Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sex After Grief: Do you have a story?




Sex is complicated enough when it’s easy — but when we’re in grief, it’s especially mysterious and confusing. How do we nurture ourselves as sexual beings when we’re grieving the death of a partner? Why does taking care of ourselves sexually even matter when we’d rather hide under the covers and wail? What do we do with those sexual feelings that arise despite our misery? How do we know when it’s time to open ourselves to a new sexual relationship, whether it’s a friend with benefits or a new love connection?

I am thrilled to tell you that I'm writing a new book: Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality After Loss of Your Beloved. I will draw on my own experiences as a widow since 2008. I’ll share my own raw grief journey, my sexual reawakening (and the many stumbles along the way), my attempts to dip my toes in the dating pool, and what I learned.

This book won’t just be about me, though. As I’ve done in all my books about senior sex, I’ll include excerpts from other people’s personal stories, which will help readers see that we who have grieved have much in common, yet also much that’s different. There’s no right or wrong method or timeline for bringing our sexuality back to into our lives, whether it’s with our own hands, a well-placed vibrator, a hook-up, a new companion, or any combination.  

This is where you come in. If you have experienced the grief of your partner's death, how did you get sexual again? What was the hardest thing about opening yourself to sex with a new partner? What lessons did you learn about sex and grief that you'd be willing to share with others? What worked for you? What didn't work? What did you learn along the way? 

Additionally, I could use your experiences and perspective in these areas:

  • Your first partnered sex after/during grief, what it meant to you then, what it means to you now
  • Insecurity about sex with a new person
  • How do you know when you're ready?
  • Sex after grief when you're poly
  • Friend with benefits
  • Paying for sex
  • Binge sex
  • Getting sexual in stages
  • Funny story (it's okay to laugh)
  • Lessons from grief counselors
  • Myths about sex and grief: which ones seem wrong or harmful now?
  • Dealing with people who judge or shame you for your choices
  • Dating while grieving
  • What you wish someone had told you 
  • Advice for a non-griever wanting to date someone in grief
  • Advice and reflections for other grievers

There are more topic areas I'll ask for later. I'll update the list through the next month or two.

If you'd like to contribute your wisdom or your story, please email me at this link with the subject "My grief story." If you prefer, you may post your comment here instead of emailing -- just realize that by posting, you are giving me permission to use excerpts from your comment.

Whether you post or email, I won't divulge your name or identifying details in excerpts that I use. You'll be anonymous in the book. Exception: If you're a grief counselor, therapist, book author, grief support leader, sex educator, etc. who would like to be quoted with your name, specify that.

People of all genders, all sexual orientations, all relationship styles are invited to contribute. Notice that I haven't said that you need to be age 50+. Sex after Grief will be primarily, but not exclusively, for our 50 to 80+ age group. Whether you're older or younger than 50 and you struggled with death, bereavement, and regaining your sexuality, your story is welcome.

Thank you so much for getting involved and helping other people who share the journey we never wanted to take. I hope to hear from you.





Thursday, November 08, 2018

"Sex after 65" in the news



11/8/2018: I'm bringing this post from 5/29/18 to the top again because I hope you'll comment. I'm especially interested to know how you would interpret the question, "Are you currently sexually active?" if  a researcher asked you. (Please answer by posting a comment.)

I'm often complaining that little is known about our age group's sexual behavior and beliefs because no one asks us. So I was delighted to learn that researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed 1,002 people between 65 and 80 about their sex lives as part of the National Poll on Healthy Aging 2018. The report, titled "Sex after 65. Health, gender differences, and lack of communication," was released on May 3, 2018.

Here are some of the findings:
  • 40 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 80 are sexually active.
  • 54 percent of those with a partner are sexually active.
  • Nearly 2/3 of older adults say they’re interested in sex.
  • More than 50% say sex is important to their quality of life.
  • 73 percent said they are satisfied with their current sex life.
  • 18 percent of older men and 3 percent of older women say they’ve taken medications or supplements to improve sexual function in the past two years.
  • Only 17 percent of older adults said they have talked with their doctor or other health care provider about sexual health in the past two years.
  • Those between the ages of 65 and 70 were nearly twice as likely as those in their late 70s to be sexually active.
  • 50% of men but just 12 percent of women aged 65 to 80 said they were extremely or very interested in sex.

