Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is “lesbian bed death” inevitable? Interview with Glenda Corwin, PhD

"Most of us don't know how to maintain sexual intimacy over the long term," writes Glenda Corwin, PhD, author of Sexual Intimacy for Women: A Guide for Same Sex Couples. Corwin has been practicing as an openly lesbian psychologist for more than two decades. Her book, "for women who love women and want to keep sexual passion alive in their intimate relationships," is a guide for understanding, nourishing, and re-igniting your sex drive. Dr. Corwin answers some questions about her book and long-term lovers:

Q. What led you to write this book?

One day a woman came into my office and asked me if I thought “lesbian bed death” was inevitable. After twelve years with her partner—5 of those with no sex---she slept with another woman one time. That was the end of her marriage. She was sad and mad, and wondered if it’s our lesbian destiny to become asexual. That’s when I decided to write about women who sustain long-term sexual intimacy.

Q. So what’s their secret?

Long-term lovers are very intentional. They know it’s a myth that sexual desire springs up spontaneously. They set aside time, deliberately get themselves in the mood, and push through the anxiety that comes up for so many women. Non-sexual women, on the other hand, say that planning for sex feels too awkward and contrived. They don’t plan, and they don’t have sex, either.

There’s another huge myth that older women gradually fade into sexless obscurity. I know plenty of young women who don’t have sex, and older women who love it. Research shows that our interest in sex stays constant or even increases as we get older. Our motto is “use it or lose it.” We may lose a little physical sensitivity, but emotionally, we can go deeper and last longer.

Q. Are sexual issues really any different for lesbian and straight women?

We’re all women, and when there are two of us together we may double up on some female issues. One big difference can be subtle. Most women have at least some social approval for sex in a committed, straight relationship; e.g., “Save yourself for the right man.” That approval just isn’t there for lesbian relationships, and makes us more vulnerable to shame.

Ironically, older lesbians may have some advantages over our straight sisters. Because we live longer than men, our potential partner pool is larger. Our female partners are usually less critical of physical imperfections, and more attuned to emotional connections.

Q. What’s one thing you hope women take away from your book?

That sexual intimacy is a wonderful gift for all of us, and it’s worth the effort.

Glenda Corwin, PhD, author of Sexual Intimacy for Women: A Guide for Same Sex Couples, is a clinical psychologist with over twenty-five years of providing gay-affirmative psychotherapy and workshops on sexual intimacy issues for women who partner with women. Visit her website.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

How to Talk about Sex with Your Partner

"How do you talk about sex to a partner who shuts down conversation?" A reader asked. I'm republishing this 2008 post because Yvonne Fulbright's information is vitally important for couples who need help breaking through the communications barrier.

I often hear from people having sexual problems with their partner. They may want more, less, or a different kind of quality of sex. Although sexual difficulties won't magically go away by talking about them, effective communication is a big first step.

I asked certified sex educator Yvonne K. Fulbright for communications strategies she recommends to her clients who are having difficulty resolving sexual problems. “Unless you make your wishes known, your partner is not going to change or even attempt to fill your needs,” she says. “Humans can’t read minds, so you have to try to communicate your desires in order to get what you want out of a relationship.” Here are her suggestions for bridging the communications gap:

1. Let your partner know how you feel, e.g., "I am really hurt and confused that you haven't wanted to make love for years." It's important not to attack your lover and to use "I statements" such as, “I miss having sex with you.” You cannot be faulted for how you feel, and expressing yourself this way is likely to get a more positive reaction than something like, "What's wrong with you? You never want to have sex."

2. Don't make assumptions, which close off an open discussion and can cause your partner to clam up. Avoid questions that only invite a yes/no response. For example, say, "I was hoping we could talk about why we're not having sex anymore," instead of, "Are you not interested in sex because I no longer attract you?"

3. Pick a time when you can focus on just the two of you. Don't have the conversation when you're doing another task. Plan a time when you can create a private space to talk, and make it a communal experience, e.g., over a cup of tea. The more natural you can make the conversation, the less threatening it will be.

