Thursday, April 29, 2010

Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex

Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex is the title of my new book that will be published by Seal Press a year from now, Spring 2011. If you've been following this blog, you've been reading about Naked at Our Age for a while as I solicited interviews from you and posted information and resources that I didn't want to make you wait for. The subtitle, though, is brand new, just finalized today. I love it -- do you?

Unless you're an author yourself, you have no idea what goes into choosing the title of a book. Many publishers just decide on their own what to title a book, sometimes without even consulting the author until it's a done deal. Seal Press, though, is an author's dream of mutual respect and collaboration, and I love working with them. My earlier book, Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, was published by Seal, and they were a delight to work with, from start to finish.

We've been batting around subtitle ideas for a while, suggesting, rejecting, and tweaking -- and today we settled on the title that truly describes what's in this book.

Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex is a straightforward guide to the realities of senior sex -- thanks to the stories of more than a hundred seniors and elders (maybe you were one of them!) who candidly described their sex lives and relationshps -- with tips from about 30 experts for overcoming challenges and setbacks. I can't wait to share it with you!

I'm talking as if it's all written and just awaiting publication -- but it's not! I'm still writing it... and I'd better get back to that part of the job now! I just couldn't wait to share my excitement about the title. I'd love to hear your reponses.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What I learned at the Museum of Sex, NYC

I was the oldest visitor perusing the exhibits at the Museum of Sex in New York City last Monday. At least I think so, but one of the unspoken rules of etiquette is that you stare at the exhibits, not at the other visitors.

I visit this amazing museum every year when I go to NY. The regular collection is worth seeing each time -- for example, a history of condoms exhibit which includes old condom vending machines and a dress made of condoms (rejected during factory testing, not used, thank you for asking), among many other sights.

The top floor always has a new exhibit. This time, it was The Sex Lives of Animals. Don't scoff -- this was fascinating! I learned that some animals masturbate (females as well as males, and not just mammals), have same-sex relationships, and have startling sex habits and attributes. But that was just the warm-up, so to speak. Ready for some startling facts about the animal kingdom?

For example, did you know that the male bed bug (pictured with erection here) stabs his penis into the female's abdomen, releasing semen into her blood stream?  

Or that the penis of the Argentine lake duck measures 16.7 inches (42.5 cm)? That's it here, hanging down from the duck and, on the right, curled up. I didn't read how the female is built.

If you get the chance, visit this museum. Give a shout here about what you learn. Oh, there's a senior discount.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Erectile Dysfunction: Michael Castleman Talks to Women

Update note: I first posted this interview in June 2007. I have so many new readers now that I wanted to bring it to the forefront, because it's such an important issue for both men and women. Often men feel they can't talk about ED with their partners. Women tell me their men seem to emotionally disappear and avoid sexual activity and discussion. Michael Castleman helps all of us understand what's going on. -- Joan

In a previous post, I interviewed Michael Castleman, a sex educator, counselor and journalist specializing in men's sexuality to answer some questions for men about erectile dysfunction. In this part of the interview, Castleman talks directly to women:

Q: What don't women understand about erectile dysfunction (ED)?

MC: Like men, few women understand the difference between true ED and erection dissatisfaction. [See Erectile Dysfunction: Michael Castleman Talks to Men for explanation of the difference.] Women also don't really appreciate how men FEEL when EDis or ED develop. It's sort of like how women feel when they lose a breast to cancer. You're still alive, but you feel diminished. A part of your body you took for granted isn't there anymore, or in the case of men, doesn't work like it used to. And this isn't just any part of the body. It's a body part that in a profound way DEFINES you as a man or woman. For women, loss of a breast raises issues like: Am I still attractive? Am I still sexual? Can I still please a man sexually? Men with ED and EDis wrestle with similar issues.

Beyond this, men have lived their whole lives pretty much taking their penises for granted: See a sexy woman, get hard. See porn, get hard. Think a sexual thought, get hard. Then all of a sudden--and in many men this happens pretty suddenly--they're in a situation where they expect to have to rearrange their underwear to accommodate some swelling down there, and then....nothing. Nothing happens.

Many don't understand what's happening to them or why. But even those who do, me for example, feel surprised, upset, disappointed, depressed. Change is stressful. But when the changes concern the penis, well, men get seriously freaked out.

