Enjoying Sex as We Age
How to be a Sage
Written by Jane Steckbeck
“It takes most people decades to reach their full sexual potential. Although our culture equates ripe sexuality with youth, true sexual maturity is often accompanied by soft bellies, gray hair and wrinkles…[t]he best lovers are sages—mature people who are able to act in alignment with their authentic self and to be in ongoing, conscious connection with others.”
-- Sheri Winston, “Women’s Anatomy of Arousal: Secret Maps to Buried Pleasure.”
While our cultural training may disagree, my experience with clients in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and yes, even 80’s, and with workshop participants (having attended over 40 workshops on Love, Intimacy and Sexuality), and with people who attend my public talks and classes, a lot of people over 50 are having passionate, connective and rich sex lives.
I can assure you that having a fulfilling sex life after 50 is entirely possible—if that is something you want. This post will cover a few practices that are common amongst sages and will offer “empowerment reframes” for anyone who wants to experience passion, pleasure and intimacy after 50.
1. A sage recognizes that great sexual intimacy is NOT dependent on intercourse. Sages understand that shared pleasure can include oral sex, hand stimulation, long cuddle sessions, erotic massage, sensation play…and much more! While important for procreation, intercourse is absolutely NOT necessary for sharing pleasure or experiencing orgasm. Finding ways to share intimate touch without the goal (or pressure) of intercourse and “performance” can provide couples countless ways to connect sexually.
Empowerment Reframe: I am a beautiful, sensual and sexual person no matter my age. I can experience pleasure in many ways and am eager to explore new ways of sharing pleasure with my partner.
2. A sage appreciates that his/her aging body may have wrinkles, sags or extra weight, but he/she is comfortable with such changes. A sage understands that we are sexual beings from birth to death and good sexual connectivity does not depend on our weight, skin tone, or other external factors. A negative body image certainly tanks libido whereas self-confidence and a steadfast belief in our worthiness as a sexual partner can keep us engaged and savoring the vitality we experience though sexual connectivity.
Empowerment Reframe: I am worthy of pleasure, sensual and sexual touch regardless of how my body looks.
3. A sage knows that it is worthwhile to cultivate libido by engaging with erotic stimuli and/or agreeing to show up for sex even if not initially “in the mood.” Low libido can be a serious impediment to enjoying sexual connectivity—and yet, what is a primary goal of sex? For many, it is connection and sharing intimacy. A sage recognizes that if he or she wants intimate connection, then seeking erotic stimuli and showing up for sex is vital. Remember, more people than not experience responsive desire as opposed to spontaneous desire—which means that we have to expose ourselves to erotic stimuli to become aroused—then desire follows. Follow this link to my recent blog post about responsive desire and this link for ideas for how to awaken libido at any age.
Empowerment Reframe: I can mindfully awaken my desire by seeking out erotic stimuli (erotica, ethical porn, podcasts, romance books, etc.). I understand that the more I have sex, the more I will want to have sex!
4. A sage understands that self-pleasure is an important component of retaining vital sexuality as we age. We are first and foremost our own sexual partners and not having a sexual partner does not need to derail your sex life! Masturbation is a primary form of sexual expression and can help us retain deep connectivity with our sexual energy and ourselves. For people over 50, masturbation is even more important for a multitude of reasons: it helps us retain healthy blood flow to genitals, keeps us interested in sex and can keep us informed about how our sexual response is changing. Mother Culture has given masturbation a terrible rap—I encourage everyone to re-think this one.
Empowerment reframe: Whether partnered or not, I have a robust self-pleasure practice and enjoy my solo sexuality a great deal. If I do find a partner, I’m ready to play. If not, I’m happy with my sex life!
5. A sage problem-solves around issues that are age related, like painful intercourse. For many post-menopausal women, this is an absolute reality—it certainly was for me until I found a solution—and fortunately, there are solutions. Any woman experiencing pain with intercourse should consider the following:
1) Visit your GYN to ensure that your pain is due to menopausal changes and nothing more;
2) Consider pelvic floor physical therapy or massage; in Eugene, we’re fortunate to have the Pelvic Wellness Center and Sage Red Healing to help;
3) If you want to work with vaginal health on your own, try the Vaginal Renewal Program through “A Woman’s Touch: Sexuality Resource Center.”