4. Do not accuse or blame your partner for the problem. Instead, communicate that you want to work on your problems as a team effort.

5. Pay attention to your own and your partner’s body language. A great deal of what you're saying isn't coming from your mouth, but from your stance, how you’re holding your arms, and your facial expressions. Do you appear defensive? Uncomfortable? Does your partner? Attention to body language will help you to gauge how the conversation is going.

6. Ask for suggestions on how to make things better, rather than telling your partner how it should be done. People are much more likely to act on what they see being possible vs. what someone dictates to them, especially in an intimate relationship. You, too, should also give suggestions, but they should come across as just that - suggestions.

--Certified sex educator Yvonne K. Fulbright, PhD, MSEd is the author of several books, including Sultry Sex Talk to Seduce Any Lover, Better Sex Guide to Extraordinary Lovemaking, and The Hot Guide to Safer Sex. Visit her websites at http://www.yvonnekfulbright.com/ and http://www.sensualfusion.com/.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sue Katz Film Review: Gen Silent

Guest blogger Sue Katz is a wordsmith and rebel, offering frank talk about aging, sex, the Middle East, class rage and ballroom dancing. She used to be most proud of her martial arts career, her world travel, and her voters’ guide to Sarah Palin, Thanks But No Thanks, but now it’s all about her blog, Consenting Adult.

Sue recently reviewed Gen Silent, a documentary about LGBT elders who go back in the closet when they need long-term nursing facilities. It's a topic that even LGBT activists rarely look at. Thank you, Sue, for permission to republish excerpts from this review. Visit the original for the full-length review.

Film Review: Gen Silent
by Sue Katz

This emotive documentary helped me clarify what should really be among the priorities of the LGBT community. When one considers all the resources that have been lavished on lobbying for equality in the sorry military/marriage institutions, the issues surrounding LGBT aging seem to be a more pressing and much more widely relevant front on which to focus our struggle. In the best of circumstances, we’re all going to get old.

“Gen Silent,” directed by Stu Maddux, is a documentary based in Boston about local ageing queers. What are their options? Who will look after them when they need help? How do elder and nursing facilities treat LGBT elders? Will they have to go back into the closet if they need care?

By following individuals and couples and allowing them to tell their stories, Maddux draws us in with a sense of both identification and admiration. Sniffles and quiet sobs marked the showing, for no one among us could avoid a sense of vulnerability as we approach old age.

With senior facilities too often lacking in consciousness of queer and trans needs, even some of the earliest gay militants are now facing the possibility of having to return to the closet in order to safely get the care they need.

When Lawrence Johnson can no longer care for his older partner of many decades, he must place him in a nursing home. But his partner feels too paranoid to be out, limiting the ways in which Lawrence can comfort him. Eventually, Lawrence finds a more open and supportive facility, so that he and his partner can hold hands without looking over their shoulder.

Sheri Barden and Lois Johnson are hoping to stay in their own home, for they live in a neighborhood with many long-time, close queer neighbors. But they are also aware of the kind of dangers any institution might hold for out lesbians – from physical and sexual abuse to isolation and ostracism.

KrysAnne Hembrough’s severe breathing problems are preventing her from taking care of herself. But her late-life transition has left this transgender woman with nothing but hostility from her entire biological family. Medical people, too, have expressed revulsion and have refused to touch her body.

“Gen Silent” is more than a top-notch documentary. It is a conscious-raising tool that needs to be shown widely in mainstream elder institutions and among professionals working with older people. It needs to be shown to LGBT people of all ages so that this important discussion becomes a key issue for our movements.

Unfortunately, “Gen Silent” is an underfunded project that could use support – both financial and in terms of distribution. The visionary director Stu Maddux asked for human and material resources to get the film out to the nooks and crannies of our aging lives. Visit his website to learn more.

And check out the trailer below, presented under the righteous banner: The generation that fought hardest to come out is going back in – to survive.

