Sense and Sensuality
Posted On Oct 03, 2016
If you have resigned yourself to a sex life where orgasms are rare or nonexistent, think again. Sex can improve—no matter your age. Here, expert advice that’ll make you say, “Oh!”
Did you know the clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings—far more than a man’s penis? And that men and women experience the same contractions at the oh-yeah height of sexual pleasure, not to mention the exact same duration of an orgasm? Probably not. The topic of women’s sexual pleasure has long been a desert of information. After all, if you were even offered a sex education class back in the day it was probably focused on pregnancy and disease prevention, rather than how to get off in good measure. And articles? They typically dish advice on how to please your man, not how your man can please you. “Almost every woman above age 40 who comes in my office wants three things: better sex, weight loss, and better energy,” says Sharon McQuillan, M.D., founder of the Ageless Institute in Aventura, FL. “Women need solutions, and they need to know that there are some.” Here, some intimate advice on how to turn your nightly yawn into an off-the-charts “YES!”
For Range, Note the Change
Beginning at age 30, our bodies change. That includes our sex organs. Therefore, sex requires a different skill-set over time, says Laurie Betito, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, sex therapist, and author of The Sex Bible for People Over 50: The Complete Guide to Sexual Love for Mature Couples. “[Sex requires] more communication, longer foreplay, different positions, sexual toys, and aids to stay hot and exciting. It also needs to accommodate the myriad physical, emotional, and social changes that happen during middle- age.”Madeleine Castellanos, M.D., a New York Citybased sex therapist and psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of sexual dysfunction, went through surgically induced menopause herself three years ago, at age 46, after suffering from painful sex due to endometriosis. “When you have Miley Cyrus making the statement that people over 40 don’t have sex anymore, that’s doing a disservice to the female population,” Dr. Castellanos says. “There’s this attitude out there that sex is not going to be that good once you get older, but that’s simply not true.”
One of the first things Dr. Castellanos looks at is the biological aspect of a woman’s health. “I take the entire history,” she says, adding that your sexual function cannot be divided from the rest of your health. And one thing you should always mention: Pain. “Anytime you are having pain, discomfort, or a change in sensation during sex, you need to explore that with your doctor,” she warns.
As we age, our vaginal tissues thin and, due to hormone changes, many women experience vaginal dryness and subsequent pain during sex. A harmful, faulty study conducted by the National Institute of Health (which was halted in the early 2000s), however, left many women and their doctors wary of using hormone replacement therapies. “There are lots of options now for hormone replacement that don’t increase risk for heart disease, cancer, and stroke,” says Dr. Castellanos. She recommends that her patients receive estrogen through a transdermal patch rather than orally, and notes that bioidentical progesterone by caplet is protective of tissues.
Your Brain the Sex Organ
Anxiety can be a major player in the disruption of female sexual pleasure, says Dr. Castellanos, who screens her patients for signs of anxiety and depression. “For sexual arousal to occur, you have to be mentally relaxed,” she says. “Anything that triggers the fight or flight response— which anxious thoughts do—short circuits sexual arousal.” Women’s brains pay attention to many details. “We get distracted by any tiny thing during sex, whereas the male brain is focused on one thing and able to drown out distractions,” says the doctor. “We’re thinking, Did I just hear a noise? Do I look fat? What bills do I have to pay tomorrow? Those thoughts crowd out sexy, erotic thoughts.”
It’s important to combat anxiety, and not just for distraction’s sake. Stress levels create inflammation in the body that inhibits blood flow to the arteries— vital to having orgasms. Dr. Jessica Shepherd, from the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, recommends increasing exercise and adding 15–20 minutes of meditation daily. “Yoga and Pilates are especially good, and can have a big impact on your sexual function,” she says.
Your Body, Your Orgasm
Get to know your “new” body on your own. What worked for you a decade ago may no longer feel good today. Through masturbation, you may find you need stronger stimulation on your clitoris and can communicate that information from your fact-finding expedition to your partner. You may require more foreplay, too. Treat your sex life like a vacation to uncharted territory, exploring new positions and methods—not just to spice things up and break routine, but to see if you can’t just build a better mousetrap, so to speak.
Bring some new products along on your journey, too. “Extra lubricant is a sex enhancer all the way,” urges Dr. Betito. Vaginal moisture is helped by increased activity, too. Dr. Castellanos recommends using a vibrator for about 10 minutes a day to increase blood flow and draw moisture into the tissues of the vagina.
Strengthening the pelvic floor is very important for good sexual function, as well. Carrying babies, being overweight, sitting a lot, and gravity all puts strain on your pelvic floor, which contracts during orgasm. “If you have trouble holding your urine or having orgasms, a weak pelvic floor is probably the root,” says Dr. Castellanos. Kegel exercises are key, so learn how to do them properly and do them daily.
Plan It, Rock It
Lastly, forget the notion that hot sex only happens spontaneously. “Plan sex like you plan for a dinner date with a friend. If you don’t plan it, it won’t happen,” insists Dr. Castellanos. And if your night moves have become not-so moving, try becoming a morning person. You may well feel much more aroused after a good night’s rest.
Getting turned on can also mean trying something new. If you’ve been using a vibrator to climax, try masturbating or having your partner manipulate the shaft and glans of your clitoris, and touch you wherever else that gives you pleasure. And remind him to put his money where his mouth is: Many women find that oral sex is much more likely to spark an orgasm. Try new positions, too. You can better control the pressure on your clitoris by sitting or lying on top of your partner in the scissor position with his legs between yours. To that end, take a peak into the world of tantric sex. “Tantric sex slows everything down, and requires that you be very mindful of your body and your partner,” says Dr. Betito. “It’s about prolonging arousal.”