Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lubricants for the fun of friction

I recommend sex educator Corey Silverberg's "Lubricants That Changed the World: Reviews and Recommendations of Personal Lubricants for Sex," an updated look at a selection of modern lubricants formulated specifically for sex play.

As we age, the right lubricant is the difference between pain and pleasure for both partner sex and solo sex. These differ widely by feel (how much slickness, whether it feels natural, for example) and duration (how well it lasts before getting dry or tacky), so it's good to start with information like Corey's.

Your neighborhood drugstore offers just a few of the dozens of brands available, so don't limit yourself. If there's a woman-friendly sex shop near you, plan to hang out and, one at a time, rub a drop of a few different lubes on your hand (no, no fair to try take the tester bottle to the bathroom with you) and see what you like. If taste is important, you can, uh, lick your hand.

If you're not sure what you'd like and there's no convenient place to find out, try buying small samples of a few different types or a sample pack, available from many online sex shops such as Good Vibrations. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Not only bone dry, but I have shrunk"

My blog posts are occasionally republished with my permission on and*. I thought you'd be interested in a reader question on Eldr and my response:
Have any women readers had this problem? All sorts of hormonal treatments and creams and oils have failed. I am not only bone dry, but I have shrunk. Just when Viagra has done wonders for my husband, I am unavailable. I want so badly to get back what we used to have and be his partner again. We have tried alternative acts, but it just isn't the same. He seems to feel that affection should lead to sex, so we are losing the intimacy we used to have. There are all kinds of dildos and vibrators for women. Are there any fake receptacles for men that we could use? I could use suggestions and advice. My next step is to ignore my embarrasment and try to ask at a "toy" shop.
Thank you for posting these questions -- I know other women are hungry to know the answers, too.

You related many things you tried to resolve the dryness and shrinking (vaginal atrophy), but you did NOT say whether you consulted your physician. This should be your first step -- get the hormone tests, find out what's going on. If you don't want to go on full-out HRT, you might want to use an estrogen ring which is inserted in the vagina.

You definitely want to use a lubricant -- I advise you to try sample sizes of several types until you find one with the degree of slickness and comfort that enhances your pleasure. My personal favorite is Liquid Silk, available from A Woman's Touch, which is also a fabulous educational resource, and even from Amazon.

My book, Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, offers a number of self-help strategies for just the kinds of problems you relate, and my new book (in progress!) will offer more.
As for whether there are "fake receptacles for men," yes. They're called "penis sleeves" and you can find a varied selection at Good Vibrations.

I've mentioned two of several woman-friendly sex shops that offer trustworthy educational resources as well as sex toys, lubricants, and other products that solve many of the problems we face at our age. Both Good Vibrations and A Woman's Touch have both brick-and-mortar and online stores staffed with people who know how to advise us (at all ages) and care about our comfort and pleasure. (No sleaze, dark corners, or sticky floors, in case that's what you pictured when you thought "toy shop.")

*October 2009 update: It is with great regret that I have asked to remove all my content. If you've been there lately, you'll see the comments have been overrun by spam. Unfortunately, this high-quality publication and website fell victim to inadequate funding, and although past content remains, the site isn't being maintained. I hope ELDR readers will continue to come here for news and views about sex & aging.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Straight Woman Loves Gay Romance

I was surprised and delighted to find Best Gay Romance 2009, ed. Richard Labonté, Cleis Press , an absolute pleasure to read, and more stimulating to me – a straight woman – than most heterosexual erotica.

Partly it’s the romance aspect – the stories and characters are gentle, sweet, and very sexy – and because the whole book is men, men, men. Each story has at least two sexy, loving men who get aroused and naked together, which for me was delicious, fantasy voyeurism.

Each story even offers an interesting plot -- not just a rush to the genitals -- and non-stereotypical characters. Several are even our age, though most are young. The stories are tender and erotic without being the least bit raw, rough, or sleazy. I lapped it up (so to speak).

As my readers know, I lost my beloved husband last summer. I’ve been sexually hibernating since then (while continuing to think and write about sex, as you know). Believe it or not, Best Gay Romance got my sparks sparking again, at least within the cocoon of fantasy.

I wrote to Richard Labonté, editor of the series, about this, and he wrote back:

I’m so happy to hear that the collection helped get your "juices flowing." I’m not surprised, though - in my A Different Light days (I helped open this still-extant gay bookstore in Los Angeles in 1979), I sold a lot of gay male romances, especially early Alyson titles (way before the Best Gay Romance days) to straight women. I particularly recall a group of six or so women, age range early 30s to late 40s I’m guessing, who would come into the original ADL store in Los Angeles in the '80s every two months or so and buy everything new since their last visit, often four or five books each, not always the same titles (I’m sure they also shared). Like you, they appreciated the erotic (but not too erotic) male content.

Read more of my sex and/or aging book reviews and author interviews here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine's Day without Robert

My first Valentine's Day since Robert died seemed to be going unexpectedly well -- a deep and stimulating phone conversation with a close friend, time alone reading and dancing in my exercise room, dinner out with a dear and delightful woman pal, excitement about feeling my life force emerging strongly.