Fragile Bones

I apologize to regular readers for my unusual 10-day silence. I was putting all my mental energy into finishing Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex, which is due to Seal Press August 1. I should have given more thought to my physical actions, though, because last Sunday in a lapse of attention I tripped, slammed into the floor arm-and-shoulder first, and have multiple fractures in the humerus head (shoulder end of the upper arm bone). I have osteoporosis, otherwise I probably would have bounced back with no more than painful bruises.

I don't want you to forget about how valuable this blog about sex & aging is while I recuperate, so I've enlisted the help of some of my favorite bloggers and authors whose contributions will start appearing in a matter of minutes. Thank you for staying with me -- enjoy the guests.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Viagra "not a sack of cement installer"

I'm writing the chapter about cancer and sexuality for my new book, Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex. The stories people sent me about reclaiming their sexuality after cancer treatment fill me with admiration. I looked back at some older posts on this blog that deal with sex & cancer, and decided to bring back this one from 2006. With the prevalence of Viagra use, I think BillyBob's experience and his thoughts about it are important. - Joan

BillyBob, age 62, has told some of his story previously as a comment here. He recently sent me an email detailing an experience that he wants to share -- and he makes an important point:

I started dating a lady I have known for a year, mostly through phone conversations. I knew that she likes sex. Last weekend we went for dinner. After dinner she wanted to go back to my place for a while.

Well, as it turned out, it was the most embarrassing time I have ever had, all because of a misconception some woman have about impotency.

I took a Viagra after we got back to the motel hoping it worked fast! It did its normal thing and got me sexually aroused but not 100%. She knew I had to take it because of the prostate cancer killing my prostate.

Here is where the misconception comes in. It seems that women who do not know about Viagra seem to think if you take it you just get ramrodding hard, and they do not need to do any stimulation. Well that’s just plain wrong. Men still need stimulation along with the Viagra. The drug is not a sack of cement installer.

And I was not about to masturbate myself in order to get it hard. Not in the presence of a woman.

So as it turned out she turned me off instead of on. What a bummer. It was so disappointing. I had looked forward to our meeting for some time. And the possibility of finally enjoying good sex with some one that likes sex.

All a woman needs to know about the drug is that you do things as normally, using stimulation together. So please tell your readers what my experience was.

BillyBob, thank you for sharing this experience. Viagra helps when there's a physical cause for lack of erection, as you know, but it doesn't increase libido, or substitute for all those other crucial components of good sex that you (and I, and probably everyone reading this) crave -- touching, kissing, bonding, stimulating each other physically and emotionally, enjoying each other's pleasure as well as our own.

It sounds like most of this experience was missing for you. What a bummer, I agree. I'm sorry you didn't feel you could communicate your needs and desires to your partner -- I don't know, maybe she would have been happy to help you get aroused if she had understood. It's hard to understand why she didn't seem interested in stimulating you just as part of the sex play (with or without Viagra), since that's a good part of the fun of sex.

I know you were too embarrassed to masturbate in front of her when she didn't help arouse you, but as a woman, I find it very pleasurable and exciting to watch a man stimulate himself. I don't know if your partner would have reacted this way, but I'll bet she would have.

If you see a future or at least a repeat date with this woman, I hope you'll communicate candidly with her before you get to "the act." And please continue to write.

Thank you again, BillyBob.

-- Joan

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Aging Healthy Names Top 50 Aging and Gerontology Blogs

I'm honored! This blog, Better Than I Ever Expected: Sex and Aging, has been chosen by Aging Healthy as one of  the "Top 50 Aging and Gerontology Blogs" -- and it's the only blog about sexuality on the list! Aging Healthy offers "resources and tidbits on the social and medical aspects of aging." I'm delighted that ageless sexuality has a place of importance there now.

Welcome to the readers of Aging Healthy who are now visiting this blog for the first time. Please see the "labels" list at the right with links to topics I've covered in the past. There's a lot here!

