Masturbation is a hard-sounding word for an activity that’s immensely pleasurable and self-loving. It’s sex with the person who knows you the best: yourself. Self-pleasuring is delicious sex, and it doesn’t matter how old we are, whether or not we have a partner, if arousal and orgasms are easy for us or we’ve grown up to think of masturbation as shameful—even sinful (more on that later). Staying sexual is within our own power.
Here are some reasons that we, as seniors, might want to enjoy solo sex:
5 Reasons to Self-Pleasure
- You don’t have a partner. Many of us have no sexual partner at this time in our lives. Too often, I hear this from older women: “When I meet someone, I’ll think about sex again. Until then, it doesn’t matter.” It does matter. If we put sex on hold for months, years, decades, it will be much more difficult to enjoy sex if a partner does show up later on. It’s up to us to stay healthy and sexually vibrant with regular arousal and orgasms. Even if you don’t care about being partnered again, sex with yourself is important for health and wellbeing.
- You have a partner, but little or no sexual interaction. Many of us can’t have full sexual expression with our partners due to medical or relationship issues. Perhaps one partner has lost interest or is no longer able to engage sexually, so the other gives up on sex. Or you and your partner are no longer sexually attracted to each other, but for other reasons, you want to stay together.
- What used to bring you to orgasm doesn’t do it anymore. Our responses change as we age, and what aroused us in the past may not be what works for us now. The best way to figure out what does work for us now is to experiment on our own. What kind of touch do you like? Where, exactly? What pace? What intensity? The most direct way to stay in tune with what you need for sexual pleasure is to experiment with your own hands— and, of course, sex toys. Once you find the path to pleasure on your own, you can teach it to your partner if you have one. And if you don’t, that doesn’t have to mean a lack of orgasms!
- You have a partner and are having sex, but you rarely have an orgasm. We may need more warmup/ foreplay/ sex play than our partners give us, or stronger intensity or a particular kind of stroking. Of course, communication is key: Let your partner know exactly what you need. (Mind-reading is vastly overrated.) In addition, getting yourself ready on your own before or during partner sex makes everything work better.
- It just feels good! Our reason to masturbate doesn’t have to be because something else isn’t going well. It can be because we like it, we know how to please ourselves and we’re good at giving ourselves orgasms. It can be as simple as that.
Orgasms are Good for You—No Partner Required
A whole body of research shows that sex—with a partner and solo—enhances health. Here are just a few of the benefits of sexual activity and orgasm. (For more, see my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Sex after Fifty: How to Maintain— or Regain!— a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life“):
- Reduces stress
- Enhances mood
- Strengthens the immune system
- Helps fight infection and disease
- Lowers diastolic blood pressure
- Keeps sex organs healthy
- Improves blood flow
- Helps with sleep
- Relieves headaches and other body aches
- Relieves depression
- Reduces risk of heart disease
- May reduce risk of prostate cancer
- Relieves chronic pain
- Increases blood flow to the brain, increasing mental acuity
- Makes your skin glow
- Relaxes you
- Makes you happier
- Feels really good
Reasons not to self-pleasure? Hmm… Can’t think of any.
Why Are We Reluctant or Embarrassed to Self-Pleasure?
If masturbation is good for our physical, emotional and relationship health, why is it so hard for us to talk about or even think about it? We were brought up during a sex-negative era, meaning that we were taught that sex and sexual desire were shameful, sexual pleasure was never discussed and our sex education was mainly “don’t do it.”
That applied to masturbation, too, although you’d think a culture that wanted us to delay partner sex would encourage this safe and private outlet. But no, we were taught that our genitals are dirty and we shouldn’t touch them, except for hygienic needs.
We’ve thrown off many restrictive teachings from our early youth, but for many of us, this one is especially tenacious.
“Probably no other common activity carries such a burden of shame and guilt as masturbation,” says Dr. David Pittle, a sex and relationship therapist based in San Rafael, California. “Most of us over 60 grew up with a pile of bad teaching about masturbation: ‘It will make you go blind’; ‘It is prohibited by our religion’; ‘Nice girls don’t.’ Our parents, pastors, priests and imams were wrong. Not only is masturbation not sinful, it is a very healthy and contributes to our physical and mental well-being. If you are not masturbating, then you would well begin. Spell the word as ‘Loving yourself.’”
