Friday, January 28, 2011

Bonk by Mary Roach: book review


 1/28/11 update: I reviewed Bonk with great enthusiasm in 11/08. I've just started listening to the audiobook in the car, and it's so much fun that I had to bring back this review, in case you missed it the first time.


Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach is the most entertaining -- and, in a madcap way, the most informative -- book I’ve read in years. Filled with the weirdness of both the procedures and findings of sex research, Bonk combines arcane details with amazing facts and research tools (e.g. the “penis-camera).

Regale your friends with anecdotes from this book, and you’ll be the life of the party – as long as the party is filled with open-minded friends who enjoy zany details about sex.

Mary Roach writes in a clever, often hilarious style, which makes her books a pleasure to read, whether she’s writing about cadavers (Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers ), the afterlife (Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife), or, in this case, sex. My copy quickly became spotted with Post-Its as I read, marking passages I simply had to tell you about, but numbering an impossible 45 markers by the time I finished.

Here’s just a small sampling of the facts I learned:
Princess Marie Bonaparte (great-grand-niece of Napoleon) blamed her inability to orgasm during intercourse on the fact that her clitoris was three centimeters away from her vagina. She did her own research in 1924 with a ruler and interviews and discovered that “téléclitoridiennes,” women with more than 2.5 centimeters between clitoris and vagina, were incapable of orgasm during intercourse. So she employed a surgeon to relocate her clitoris. (No, sorry, it didn’t work for her.)

Women don’t like men’s cologne, according to their rate of vaginal blood flow. The scent of men’s cologne actually reduced vaginal blood flow, as did the smell of charcoal-barbecue meat. Oddly, what increased vaginal blood flow the most (by 13%) was a mixture of cucumber and Good’n’ Plenty candy. Hmmm.

[describing one of many sex machine inventions:] “The motor housing is the size of a lunchbox and is raised on one end, like a slide projector. A flesh-colored phallus on a stick slides quietly in and out. The erotic appeal seems limited. It would be like dating a corn dog.”

[describing another sex machine invention, called “Therapeutic Apparatus for Relieving Sexual Frustrations in Women Without Sex Partners”:] “At the base of the penial assembly was a wide, black, wiry cuff of fur-like or hair-like material. For the partnerless woman who wants not only the ultimate climax or orgasm, but also the feeling that she is having sex with a shoe buffer.”


You’ll learn about “uterine upsuck” in pigs and how Danish farmers increased their pigs’ fertility by sexually stimulating their sows to “upsuck” the semen better. Why it rarely worked to use an MRI to study couples having sex. How porn stars make extra money by having their orifices replicated into plaster casts which are then used for sex dolls. And what Mary Roach and her husband did in full view of scientists to further sex research.

Some of the most intriguing diversions are found in the footnotes. Did you know that Victorian gynecologists and urologists wouldn’t look at the nether parts of the women they were examining? Can you guess why men land in emergency rooms when they can’t remove their improvised cock rings? Or the strangest foreign objects that have been removed from rectums? (I can’t decide whether to vote for the frozen pig tail or the spectacles.)

I highly recommend Bonk for your own delight and as gifts for your sex-minded friends.

[Read my interview with Mary Roach here.]

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Saying "No" with Class: Rejections I've Liked

I thank you for the positive response to my Dating Advice for Men Over 50. My dabbling in online dating continues to be interesting, often funny, sometimes frustrating when the dating sites seem to ignore my criteria when announcing with great fanfare that they've found a match for me.

As I've said earlier, I'm going into this to expand my social life and meet good men who might become friends, or provide an hour of interesting conversation, or stimulate me to pursue a deeper relationship -- or just remind me why I enjoy my single life. I'm not earnestly seeking a soul mate or looking to get married. This gives me the advantage of being able to take this whole process lightly, and my day is not ruined by a rejection or by the paucity of applause-inducing matches.

Sometimes I read a profile that leaves me saying, "Wow! I'd like to know this person!" and I send an e-note expressing why his profile interested me. Occasionally my interest is returned, but that's rare (I'm not sure why). Usually I'm ignored. I really like it, though, when the recipient of my interest sends me a polite "No, thank you."