4) With your health care provider’s guidance, consider using a topical estrogen product. Personally, I found tremendous relief from painful intercourse with Bezwecken Cubes, which provide a low-dose of bio-identical estriol.
5) Look into the OhNut, a fabulous new product that allows women to control the depth of intercourse. Check out this review for a first-hand description of how it can work!
Empowerment reframe: I can have intercourse without pain. It may take some effort to get there, but if I want this, I can make it happen. I will not have intercourse if it hurts!
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Did you know that 20 million women suffer from painful intercourse?
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6. A sage recognizes that our bodies may take longer to experience arousal and orgasm…and that taking time is perfectly acceptable. I hear women raise the concern that they take “too long” to experience orgasm, so they can’t possibly expect a partner to “work that hard.” Oh, my. Actually, you can ask for this and you’re worthy. There is such a cultural belief, mostly held by women, that if it takes “too long,” it’s not ok. (God forbid a woman’s pleasure requires some genuine effort on behalf of her partner…) Here’s how it can be made easier: use erotica to stimulate arousal and sex toys to stimulate the vulva. Sex toys (vibrators) help bring blood flow to the genitals and can facilitate orgasm. When used with a partner, the vibrator can do the heavy lifting—and guys, a vibrator will never replace you. Most women want loving connectivity with their partners. Use of a vibrator together can foster connectivity while delivering results without anyone working too hard. For a great resource on understanding female arousal, check out Sheri Winston’s “Women’s Anatomy of Arousal.”
Empowerment reframe: My partner and I can learn to use erotica and sex aids (toys) to help stimulate my arousal response and achieve orgasm. I’m worth the effort and my pleasure and orgasms are as important as my partner’s.
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In my experience, people over 50 who want to have passionate sex lives can indeed have them. It takes bucking our cultural training, flexible thinking, the willingness to problem-solve, a positive self-image and the belief that we’re worthy of sexual connectivity and pleasure. Be a sage and enjoy sexual intimacy at any age!
What comes to mind when you think about anal sex? For many people, the idea of anal play conjures some unpleasant reactions. Some have had negative experiences with previous attempts, and some have negative connotations about what butt stuff is like, or the kinds of people who might want it. But the truth is that anal is an option for everybody who wants to participate in it -- every body’s got a booty, after all!
No matter what you may believe, safe, pleasurable, and fun anal play is within reach. Your anal session probably won’t look like it does in porn, but trust us, that’s a good thing. Anal scenes in pornography often skip over the extremely important setup and foreplay that safe and pleasurable anal sex requires, and skip over most of the safety and hygiene practices that are required. Simply put, porn exists to turn us on, not to teach us.
But don’t worry; that’s what we’re here for! Here, we will walk you through the process -- from before you begin, to after you’re finished. We encourage anyone who is looking to get into anal to keep an open mind! You may have preconceived notions or personal fears about anal sex, and it’s important to work through those feelings if you want to have a good anal experience. Everyone’s anal adventure is different, because every body is different! So keep an open mind, listen to your body, and pay special attention to what feels good. Remember, the purpose of all play is pleasure!
So with that in mind, let’s get into it:
Let’s begin by talking about butts themselves! If we want to please that part of our bodies, it’s important to know the anatomy we’re working with. On the outside, there are lots of ultra-sensitive nerve endings that can be stimulated in a myriad of ways. The perineum -- or the area between the anus and genitals -- is a haven for nerve endings. Often, this area enjoys being stimulated with pressure or gentle massage.
The opening of our anus itself is also packed with sensitive nerve endings. Many people think that anal play must include penetration of some kind, but that is absolutely not true! Rimming -- the act of stimulating the anus externally using mouth, fingers, or a vibrating toy -- is a sensation that many enjoy. If you’re considering trying anal stimulation but feeling a little hesitant or uncertain, rimming and other kinds of external play is a great way to start exploring!
The inside of the anus is defined by two rings of muscle. The external ring we can consciously control, and it is this muscle that we use when we bear down or clench our anal muscles. However, the internal ring is more complex. We cannot consciously control our inner anal ring; it tightens or relaxes subconsciously, and is often affected by our mood. For example, if we are feeling nervous or afraid, that muscle will tighten. Trying to force entry through this ring when it’s too tight can cause extreme pain, which is why many people have negative experiences with trying anal penetration. Instead of moving too quickly or rushing to penetration, we must slowly coax our bodies into relaxing. This can mean waiting until we are relaxed, working to change our mindset and giving our bodies time to follow, giving our bodies other kinds of pleasure to relax it manually, or even having an orgasm before trying anal penetration!
