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A reader writes:
I am a divorced woman, age 62. I’ve been celibate for 15 years since ending my marriage. I made some male friends over the years and I socialize, but after my divorce I didn’t really date. I like being single and living on my own, and it’s been my choice to be celibate.
A couple of years after my divorce, I bought a vibrator that I use maybe once a month for both clitoral stimulation and vaginal insertion. I like it and reach orgasm easily that way, but I don’t feel the need to use it more often.
Recently I’ve had a couple of lunch dates with a new man, which is a long way from having a relationship, but it did bring the question to the forefront of my mind. I am interested in him sexually but extremely nervous about it. If I do decide that I want to have a relationship, what do I need to consider with regards to having sex?
I grew up with a rather repressed attitude toward sex. In college I educated myself, got birth control, learned about STDs and proceeded to break all the rules of my religious upbringing – and enjoyed it. I didn’t orgasm easily then, though, and one of my concerns is that I will not orgasm with real life person-to-person sexual intercourse. I know I need a lot of clitoral stimulation to orgasm. I enjoy penis-in-vagina sex, too, but that alone is not enough for orgasm.
I have many concerns about having sex after a long period of celibacy. I read one of your columns about a lady who couldn’t have intercourse because it was painful. I don’t have any trouble with my vibrator even though I don’t use any lubrication, but it is a slim vibrator of hard plastic and it slides easily. My biggest concern is that intercourse will be painful, maybe impossible, and no fun.
I am also afraid I will just burst into tears since I have not had an intimate relationship for so many years. I fear being completely overwhelmed by emotions. —Celibate for 15 Years
Of course you’re nervous! You haven’t had a relationship, or even any interest in a relationship, for a long time. You ask very important questions, and you’re smart to want to get these questions answered now, so that you know how to prepare for a sexual relationship that might be coming.
First, please understand that having orgasms through clitoral stimulation and not through PIV (penis-in-vagina intercourse) makes you the same as most women. Only about 25 percent of women have reliable orgasms through intercourse alone. Instead of worrying that orgasm might not happen through intercourse, a good strategy is to have enough manual and/or oral sex before penetration so that you reach an orgasm before intercourse, or incorporate a clitoral vibrator with PIV. A partner who knows how women work sexually will be savvy about this and will want to learn how to give you pleasure. Be sure to give feedback so he knows what’s turning you on – moans and the occasional “oh, yes!” and “don’t stop!” work nicely when complete sentences are out of the question.
Also, realize that your new partner will likely be having performance anxiety himself. How do I please her? What if my penis doesn’t get or stay hard enough? I suggest you take the goal of intercourse out of the first sexual encounter altogether. When you’re ready to get naked, express that you’d like to take the pressure off by exploring each other without intercourse. Kiss a lot. Touch a lot. Find out what turns you both on and, if it happens, what gives you both orgasms. By saving intercourse for another time, you relieve each other of anxiety and learn how to please each other.
Before you get sexual with a partner, though, it would be wise to ramp up your solo sex to at least once a week. There are many health reasons for that (see my list of 33 reasons why weekly solo or partnered sex is good for you in my new book “The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50”) – plus, the more you have orgasms during solo sex, the easier it will be to have them with a partner. You’ll want to include penetration with progressively larger penetrative sex toys (dildos) so that you’ll be able to accommodate a penis when you’re ready. Please start using lubricant – you’ll need it with a partner.
You need to have a conversation about safer sex before you have sex. For more info, read “A New Love in Older Age: Should You Be Tested? How About Condoms?” and “Dating Again Post-60: How Far and How Fast?” on Senior Planet.
Yes, having sex for the first time in 15 years might easily bring you to tears. Let him know ahead of time that you’ve been celibate for years. Discuss how that will affect you and explain that he needs to go slowly, that maybe intercourse shouldn’t happen the first time, and this will be an emotional experience for you. If he’s worthy of sharing your re-entry into partnered sex, he’ll be respectful, gentle, and appreciative. —Joan
- Would you like to see more questions and answers? See all of Joan’s advice in Sex @ Our Age.
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Joan Price is the author of the new “Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50: How to Maintain – or Regain! – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life”; the award-winning self-help book “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex”; and the sexy memoir, “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty.” Visit Joan’s blog, “Naked at Our Age,” and her Facebook page.