To encourage you to do this, here are some of the nice ways I've been turned down:
  •     Thanks for the note and kind comments. My age range is general, like any sensible man would say, but it can be a factor. Equally, if not more, important, is the geographic range. While I know that your city is not on the other side of the moon [comment from Joan: we live about 40 mi. apart], it is too far for me at this point of this odd online dating process. I have tried the long distance relationship a few times, and each time, it proved too much the struggle. So, thanks for reaching out, and I wish you the best. 
  •    I am so honored that you would send me an email. You look and sound like a delightful woman, and I enjoyed reading your profile. However, as flattered as I am by your contact, it's my strong hunch that we're really not a match. So, let me send you my best wishes for meeting your match.  
  •    Actually, I am looking for a soul-mate. Dating and friendship is fine, but I would like to "go all the way" as it were. About four years ago, I dated a woman who had lost her husband and I thought we were a pretty good fit, but she loved her husband very much and had no room for me. You seem like a smart and interesting person, and I could be making a mistake, but somehow I feel that we aren't a good fit either. You may be right in looking for a widower. Thanks for writing me.
  •    Thank you for the contact and the nice words. I am in a process of transition, learning to listen to myself and find out what I am looking for at this juncture in my life. You seem like a beautiful and interesting person. However at this point I don't feel that we would be a good match for dating. I send my heartfelt wishes to you to find the person and love that you seek and deserve.

 Readers: Have you received "no, thank you" notes that made you smile instead of cringe? Have you sent any you'd like to share?

1/30/11 update: Here's a rejection I really didn't like -- after a few emails and a phone conversation, an interesting man and I  made a walking date -- and he didn't show up. Didn't show up, didn't call, didn't respond to my "are you running late?" phone messages. I wasn't even close to home -- I was out of town (out of my town; in his town) on a weekend trip, and could have planned something more stimulating than waiting at the designated meeting spot. I didn't know people our age could be that discourteous.

2/2/11 update: I was surprised by a phone call from the no-show described 1/30 -- turns out he was injured and in the hospital, and days later felt up to making his way through returning calls and notifying people. So I completely misjudged him, and I apologize.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dear John, I Love Jane: book review

 Dear John, I Love Jane -- isn't the title perfect? -- is a new anthology edited 
by Candace Walsh and Laura André (who happen to be a couple) and written by women who left their straight life/ relationships/ husbands because they fell in love with women. 

 
Candace Walsh and Laura André


Some always knew they were attracted to women, but bowed to society's norm and married men anyway. Others had no idea they could or would fall in love with a woman.

The stories are engrossing, well-crafted, intimate, and dramatic. I felt I was sitting in a room hearing these women's personal stories -- their conflicts, thrills, misgivings (sometimes), and declarations.

When Seal Press offered me this book to review, I emailed back,"I hope some of the stories highlight women over 50." I was surprised and pleased to learn that several of these authors are over 50, and in case you want to read their stories first--as I did--here are their names: Leigh Stuart, Sheila Smith, Susan Grier, Meredith MaranKami DayMicki Grimland, and Katherine Briccetti.


Sheila Smith
  I loved many of the stories, including "Memoirs of a Wanton Prude" by Sheila Smith, who first fell in love with a woman at age 69. As a teen, she was taught that gays and lesbians were "Sick! Immoral! Perverted!" and she fought back her feelings until age 50. Still, she stayed with her husband, "reading lesbian books and [keeping] my feelngs about women under wraps. A divorce and a few years of solitude readied her to meet Diana, who taught her that "Lesbians are about intimacy": "It wasn't so much she wanted to go to bed with me; it was that she wanted to wake up with me."

  
One of the most moving stories to me was "The Right Fit" by Kami Day (also over 50), who was raised Mormon and was taught that "Heavenly Father had made one man whose penis would fit just perfectly inside my vagina," and that perfect fit would be revealed on her wedding night. It wasn't. But 15 years later, the perfect fit arrived: Michele. And 15 after that, they are still together, "using only about half the mattress in our double bed."