Within the body is the rectum, which is the area that will be occupied with toys or body parts when we experience penetration. The rectum contains within it a huge amount of nerves, making it extremely sensitive. Sensations of friction and fullness often create pleasure internally. For some bodies, the rectum is also the place to access the prostate. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that most penis-owners have, and is located a few inches inside the anus on the inside wall of the rectum. Many prostate-owners find that stimulating the prostate, either with fingers, penises, or toys, gives them extreme pleasure that can lead to orgasm. For bodies without prostates, anal penetration can stimulate the g-spot -- or even the clitoris -- from a different angle, leading to different pleasurable sensations.
No matter your anatomy, the anus is full of sensitive nerves. Anal play is all about learning how best to stimulate them!
Humans have evolved to use tools, and there are a few items that we suggest to help you as you engage in your anal exploration.
First -- and most importantly -- lube! Because the rectum doesn’t produce its own lubrication (unlike the vagina), it’s critically important that any anal activity is supplemented with ample amounts of lube. There are many different kinds of lubricant out there, and what you use is largely dependent on personal preference, and the materials of toys you would like to use. For rimming, many people enjoy a flavored water-based lube. Many use coconut oil for external play and digital anal penetration, because it is long-lasting, slippery, and protects the sensitive skin cells of the anus and rectum. For penetration with toys, a hybrid lubricant or a very thick water-based lubricant may be preferred, depending on the material of the toy. For penetration with a penis, silicone lubricant will last the longest and provide the smoothest glide. Experiment with several different kinds of lubricant to see what your body responds to best! Just be careful to check the ingredients to ensure they are non-toxic, body-safe, and compatible with whatever toys you want to use.
While it can be difficult to get lubricant inside the body, lube shooters make that process easier. Similar to a syringe, the shooter utilizes a plunger to draw lube inside, and features a small spout that allows you to deposit the lube internally with ease. Don’t be stingy with lubricant, either -- make sure you’re applying plenty, and re-applying often.
Many people like to use toys for anal stimulation. The most important thing when looking for toys to stimulate your booty is to make sure that it has a flared base. Unlike the vagina, the rectum does not have a set end point, meaning that toys without a flared base run the risk of being pulled into the body and getting stuck. In the worst cases, it can require a hospital visit to remove stuck items.
Toys that are designed with this flared base for anal stimulation are often called 'butt plugs.' Plugs come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. From plugs that are smaller than the average index finger, to much larger inner-band training plugs, there is a plug for every body and every experience level. Straight plugs will help you get used to the sensation of “fullness” commonly associated with anal penetration, while curved plugs are often designed to put pressure against the prostate. Explore and experiment to find what size and shape is right for you! You can also use anal beads, which are toys that gradually increase in size along their length. Beads help to slowly help your body stretch to accept penetration. When removed slowly, beads teach your body to relax and slowly open. In addition, there are many different anal training toy sets, typically consisting of multiple toys in gradually increasing sizes. These sets are particularly helpful if you hope to work your way from the beginner level into larger toys, or penetration with a dildo or a penis.
Many people use plugs to prepare their bodies for penetration, while others wear plugs during other sex acts for additional stimulation. Some plugs vibrate for an extra kick of sensation. Plugs can be made of glass, stainless steel, aluminum, or body-safe silicone, and each material has different benefits and creates different sensations. When choosing an anal toy, personal preference is paramount, and the possibilities are endless!
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The Little Flirt is barely a pinky width at the tip and only a finger width at the center, a petite 0.8″ wide by 3.35″ long, making it the perfect introduction to anal play. Adding the long neck helps the plug stay put and keeps the Little Flirt one of the best anal toys for beginners.$30.00 Select options
Coconu is a Coconut Oil-Based lubricant that will stimulate your senses for deeply satisfying sexual experiences while the organic ingredients provide real, natural health benefits.
