Are you looking for an erotic reconnection on Valentine’s Day? Many of us are. After all, it’s our annual opportunity to celebrate love and pleasure. But all the candlelight, cards, flowers, and tasty chocolates in the world — while they say, “I love that you’re in my life,” a sweet message indeed — they don’t guarantee the kind of erotic reconnection so many of us would love to make.
For that, we have to tell each other what we want, what we’d love.
Long-term couples may be having the best sex of their lives. Years of connection and intimacy can bear fruit in a deep sense of erotic knowing and togetherness. Men and women whose sexual pattern differed earlier in their lives — guys who got turned on much quicker than their female partners, for instance — may find their differences are less noticeable. As men age, they can often use as much “foreplay” as women and may even require direct touch to get erect. Men who in their 20’s got aroused when the wind changed direction are now attuned to taking their time. Often, a house full of kids has given way to an empty nest that Mom and Dad can proceed to turn back into a love shack. Most of all, couples who have invested love and time, who’ve had ups, downs, and adventures together, who’ve honed their compatibility, know how to talk to each other. When you can communicate, you can stay attuned to each other’s moods, changes, desires and responses, and that’s an enormously important element of good sex.
Other couples may not be having the best sex in their lives-not even close. Some have settled into — at best — a comfortable but no-thrills rut or a companionable partnership. They may still value each other a great deal, but sex is a few-time-a year thing or isn’t on the menu any more at all. It’s not age that does it (though menopause can take its toll on a woman’s libido)- work stress or expectations may be high at midlife, ill health (and the anti-sexual effects of many medications) may begin to enter the picture when we hit our 50’s and 60’s, and what doctors and sexologists call “lifestyle factors” can take a bite out of arousal and orgasm capacity. I also see couples who may have been pretty sexually incompatible all along and who — most importantly — don’t talk about it, either through shame, lack of information or not knowing how to begin the talk , resignation, resentment, or because they really believe that after 50 “this is how it is.”
This is NOT how it needs to be. Any couple can move the dial away from zero- if they’re willing to try. Some may need the guidance of a couples’ counselor or sex therapist, but others will find that when one breaks the ice, the other will gratefully participate in opening up lines of communication and help return sensual play to the menu.
So many of our friends find they can rediscover hot sex in their 50’s, 60’s, or beyond. It’s not age — it’s your situation and openness to sexual experience- plus your ability to communicate. Having a truckload of sex toys delivered on Valentine’s Day won’t fix things — but a frank talk over a candlelight dinner might begin that process. Some terrific books can help with this process — inspiring, instructing and informing. I recommend Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity, Pepper Schwartz and Janet Lever’s Great Sex Weekend, and Joan Price’s wonderful books Better Than I Ever Expected and Naked at Our Age.
If menopausal changes have become an issue for libido or general well-being, check out Dr. Christiane Northrup’s The Wisdom of Menopause.
I recommend lubricant to all sexually-active people (and of course, for any anal play and for condom use, it’s de rigeur), but menopausal changes, and sometimes the effects of pharmaceuticals, and even OTC decongestants, can leave one really longing for lube when intercourse or other vaginal insertion is on the menu. One lube I like is Please Cream – it is natural and ecorotic, with a little bit of silicone to keep it slick, and it is doctor-recommended for menopausal women in particular. But people prefer different types of lube, and there are many good ones on the market.
Those who’ve never explored sex toys have a world of sexy fun to discover, from the added stimulation of vibrators to the naughty gizmos you read about in 50 Shades of Grey. Of course Valentine’s Day is a perfect time for this, but shopping for new playthings together — whether you do it online or are lucky enough to be near a store that specializes in erotic toys — can be more fun, romantic, and most of all intimacy-building than simply buying a gift. If you’re going to play with an item together, consider choosing it together too.
Certain erotic toys are tailor-made for partner sex — cock rings like the Mio, for instance, and certainly the WeVibe, the only vibrator made to be used during intercourse, with one end resting against the G-spot inside the vagina and the other adding clitoral sensation. Many people, whether or not they have experience with vibrators, don’t know that men can enjoy vibration too, and both of these toys are good ways to explore.
And there are so many ways to enjoy erotic fun besides intercourse, that really, a couple or a solo person can play with just about any sex toy. Men can love using sleeves, like the Tenga 3D, by themselves, or this kind of toy can be a delightful adjunct to a very special hand job. A versatile vibrator like the Gigi is great for almost any kind of erotic buzz (except anal, since it has no base), while the Hitachi Magic Wand, the electric vibe that helped put Good Vibrations on the map, is a wonderful solo toy that many partners also love, especially when extra stimulation is desired.
Being partnered is by no means a basic necessity for pleasure and orgasm — Good Vibrations’s motto has long been “If you want something done right, do it yourself” — and for some singles, Valentine’s Day can be an excuse to really pamper themselves, not someone else.
For couples, the best thing about sex toys may be the way they create an opportunity to talk about erotic play, to choose something you both want to try, to learn how to enjoy eroticism in ways that can make you both forget same-old, same-old sex. Take the opportunity to explore what many mid-life and older couples testify is the best sex of their lives!
Carol Queen, PhD is the staff sexologist at Good Vibrations