Sexier at any Age

Long ago, when I was in graduate school, in response to a comment about what I imagined our life and relationship might look like 30 years hence, my boyfriend at the time said, “Sex isn’t going to be important then, there will be other priorities. I can’t imagine wanting to have sex in my 50’s.” He was 26 at the time. I doubt he sees sexuality the same way now.

There are so many ways in which our culture tells us that sex is for the young and the beautiful but the truth is, sex is for anyone who wants it and for many people I know, women in particular, the best sex they’ve ever had has come well into the latter half of life. My good friend, sex coach and sex educator, Jane Steckbeck, has made it her mission to help people embrace their sexuality as they age. She recently gave a talk at an AARP conference in Oregon. Check out her top 10 suggestions for Rocking Sex after 50!

Turn me on and turn me off

Sometimes, we love someone deeply and yet, awkwardly, sadly, we stop feeling sexually attracted to her.

Sometimes, we don’t even LIKE someone but can’t stop the craving to rip off his clothes and have sex with him in the back of a car… ANY car.

Sometimes we want to feel turn on with our partner but can’t stop thinking about the project at the office, sometimes we want to be focused on our project at the office and can’t stop thinking about how horny we are. Our sexual response can feel like an impolite mystery guest whose comings and goings at our table are entirely unpredictable and out of our control.

To understand sexual arousal, it helps to understand the Dual Control Model of Sexual Response theory developed by Jansson and Bancroft at the Kinsey Institute. Herewith the basics:

The Sexual Excitation System (SES) – SES is the accelerator of your sexuality. This subconscious system is always at work responding to all sexually relevant stimuli in the environment. It scans for things that are sexually appealing and, as it finds them, flips the switch from the brain to the genitals to tell them, “Turn on!”. Blood starts flowing, lubricants start flowing, etc.

Some turn-ons are innate and some are learned.

Sex appeal changes by generation, geography, and culture. In China, there was a time when tiny little crippled broken feet on women were considered so beautiful that the torture required to create them was considered worthwhile. (Oddly, a modern woman’s foot thrust into a 21st century stiletto heeled shoe is shaped not unlike that of the broken bound Chinese women’s feet. We’ve come a long way, and then again…) Other cultures perceive(d) beauty in scarring, tattooing, and labrets. Modern westerners undergo tummy tucks, botox, rib removals, breast augmentations, tattooing, etc. all in the hope of being somehow more sexually attractive. Since the advent of internet porn, the fashion for hairless, or minimally hairy pubes has sent millions of women and many men to professionals who will, for a lot of money, rip from the roots your perfectly natural healthy pubic hair. There was a time when the triangle of pubic hair itself represented the height of sexiness and maybe the pendulum will swing back that direction. The follies of SES fashion.

The Sexual Inhibition System (SIS) – SIS is the brakes system that responds to fear of performance failure (erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, etc) fear of performance consequences (STI transmission, unwanted pregnancy, social consequences). SIS is the subconscious system that constantly scans for turn-offs. SIS is what, if things are functioning reasonably normally, keep you from getting inappropriately aroused in the middle of a business meeting or dinner with your grandma.

Sexual response is a balance between the excitatory and inhibitory neourophysiological processes. Some people have stronger brakes and weaker accelerators, for some it is the other way around. Some have strong brakes and strong accelerators, some have weak brakes and weak accelerators and some balance pretty well in the middle. Understanding whether loss of libido with your partner is due to strong brakes or a weak accelerator can be helpful in understanding how to create the change you want.

Take the Kinsey Institute test to discover your comparative arousal and inhibition. Also, check out Emily Nagoski’s great infographic the Dual Control Model and I highly recommend her book, Come as You Are. This is one of my all time favorite books for helping women understand their sexuality.

Is Love Enough?

There is a mythology out there that love conquers all and that mythology is based on an idealized version of how love should work. When we feel love for someone, particularly the over the moon swooning delicious thrilling tingling this is the most amazing thing I have ever felt kind of love, we are quickly seduced into believing that this should last forever. Perhaps we have even found our soul mate. And, perhaps we have. Perhaps we have met someone we could spend the rest of our lives with. It happens.

