Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Staying Sexy without a Partner

The things that stop you having sex with age are the same as those that stop you riding a bicycle (bad health, thinking it looks silly, no bicycle). . . . The important thing is never drop sex for any long period—keep yourself going solo if you don’t for the time being have a partner. — Alex Comfort in The Joy of Sex

Juicy is an Attitude

Haven’t you noticed that when you’re getting plenty of sex, people are attracted to you as if you were oozing irresistible come-hithers, while when you’re desperate for sex or a relationship, you might as well be wearing a sign that says, “I have a stinky, fatal disease—stay far away”?

Being sexually juicy doesn’t depend on the flow of our vaginal secretions or the presence of a partner in our life but on physical and emotional well-being, mental attitude, and love of sensuality.

We can feel and look sexy and attractive, whether we’re in a relationship or not. Looking good has nothing to do with whether our thighs are tight or dimply, our breasts perky or floppy, our face unlined or road-mapped. Any partner who would judge us this way would be much too superficial for a relationship at this stage of our lives, anyway. Sexiness is how we feel about ourselves and how we present ourselves to the world, with or without a partner.

We are lively and sexy when we live our lives fully, doing the activities that keep us energetic, creative, and happy whether we’re accompanied by a lover or not. The more we strut our beautiful stuff with confidence, the more others are attracted to us.

Sexually Seasoned Women Speak about Solo Sex
When I was single and my grown son was out of the house, I discovered sex with myself in a wonderful way. I had a mad, passionate, love affair with myself. I got fabulous lingerie and bought myself champagne. It was just me and a vibrator. Some days, nobody else can do it like you. (Monica, 60)

I left my last relationship about twelve years ago and wanted to be a hermit. I continued to be sexual with myself and got pretty wonderful results with that method. When I felt sexual, I made love to myself, just like I comforted myself as a kid. Now I’m turned on all the time. (Claire, 66)

I was maybe sixty-five before I ever did it. I was talking with a girlfriend who was between relationships, and she said she masturbated. I never even thought of such a thing. My first time, I knew just where to go. I tried it with the jets in the hot tub, and I found the right spot. It was the best sex I ever had! (Jaime, 73)

Sometimes I masturbate—what else can you do? It’s better than going out and picking up people. My drive is still strong. (Matilda, 78)

— Excerpted from Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex after Sixty by Joan Price

Sex: "natural fountain of youth"

Eric Plasker, D.C., author of The 100 Year Lifestyle (Adams Media; 2007), says that sexual activity is a vital part of health and happiness at any age. Americans are living longer than ever before, and Dr. Plasker offers three reasons why an active sexual life can help people live longer:

Endorphins on Top: Orgasms release a rush of hormones for college coeds and seasoned lovers alike, and endorphins are one of the cocktail's main ingredients. Similar in chemical structure to morphine, endorphins can relieve pain, control the body's response to stress, and even improve mood and alleviate depression. Continuing copulation can curb the blues for seniors, who suffer from depression more than any other segment of the population.

Healthy Loving: Rife with health and other anti-aging benefits, sex is pretty close to a natural fountain of youth. Regular intercourse can cut the chance of a heart attack or stroke by up to half, increase antibodies that boost the immune system, improve bladder control and regulate intestinal contractions, release minerals that prevent tooth decay, sharpen the sense of smell and reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Staying sexually active can increase both the length and quality of life.

Fitness Factor: Easier than running a marathon and more enjoyable than water aerobics, intimate activity is fantastic exercise for the elderly. Just being aroused can heighten heart rates and more than double a person's pulse. Burned calories and tightened abs are well known side effects of sex. But indulging the libido can also improve posture and increase testosterone production, which strengthens bones and muscles. Plus, with the right moves this is one exercise that can go easy on arthritic joints.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Are religion and sexuality compatible?

Are religion and sexuality compatible? They are for Susan, age 43, who recently wrote me about her sexual “discoveries and awakenings” and the role of religion in her life:

Although I am one of the 40-somethings, I am thoroughly enjoying your book. Even at 43, I have discovered joys of sex with my husband that I never dreamed of before! Your book is inspiring me to look beyond my own stretch marks and dimpled backside and focus on the positive. My husband has always complimented me on how I look, but now that I am more experienced and more excited about the joys I am discovering, he now thinks I'm really sensual!

We attend a class at our church dealing with marriage, and our pastor's lectures on marital sex are also sparking my interest once again. My husband is thrilled, as am I!

I am finding it sad that I cannot talk about my discoveries and awakenings with anybody else. It seems that our culture has made women believe that sex is just for men, that women are tired of it, and they just don't want to be bothered by it any longer. Our pastor has made it clear that sex is meant for pleasure for both men and women. But the women I know would really balk at the idea that they can truly enjoy sex.

