Q: My significant other and I have been together eight years. We didn't have sex often, but I was satisfied with the emotional closeness. Soon, however, for health reasons, he no longer could have sex.
Now, I arouse myself and sometimes get an orgasm. Are there other women my age — I just turned 80 — who use masturbation for sexual satisfaction?
Many research studies — including a 2010 study by AARP — found that a majority of women masturbate, as do almost all men. True, rates of self-arousal slack off for both women and men after age 70. But pioneering sex researchers Masters and Johnson found that people who had been sexual before that milestone continued to be sexual even into their latter decades. Often that means masturbation, with or without a partner.
Because manual stimulation to reach an orgasm may not create the same sensation that intercourse does, however, you may want to experiment with a vibrator to stimulate nerve endings in the clitoris and vagina.
Of course, no sex toy can create the deeper emotions you derive from a sexual connection with the man you love, but vibrators do a great job of delivering pleasure.
Q: Where does one find sex toys? I'm too embarrassed to go into a store, and I'm afraid to Google anything that will give my computer a virus or start bad sites messaging me.
A: You can order from an online site, but be careful. A reliable site will respond to your order confidentially and deliver it in a discreet package, and it will not sell your name to other sex-related mailing lists. Among the few I trust are goodvibes.com, evesgarden.com, drugstore.com and amazon.com. Yes, the latter two have sexual aids and products; the first two sites even make experts available to advise you, offline, on which product would be best for your circumstances.
Pepper Schwartz, AARP's sex and relationships adviser, answers readers' questions submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.