Then I came home. Alone. Lit a candle. And started to cry.

I remembered Robert lighting a candle in the same candleholder I was using. I saw his dear hand lighting it, the hand that would touch me soon. I heard his soft voice, saw his smile. I wrote in my journal memories of seven years of Valentine's Days, especially the languid afternoons making love as daylight turned to evening and to night. Finally, even the candle would burn down, flicker, and go out as we held each other and continued to kiss in the dark.

Tears streaming, voice wailing, I put down my journal and picked up a book of poetry, American Primitive by Mary Oliver. A friend, Uta, had given it to me on Robert's birthday, 4-1/2 months after he died, with this inscription:

Dear Joanie,
She is one of Robert's favorite contemporary poets.
You are very special to me and when you read in this little book, Robert will be with you. He loves you very much.

I read the book as if for the first time, nature imagery delighting me, then phrases like "loss leans like a broken tree" spearing my heart.

I had to put down the book when I read this:

...Now you are dead too, and I, no longer young,
know what a kiss is worth.

(photos by Robert's son Mitch Rice)

Best Sex Writing 2009: book review

Two new books by Cleis Press have enthralled me lately, and they couldn’t be more different, as sex books go. One is nonfiction, literary in a pop culture kind of way, and the other is gay male romantic erotica. I love both books. I’ll review the first here, and the other in a separate post.

Best Sex Writing 2009, ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel, selected and introduced by Brian Alexander: This nonfiction anthology presents lively, intriguing essays and memoirs from professional journalists, culture critics, bloggers, and sex workers. Who can resist, for example, essays titled “Is Cybersex Cheating,” “Sex Dolls for the Twenty-First Century,” "Oldest Profession 2.0," and “Penises I Have Known”? I had a great time investigating the meaning of “silver-balling” and the background of “Dutch wives,” and laughing my way through a college boy's dilemma as he fumbled to stay hard to lose his virginity with an ex-girlfriend.

I find the cover photo, however, misleading in its eroticism: a mostly-naked woman’s third finger disappearing into the shadow between her parted legs. Finding this book in a bookstore, you’d expect it to be erotica, but it isn’t. I’d call it a collection of contemporary journalism and personal essays. Of course your thoughts may turn erotic – depending on what rings your bell, from bathroom sex, doll descriptions, penis comparisons, or church-sanctified quickies (“absolutely okay with God”).

I always look forward to this annual anthology. As reviewer Kevin Killian said, it’s "like a whole issue of The New Yorker if The New Yorker gave any attention to sex." Thank you, Cleis Press!

Read more of my sex and/or aging book reviews and author interviews here.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Six Months after Robert's Death

I've written about losing Robert to multiple myeloma last August and taken you with me on many of my steps forward. I return today, six months after Robert's death, to check in with you again. You have been marvelous, posting comments here and emailing me privately with your warm messages and your stories.

If you're a new blog reader, I'll update you briefly. Yes, this blog is -- almost all of the time -- about sex and aging. The reason I wrote Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty and started this blog was because I found great love in later life -- I was 57 and Robert was 64 when we met. My work changed from writing about health & fitness to writing and speaking about sex after 60. I decided to face full-on and speak out loud against our society's stereotype of older-age sex/love/dating as unseemly and icky.

Robert and I had seven years together from first kiss to last and I still feel him with me, especially when I teach my line dance class, where we met and where we continued to dance.

I'm dedicating whatever it takes to the process of grieving and moving through grief. Here are some of the tools and helpers I've found since I last wrote Discoveries Helping Me Move Through Grief three months ago. In case this helps you or lets you help someone else, I share them with you:

I've learned plenty from the counselors from both Hospice (Rick Hobbs) and Kaiser (Connie Kellogg) and although sometimes I entered their quiet rooms thinking I'd never stop crying, they accepted me with compassion and skillfully taught me ways to cope.

I took an amazing full-day workshop from Joe Hanson, author of Soaring Into Acceptance (available from the author). Among many gifts of that day, I was able to change my one-sentence "story" from "I lost the love of my life, and my life is and will be empty without him," to "I found the love of my life and learned how to experience love fully, and I take this with me on my path." (Joe will be repeating this valuable workshop, "The Power of Acceptance," on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009, in Larkspur, CA, near San Francisco. I heartily recommend it.)

I'm in a Hospice spousal bereavement group. The best part is getting to know other people who experienced the same kind of loss at roughly the same time. Because of the confidentiality of the group, I can't disclose much about it, except that it's helping me move forward. I recommend taking advantage of everything Hospice has to offer.

I've continued to reach out to loved ones and to new friends and welcome them into my heart. Being close to people who understand me balances my need for a lot of solitude. Extending help to others who need it balances the help I need to accept from others.

Each month gets a little easier.

Yes, I'll write that next book. Writing still brings me joy, and I'm no less committed to the mission I've established here. For now, I'll continue to indulge in short spurts of writing and when I'm ready, I'll take on the book I've been planning for more than a year.

Thank you for your compassion and confidences. Keep those comments and emails coming, even if I'm not as quick to answer as you came to expect.