Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Intimacy, Sexuality and Dementia by Peggy Brick

BrickOne of my favorite sex educators, Peggy Brick, a true ground-breaker in the sexuality and aging field, has turned her remarkable talents to teaching about dementia. I invited her to guest blog about this urgent topic. As always, I invite your comments. -- Joan

Intimacy, Sexuality and Dementia

By Peggy Brick, M.Ed.

What does it mean, “We’re sexual from birth to death,” when faced with the growing specter of dementia? Will the nation acknowledge that over five million of its citizens with Alzheimer’s and other dementias have intimacy needs and rights? Will families, friends, professional caregivers, and institutions respect the sexuality needs and rights of individuals who are increasingly unable to care for themselves or respond to others in conventional ways? Will they learn how to connect by listening, touching, hugging, respecting, and loving the person who remains?

Preparing to Love Someone with Dementia: 8 Ways

1. Dementia is part of today’s reality: if you’re lucky enough to live to be 85, there’s a 50 percent chance you will experience dementia. Now is the time to become an advocate for more research, education, care services, and progressive public policies.

2. Since currently there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, do your best to prevent or delay it by promoting brain health through regular exercise, a heart-healthy diet, social connections, and brain-stimulating activities.

3. If you’re concerned about someone’s memory, get it checked -- first by a primary physician, and then a psycho neurologist. Early diagnosis is key to getting support and planning for a future living with inevitable diminishments. Later, making choices becomes impossible.

4. Read books and view films to understand the experience of dementia. People diagnosed with Early Alzheimer’s have written powerful stories about their feelings and their relationships. Richard Taylor, author of “From the Inside Out” created a powerful DVD challenging the stigma. Many caregivers have revealed their struggles and survival techniques.

5. Stay connected with a person with dementia by meeting them where they are. Learn either the “Best Friends” or the “Validation Therapy” approach that dementia care programs use to help caregivers accept the person’s reality in ways that reduce anxiety and encourage communication.

6. Recognize that dementia profoundly affects partner relationships. A well spouse often experiences decreased attraction after assuming caretaking duties such as bathing and toileting. As the disease progresses, people may no longer recognize their partner or believe they’re someone else.

7. Sexual expression is especially important in a nursing home when physical contact may be a beneficial means of communication, serving to calm and reassure. Ask whether a home you are considering has a sexuality policy that documents residents’ sexual rights, adequate staff training, and abuse prevention strategies.

8. Most caregivers experience loss and grief as they interact with someone who is both there and not there. Unlike a death that is final, this loss continues, often for years, and is difficult and exhausting. You must take care of yourself, which is challenging – but essential -- when you who love and care for someone with dementia.

Peggy Brick- Peggy Brick, M.Ed., teaches “Alzheimer’s: New Perspectives” at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, University of Delaware, and is the founder of the Sexuality and Aging Consortium at Widener University.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Original Magic Wand + Accessories

You've read so many vibrator reviews from me where I say, essentially, "It's good, but it's not the Magic Wand." Time to tell you exactly what is the Magic Wand.

The Magic Wand has been around since the 1970s, almost as long as I've been having vibrator-assisted orgasms, and it's been responsible for a good many of them. It was called the Hitachi Magic Wand until recently. (I reviewed it here.)

Now, after Hitachi sold distribution rights to Vibratex, it's the Original Magic Wand. Hitachi still manufactures it, but doesn't want its name on a tool for female orgasm anymore, if I understand right. Vibratex rescued the Wand from being discontinued, which would have led to dire and ugly consequences.

So the new Magic Wand is called the "original," probably to assure us that it's the same product (it is -- thank goodness!) and to distinguish it from the knockoffs that rattle around. Don't be fooled. Buy it from a reputable retailer.

The two models are identical in these ways:
  • The strongest vibrations of any popular sex toy.
  • Two intensities, labeled low and high, but actually high and yowza-high.
  • Big -- a foot long, with a head the size of a tennis ball. 
  • Heavy. Noisy. But you won't care once you feel what those vibrations can do.
  • Need to be plugged in. A hassle, but that's what a motor this size requires.
  • Really, really stimulating. (Did i already say it?)
  • Silly diagram for how/where to use it, ignoring the real reason/location that we're using it.
  • Oh yeah, it's a great massager for sore muscles, too, and we do get those.

