Have you ever consulted your doctor about your aging, changing sexual responsiveness or about reclaiming your sexuality when you have a medical condition or take meds that make sex more difficult?
What happened when you asked your doctor for advice about older-age sex? How did he or she respond? Did you get the information you needed?
And for the benefit of the medical professionals reading this -- how would you have liked your doctor to respond to questions about sex? What advice would you give health professionals about how to talk to their older patients about their sexuality?
When I speak to audiences over 50 or open my email, I get this comment over and over: Older-age sexuality is a huge gap in the education of medical professionals.
I'm not dumping on doctors, just on their lack of training. A typical medical education includes very little on sexuality in general, and usually nothing at all about the special challenges of sex in later life. I keep meeting doctors, nurses, therapists, and alternative practitioners who are hungry for information for their patients and clients -- and often for themselves.
And yet, as you see if you read Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex, the problems we face do have solutions. Knowledge exists, whatever the issue! Experts exist in specialized fields such as sexuality after cancer, vaginal pain, erectile dysfunction, to name just a few. Sex educators are working to spread this knowledge, but it's slow going.
I've heard from women who have read my book and ask, "Why didn't my doctor ever tell me that I have to 'use it or lose it'?" These are usually older women who are not in relationships right now and didn't realize the importance of internal massage, regular orgasms and Kegels to keep their vaginas tuned up and healthy, or penetration in the future might be painful.
Many women who didn't know that lubricants and sex toys can enhance their sexual pleasure -- solo or with a partner -- by heightening arousal and speeding up orgasm. They thought that slow arousal and difficulty reaching orgasm were a part of aging that they had to accept. I'm distressed that many doctors tell women this -- often without running tests to see whether hormone levels or other conditions which may be treated might be affecting sexual response.
Men report to me, "My doctor says I don't get erections because I have ED." ED isn't a diagnosis -- it's a symptom. Men need to insist on tests to find out why they have ED. It might be an early sign of a disease that can -- and needs to -- be treated, like heart disease.
Health professionals do want information. It's happening. Slowly.
You can make the change happen faster. Don't be shy about bringing up sexual pleasure and sexual difficulties with your health professional. Ask questions directly. Ask whether timing meds that cause difficulty with arousal or changing to different meds will get you feeling zesty again. If your doctor doesn't know the answers to your questions, ask for a referral to someone who does.
If your doctor evades the topic or tells you, "It's just part of aging," get another doctor. Seriously.
I'm starting to get invitations to speak about senior sex to doctors, therapists, nurses and other health professionals, and I want to be sure I'm including your views as well as my own. Please feel free to comment here or contact me directly.
Ageless sexuality advocate Joan Price is the author of Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex and Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty. Naked at Our Age won Outstanding Self-Help Book 2012 from the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Best Book 2012 from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and the audiobook has been nominated for an Audie. Joan edited the new steamy senior sex anthology, Ageless Erotica. Visit her zesty, award-winning blog about sex and aging at http://www.NakedAtOurAge.com, where Joan continues to talk out loud about Boomer/ senior sex, partnered or solo.
Everything in our culture makes people, and women in particular, feel that after the age of 40, they're no longer sexually attractive, and this belief gets internalized. But researcher Gina Ogden, in conducting her famed Isis study (a national survey of sexuality and spirituality), found that women in their 60s and 70s were having the best sex of their lives -- people need to understand that the brain is the most important sex organ in the body!
Men and women get into sexual patterns in their teens, 20s and 30s that never change. So in recognizing this, we need to say, "the hardware is going to stay the same, but we can update the software." And you can update the software by trying different things, but mostly by getting to know yourself.
If your body is an instrument, then you're only going to get better by practicing. And quite frankly, from a health standpoint, there isn't a better use of your time. Men take erection-enhancing drugs to increase nitric oxide in the penile blood vessels, but they can increase nitric oxide themselves by improving their sex lives either on their own or with a partner. Orgasms trigger a huge burst of nitric oxide, which balances the neurotransmitters in your body -- the same neurotransmitters that people take drugs to balance. It's a shame because antidepressants lower one's ability for full sexual expression, so the one thing that could really decrease depression is the one thing that the drugs quiet down. People don't realize that you can turn on chemicals in your own body without importing unnatural drugs to do it for you.
If you're fit, you're much more likely to have a satisfying sex life. Being and feeling healthy and being and feeling sexy are synonymous. I just spoke to a 70-year-old friend of mine -- a total fox -- who's trying his luck on eHarmony. So we talked about what people in his demographic are looking for, and we both agreed -- health! When you're healthy and your hardware is working the best it can, you can focus on downloading new software.
Women need to understand that they are far more complicated sexually than men are. For men, the focus is in the genitals. But with women, sex is like a martial art, and women need to master that art and have the ability to move sexual energy around, manipulate sounds and focus on certain areas. The beauty of being over 50 is that you have more time to practice this. Women need 45 minutes to get fully turned-on. Do you know how long the average couple spends making love? 15 minutes. Slow down! Take time!
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