Every month in Sex at Our Age, award-winning senior sexpert Joan Price answers your questions about everything from loss of desire to solo sex and partner issues. Nothing is out of bounds! To send your questions directly to Joan, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m a 69-year-old woman, 15 years divorced. I dated a few men after my divorce, but no one for the past decade. Now that I’m looking at my future, I’m afraid of my increasing loneliness and thinking it’s time to start dating again. But the older I get, the more insecure I feel about my body. My skin is too loose, my stomach too droopy, my breasts too floppy…
My ex-husband never tired of criticizing me about my weight. He also complained my vagina was so loose he couldn’t feel it. One of the men I dated after my divorce was smaller-sized and I worried that I was disappointing him by being too slack. He said I was perfect for him, but I think he was just trying not to embarrass me. My gynecologist has since confirmed that I have virtually no vaginal muscle strength. I cannot squeeze anything at all. I self-pleasure with penetrative vibrators, but they feel like they’re swimming in there. I’ve tried Kegels, but it’s been a long time since I’ve bothered since they don’t seem to do anything anyway. I also experience vaginal dryness and I’m embarrassed about that.
I feel defective and stuck. How can I move forward—or should I just look for men who are no longer interested in sex —Too Loose
Joan Price Responds
You’re not defective, and you don’t need to give up on sex and an intimate relationship. Your problem is quite common and it’s fixable! But first, let’s look at the messages that we all get about our aging bodies.
Our society reinforces the attitude that older bodies have aged out of sexiness. But we don’t have to accept that message any more than we have to accept what older people are “supposed” to wear, say, or do. Feeling free to enjoy sex at our age is far more important than what we weigh or how tightly our vaginas can squeeze.
I understand that the anxiety about vaginal looseness is a difficult insecurity to overcome, especially when your ex-husband spent years making you feel inadequate about your vagina and your body weight. You might want to consider counseling to help push away his negative messages..
Part of your husband’s perception might have been because of issues of his, not yours. In general, vaginas have the capacity to expand and contract as needed “Typically, when a man complains about a ‘loose vagina,’ it is actually because he has trouble with sensation, not that his partner is too loose,” Ellen Barnard, M.S.S.W., co-owner of A Woman’s Touch Sexuality Resource Center says. “He may have gotten used to a tight grip because of how he masturbates, or he may have diabetes or another condition that makes his nerves less sensitive.”
However, in your case, you say that you’re now not able to squeeze the muscles of your vagina, which may indicate Low Tone Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (weakness of the pelvic floor). Another sign is if you lose a bit of urine when you sneeze or cough. Weak pelvic floor is a common condition, and there are experts, called Pelvic Floor Therapists, who will work with you on getting your pelvic floor muscles back into shape. Barnard recommends asking your primary care physician or OB/GYN for a referral. If there’s an education-based sexuality shop in your area, they may have a list of recommended PFTs in your area. You can also use the locator at the nonprofit Section for Women’s Health or that site’s listings, or Google “pelvic floor rehab program” + your city.
Many of us think we know how to do Kegels, but we may not be doing them correctly. Here’s how A Woman’s Touch describes the process, using your fingers for feedback:
- Wash your hands and have lubricant within reach.
- Lie down on your back in a comfortable place with your knees bent. Lying down takes the weight off your pelvic floor and leads to earlier success.
- Coat your finger(s) with lubricant. Insert your finger(s) about 2 inches into your vagina.
- Contract your pelvic floor muscles. It will feel like you’re pulling up and in toward your belly button. Don’t push out. You should feel a gentle tightening around the finger(s). Try to keep your leg, buttock, and abdominal muscles relaxed, and remember to breathe normally throughout the exercise.
- Hold the contraction for a count of 5. (Remember to breathe!)
- Relax your muscles.
- Important: After each contraction, take a deep belly breath. Inhale deeply and gently blow out the air while you relax your pelvis completely. This deep relaxation is just as important as the other steps, because the deep belly breath relaxes the muscles that are not under your conscious control.
- Congratulations, you have just done one Kegel.
For more about Kegels and your pelvic floor muscles, see this brochure: “Pelvic Floor Health for Women.”
Finally, here’s an easy solution to one of your problems: vaginal dryness. Most of us don’t lubricate naturally or sufficiently these days, but that’s not a problem. Just use lubricant. See Senior Planet’s Senior’s Guide to Lubrication.
For more about changing feelings about our bodies, see “How to Get Over Your Body Insecurities and Enjoy Sex” on Senior Planet
Would you like to see more questions and answers? See all of Joan’s advice in Sex @ Our Age.
Send Joan your questions by emailing email@example.com. All information is confidential.
Joan Price is the author of “The 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.