 Here's how the models are different:
  • Controls have different appearance and the new one has a more ergonomic feel.
  • Vibratex says the new one will last longer (the old ones lasted 20 years!) and is quieter (not that I can tell).
  • The head is made to be a little lighter and last longer.
  • Several internal features have been upgraded to make it work even better.

Now here's another cool idea -- if you like the Magic Wand, but you'd like to subdue the vibrations a little, or have a way to turn your Wand into a penetrating toy, check out the Pop Tops and the G-Spotter. These are silicone attachments that fit on the Magic Wand and add versatility.

I tried the three pictured. I like the soft, cushioning layer that the Pop Tops give the Wand and I love the ease of washing them. But they did diffuse the strength a little, and personally, I want all the strength I can get.

The G-Spotter was a surprising pleasure. The whole attachment vibrated strongly but not wildly, and not in a pounding way that I would not have enjoyed. The little bump that's supposed to stimulate the clitoris while the G-Spotter is inserted did not land right for me, but it might for you.

To get one on, just stretch it apart and push and pull a little for a perfect fit. (Don't put lubricant inside the attachment or it won't stay put as well. Do use plenty of lube on the outside, though.) It removes easily when you're ready just by stretching and sort of peeling it up and wiggling it around. It's easier than it sounds.

These accessories also make clean-up easier. You can't remove the Wand's head for cleaning, and you have to be careful not to get anything wet but the outside of the head. You can't sterilize it, so it's not wise to share it with different partners. But with these attachments, you can pop one on, use it at will and with whomever, then pop that top off. Being silicone, these attachments are nonporous and can be washed easily with toy cleaner or in the dishwasher.

You can get any of the attachments separately, or in a kit with or without the Wand. See the options here. Enjoy!

I bought my original Hitachi Magic Wand in the 1970s, and it lasted a shockingly long time -- decades! -- until the head started to get hard and discolored. Good Vibrations sent me a new Hitachi wand in 2009, which is still going strong, but of course I owe it to you, my readers, to review the latest model.

Thank you, Good Vibrations, for sending me the Original Magic Wand, plus these delightful accessories.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Iroha: Cutest Vibrators Ever

The Iroha Rechargeable Silicone Vibrators from Tenga are adorable and cushy. I want to cuddle and squeeze them. And yes, they're dynamic little vibrators, and they work!

It's hard to imagine one of these without being able to touch it firsthand, so I hope my description helps: The vibrator has a cushy layer, covered by a body-safe silicone skin. It's not soft through and through (there's a motor in there) -- just a layer -- so you can press firmly and feel just a little cushioning, or press lightly, and it all feels soft. Delightful.

You can choose from three distinct styles:

Midori is green, sort of egg-shaped with a nubby protrusion. The big part stimulates the whole vulva if you lay it cushy side down,or you can elevate it and position the nub directly on top of your clitoris. The nub is harder than the rest of the Midori for more targeted pressure and less cushion.

Yuki is white, figure-8-shaped with a smaller and larger end. Again, you can lay the whole thing down over your vulva and get stimulation everywhere. Or you can press the smaller part shallowly into your vaginal entrance. Some might scoff at how small the penetrating part is, but for those of you with vaginal pain and/or tightness, it could be just right for pleasure without pain. Yuki doesn't have any hard parts -- it's all cushy, with some parts especially soft. This was my favorite and seemed the most versatile, though your mileage will vary.

    Sakura is pink, oval-shaped with a flexible, V-shaped, squishy notch that can hug the clitoris. It looks like you could use the notch to pinch a nipple in a stimulating fashion, but you really can't with lubed fingers -- too slippery. Try it dry for nipple play. Well lubed, it does hug the clitoris in a lovely way if you just position and press. This was almost my favorite.

    All styles have these lovely qualities:
    • The whole thing vibrates. It doesn't matter how you position it, whatever touches you is vibrating.
    • It's easy and ergonomic to hold. No wrist tweaking, just cup it (control side towards the hand) and press, glide, rub, tap, or circle on your vulva. 
    • The controls are large and easy to see and use. You won't turn it off by mistake. Your lubed finger may slip off the button, but it's still much easier than most.
    • It's self-charging with an elegant charging base and storage lid. Charge it by USB or plug it into an electrical socket with the provided charger.
    Yes, of course I wish these were stronger. I always wish that. The settings take them from gentle to medium to strong, plus a pulsation pattern. For you, strong might be plenty strong. The older I get, though, the more intensity I need.