I have only one friend (who, by the way, is a Bible study leader) who comes right out and says that married women should be the sexiest women of all, and that we should relish, cherish, and grow our sexual relationship as a gift from the Lord. I hope that more women discover this.

The teeny-bopper twigs that pass for sexy in the media are ridiculous. I am so much more wise, experienced, and fulfilled now than I ever have been.

Thank you for your book. It is as affirming to me as I know it is to the target audience.

Susan, what a wonderful message! I am thrilled that you are enjoying my book so much, and I love your assertion that sex and deep religious conviction can be completely compatible. We hear so much about the role of religion in controlling women’s sexual expression that it is powerful and refreshing to read your viewpoint and that of your Bible-study-leader friend.

For my readers: Do your religious beliefs and background support or battle your sexuality? I’d love to hear from you.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sex and Intimacy after Cancer

If you or your partner has been diagnosed with cancer, what part does sexuality play in your quality of life? How will cancer treatment impact your sexuality -- physically and emotionally? How do you cope with changes in function, libido, body image, and pain? How can you maintain intimacy in the face of these challenges?

“Sexuality is all about who you are as a man or a woman,” says Sage Bolte, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, a renowned authority on sex and intimacy after cancer and an oncology counselor at Life with Cancer®, an Inova Health System service in northern Virginia. “It’s a critical part of your quality of life.” Sex and intimacy are key ways to affirm, “I’m alive, I’m human,” and of getting back what was important to you before cancer.

On March 11, 2008, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society presented a teleconference with Bolte for 1,400 listeners. It was superb. Fortunately, the teleconference will be available as a transcript and MP3 recording sometime in April 2008 at

Forty to 100 percent of people with cancer will experience some form of change in sexual function, says Bolte, which can impact willingness to engage in sexual activity. However, she assures us, “Patience and techniques can help you regain a sense of sexual self and confidence.”

Although Bolte’s message was targeted at the special challenges of cancer, all of her suggestions also apply to living with any chronic or life-threatening illness, as well as the sexual challenges of aging itself. Here are some of her techniques for coping with specific problems:

Vaginal dryness and discomfort: Apply 100% vitamin E oil to the vaginal tissues and clitoris on a regular basis after showering, and use a water-based lubricant as needed during sex. Talk to your doctor about whether an estrogen ring or testosterone patch would be appropriate to regain moisture and restore elasticity of the vagina.

Erectile dysfunction: Tell your physician about this problem and have him/her look at all your medications. Have your testosterone levels checked. If you’re having a harder time maintaining an erection, try finding the positions that is most stimulating for you. Help your partner reach orgasm before intercourse. Devices for men that may help include penile pump; penile injections, suppositories, penile implant, penile rings. But if you’re on blood thinner or have low platelets, you need to consult with your physician before using any of these devices, because they might put you at risk. Viagra and similar medications are not recommended for men who have heart concerns or are taking blood pressure medications.

Pain and fatigue: After cancer treatment, the time of day that’s right for sex might change. If you’re too exhausted in evening, switch to morning or have a special lunch break. Take pain medication 30 to 60 minutes before activity. Get exercise, which can minimize fatigue and assist in decreasing some joint pain. “Remember that we can rest during sex,” says Bolte. “It’s not a marathon.”

Fear of rejection: Consider seeing a couples counselor or sex therapist. Often the problems of miscommunication, misinterpretation, and anxiety get in the way of your sexuality and intimacy. Work on your communication skills. (Note: I’ll be writing more on this topic in another post.)

Difficulties reconnecting with your partner: Communicate your own desires, ask for what you need, and ask your partner to communicate honestly, too. Be affectionate. Take it “slow and easy.” Take time to be together and to connect. Find other ways for both of you to have pleasure.

Redefine your expectations,” suggests Bolte. “Sometimes you can’t get back to the function you had prior to cancer, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good or pleasurable.” Focus on touch, sensation, pleasurable feelings. Use sex toys. Engage in mutual masturbation. Read fantasy to each other. Touch yourself. Massage each other and cuddle.

“Take more time to get stimulated, talk yourself into sex,” Bolte recommends. Realize that instead of the physiological response coming first and driving the emotional response, it may need to be the other way around, a “mind thing first.” Schedule your sex time – plan it, think about it, fantasize, and work yourself up to the mental excitement that will stimulate the physical excitement.

Don’t let sex feel like pressure to perform. Sometimes practice just touching without the expectation of intercourse. Re-explore alone what feels good to your body now. “Start with self-pleasuring experiences,” says Bolte. “Your body has changed since treatment. You need to be comfortable touching yourself and knowing what feels good now.”

I applaud the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for recognizing the importance of sexuality to people diagnosed with cancer and Sage Bolte for generously providing her expertise.