Now women often (and rightly) believe that men are too focused on the penis. That's often true. It takes most young men years (sometimes decades) to leave penis-centric sex behind and understand the erotic value and pleasure of whole-body sensuality, a lovestyle more based on whole-body massage than on just sticking it in somewhere. Men who never get there, men who continue to view sex as penis-centered, when their penis stops behaving as they expect, they often think it's the end of sex, that they're over the sexual hill, that it's all over. In my experience as a sex counselor and writer, few women appreciate how diminished men feel as they get used to EDis... if they ever adjust.

Q: Why can't men express these concerns?

MC: Many reasons. In general, men tend to be less emotionally articulate than women. Men are socialized to be the "strong silent type," to keep a "stiff upper lip," to "grin and bear it." In other words, to deny what they're feeling and just go on. As a result, men get less practice than women discussing their emotions, and when they do, they're less skilled than women. Now some women believe that men don't HAVE emotions because they don't discuss them. Wrong. Men feel things just as deeply as women. They just are less likely to discuss them, and if they do, they're less likely to be able to really articulate how they feel.

The two genders have different natural histories of sex problems. With the exception of vaginal dryness, which is easily mitigated with lubricants, most women have most of their sex problems/issues when they're young. Young women wrestle with the mixed messages that they should be sexy but not trampy, that they should want love/sex, but not want sex "too" much, not be "too" easy. But how easy is too easy? Young women also have issues with orgasm. Many don't have them and have to learn how to release orgasms.

Meanwhile, few young men have sex problems--other than coaxing women in to bed. The young penis works just fine, thank you very much. Maybe the guy comes too soon (this is the #1 sex problem of young men), but only rarely do young men have problems with erection. Then they hit 45 or 50 and suddenly, the erections they took for granted their entire lives start to fail them. They freak. It's almost unthinkable. Many Americans found themselves speechless after Sept. 11. It was so horrible, unimaginable. Men don't discuss their ED or EDis in part because it's unimaginable--then it happens and they're speechless.

To many men, having reliable erections is a significant part of what defines them as men. If they have problems in the erection department, some fear that the women in their lives will view them as less than real men. So why talk about it? Why invite her to rub his nose in the fact that he's less of a man?

Q: When should a couple seek counseling?

There's no hard-and-fast rule on this. But when a problem festers, when you find yourselves having the same conflict over and over again, when there seems to be no way out, no resolution, basically, when you feel stuck, that's when to consider counseling.

Now every sex problem is also a relationship problem and visa versa. If the main issue is power/control/decision making or conflict resolution, then a couples counselor is probably the place to start. But if they main problem is sexual--a desire difference, orgasm issues for the woman, erection issues for the man--then I'd start with a sex therapist.

Personally, I'm a fan of sex therapy. This is not self-serving because I am not a sex therapist. But studies show that two-thirds of couples who consult sex therapists report significant benefit within 6 months. That's pretty good. Men with ED or EDis need to reframe their thinking about sex. They need to get away from porn-inspired sex and explore whole-body sensuality. This is often unfamiliar to men. They often fight it. So going back to a therapist week after week can help keep them on the path to self-discovery.

To find a sex therapist, visit the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). Click the map of the U.S. and Canada, and get a list of all the AASECT-certified sex therapists in your state or province.

Q: What if the man won't go?

The woman should go by herself. This is not as good as the couple going. But going solo gives the woman a place to vent. It may equip her with new coping skills that can help deal with the couple's issues. And she may be referred to some written material, e.g. my book and others like it, that she can litter around the house and hope he picks up and checks out.

Great Sex
Michael Castleman, M.A., is the author of twelve books, including Great Sex: The Man's Guide to the Secrets of Whole-Body Sensuality and Sexual Solutions: For Men and the Women Who Love Them. From 1991-95, he answered the sex questions submitted to the Playboy Advisor. Visit his website about sex after midlife,

Saturday, April 10, 2010

G-Swirl: If you can get it open!

I'm no vibrator novice, and I've opened many a toy to insert batteries. I have never had the trouble I did with the G-Swirl.

I do understand how this is supposed to work. I read the directions. You squeeze the indentations, you hear a click from each side, and the top pops off. I reviewed a similar toy -- the G-Twist -- and had no problem popping its cap. As you see from the photo on my review of the G-Twist, I could do it even with one hand.