What To Do If You’re Not Inspired
Our retreating hormones and decreased blood flow make it easy to forget about sex, because there’s less urgency. Yet the less we experience arousal and orgasm, the more difficult it is to get there when we want to. If it’s already difficult for you to arouse yourself to orgasm, that’s a good reason to masturbate more rather than less. Sexual arousal and orgasm bring blood flow to the genitals and help to tone our pelvic floor muscles. The more we do it, the easier it becomes. Give yourself at least one or two orgasms a week and you’ll feel the difference. You’ll find that the physical arousal will happen that will trigger your emotional arousal, which triggers more physical arousal, until it’s all working just right.
For those of you who insist that masturbation is inferior to sex with a loving partner, my response is that there’s nothing inferior about sex with the person who knows you best.
How to Make Solo Sex Work for You
From planning to sex toys, take these steps to give yourself the best chance for an orgasmic experience.
- Make a date with yourself. Don’t leave self-pleasuring to chance. Our arousal capability ebbs and flows, so schedule your dates with yourself during the time of day when you feel most sexually charged. Not sure when that is? Orgasms are easier before a meal, not afterward, and not when you’re tired. You might get aroused most easily in the early morning after your first cup of coffee, or just before lunch, or after a quick afternoon nap. Experiment to find out what your special time is. Set aside enough private time to enjoy the experience without rushing.
- Exercise first. Be physical in your daily life. Exercise increases blood flow. This translates to sexual arousal, because the blood flows to your genitals as well as to your muscles, making arousal easier and faster. For surprisingly effective results, exercise right before your solo sex time.
- Prepare. Have everything ready that you might want: lubricant, a small towel, massage oil, pillows for hip, back and neck comfort. Leave your phone and computer in another room, gather your favorite sex toys and settle in for pleasure. You don’t have a favorite sex toy? See my “Senior’s Guide To Vibrators” on Senior Planet and read my sex toy reviews at Naked At Our Age.
- Set the mood. Read erotica if you enjoy it (try Ageless Erotica, by and for our age group!), play music, write sexy thoughts in your journal, take a bath, massage your body slowly—whatever turns you on. You might like candlelight, lingerie…Let your imagination run wild.
- Choose your lube. A lubricant that keeps you moist and slick will increase comfort and intensify your pleasure. Keep the lube within reach so you can reapply frequently. See my “Senior’s Guide to Lubrication” on Senior Planet.
- Explore your body slowly. Sometimes racing to an orgasm is fun, but at other times, take time to slow down and explore all your erogenous zones and the kind of sensual stimulation you like. Maybe you like your breasts or thighs stroked, or maybe there’s a special place on your neck or the inside of your wrist that makes you shiver when touched just right. You may discover that the kind of touch that turns you on and/or the places you like to be touched are different now than they used to be, so don’t rely on past history.
- Fantasize. Let your fingers and sex toys help you imagine an intimate date with… who comes to mind? Let yourself explore fantasy scenes and partners. Your brain is your main sex organ, so invite your fantasy to your private party. No fantasy is “wrong,” and no one has to know what images or scenarios turn you on.
- Use sex toys and other erotic helpers. Our hormonally challenged bodies may need extra help to reach orgasm these days, and our wrists may tire before we reach our goal. That’s where your vibrator comes in. Use it on a low speed to get you aroused, then turn up the intensity to take you to orgasm. Or you might experiment with switching between toys to surprise yourself.
- If you think you’re not in the mood, do it anyway. It’s too easy to put solo sex on the back burner, and once you’re out of the habit, it’s harder to get revved up again. This is especially true at our age, when our hormones are no longer screaming for release. So reread steps 1 through 8 and just do it.
Solo sex is a lovely gift you can give yourself. Instead of seeing it as a poor substitute for partner sex, see it as a celebration that your body is still capable of such delights. Give yourself this gift often, whenever you want. I wish you joy!