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