    But I've also discovered the pleasures of using a toy that feels as good as these softies do, then upping the ante at the very end with my Magic Wand. Just a suggestion for those of you who, like me, need a long time and lots of intensity, but enjoy the feel of a soft toy like one of these.

    I love how long these vibrators last before losing their charge! I couldn't believe the claims that it kept a strong charge for 90 minutes. "Maybe on the lowest setting," I scoffed. So I tested Midori's duration by letting it run on the highest setting until it stopped -- a full hour and five minutes! Granted, it lost some intensity long before it actually stopped, but still, that's a long time for those of us with slow-burning arousal!

    Use plenty of water-based lubricant, especially with post-menopausal, thinning tissues. Otherwise, the silicone skin starts dragging or pulling on vulvar skin and pubic hairs. Lube is your constant companion anyway, right?

    I'm glad I read the itty bitty directions in the accompanying manual and the "Water-resistant, do not submerge" on Good Vibrations' Iroha page, because I would have guessed it could be taken into the shower or tub. Nope -- although it can be cleaned in water, it doesn't like hot water or staying wet or humid.

    Keith Haring Tenga Eggs front coverThese Iroha toys are designed for vulvas, though of course they can used by any gender and any external erogenous zone. Tenga makes terrific products for penises, too -- that's their specialty. For the holidays, the fellows will enjoy the Keith Haring Tenga Eggs with Haring's lively dancing figures etched into these fine masturbation sleeves. They'll bring a smile when they're unwrapped!

    Thank you, Good Vibrations, for sending me these sweet toys to review!

    Monday, December 09, 2013

    Oh, oh, oh! Good Vibes giving away one Limon!

    Update: Contest is over. We have a very happy winner!

    Did you enjoy my review of the Minna Limon? Do you wish you had a Limon of your own to squeeze right now? Do you wish you could give one as a holiday gift for a partner or pal?

    Hurry -- enter this contest that the wonderful Good Vibrations is sponsoring, and one Limon could enter your world and rock it!

    How to enter: Please email me with "Limon contest" as the subject header. Answer this question in 100-200 words:

    What  problems -- health, relationship, emotional, or other -- were preventing you from having a joyful sex life after age 50, and how did you solve or work around them? 

    Requirements: You must be age 50 or above (partnered or solo, any gender or orientation) and living in the US.  By entering this contest, you're agreeing that I may quote what you write in my upcoming book, The Ultimate Guide to Sex after Fifty, to be published by Cleis Press in December 2014.

    Absolute deadline: Entries must be received by 10am Pacific Time this Friday, 12/13/13. I know that's quick, but GV tells me that I need to choose the winner that day in order for you to get your prize in time for Christmas. Contest is over. We have a very happy winner!

    Other stuff you'll want to know:
    • Don't worry about spelling, grammar, style -- I can fix all that.
    • I'll choose the winner completely subjectively, based on my personal "wow" factor and my conviction that readers will find what you say useful and interesting. 
    • If I use what you send me, I won't use your name or identify you in any way, nor will I ever share or abuse your email address.
    • Flattering me, begging me to choose you, and telling me why you want the Limon probably won't help, but then again, it might. Go ahead and cajole me, coax me, offer to send me chocolate.

    Thank you, Good Vibrations, for this and for so much more!

    Tuesday, December 03, 2013

    Minna Limon: Cute, Squeezable Vibrator

    I like my new Minna Limon so much that I'm starting to think of it almost as a pet rather than a product.

    It's cute, touchable, squeezable, fun to play with, and responsive.  But no, it's not a pet -- it's a vibrator, and it's a delight. This is a great gift for a loved one, a pal, or yourself.

    It works like this: Power it on with the button, then squeeze the sides of the Limon. The harder you squeeze, the stronger the intensity. I love this idea!

    The Limon is squishy soft on the sides, but the little bud at the tip is firm. If you want a firm touch on your clitoris, use the tip. If you like the vibrating squishiness all over your vulva, use it side down.

