En español | Women over 50 often experience more trouble having an orgasm than they did when they were younger. The culprit: lower blood flow to the genitals, combined with diminished production of both testosterone and estrogen. The result: More time is required to climax — or orgasm may not occur at all.
Women and their partners can overcome these changes by getting creative.
Vibrators and other gadgets, once viewed as appropriate for solo use only, can dynamically improve a couple's sex play, helping both partners achieve the elusive "Big O."
That statement may be news to a minority of readers: A survey conducted by the authors of The Normal Bar (I'm one!) this year found that more than 50 percent of respondents over the age of 50 use sex toys individually or as a couple. The others, I suspect, aren't using them simply because they don't know which ones to try. To fill that knowledge gap (and a few others), here's my decidedly non-prim primer on sex toys:
Various iterations of the vibrator, now available in battery-powered or plugged-in models, have been around since the late 19th century. By directly stimulating the nerves, the device helps activate those that are not responding to the usual methods of arousal. Vibrators come in various shapes and sizes — some lifelike. Many models feature adjustable speeds of vibration, a crucial feature for skin that may have become supersensitive over the years.
The most famous vibrator is the rabbit, which has been selling briskly ever since Charlotte became addicted to a combination vaginal-clitoral stimulator by that name in Episode 9, Season 1 of Sex and the City in 1998. (The clitoral-stimulator portion resembles a pair of bunny ears.)
Other popular vibes are the pocket rocket — made for external use, it's four inches long and easy to tuck in a purse — and the G-spot stimulator, a dildo or vibrator that curves up at the end to reach the nerve-rich G-spot on the roof of the vagina. Additionally, there are buzzing and nonbuzzing dildos — penis-shaped objects that can be inserted inside a woman's vagina. Used with a lubricant, these can supplement intercourse, especially if a male partner has inconsistent erections.
Put a ring on it
Let's say you're a guy and you want to get into the spirit of things; would you consider a penis ring? These are becoming less exotic than they sound; they're often shelved near the condoms in a pharmacy.
The ring has a gently expanding band that fits around the base of the penis; a small button activates a vibrator on the ring, positioned to massage the woman's clitoral area during intercourse. So-called "two-headed" versions of the penis ring stimulate both partners simultaneously — sending more blood flowing to the penis.
Another toy popular with older guys is the C ring; it fits around both the penis and the scrotum, and is donned before an erection to boost the quality and duration thereof. The C ring must be removed after orgasm, lest it cut off circulation and cause serious problems.
These gadgets take the pressure off performance. They may also strengthen your relationship: Research shows that trying something new often brings a couple closer together. And did I mention they are fun? The remote-control vibrator, for example, is tailor-made for couples with a sense of humor: The vibrator is sewn into panties and, when activated by remote control, sends quiet vibrations across the clitoral area. A surefire antidote for even the most deadly-dull dinner party!
Whew, that's a lot of toyful terrain to cover!
For more advice, seek online help from one of the more reputable sites, such as goodvibes.com, loverspackage.com or evesgarden.com. And at specialty stores such as Good Vibrations (San Francisco), Lovers (Phoenix, Seattle, Portland, Ore.), Fascinations (Denver) or Babeland (New York, Seattle), discreet and well-trained personnel are on hand to explain device features; their counsel may keep you from making a mistake — important, given that the better toys tend to be costly.
And, as you might imagine, all are nonreturnable!
Pepper Schwartz is AARP's love and relationships ambassador.