Sensual Rejuvenation: Maintaining Sexual Vigor Through Midlife and Beyond
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by Judith Sachs
Description: Did you know that sex can dramatically boost your overall well-being? If you, like many people, are hitting midlife and feeling that sex is just not what it used to be, think again. While you are experiencing a variety of physical and emotional changes, sex can still be one of the enduring pleasures you can enjoy through midlife and on to your golden years. Now this unique guide provides important information on age-related changes in sexual function and offers a wide range of medical, holistic, and psychological tips and techniques that can relight your fire. Don't miss... Testosterone cream that restores a woman's libido; Zinc, the most important mineral for male potency, and all the must-have nutrients; The best herbal alternatives to Viagra; Ways to fulfill sexual needs if there is illness or disability; The Seesaw and other stimulating exercises to make sex feel great. Find out more in Sensual Rejuvenation.
eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, 1999
eBookwise Release Date: August 2008
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [280 KB]
Reading time: 169-237 min.
Foreword Sheryl Kingsberg, Ph.D.
When I first began to specialize as a psychologist in reproductive biology almost a decade ago, the Women's Health Initiative from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) did not even exist. There was virtually no funding available to investigate the intricate nature of menopause, which was just coming into its own as a vital field of study. Postmenopausal sexuality, however, was still considered an oxymoron.
Over the years, as more attention was given to women's health issues, the topics of hot flashes and estrogen replacement became commonplace at cocktail parties, replacing the previously hushed discussions (if any) between mothers and daughters. Today menopause and midlife are considered developmental milestones to be appreciated rather than dreaded. And at last, sexuality has been reclaimed by the over-40 crowd.
It has been clearly established that men and women remain sexually active well into their senior years, and the changes of aging do not necessarily diminish sexual functioning or fulfillment. I began to suspect this when my own grandmother (now 103) fell in love for the second time at age 92. Sex and intimate relationships can grow stronger throughout the life span. One's sexual life does not end with the cessation of reproductive function.
Midlife is the time when we can develop a greater comfort and acceptance of our sexual identity and can enjoy the freedom to explore new sexual activities and ways to experience pleasure.
The vitality, beauty, and sensuality of our midlife role models--Sigourney Weaver, Coki Roberts, and Harrison Ford, to name just three--make this time of life a lot more appealing for the rest of us.
But some people, who may be stuck in some of the old stereotypes about aging and sex, may need to be nudged in the right direction. That direction can provide a positive focus on age-related changes in health, social life, family roles, occupation, and, ultimately, self-perception. Quality of life is determined by awareness of and sensitivity to our own experiences. This book, Sensual Rejuvenation: Maintaining Sexual Vigor Through Midlife and Beyond, can provide women and men with a new and fulfilling look at midlife sexuality.
Books about midlife, menopause, and sexuality tend to fall into two categories: those that are dry as dust and geared to healthcare providers and those that are the reading equivalent of Musak--easy reading without any content. Sensual Rejuvenation by Judith Sachs, a sex educator and author of many other books on preventive healthcare, is neither of those two: It is a smooth blend of good style and up-to-the-minute information in the field. This book is both entertaining and filled with enough detail to satisfy the most demanding readers on matters sexual.
Ms. Sachs discusses menopausal transition and management alternatives, including hormone replacement. In addition, she delves into the intricate physical, psychological, and sexual changes that women go through that have at last started to receive public attention and research dollars. She also gives full coverage to men's sexuality. Although a great deal of scientific work preceded the media frenzy over Viagra, few popular books have talked about the fact that men's sexuality and sexual functioning changes with age. It is a pleasure, therefore, to see both genders given equal play in this excellent book.
Sensual Rejuvenation goes beyond an age-specific treatment of sexuality. Although most of the problems discussed occur around middle age, Ms. Sachs thoroughly reviews the range of situations that all women and men may experience, from the purely psychological to those requiring surgical interventions. While the book primarily addresses heterosexual issues, Ms. Sachs also discusses lesbian and gay sexuality at this time of life.
This book also includes an extremely knowledgeable discussion of alternative therapies to enhance sexuality, such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, aromatherapy, and acupressure. For anyone who has ever wondered whether specific techniques and treatments exist that can be implemented to boost sexual life without a physician's assistance, this book provides a detailed, organized plan. For more serious sexual problems, Ms. Sachs makes the reader aware of the various types of short-term therapies and medical help available.
Midlife may afford people the best opportunities to reach their sexual peak--for this reason, it is vital that men and women learn all they can about their changing bodies and sexual interests and behaviors. This book goes a long way to help them do just that.
Sheryl Kingsberg, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor Department of Reproductive Biology and Psychiatry
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Cleveland, OH * * * *
CHAPTER ONE The Joys of Midlife Sex
When our parents were growing up, they were told that sex was for procreation and perhaps--occasionally--for recreation. When the baby boomers' generation came along, those ideas exploded. Sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll were the interlocking themes of the 1960s and 70s--and many considered comfortable, casual sex the best of the three.