I hope that all of you who study gerontology and related topics will join me in recognizing how important healthy sexuality is throughout our lives, not just when we're young. Keeping and nurturing our sex lives can help shape our quality of life in later years.

Thank you, Healthy Aging!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

LELO Mona: Elegant Instrument of Pleasure!

LELO sex toys are beautifully made, both functional and artistic in design, and absolutely made for pleasure. The LELO Mona  is curvy, sleek and sexy, and practically silent. Thank you, Tabu Toys, provider of sex toys, for sending me the beautiful and elegant LELO Mona for review.

The Mona can be used as either a clitoral vibrator or a G-spot seeking insertable vibrator. For clitoral stimulation, either touch the tip to your sweet spot, or position the whole curve over your vulva--the vibrations seem to make the whole vulva sing, with of course a special focus on the clitoris. I didn't find the vibrations quite strong enough to take me to the finish line this way, but I enjoyed it as a most pleasurable warmup.

The Mona shines -- or should I say glows? -- as an insertable vibrator. It has an unusual shape: a tapered tip that bulges to about 1.5" in diameter, then thins considerably. Besides being pretty, that shape let's you insert it, then let go and use it hands-free (or practically -- you may need to touch it lightly to keep it from turning). Once inserted, it's not likely to pop out at inopportune moments. If you prefer thrusting, the shape gives surprising sensations--its curvy bits are not at all penile, which you might like or not. It feels really good, just not like a penis, if that's your shape of choice.

It's rechargeable, which means you plug it in for a while to charge the toy, then it will go unassisted for hours. No cords or batteries to fuss with while you're concentrating on your sensations. 

For those of us older folks with arthritis, the ergonomic design makes it easy to hold comfortably, no gripping, no weird angles. The only problem is that it's easy to accidentally press a control button, changing mode or intensity.

The Mona is a mid-sized vibrator, larger than my favorite LELO toy, the Gigi. Here they are side by side for comparison.

Yes, the Mona is expensive. It's a luxury toy: beautifully designed, easy to hold and a pleasure to use, made of medical-grade materials, velvety smooth, quiet, with six modes of stimulation and a variety of intensities. If you can afford to give yourself a special gift of pleasure, go fot it. Or direct a generous friend to this review!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Orgasm Inc.: stunning expose of drug for fake disease

I just saw the film Orgasm Inc. You must see it. It's a powerful expose of the medicalization of female sexuality, specifically the development and marketing of female sexual enhancement drugs based on a made-up "disease": Female Sexual Dysfuncton (FSD).  The "disease" was created by drug companies so that they could sell drugs and procedures that have not been proven to work and have not been proven safe!

Filmmaker Liz Canner was hired by one of these drug companies, and what she learned was so apalling that she went on to make this expose. I was stunned by it. Some of the reviews call it funny. Though there were some hilarious moments, the aftertaste isn't funny.

How did the drug companies invent a disease? They asked women questions designed to unearth if they ever had trouble becoming aroused or reaching orgasm (duh, who hasn't?) and labeled those dysfunctional who said yes to any of the questions. Although women's sexual responses are complex and based on relationship, health, energy, worries, other medications, and emotional issues as well as physical function, these issues were neither addressed nor ruled out.

The result: a new dysfunction and a drug to address it, both of which were then promoted by highly paid health "experts" on TV news and talk shows. I'm itching to name a visible, well-known "expert" who -- although she denied any financial interest in the drug -- was paid $75,000 a day for her media appearances on Oprah and other shows. You'll see her identified in the film.

Below is one video clip -- see the official trailer here (I couldn't embed that one).

6/7/10 update: When I wrote this post a few days ago, Orgasm Inc. was available on Amazon, and today when I checked it, it has disappeared from the listings. This is odd indeed. I'll keep checking for its return.  It is listed on Netflix, but the available date is unknown, as a reader commented. How frustrating -- I really want you to be able to see it. I'll update the info when this changes -- keep checking back.