    You can hold it with your hand, or squeeze it between your thighs, mostly hands free. (I say "mostly" because it will skitter out of position unless you give it a hand from time to time.) Just be careful to position it so that you won't accidentally press the control button.

    You can even record a pattern. It's easy. One press of the button powers on the Limon, a second press sets it recording. Do any pattern of vibrations and intensity that you want, for example, "quick-quick-cha-cha-cha-slowwwww" or gentle-stronger-INTENSE" or any pattern that appeals to you. Then do one more press to lock in the pattern. Now it will loop your pattern until you press again to unlock or hold down the button to power it off. (Once you do that, you'll have to re-record the pattern next time you turn it on.)

    If you don't want to record patterns -- no problem. One press turns it on, and from there, just freestyle away. 

    I wasn't sure, though, how I could accomplish my goal: a steady vibration at the highest intensity. I could squeeze hard to get that intensity, but did I have to keep squeezing hard (my arthritis said, "No, please!") -- or could I program it to keep the strongest vibration going continuously without any more squeezing?

    I emailed Jon, one of the founders of Minna Life, who responded quickly:

    Your question about constant speed vibration is a good one. Yes, we designed Limon to make this very easy. Here's how you create a steady vibration:

    1. Put the device in "Free Play" mode (only the power light will be on, such as right after you turn it on).

    2. Squeeze Limon to your desired intensity. Strong, soft, or anything in between.

    3. While squeezing to your desired intensity, do a slow double click of the button. Then you can stop squeezing. This puts Limon in "Lock Mode" with your desired intensity being looped.

    That's it! Just double click the button while squeezing in Free Play mode.

    It worked! Now I can just gently hold the Limon in place for as long as I want while it vibrates on the strongest setting, with no arthritic stress at all.

    What else do I like about the Limon?

  • USB rechargeable (it sits on a magnet base and lights up as it charges).
  • Made of body-safe silicone (use a water-based lubricant).
  • Tiny and light for travel opportunities (best to put it in checked luggage rather than carry-on -- we don't know what the security folks will ask, or whether they'll believe us if we tell them).
  • No fumbling with controls with lube-covered fingers if we want to change the intensity -- just keep it in Free Play and squeeze away.
  • Holds its charge for a long time.
  • Waterproof, so arousal can start in the tub or shower.
  • So cute you'll want it on display. 

  • What do I wish were different? 

    You know me -- I like really strong vibrations. Many of you tell me that the intensity I like is more than you need, so ignore that comment unless you're also a turbo power vibrator user. 

    If you do need extra strength, don't write off this lovely sex toy, though. Use it for a long, slow arousal, then switch to finish off with your most muscular vibrator if needed.

    I've reviewed it here as a solo toy, but Limon can also be used in partner sex in many different ways. Happy exploration!

    Minna wants to give my blog's readers a 10% discount 
    on the Limon or the Ola (reviewed here).  
    Enter "JoanPrice" as a discount code at Minna's online store

     [Minna Life provided me with a free Limon in return for an honest review.]

    Friday, November 29, 2013

    Cancer Survivor: Can I Have an Intimate Relationship Again?

    A reader wrote:

     I am 62, single, and once was a very sexually active woman. I've undergone treatment for breast cancer twice. My recovery required my full attention for years, but now I feel ready for new adventures -- hopefully including sex. After rounds of chemotherapy, surgeries, radiation, and continued estrogen blocking medications, sex with another became a thing of the past. 

    Currently, sexual intercourse may no longer be possible for me -- but I still enjoy having orgasms and I desire the wonder of touch. However, I am so concerned about my limitations as a sexual partner that I am afraid to attempt to date again. 

    I have no idea what men in my age group expect or desire in terms of performance from their partners. What are woman experiencing in the 60-year-old dating world in terms of performance expectations? Would my current physical circumstance deter most men from being interested in exploring an intimate relationship with me?

    I am grateful for this message and all it conveys about hope and healing and moving forward. I understand why you're apprehensive. I would encourage you to get out there and go after what you want.

    I know that many single men in our age group also fear "performance expectations"  when erections are no longer possible or predictable. There are many who would welcome a sexual partner who did not expect intercourse, who would be happy exchanging touch, oral and manual stimulation, and fabulous orgasms -- without intercourse.

    These men may be cancer survivors themselves, wanting to return fully to life, including sex and intimacy, but they don't know how to navigate the dating world either -- when to divulge the cancer, when to divulge the sexual issues.