But I couldn't open my purple G-Swirl with one hand, two hands, or even a jar opener. There were no clicks, nothing loosened.

Thank goodness, the good folks at Good Vibrations agreed that my product must be defective. They quickly replaced it with a new G-Swirl -- this one bubblegum pink.

Hurray, this one opened. But it still took both hands squeezing the indentations (I couldn't photograph that endeavor because I had no hand left to work the camera). Even with both hands, it took several tries.

For that reason alone, I hesitate to recommend the G-Swirl to women my age who may have arthritic or weak wrists. I type all day and lift weights, so you'd think I'd have found this task easier. If you're young -- maybe you wring diapers on a regular basis or build houses-- and have the hand strength, maybe it won't be an issue.

Good Vibrations, to their credit, sprang into action. They wrote me, "We put up a video on Youtube about changing the batteries of the G-Swirl here -- while filming it we definitely saw how tricky it can be for a first time user. ." (That's okay, I'm not bristling at the "first time user reference.) You'll notice that even in the demo, she has to use both hands.

I apologize for taking this long to get past my tale of trying to open the cap to arrive at my actual review of the G-Swirl in operation. I'm happy to tell you that this internal vibrator is designed very well. The silicone is velvety smooth and just soft enough to give a little. The shape conforms to the vagina, with the curved bulb at the end just right for g-spotting.

The size starts small at the tip and increases with each new ridge, so you can decide how deep and full you want it. Holding the G-Swirl is comfortable, and the flared ridge is a good place to rest your hand. I read another review call it "hands-free," but I didn't find that to be true for me.

The vibrations are controlled by a daisy-shaped dial -- you dial until you find the intensity (light to medium-strong) you want. I didn't love that if you dial past the highest intensity, it decreases again, but I got used to making sure I didn't do that.
Thank you, Good Vibrations, for sending me the G-Swirl.

Read all my vibrator reviews here. There are many, so click "older posts when you've scrolled to the bottom.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Fairy Wands make turbo magic!

Picture a fairy wand vibrator in pink and white. What would you expect from it? A whisper-light touch like gossamer wings? Barely the tickle of an eyelash?

You would be so wrong! Whoever named the Fairy Wand vibrators had a sense of humor, because these are turbo vibrators, monster strong, noisy, and strong (did I say that already?). My thanks to Eden Fantasys for the opportunity to review these fabulous products.

I tested two -- the Fairy Mini-Wand and the Pocket Fairy. Both are amazing and far stronger than their cute names and colors would suggest.

 Fairy Mini-Wand:

The Mini isn't all that miniature, and it's maxi in intensity. I swear the vibrations were stronger than the Hitachi, and it's smaller and lighter, easier to hold. I do prefer the softer ball of the Hitachi head -- the Fairy Mini is a harder surface. Like the Hitachi, it has to be plugged in. (That's a good thing -- the plug-in types are usually much stronger than those with batteries.) The vibrations dial from medium to high to OhMyGod. Though you know I like strong intensity, I didn't have to dial this one all the way up. Yeah, that surprised me, too!

The head is smaller than the Hitachi -- 1-3/4" diameter instead of 2-1/2" so for more power you have a smaller surface, making it easier to use an insertable vibrator (or a non-vibrating dildo or dilator) at the same time, if that's what you like. The two won't have to battle over real estate or clack against each other.

The Mini comes with a pink storage bag.

This little dear will go traveling with me. It's tiny -- 5-3/4" long, just 1 inch in diameter -- light (just 5.5 oz!), quiet, and strong. I could hardly believe the vibrations coming out of what looks like a doll's vibrator! It's rechargeable, so once you have it charged, no need to fuss with a cord. It's small enough to fit in a purse, should you need to be prepared for pleasure at all times.

It comes with a little bracelet so you don't lose your grip when it tries to get away from you or becomes slick and hard to hold onto from lube . 

If you're trying to choose between these two, and you don't need to carry your pleasure object in your pocket, choose the Mini. The Pocket, while handy and intense, has such a tiny head that the vibrations feel sharply focused on a pinpoint spot, which takes a little more getting used to.  

How did I go so long without knowing about the Fairy Wands? Wow. Again, my thanks to EdenFantasys.

Pocket fairy - Massagers - EdenFantasys