As I read this, I kept asking myself how they defined sex or sexually active or sex lives. Did sex with a vibrator, a partner's hand or mouth, or one's own hand count as sexually active or having a sex life? (I say yes.)  I asked Erica Solway, Ph.D., co-associate director of the poll, who told me,

We did not define sex because we wanted the response to be based on the individual’s definition of what constitutes sex (or their sex life or being sexually active) from their own perspective. We felt this was important, but it does mean that we do not have information on what activities people were referring to when they reported they were or were not sexually active. It’s possible that two people engaged in the same activities may have responded to the questions differently based on their personal definition.

I agree that our own definition of what constitutes sex is important in a study like this -- I applaud this, in fact. But I would have liked that clearer in the poll questions. For example, "Are you currently sexually active?" could have been worded, "Do you engage in sexual activity?" That may sound almost the same, but I have a hunch that many people would interpret the first question as "Do you have sex with a partner?" and the second as "Do you have sex, either with a partner or with yourself?" Asking the question differently would have raised the percentage of people who answered yes to that question, seems to me.
May, Graphic 1
What do you think, readers? Am I off base? How would you interpret the question, "Are you currently sexually active?" (Please answer in the comments section.)

The wording of the questions is a minor quibble, though, because I understand that the poll was multiple-choice, not essay questions, and answered online, not via an interview. In the end, I'm happy that someone's asking.

This report was all over the news. Here are some of the headlines:
As glad as I was to see this study in the news, I couldn't help wondering why the [younger] public is so surprised that we seniors have sex on our minds and in our beds. Why would we give up something so pleasurable? Do they expect that on some predetermined birthday, we'll just say, "Sex? Been there, done that, moving on. Now help me blow out all these candles."

Thank you, University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, for conducting the study, and AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center, for sponsoring it. Let's keep talking.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Sleek and Ergonomic: Le Wand Petite review

Sleek, handsome, comfortable, strong, and easy to hold. You'd think I was describing my latest man crush, but -- no surprise, right? -- it's a vibrator that has me sighing: the shiny purple Le Wand Petite. It also comes in a lovely rose gold. It happened that both The Smitten Kitten and Le Wand were eager for my opinion, and independently, they each sent me Le Wand Petite. Lucky me -- I have both colors!

Le Wand Petite is stylish looking and refreshingly ergonomic. Despite its 10-inch length and fairly large head, the handle tapers to under 2 inches in diameter, making it easy for arthritic hands to hold. Nice for short arms, too! And it's light. Very light. Just under 8 ounces.

Like many wand vibrators, you'll feel some light vibrations through the handle, but the high-power vibrations stay focused in the comfortable, silicone head. The neck is somewhat flexible, but only a fraction of an inch unless you press hard.

Le Wand Petite works delightfully as a solo clitoral vibrator, and the slim wand and long handle also make it easy to give yourself clitoral stimulation during partner sex. A penis can also enjoy the stimulation -- this isn't a gendered vibrator.

Magic Wand, Le Wand, Touch
But is it "petite" as the name claims? Compared to the original Le Wand (I'll add my review of that one soon) or the Magic Wand -- yes. Compared to the vibrators that usually accompany me on my travels, like the We-Vibe Touch -- no. However, it's so slim and light that it's easy to pack and carry. 

It's USB rechargeable and shower friendly, and comes with a zipped travel/storage pouch. The raised buttons are easy to locate by touch without looking, though you'll have to memorize which is "+" and which is "-" if you don't want to stop the action.

Despite the claims of "10 rumbly vibration speeds and 6 vibration patterns," I wouldn't call the higher speeds "rumbly." The low speeds are rumbly, but get buzzier as the intensity increases. Is it as strong as my 75-year-old body likes? It's not a Magic Wand or a Sybian, but it doesn't claim to be, and it's surprisingly powerful for a vibrator that weighs less than 8 ounces. If you want strong but don't require turbo power, you'll be happy.

Full disclosure: So this happened. After several happy experiences with each Le Wand Petite, the purple one stopped turning on. It was fully charged, but would make just a quick buzz, then turn off and stay off. The marvelous Le Wand people jumped to give suggestions and offer a replacement, saying this was not a problem others had reported. Then a few days later, I turned it on, same problem, but after I wiggled the head (because... why not?), it turned on and stayed on. I've tested the off/on again, with no problems. I didn't want to post a review without mentioning this, but I'm confident that it was a quirky glitch that righted itself. If you do have problems, Le Wand has a one-year warranty.

Many thanks to The Smitten Kitten and Le Wand for providing me with Le Wand Petite in return for an honest review.