    You might find out if there's a local cancer survivors' singles group. Or try online dating: I did a search on "cancer survivors singles" and came up with several sites that promote themselves as dating sites for cancer survivors.

    There's even one -- "2date4love" --  that "enables people who cannot engage in sexual intercourse to meet and experience love, companionship and intimacy." I haven't vetted any of these sites -- if any of you have tried them, I hope you'll share your experiences.

    You don't need to limit yourself to dating companions who share a similar medical history, though. Just be up front about your cancer on a first date if it looks like there's potential for a second date. (If not, you don't need to mention it.)

    Then if you progress to a few dates and there's chemistry, it's important to explain that yes, you are interested in sex, but no, this might not include intercourse. Be prepared: Men who desire intercourse may want to discontinue getting to know you, and that's okay.

    When all the cards are on the table, if the relationship progresses, you have the delightful journey of exploring all the ways you can be sexual without intercourse!

    Even when a date doesn't progress to more, it's still worth getting to know new people, "practicing" dating, trying out how to tell a potential partner about your needs, desires, and challenges.

    If you take it all as part of the brave new world of dating experience, you don't need to feel regretful or shamed when a new relationship (or potential relationship) doesn't work out. Most of them will not work out -- that's the nature of the game.

    Everything I've said so far presumed that you're right that intercourse will not be possible for you. But please explore whether there are ways that you can heal yourself vaginally, if this is something you want to pursue. An excellent resource is "Vaginal Recuperation after Cancer or Surgery" from A Woman's Touch, one of my favorite sexuality resource centers.

    I hope you'll check in again and share what you tried, how it worked for you, what you learned and gained.

    I hope that you'll share your thoughts, too, readers.

    Sunday, November 24, 2013

    Gen Silent: Watch for free by 1/1/14

    Please make time to watch Gen Silent. The producers of this LGBT Aging documentary have made it available free for home streaming through New Years Day 2014.

    Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender older people who fought the first battles for equality now face so much fear of discrimination, bullying and abuse that many are hiding their lives to survive. Thousands are dying earlier than their straight counterparts because they are isolated and afraid to ask for help. But a growing number of people are fighting to keep LGBT aging from meaning aging in silence. 

    "LGBT elders are going back in the closet."
    "In the first nursing home, we weren't welcomed there as a gay couple."
    "They [caregivers] didn't want to touch my body."
    "You just know when they don't want you there. When you feel they don't want you, you're in a state of stress."
    "All I can do is sit in shadows, holding his tissue-paper hand, watching him breathe."

    These are comments from LGBT elders speaking out about the prejudice, hostility, and fear they face. No, not just when they were young, but now -- in long-term care facilities, from caregivers, and from medical providers.

    KrysAnne, a transgender woman, is living alone at the end of her life. "Most people who transition expect losses, but I didn't expect to lose everyone," she says. "For two years, I desperately tried to connect with my family. In some cases the letters weren't even opened."

    One letter that was returned contained the message, "So glad someone finally took off your balls. What do you call yourself now. FREAK or IT??"

    Thank you, filmmaker Stu Maddux, for making this stunning documentary and for providing it for free streaming right now. I'm not permitted to embed the video here, so please click here to watch it.

    I am permitted to embed the trailer:

    After you watch the film, I hope you'll contribute your comments. (By posting here, you're giving me permission to use excerpts from your comments in my new book, The Ultimate Guide to Sex after Fifty, without identifying you in any way.)

    Thursday, November 14, 2013

    What do you want in a sex toy? Serious question to Boomers, seniors, elders

    Sex toy manufacturers and retailers are aware that we Boomers, seniors, and elders use sex toys and are often frustrated when we buy products that don't fit our needs or wants.
    You may not realize that many of those manufacturers and retailers follow this blog. They are eager to know what we want, exactly. They want to understand us. And of course, they want to make and sell products that appeal to us and keep us very happy.

    Let's help them out. If you're over 50, I invite you to comment on this post and describe the kind of sex toy you wish you could find. (If you think you already read this post, I've updated it and added more.)