The writing is terrific -- often lyrical, sometimes funny, and full of surprises. For example:
    Meredith Maran
  • "I have always been far more turned on by our magical, slippery little orchid than by their -- what is that? A puppet? Some sort of sea creature?" (Veronica Masen)
  • "My body has a need that's burning a hole through the mattress. My brain is hanging on for dear life to what remains of my heterosexuality." (Meredith Maran)
  • "I had never imagined kissing another woman, but now I did, wanting to know the gentleness of soft skin, the taste of female, this female." (Susan Grier)
  • "I had recurrent dreams of making out with Ellen DeGeneres in a rustic Spanish house in Santa Barbara." (Leigh Stuart)
 Dear John, I Love Jane is an important book. It is more than a lesbian anthology -- it's about women making choices at first that go counter to what they really want or need (and isn't that especially true of our age group?), then facing and accepting -- and being thrilled by! -- their true natures. It shows women's sexual fluidity in a way we seldom see or acknowledge.

When I was writing Naked at Our Age, several women over 50 sent me their stories about marrying men (some quite contently, others battling their nature) and in later life discovering love with another woman -- or wanting to experience sex with another woman and not yet putting it into action. If this book had been out then, I would have recommended it. I recommend it now!

Visit the Dear John, I Love Jane website here. Purchase on Amazon here.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jack LaLanne, 96, dies: Elaine always floated his boat

Jack LaLanne died January 23, 2011 at age 96. You probably remember him as the fitness guru who celebrated his 70th birthday by towing, handcuffed, 70 loaded boats 1.5 miles.

When he was about to turn 95, he said he'd celebrate his birthday by towing his wife Elaine, then 84, across the bathtub. (I learned this from an entertaining article by Scott Ostler in the San Francisco Chronicle October 8, 2009.
 
LaLanne promoted -- and lived his long, strong life dedicated to -- a stringent and unrelenting exercise and nutrition program. Good sex was part of the lifelong program. "I'm not like I was at 21," he admitted at 90, "but I do the best I can with the equipment. And Elaine's always smiling." (Thanks to Carolyne Zinko for that quote.)

  LaLanne died shortly after Elaine, his wife of 51 years, put a smile on his face by singing to him, "If I were the only girl in the world and you were the only boy. Nothing else would matter in the world today. We could go on loving in the same old way," according to USA Today.
 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ron, age 66: "Ladies are sooo inventive!"

I love getting reader stories, and Ron, age 66, has opened my eyes to the adventures of a remarkably open and sexually active man who is enjoying his single life tremendously. Of Scots heritage, Ron enjoys wearing kilts "for their obvious freedom and comfort and fun." He illustrates:

Dating a lady my age, we're out for lunch at a chain restaurant sitting in a booth and suddenly her bare feet are under my kilt lovingly massaging my boy parts. No one can see. We know. Ladies are sooo inventive."

Ron does a lot of online dating, and enjoys women our age.

I have met a lot of wonderful women. Despite the protest on the Internet profiles, a common first date includes making love at the lady's initiative. Most often I'm the boy toy and they want to use my body for their own pleasure. I think its wonderful.

Since there are more single women than men of our age, Ron has a concept of the ideal retirement community which includes "man sharing":

What if say three lonely ladies got together and chose a compatible man to share an nice large home with. Share the rent, share the chores, share the love. Seems it would sure beat living alone. I'm sure someone's way ahead of me on this. Gotta be happening already. For the longest time I thought of it as something I, as a surviving male would do - go out and find three women who would be up for such an arrangement. Lately, I've realized such a group would be better formed if the ladies bonded first then sought out the male to share together.

Ron's satisfied lovers already pass him on to one another:

Looking back over my lovers since my divorce there have probably been seven or eight who were "referrals" from previous lovers.  Its probably a woman thing that I don't understand - but deeply appreciate.

What do you think? Men, do women "refer" you to their friends? Women, if you date a man who leaves you with a smile on your face, do you tell your single friends to get in touch with him? Though I have no direct experience with this, I must admit it's an intriguing idea!

Thank you, Ron, for your willingness to go public with your story!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Blossom Organics Lubricants for Women

We women need lubricant as we age and our hormones are no longer providing enough natural lubrication for sexual comfort and pleasure. So many different varieties exist now that we're not limited to what our local drugstore offers for "intmate care." In fact, we'd do well to do our shopping in a woman-friendly sexuality shop -- buying online if we're not lucky enough to have such a a store close to home.

"The ingredients found in common drugstore lubricants are the same ingredients found at your local Jiffy Lube!" says Melissa Jochim, creator and formulator of Blossom Organics, a new line of vaginal lubricants and moisturizers using only natural, beneficial ingredients.

