Sex & Relationships

Ask Joan: How to Reveal a Dating Must-NOT-Have

“When do I reveal that intercourse is off the table?”

Dear Joan:

I am a 66-year-old single woman who would love to find a man who understands from the get-go that intercourse is off the table. I’ve had a lifetime problem with vaginismus, which I’m working to resolve, but there’s no guarantee. The advice I’ve seen for enjoying sex when intercourse is painful presumes that the people are already in a relationship. But how do I find a guy through online dating who would be receptive to sex without intercourse? When do I bring this up?

Is this a deal breaker?

Is my situation usually a deal-breaker? It doesn’t make sense to go through all the effort and time to find someone who sets off sparks only to tell him, on our third hot date, “Sorry, I can’t do that.” It seems like advanced notice would avoid a painful let down for both of us.

Suppose I put this reality on my online dating profiles right up front?

My last, otherwise wonderful relationship of two years died because we could only “do it” once, with as much pain as pleasure, despite my best efforts with dilators, lubricants, and Kegels. I understand that there are guys who are okay with sex without intercourse. The problem is all the wasted time and emotional investment for those who are not.

Suppose I put this reality on my online dating profiles right up front? I tried this once — I wrote this passionate, honest paragraph about how much I loved sex but alas could no longer tolerate intercourse:

“Despite the riches in my life there is one lack that I must live with: as much as I love being with a man and all its attendant sensual pleasures, I cannot – for now – have intercourse. I’d rather be upfront with this now, because I also value honesty.”

Two men responded positively. One said he admired my bravery and honesty, but no date resulted. The other said he no longer gets erections because of prostate surgery. We made a date but didn’t hit it off. Then I lost my nerve and changed the profile back to not revealing.

Should I try again? One person told me, “Be upfront. You will filter out the men for whom this is a deal-breaker early and save everyone heartache down the road. There are men out there who fear that their inability to perform in the PIV domain will be a deal-breaker for women — you want to find those men.”

—  Want Sex but Not PIV

Joan responds:

Vaginismus is a condition of involuntary muscle spasm and pain preventing vaginal penetration. You’re right that it would be wise to reveal early that you’re sensual and sexual, but that excludes vaginal intercourse, a.k.a PIV (penis-in-vagina sex). As you know, you can give erotically charged, totally satisfying sexual pleasure in a variety of non-penetrative ways.

You may be reluctant to put such a personal and private revelation in your dating profile for strangers to see, but you also don’t want to wait until a new relationship gets hot and heavy before springing the news. If this is a deal-breaker, why not reveal it early? Some men will not want to date you, and that’s a good thing, because you don’t want to date someone who wants a type of sex that is painful to you.

You said you were honest in your dating profile for a time, and two men responded positively. When those two didn’t work out, you lost your nerve. Your disclosure wasn’t the reason those two didn’t work out. Most first dates (and “pre-dates”) don’t work out.

Truthfully, there are many men, especially in your age group, who require or prefer sex without intercourse. They may delight in sex, but for a variety of possible medical reasons, they don’t have reliable erections, or they may not get erect at all. That doesn’t mean that they can’t have exciting, satisfying sex with a partner — just that it will happen with hands, mouths, and sex toys, not PIV. Word your profile so that you can find these men.

Think of your wording in your profile as inviting men in who want what you want. The way you worded your disclosure before sounded sad and apologetic, as if you were reluctantly admitting to a fatal flaw. It’s not a flaw, and it doesn’t have to be a setback. Consider more positive wording, such as:

“I’m a sensual, sexual person who, for medical reasons, cannot have sexual intercourse. Maybe that describes you, too. Let’s discover other ways to give each other pleasure if the chemistry is right.”

Readers, I hope you’ll offer your suggestions, especially if you’ve faced this problem yourself.

One last point: you said you’re working on your vaginismus, and I assume that’s with medical assistance. I hope this includes a pelvic floor physical therapist. These are specialists who deal with vaginal pain. Ask your OB/GYN for a referral or Google “pelvic floor physical therapy + [your zip code].”


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Joan Price has been Senior Planet’s “Sex at Our Age” columnist since 2014. She is the author of four self-help books about senior sex, including her award winners: “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex” and “Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved.” Visit Joan’s website and blog for senior sex news, views, tips, and sex toy reviews from a senior perspective. Subscribe to Joan’s free, monthly newsletter.


11 responses to “Ask Joan: How to Reveal a Dating Must-NOT-Have

  1. Thank you for the info. about: Okay Cupid. That’s one I had not heard of.

    Curious, why did you regret “eharmony”?

    And you mentioned “” might be a more flexible site. All good info. And the tip about use the “free trial” first & subscribe one month. Thank you.

    I lost my husband of what would have been 39 yrs of marriage this year in June 2020. I try to keep myself busy w/what is left of my 7 siblings & have a couple of friends & my dog. Not sure how to navigate dating now.

  2. As a male who’s spent some time (in my 50s and again in my 70s) I have to say that love it when a 65+ woman gives ANY hint that she really likes sex or wants an actual lover. If she hinted early on that oral was a specialty or that she was adventurous in some way, I’d certainly pay attention.

  3. I am 72 and in a similar situation with PIV off the table. I do agree with Joan that a positive expression of this fact early in a connection saves everyone potential heartache down the road. I have had two lovers who were not turned off or dismayed by my situation. With them, I had the best orgasms of my life!

  4. Hello,
    Do you have a dating site here? This article was very interesting. I’m 73 years old and have been a widow for 22 years. I was just curious if Seniorplanet has dating opportunities for their seniors here. I should mention that I’m not very good with computers.
    Thank You, Linda

    1. Hi Linda, OP here. I’m on OKCupid and there are plenty of senior men on that site. You put in your preferred age range. I like it for its open text fields to describe yourself (unlike eharmony, which I regret subscribing to) but you’re not free to browse unless you “like” or swipe left on a profile, which can stop you from moving forward. might be a more flexible site. Always use a free trial first or subscribe only for a month to start.

  5. I feel sorry for the lady, but I’d never publish the reason I can’t enjoy PIV. I’d just say I’m looking for a gentleman strictly as pal/friend to share trips, dinners, etc. This way she’ll get answers mostly from the right men without having to explain such private matter with strangers at this early stage. There’s time for it later when she knows them better and only if she feels like it or not…depending on the degree of her confidence in such gentleman and/or gentlemen. Good luck! :)

    1. “Strictly as pal/friend” will be read as “no sex, strictly platonic,” which is not at all what this woman wants. Over the times I’ve given my “How the Heck Do I Date at This Age?” workshop live, the most common complaint of men has been “women my age aren’t interested in sex.” The wording you suggested reinforces that. A man who *is* interested in sex (penetrative or not) will skip over any profile that says “strictly as pal.”

  6. I’m 76, my partner is 72. We are both having the best sex of our lives, and no PIV sex at all. Both of us love nipple play. We love oral sex and the magic wand vibrator. We laugh at how loud our orgasms are, we could never live with other people!

    1. That’s good to hear, but how did you meet him? I can’t even get out the gate to where you are right now. That’s my problem. How did you get from before that happened to where you are now?

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