    Here are some ideas to start you out. Many of us want these qualities:

    • Strong intensity.(Our king is the Hitachi Magic Wand.)
    • Vibrations last a long time without losing the charge.
    • Long-lasting product -- does not break or die.
    • High quality, body-safe materials, accurately described. (Don't tell us it's silicone if it's not.)
    • Materials and construction that doesn't pinch, pound, or scratch delicate tissues.
    • Instructions we can read without a magnifying glass. Or better, make the instructions truly intuitive.
    • Handles and controls that we can use with fingers slippery from lubricant.
    • Dimensions provided in your retail description. 
    • If insertable, slim version available (under 1.5" diameter).
    • Ergonomic -- don't make our arthritic wrists hurt.

    Your turn -- take it from here! What do you look for? What problems do you try to avoid? What should sex toy manufacturers and retailers know about how to serve you best? Here's your chance to tell them.

    Request: when you comment, if you want to remain anonymous, I'd appreciate it if you would use a first name of your choice (it doesn't have to be your own). That way, instead of a string of comments from people all named "Anonymous," we can keep track of who said what. Please include your real age in your comment or in the name you choose.

    Note: By posting here or emailing me, you're giving me permission to use excerpts in my new book, The Ultimate Guide to Sex after Fifty (Cleis Press) if they fit. What you tell me may help others significantly. (If I use your comments in my book, I won't identify you in any way, and I'll be careful to delete any details that might lead someone else to identify you.)

    Note #2: If you represent a sex toy retailer or another sex-themed or other-themed site, read and learn, but do not try to pull my readers to your site using a link. I moderate comments, I look at the links, and your comment will not see the light of day if you do this. If you'd like information about advertising on this blog, or if you want me to review a toy that fits what my readers are requesting, please email me. If you try to spam my readers, I get very cranky and it doesn't do you any good anyway. (If you're an educational site or an author or sex educator, we do want to know about your site -- you're not spamming if you link.)

    Toy charging frenzy

    Friday, November 01, 2013

    Needed: Your experiences and insights

    I'm working on my new book, The Ultimate Guide to Sex after Fifty (Cleis Press), and I'd like to include more comments from my age 50+ readers about any of these areas where you have strong opinions or useful experiences. (All questions apply to any gender or sexual orientation unless clearly targeted otherwise)

    • What sexual activity did you discover after age 50 that became an important part of your sex life?
    • What are the special LGBT issues related to sex & aging?
    • How does your or your partner's body image play a role in enjoyment of sex?
    • Straight older women are fearful about showing their bodies to a new partner – does that figure into the lesbian or gay male experience at all?
    • Is “lesbian bed death” real, or a myth? Do committed relationships tend to become sexless?
    • What medical conditions have impacted your sex life, and how have you dealt with them?
    • If you're in a unsatisfying relationship, how do you decide whether to stay or go?
    • What prompted a later-life break-up or divorce in your life?
    • How did your doctor react when you brought up a sexual concern? Did your doctor ever say something ageist that led you to switch docs?
    • If you were having sexual problems, resisted going to a doctor or therapist, then finally did, and there was a treatable explanation for the problem, tell me your story. 
    • Your experiences with painful sex? What steps did you take to diagnose and treat the problem? What worked?
    • First sex with a new partner: good, bad, worrisome, fabulous...?
    • Your experiences with strap-on sex? 
    • What helps you with decreased sensation?
    • What didn't I ask that I should have?

    This isn't a survey -- just choose a question that relates to you in a strong way, and write me your experience. You can either post it as a comment here, or email me privately. By doing either, you're giving me permission to use excerpts in my book if they fit. What you tell me may help others significantly.

    If I use your comments in my book, I won't identify you in any way, and I'll be careful to delete any details that might lead someone else to identify you.

    I'll continue to update this list when different topics come up.  In case you didn't see my previous request for your comments, check it out here.

    Hope to hear from you.

    Joan Price

    Sunday, October 20, 2013

    Sex after 50 Applies to All Ages: Guest post by Penny

    Joan and Penny
     Note from Joan: CatalystCon West 2013 was filled with amazing educators, new information, and a sense of community that I wish we could all feel everyday, everywhere. Normally I would write a synopsis of this conference, sharing what I learned.

     But this time, I give the floor to Penny, a remarkable, 26-year-old sex blogger, who attended the session I gave: The 5 Biggest Myths About Sex and Aging. She started this guest post on the plane going home, she told me, tearing up as she wrote it. I'm proud to share it -- and her -- with you here. With allies like Penny, we' can indeed change the world.