She explains, "As a mucous membrane, the vagina is quite absorbent. The ingredients commonly found in intimate care products can have questionable long-term effects on a woman’s health and well-being.These harsh ingredients disrupt the natural vaginal pH. In addition, these ingredients coat the vagina and have a drying effect on our natural moisture."

Blossom Organics uses only naturally pure, female-friendly ingredients. No parabens, petrochemicals, silicones, glycerin, alcohol, hormones, pesticides, or artificial dyes/ flavorings/ fragrances.

OK, let's get to the experience of these lubes. I was most eager to try the Pure Pleasure Arousal Gel. I had tried various so-called arousal or stimulating substances before, with varying success. Most provided a sort of mild, stinging sensation, not unpleasant or painful, but not what I'd call arousing. In any case, the sensation disappeared much too quickly for me to know whether they would hasten or intensify pleasure.

Blossom's arousal gel felt pleasant enough, a mild tingle, not enough to make me squirm or hasten arousal that I could tell. It's nice, I just didn't feel anything special. I tried it several times with my favorite toys -- I don't know whether using it with a partner instead would alter my experience. (I know, it would alter every bit of my experience, but I'm talking about the effects of the gel.) Update May 2011: The effects of this gel intensify with continued use -- I'm definitely getting more of a tingle from it than I did at first!

I really liked the Blossoms Organics Moisturing Lubricant -- slick but not too slick, long lasting, never got tacky. Very nice indeed. The smell was pleasant -- sort of spicy floral. Nothing artificial, just nice, slippery stuff that feels good, smells good, and lets you enjoy your experience, whether with a toy or a human partner. Use a smaller amount than you think you'll need -- a little goes a long way. This was my favorite of the bunch, and I plan to use it regularly.

I also liked the Warming Lubricant, with one caveat: I didn't sense any particular "warming" effects -- it was just a good lubricant. On the other hand, one reviewer at GoodVibes.com complained that it was "way too strong" and irritated her for a day. This surprised me. I know we experience sensations differently, but I'm bewildered that one woman would complain it burned when I didn't even think it felt warming. Maybe someone can explain this to me.

Blossom Organics Moisturizing LubricantPure Pleasure Arousal Gel, and Warming Lubricant are available from Good Vibrations, which also has all sorts of other goodies for your sexual pleasure.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Our Blog Awards 2010

It's such a thrill to look at the awards this blog received in 2010. This blog was created in 2005 when Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty was about to come out. My aim was to let people know about my spicy memoir celebrating senior sex, and to keep the discussion going.

Over the next five years, this blog became the way I shared news, views, and reviews related to sex and aging. Whether you were looking for a review of a book, film, or sex toy from a senior perspective, or questions from other readers age 50-80+, or advice from experts, this blog became a resource for you.

It branched out into senior sex in the news, dating advice, and quirky items that caught my interest. When  Robert died, the blog expanded to include grief, because part of loving at our age is losing each other.

These are some of the awards this blog received in 2010. I hope you'll visit these sites that recognize the importance of talking out loud about senior sex:

Top 100 Sex Bloggers 2010 -- ranked #10! And the only blog on this list that is both educational (rather than erotic) and deals with senior sex. Read the whole list here.

Aging Healthy: Top 50 Aging and Gerontology Blogs -- the only sexuality blog on this list.

Seniors for Living: Top 100 Senior Blogs & Web Sites -- one of just six blogs dealing with senior sex and dating. 

Pioneer Emergency: Top Senior Related Blogs -- the only sexuality blog on this list (find it under "Health and Fitness"). Pioneer is offering a special prize to one of our readers: three free months of  Pioneer's Medical Alarm System, which might be just the security that you or your loved one needs to summon medical attention with just the click of a pendant worn around the neck. I'll give this prize to the first reader who contacts me and tells me why this prize would be valuable to you.

This blog is also on many blog rolls and resource lists, and I thank all of you for supporting what we do here. I'm thrilled that this blog has been embraced as a resource by such diverse communities. I applaud you for your acceptance of this topic that we just starting talking out loud about five years ago. I welcome your comments. I hope you'll tell others what we're doing here.

As I approach publication of Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex, I promise to keep the lively discussion going!

(Note that this blog can be accessed via http://betterthanieverexpected.blogspot.com/ and via the easier-to-remember http://www.nakedatourage.com/. It's the same blog.)