As often as not though, as we know from all the songs about heartbreak that have been written since as long as songs have been written, it turns out, after a while, that this may not be the person we are going to happily play house with forever. And yet, despite the evidence to the contrary we so often stay in these relationships long past their expiration date.

We all know people who are in relationships that make them miserable – people who can spend inordinate amounts of time talking about everything that is wrong with their partner or about how they’ve been mistreated by their partner, or how stressed out they are by their relationship – and yet insist that they love their partner and that this will somehow all work out. Maybe we’ve even been one of “those people”.

Relationships, good relationships, require attention and cultivation. I try to avoid using the word “work” because that sounds so tedious – but the truth is, sometimes it is tedious. Never mind, despite that, a good relationship is so delicious and so worth every effort.

However, some relationships are hopeless. We are often mismatched with people we are wildly attracted to. Biological attraction is not necessarily long term compatibility.

Here is an interesting article Love is Not Enough by Mark Manson that addresses some key points: 1) Love does not Equal Compatibility, 2) Love does not solve your relationship problems and 3) Love is not always worth sacrificing yourself for. Check it out.

Why I LOVE Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has perfect viscosity, slipperiness, and lasting power. Unlike other lubricants, it’s tastiness adds to rather than detracts from fellatio and cunnilingus.

Try it!

The amount of lubrication a woman produces naturally and the viscosity of that lubrication can vary tremendously depending on such things as time of the month, diet, age, and hydration. Adding a little coconut oil can protect vaginal tissue and enhance the pleasure of intercourse, no matter how old she is or how much natural lubrication she is producing. The added slipperiness can be a boon for both partners.

Coconut oil provides a thicker coating than silicone, water, or gel based lubricants. This means good protection and staying power. While many commercial lubricants have ingredients, such as alcohol, glycerin, or paraben, that can cause irritation to sensitive vaginal tissues, coconut oil is actually good for your skin and particularly vagina friendly.

Coconut oil even contains natural antifungal and antibacterial properties that may help prevent yeast and bacterial infections. This article offers some further information on these properties: The Benefits of Coconut Oil.

Coconut oil used when manually stimulating a partner can improve the experience manifold for both men and women. It is infinitely more effective than spit on the fingers. If you use your hands in conjunction with oral stimulation during fellatio, the oil allows smoother stroking and manipulation of the penis. At the same time, it also provides a thin layer of glide and moisturizer for the lips and a mild but lovely natural flavor enhancement. There is no commercial lubricant that I know of that comes close in marrying all these properties.

Coconut oil is solid up to a temperature of about 75 degrees give or take. This is actually quite convenient. As long as the room is not too warm, it won’t accidentally spill all over the place if you knock it over during the flailing in the heat of passion.

To use, just pull out a dollop with a finger, rub between your hands, and you quickly have the perfect consistency oil for massaging or lubricating just about any body part. Also, it is easy to insert a dollop of oil into the vagina in its solid form, and it melts in seconds. Here’s some info on how coconut oil is made.

Also, by the way, coconut oil is sometimes called a “superfood”. If you want to know about the health benefits of eating the stuff, check this out: 10 Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

Caveat: don’t forget that oils, coconut or otherwise, cannot be used with latex condoms. According to the CDC, within as little as 60 seconds of exposure, a 90% decrease in latex strength will occur in a condom when using an oil based lubricant. To demonstrate this phenomenon, blow up a latex condom, place a dab of oil or lotion on it, and watch it explode.

Fortunately, there are many good non-latex condoms out there. We like SKYNS, but there are lots of others: look around! (Do NOT, however, be tempted by the lambskin condoms. These do not protect against STIs under any circumstances).

Fitness is Sexy

“Sex, whatever else it is, is an athletic skill. The more you practice, the more you can, the more you want to, the more you enjoy it, the less it tires you.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

You don’t need to be a marathon runner or a yoga devotee to enjoy sex but a certain degree of fitness can enhance your sex life in many ways. It is also true that simply having sex with frequency will enhance your fitness level. It is a virtuous circle.