Its long-lasting formula is designed to protect and moisturize dry or sensitive vaginal and anal tissues. It’s USDA-certified organic formula is 100% edible, works great as a massage oil and doesn’t contain any alcohol, petroleum, parabens, gluten, fragrances or dyes.
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Hygiene & Safety
One of the main reasons that some people are hesitant to try anal play is due to their conceptions of anal hygiene. It’s important to note that while anal sex does involve the part of the body where fecal matter comes from, and it’s possible to encounter some during anal play, it’s unlikely that you will encounter a lot. Because fecal matter is not actually stored in the rectum, and only moves into the rectum when we actively have to defecate, the area we are playing with should be mostly clean. Lifestyle, diet, and physical or digestive abilities will have an effect on the body, and it’s best to know your body well before engaging in anal play.
But if you are concerned about hygiene, there are a few steps that you can take to make sure your experience is as clean as possible:
You should always go to the bathroom and empty your bowels 30-60 minutes before engaging in anal play. Once your bowels are empty, you can wash the outside of your body with gentle soap and water. Hypoallergenic baby wipes are also very helpful for pre-play cleanup!
If you desire extra cleanliness, you may enjoy a gentle enema 1-2 hours before engaging in anal play. There are simple bulb-styles that are easy to use in the restroom, as well as in-shower options to work into your bathing routine. We suggest using warm water only; our booties don’t respond well to chemicals, perfumes, or strong soap.
Remember never to use the same object to stimulate the vagina or the mouth that was just in contact with the anus or rectum without washing up, first. This means no moving from anal penetration to vaginal or oral penetration with the same toy or body part, unless you wash it first. If you’ve been using your fingers to stimulate someone anally, make sure you wash your hands before moving on to other sensitive anatomy. Failure to keep our tools clean will spread bacteria and encourage infections in both ourselves and our partners. When in doubt, pause and wash up!
If the idea of running to the sink between every act isn’t appealing, barriers are a wonderful help! Barriers do more than make your sex safer, they also make it more hygenic. If you want to use a toy without stopping to clean it up afterward, you can simply place a condom over the toy. Then when you’re ready, remove it for instant cleanup! If you use your fingers to stimulate the anus or rectum, you can always wear gloves. That way, you can simply remove the gloves when you’re finished instead of stopping to wash your hands. Gloves can also introduce a different sensation, and the application of gloves can become a very erotic part of your scene-setting. If you’re worried about your bed, you may choose to lie a towel down beneath your hips to protect your space from any mess that might occur, and help to streamline cleanup.
Remember that all kinds of sex have the potential to get messy. Mess is a part of life! If you do get messy during sex -- whether while participating in anal or any other act -- just keep calm, and clean up! You may be able to get back into a sexy mood after a quick shower, and continue participating in other kinds of play. Or you may be turned off enough by the mess that you need to end the scene if it gets too messy, and that’s ok, too! You are the only person who gets to set your boundaries, and decide when to stop.
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The sleek Nexus Anal Douche offers one step insertion for simple yet effective intimate cleansing before and after anal play.
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Take It In Steps
One of the most important things to remember when engaging in anal play is to move in steps. Diving in too fast risks hurting the receiving partner. You never want to begin with penetration. Instead, start with external play! We highly recommend rimming as a method to warm your body up to the potential for anal penetration. Using fingers, lips, or tongue, or toys to stimulate the anus from the outside helps the body become aroused, increase blood flow and sensitivity to the area, and help turn the receiving partner on. The more relaxed and turned on the receiving partner is, the better your anal adventure will be! Only attempt penetration once your partner is relaxed, their body is warmed up, and ample lubricant has been applied.
Many people like to engage in ‘training’ before participating in anal sex, which means using small penetrative toys to help your body get used to being opened up. Training can last anywhere from a few hours, to a few days! Some find that wearing a butt plug for awhile before participating in anal play makes the experience easier, because their body is already engaged. Others may enjoy using fingers or small toys to prepare their body for penetration with a penis or a larger toy.
When you think you’re ready to engage in penetration with a larger toy, our best advice is to go slow and slippery! You can use a lubricant shooter to make sure that there is lube throughout the rectum, and apply a generous amount to the outside of the penetrative object, whether it be a toy or a body part. Remember to breathe, don’t tense up, and take it slow.