    Why Sex after 50 Applies to All Ages: 
    Guest post by Penny

    I went into Joan Price’s panel The 5 Biggest Myths About Sex and Aging at CatalystCon with the attitude that I was going to take a leap and learn about something that doesn't apply to me, at least not yet. I told Joan this when we ran into each other in the hall before her panel, and she smiled and said with a chuckle, “Maybe you’ll find what I have to say useful in about 30 years.”

    But I quickly realized that what Joan was teaching in her panel didn't only apply to people aged 50+ -- it was relevant to anyone, including myself now, at age 26.

    The first myth that Joan debunked about sex and aging was the idea that what felt good to us in the past should still make us feel good now, and that when it doesn't, there must be something wrong, and we might as well just give up.

    photo by Roman Roze
    She explained that as our bodies change with age later in life, the ways we experience arousal and pleasure change as well, and that this is perfectly normal. She went over specifics, like the differing needs that seniors may require in a toy, such as very strong vibrations, the ability for the toy to last long enough to endure a longer cycle of arousal, ergonomically comfortable designs for arthritic hands, easy to use controls, etc.

    Sure, Joan was describing the specific sexual needs of people outside of my age demographic, but the underlying message was universal: We must remember that sexuality is fluid and that it changes. Our bodies change, our lives change, our needs and wants change. Self-exploration is a continuous process.

    I may not be 50 yet, but what turned me on when I started having sex at age 16 is dramatically different from what turns me on now. My challenges with arousal are not the same as senior challenges, but they’re there. Some weeks I feel down and emotional, and I don’t want to take the time to give myself the self-care that I need. I have moments when I think, why isn't this working like it usually does? Why can’t I just orgasm like I usually do?

    Joan made me realize that in these moments, I need to give myself the compassion I would give a friend. If someone came to me and said something wasn't working for them, I would encourage them to keep trying because they deserve pleasure. I would try to help them find new ways to experience arousal and suggest new toys and techniques. I would also tell them that there is nothing wrong if something just isn’t working right now, and that pleasure and orgasms don’t always come easily.

    Everyone deserves that encouragement and support. We must allow ourselves to exist as we are right now, instead of trying to conform to what society expects of us or even what we expect of ourselves.

    Like this myth of feeling like an “alien in our own bodies” because we've changed, and we feel like we aren't ourselves anymore, everything Joan discussed was not only relevant to seniors, but to everyone. The importance of communication between partners, adaptation to change, making time for pleasure and practice, and continual commitment to self-care, sexual health, and sex education are always important.

    Towards the end of her talk, Joan shared a personal story about her grief in losing her love and partner. Her words shook me deeply, and as tears streamed down my cheeks, my sniffles were echoed by a woman sitting near me. Grief is incredibly personal, and I cannot pretend to know what Joan has gone through, but in that moment I felt like her grief was somehow also mine. Grief for her loss, for everyone I've lost, and for myself and the deep fear I don’t usually even realize that I carry with me: that I am alone, that nothing is certain, and that any day could be my last or my partner’s last.

    But as I listened to Joan share her story, I also felt her strength. She said that what lives on after us is what we pass on to others, what we give to people, what we share, our love and compassion. In that way, she said, we become immortal. I’m often so wrapped up in my own needs, wants, concerns, challenges, and privileges that I forget to seek out others’ experiences, to listen as much as I speak, and to share what I have.

    As she ended her talk, Joan asked us all to help her with her cause, to speak out against ageism, to stop and say, "That’s not funny," if we hear malicious, ageist “jokes,” and to tell people that they are beautiful exactly as they are. In return, she offered up her own voice, to help us in whatever injustices we battle.
    Her words echoed Yosenio V Lewis’s speech from the Opening Keynote, when he called us to take on someone else’s cause because it is our cause as well, to come together instead of staying in isolated groups, to collaborate and realize that we are all ultimately fighting for the same things: love, compassion, and acceptance. 

    Penny is a freelance writer and photographer from Austin, Texas. She explores sexuality creatively through her blog Penny for Your (Dirty) Thoughts, which is known for its variety of writing, unique sex toy photography, and erotic self-portraiture.
    Penny for Your (Dirty) Thoughts