting for the same things: love, compassion, and acceptance. 

Penny is a freelance writer and photographer from Austin,
Texas. She explores sexuality creatively through her blog Penny for Your (Dirty) Thoughts,
which is known for its variety of writing, unique sex toy photography, and
erotic self-portraiture.
Penny for Your (Dirty) Thoughts

Invitation: What do you want to see in new book?

Here’s an inside look at a writer’s brain: Every time I finish writing a book, I shout, “There! I’ve done it! There’s nothing more to say!”

 But there always is more to say, more to think about, more to learn, more to teach.

What questions, concerns, and topics related to sex and aging did I not cover in Naked at Our Age, or cover too briefly? What more would you like to know about aging and sexuality in all its colors?

 Yes, I’m thinking about my next book, and I need your input! Brainstorm with me by posting your suggestions. (Though you’re welcome to use a fake name, please tell me your real age.)

5/27/13 update: Here are some ideas that followers of my Naked at Our Age Facebook page posted, to get you started:

  • Do you cover Tantra? Or is that too New Age for “our age”?
  • I’d like to know what I can do in my 40s to prepare for the longest, healthiest, most enjoyable sex life possible in the decades that follow. 
  • I know you covered some of this in Naked at Our Age but more of how to deal with Sexless Marriage would be real good thanks xxx
What else, readers? Don’t worry if your idea seems unconventional or offbeat. If you give me an idea I didn’t think of myself, that’s very helpful. If you repeat an idea I did think of myself, I know to make sure I’m covering it thoroughly. 
If you’d rather email me your ideas privately with more detail, or if you’d like your experiences included in this book, email me here and put as subject header: “Include in new book.”  Thank you!