If you experience pain, stop and apply more lubricant! If you’re still experiencing pain when using plenty of lube, then it may be an indicator that your body isn’t ready. You may need to go back a step and work on training for a while longer. Every body is different, so listen to yours! It’s a common cultural myth that anal sex will hurt, but that’s not actually true! Sex -- no matter what kind you’re participating in -- should never hurt (unless you want it to).
If you experience pain during anal play, pause. Consider taking a short break, giving yourself more warm-up time, adding more lubricant, or switching positions. Many people ask us about numbing agents or desensitizers, but we do not suggest using these kinds of products. If you’re feeling discomfort or pain, it’s usually best to listen to your body. Pain and discomfort is an acute form of neurofeedback to warn us of harm to our bodies, and removing your ability to feel discomfort creates the potential for injury.
So you’ve had a successful anal experience. Well done! But remember that the scene doesn’t stop on a dime, and many people will need physical aftercare, emotional aftercare, or both!
Once you’re done, take some time to clean up. Baby wipes are incredible for a fast cleanup! Don’t feel the need to sit down in the bathroom and try to squeeze the lube out of your body right away; instead, give your muscles time to relax. Take a break. This can be a wonderful time for a soothing bath -- ideal for both mental relaxation and physical soothing.
Some slight discomfort is normal after anal penetration. It’s also normal to see a small amount of blood afterward. If you do notice a bit of blood, it’s a good indicator that you didn’t have enough lube throughout the entire interaction. Make sure you are reapplying often enough during penetration! You can soothe upset external skin of your anus with coconut oil, or unscented cocoa butter. If there is a lot of blood, or extreme pain at any point, you may need to see a doctor! If you do, be honest with them about the cause of your pain. We promise, your doctor has heard it all before, and they will know what to do.
Don’t forget to tend to your emotions, too! Emotional aftercare can be just as important as physical aftercare. Participating in anal sex can make the receiver feel extremely vulnerable. The receiving partner may need plenty of praise, attention, and affection. Talk to your partner about how they feel, and what they need! Perhaps they will want to watch their favorite television show, eat their favorite snack, or cuddle up in their favorite blanket. Be attentive to their needs, and make sure to clearly state your own!
It’s important that both partners check in with each other about their feelings, takeaways, likes, and dislikes of their experience once you’ve both cooled down both mentally and physically. Discussing with our partners what was good, what was great, and what could be done better, is how we improve our experiences.
Congratulations! You’re almost ready to go safely out into the world of anal exploration! But before you do, let us offer a few final tips that can help set you up for a successful anal adventure:
- Remember, anal sex shouldn’t hurt. If it does, stop, troubleshoot, and adjust. Pain shouldn’t be a part of anyone’s sexual experience (unless they want it to be).
- Lube, lube, lube. We know we’ve talked about the importance of using plenty of lubricant a lot already in this guide, but we just have to say it one more time: USE PLENTY OF LUBE. When in doubt, add more. There’s virtually no such thing as using “too much” lube.
- Get turned on first! If you’re already feeling sexy, then it’ll be a lot easier for your body relax enough to enjoy anal. Sometimes, anal sex is easiest (and the most pleasureable) after you’ve already had an orgasm. Experiment with what works for you and your body!
- Make anal a side act. If you know you love clitoral stimulation, then try adding anal play in simultaneously with your favorite clitoral toy! Experiencing pleasure in one part of the body deepens our overall connection with our entire physical selves, and opens our bodies up to even more pleasure.
- Breathe. Often, when we are trying something new or experiencing something unfamiliar, we tend to physically tense up and our breathing becomes shallow. It’s important to stay relaxed and present, and taking deep breaths is one of the best methods for connecting to your body. If you find yourself getting tense or anxious during anal play, focus on taking a few deep breaths to help you relax.
- Practice makes perfect! If your first attempt at anal sex isn’t flawlessly executed, that’s ok! Experience is the best teacher, so as long as you remain interested in and excited by anal play, you should keep exploring it. Move at your own pace, and make your own rules based on your wants and needs.
- Anal isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok, too! Every body responds to different things. While some people may want and enjoy anal play, others simply don’t. Your boundaries are yours to determine, and should always be respected by your partners -- no ifs, ands, or butts.
And with that, we set you free to begin -- or continue -- your anal adventure! Be safe, have fun, and check in with your partner/s frequently. And remember: every body’s got a booty.