As I write Naked at Our Age, I'm awed by the level of candor from the real people who have agreed to share their stories and the generosity of the experts who are contributing solid, helpful tips that address the problems and concerns you've sent me.
The book will come out in Spring 2011, which I realize is a long wait for those of you who are experiencing challenges now that are preventing you from thoroughly enjoying your senior sexuality. Since my mission is to help you, I want to share something that I learned from Ellen Barnard, MSSW, because you might need this information --as I did -- before the book comes out.
I wrote Ellen for personal advice -- I was startled and dismayed to discover that I was unable to insert the Teneo Smartballs comfortably -- something that would have been easy before my self-imposed, long period of celibacy following Robert's death. "I’m aghast that I’ve let this happen to me," I told her.
Here is an excerpt from her compassionate and helpful reply, which I hope will open your eyes, as it did mine:
Oh, please don't be upset - there are many women of all ages who find them to be too wide to insert comfortably unless they are very aroused. Despite the information around them, they really are not intended to be used without arousal and a lot of lubrication first.
It's not really about stretching the entrance to your vagina. The issue is how tight and how flexible the pelvic floor muscles are at the opening of your vagina. After menopause, it gets more difficult for the pelvic floor to relax unless you regularly practice doing so. Arousal helps with relaxation of the pelvic floor, thus allowing you to insert something inside your vagina comfortably, but after menopause it often takes a conscious relaxation effort in addition to significant massage for arousal.
So your task is to learn how to better relax those muscles and do so as you insert gradually wider toys. Don't "push" against those muscles - that doesn't work, and actually causes them to tighten further. Instead, either gently slip a finger alongside your favorite toy once you are fully aroused, taking a deep belly breath and once you feel the opening relax, slip the finger inside, or take a tapered toy and insert it deeper as you breath deeply and feel the vaginal opening relax.
It's worth going to our site and downloading our revised Vaginal Renewal and Pelvic Floor Health booklets (see links under "Educational Brochures") - we address the issue of a tight pelvic floor in both of them.
Ellen Barnard is a sex educator and counselor who believes we all deserve delightful, healthy sex lives for as long as we live. She consults on the topics of aging and sexuality, cancer and sexuality, and facilitating intimacy at the end of life. She is also the co-owner of A Woman's Touch Sexuality Resource Center.
Visit A Woman's Touch for "expertise in sexual health and pleasure."