People who exercise more frequently tend to be more in tune with their bodies and are better able to focus on the moment. With healthy lungs, lovers are better able to use their breath to help enhance their physical experience. Cardiovascular exercise helps pump blood faster to the erogenous zones. Strength work-outs produce higher levels of growth hormone and testosterone that promote both muscle growth and a higher libido. Being limber lets you experiment with and be comfortable in more and more interesting positions.

In addition, for women, more frequent sex keeps the vagina more elastic, increases vaginal lubrication and blood flow. Orgasm causes contractions in the pelvic floor muscles and helps prevent incontinence. Studies at the University of Texas in Austin have shown that women who exercise frequently become aroused more quickly, are more sensitive to touch, and are able to orgasm faster and more intensely.

Check out this article in Psychology Today: Exercise for Better Sex

The Ultimate Intimacy: Eye Gazing during Sexual Intercourse

Front to front sexual positions offer the delicious opportunity for eye gazing during intercourse. Whether side by side, woman on top, man on top, sitting up, or any variation on the theme, eye contact can intensify a sexual experience exponentially.

Before trying this during sex, practice eye gazing before sex, as a way of connecting emotionally before you get physically connected. For people who are not used to looking one another in the eyes regularly for prolonged periods, this alone can be mind and heart opening. It is a cornerstone practice in tantric sex but is beneficial for anyone desiring greater intimacy in relationship.

The gaze you want to practice with your lover is soft and open, not glaring. Practice different ways of gazing at one another and see how they feel. Note that eye gazing can feel confrontational and that there is some research suggesting that direct eye contact makes us more resistant to persuasion during conflict. This is not the kind of gaze you are aiming for! When we eye gaze with mutual consent and openness, research has shown repeatedly that this is one of the best ways to bring people together. Even total strangers feel significantly more connection and affection for one another after an eye gazing exercise.

Start by practicing eye gazing for a few minutes at a time and then increase it. Be really comfortable with eye gazing for prolonged periods before you try incorporating it during intercourse.

If you can hold on to the gaze as you get more and more aroused, if you can lock into eye contact during orgasm, this may be one of the most connecting emotional experiences you ever have. It’s not easy to do. The more aroused you become, the more likely you will want to close your eyes and sink into yourself. Instead, slow the sex down and keep the gaze open and steady. Instead of just sinking into yourself during orgasm sink into the other person and take your partner along for your ride. This is transcendent.

Monogamy: natural or not?

There seems to be ample evidence that monogamy is not a “natural” state of affairs. Simply examining the human propensity for having extramarital affairs seems like enough evidence that monogamy does not come naturally.

An interesting exploration of the topic is Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha’s very long but highly readable book, Sex at Dawn. (And if you are too busy or uninspired to read the book, you can listen to Ryan’s Ted Talk and get the gist of it.)

But, in the end, I always wonder how much this contentious question actually matters.

More precisely, while it may be an interesting question, and certainly a worthy topic for research and a fascinating book, is it germane to the question of what relationship model is right for us as individuals or couples? There are so many things we do that are “unnatural” – like sitting on our butts all day gazing at computer screens or having open heart surgery or using antibiotics or birth control or having face lifts or drinking water imported from far away countries. The degree of “naturalness” is not the determining factor as to whether or not these things are good, bad, or neutral. Nor do we generally judge our friends and neighbors based on the degree of “naturalness” we see in their daily life choices.

Relationships are complicated whether monogamous, polyamorous, or “other”. We all have to weigh the pros and cons of different relationship styles for ourselves. Most important is the integrity we bring to our choices.

How to make love all day without getting tired or fired

Love 2.0 is an inspiring book on the science of love. Pulling together the psychological evidence, the neural evidence, the neuro-chemical evidence and the cardiovascular evidence, Barbara Fredrickson proposes a new perspective on love.

People often think of “love” as that business of finding “the one” but that is a very limiting view on this most beautiful, powerful, and nourishing emotion.

Frederickson posits that we actually have micro-moments of opportunities for love experience all day long. When we connect with anyone in smiles, gestures and postures, it is a micro-moment of love. Our heart rhythms come into sync, our biochemistry and neuro-firings come into sync. We are wired to connect. And the more we connect, the better it is for our hearts not just in the metaphorical or spiritual sense but for that meaty organ that keeps us alive. It boosts our immune systems and many critical bodily bits and parts.

The more micro-moments of connection you create in your daily life, the more changed you are for the better both mentally and physically.

Rethinking love with science doesn’t take the romance out of the emotion but gives us the tools and the imperative to increase the love in our life. Love is a gift we can give to others many times on a daily basis and the more we give of it, the more we get of it. That gift brings with it better health, energy and well-being.

What’s holding you back? Love a little more.

Read Love 2.0 or get a taste of it in Frederickson’s TedX talk.

Love Hurts (sometimes)

“Love hurts, love scars, love wounds, And mars, any heart, Not tough or strong enough, To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain, Love is like a cloud, Holds a lot of rain, Love hurts……ooh, ooh love hurts” so go the lyrics recorded by a host of artists including the Everly brothers, Roy Orbison, Cher and Nazareth.

And yet, while most of us have felt the stinging truth of those lyrics at some time, have suffered the anguish of a broken heart at some point in our lives, we are still creatures who crave romantic love. According to a USA today poll, 91% of women and 86% of men in the U.S. say they wouldn’t marry if they were not “in love”.

“Oh! I wanna dance with somebody, I wanna feel the heat with somebody Yeah! I wanna dance with somebody/ With somebody who loves me/ I’ve been in love and lost my senses/ Spinning through the town/ Sooner or later the fever ends, And I wind up feeling down,” sang Whitney Houston. Anyone who has ever been in love recognizes that fevered craving.

We are beings obsessed with finding love in one form or another. Turn on the radio and it doesn’t matter if it’s country and western, rock or pop, hip hop or rap, the vast majority of songs will be about love in its myriad forms and if you listen to the lyrics, the majority are about pain, craving, and hurt.

So what is romantic love? Why do we crave this “crazy thing called love” that “hurts so good”?

Love is a cross disciplinary subject being studied by anthropologists, psychologists, neuroscientists and a host of other –ists. We know more and more about what happens to our brains in love, even if we have made little progress in figuring out how to engage it without the pain. Could it be that the pain is what makes it feel so good, so precious, so delicious?

Well, what we do know is that the brain in romantic love is a brain on drugs. We are quite literally “addicted to love” when we are in it. “In love” we lose our sense of reality about the object of our desire. That person becomes more perfect, more desirable than any person can objectively be. We are a species that will sometimes kill for love and die for love.

One of the more irksome facts is that when we are dumped by someone, it turns out that our brain actually convinces us that we are even more in love with the dumper. This seems extraordinarily unfair but biology doesn’t care.

If you want to understand more about what is happening in your brain when you fall in love or when you are dumped and broken hearted, watch Helen Fisher’s Ted Talks: The Brain in Love (2008) and Why We Love, Why We Cheat (2006).

Will learning more about the chemistry of love make us any less likely to fall in love, for better and/or for worse? Will it help us avoid the swoop down into crazy addiction love with all its attendant soaring sweetness and wretched anxieties? Will it stop us from mistaking lust for true love? Will it stop us from feeling dizzy with the desire for the object of our affections?

No, not really. However, knowledge is a kind of power. Equipped with a better understanding of your brain and love, you may be better equipped to handle the vicissitudes of its extremes, to be able to recognize the symptoms when they happen, to realize that to be madly in love is, indeed, a kind of madness and accept its beauty and its anguish, its deliciousness and its frenzy, its fire and destruction with equal measure.

Ingrid Michaelson’s “Girls Chase Boys” is a good reminder that no matter how bad a “broken heart” can feel it’s been going on forever and, most of the time, those broken hearts still beat, they mend, and go on to love again.

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