Nostalgia for those wild and crazy times may lead to romanticizing the type of sex life we had when we were in our 20s and 30s, before the two jobs got too overwhelming and the kids came along and we were too exhausted to kiss, let alone make love. If you're now in your 40s, 50s, and 60s, you may think that the time for grand passion and hot eroticism is over. This just isn't so.
The stereotype of a midlife adult, of course, is someone with an expanding waistline and a shrinking sex life. We see the picture over and over on TV and in the movies--the harried businessman or woman who works more and plays less and is bored with a spouse of 20 or 30 years. It's hard enough to stay up for Leno, let alone for sex.
If you perpetuate this myth, you are doing yourself and your entire generation a big disservice. In truth, sex at midlife can be better than it's ever been. If you can forget the stereotype, you can open yourself to the possibility that your sexuality can amplify your whole life--not just the part spent in the bedroom. It can give you better health, a brighter outlook, and a positive attitude about the future. This book, Sensual Rejuvenation, will give you detailed help and advice. We outline an easy-to-follow program to revamp your sex life using up-to-the-minute research from psychologists, sexologists, and physicians; tapping into techniques culled from conventional sex therapy as well as alternative and complementary medicine. People in midlife and beyond will find that a revitalized sexuality really can make a difference in their lives. How to Use This Book
Learning about your sexuality can be a lot of fun--but more than that, it can promote good health, improve well-being, and give you lots more energy to get through the day. Rather than relying on just a set of techniques or exercises, we have taken information from all available sources--medical, psychological, and holistic. Because your sexuality affects you physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually, it's vital that you know as much about guided visualization as you do about estrogen and testosterone replacement; as much about aphrodisiac herbs such as yohimbe and damiana as you do about Viagra and hormone replacement therapy. We'll give you suggestions for homeopathic remedies and acupressure points in order to enhance your sex life and show you how to use erotic bedtime stories and sexy phone calls to spice up your relationship. In addition, we have included practical exercises and self-exams to keep you sexually healthy throughout midlife and beyond.
This first chapter will provide you with an overview of the book and show you where to look for the kind of help you need most. The next chapter will start you on your journey toward sexual rejuvenation. In Chapter 2 we outline the health benefits of sex--it's really true that being sexual keeps you in good shape, and being in good shape makes you want to be sexual. Chapter 3 explains how the female and male body start to change after 45 and gives you the information you need on hormones, sexual response, and physical activity levels. Chapter 4 highlights the ongoing controversy about replacement hormones--will hormone replacement therapy make a difference in your sex life? Is testosterone replacement for women safe and effective? What about replacement hormones for men?
Chapter 5 offers a wide range of natural treatments for your sex life. In addition to discussing diet, exercise, and the proper amount of rest, we describe the benefits of herbal aphrodisiacs, supplements, and acupressure points and show you how to select the options that are right for you. Chapter 6, a journey into the mind, describes how various mental techniques can enhance what we do in bed. Fantasy and visualization are only two of the many ways to get to the body through the power of the mind. In Chapter 7 we offer the flip side--we tell you just what to do physically to have more fun in bed. From the newest information on orgasms, to the health benefits of masturbation, to the consideration of vibrators and other sex aids, we open many possibilities you may never have thought of. Sometimes it takes the maturity and wisdom of years of experience to gain an understanding of the enormous range of good sexual health.
In Chapters 8 and 9 we explain the common sexual problems of men and women and how they are treated medically and holistically. Many women suffer from dyspareunia (painful sex) and vaginismus (involuntary tightening of the vagina), but there are ways to treat these conditions. It's more commonly known that many men at midlife begin to suffer from erectile dysfunction. We examine this phenomenon and discuss important new breakthroughs on impotence and prostate problems. We offer a thorough discussion of the Viagra pill for men and potential future uses of similar medications for women.
And because many studies have shown conclusively that it's exceptionally beneficial to stay sexual even if you're ill or disabled, Chapter 10 talks about adjusting medication, how to get comfortable in bed and accommodate disabilities, and how to get over a loss of self-esteem after surgeries such as hysterectomy, oophorectomy, mastectomy, prostatectomy, or removal of a testicle. In addition, we show you how to avoid disease--yes, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are still possible after 45--and for those in relationships that are not mutually monogamous, we'll give a soup-to-nuts course on condoms, male and female. If you stay safe, you'll never be sorry.
The final chapter offers a few "love letters"--true-life stories of individuals and couples whose sex lives have improved in midlife and beyond. Benefits of Sex at Midlife
Here's why sex can improve as you get older: If you're like most midlifers, you are reaching your stride professionally and personally, and that means you have more self-confidence and self-esteem about what you've accomplished and may attempt in the future. This good sense of yourself naturally extends to asking for and getting what you want in bed. Also, at this point in your life, you've had a lot of experience with the opposite sex, so you're better able to recognize destructive relationships and stop them in their tracks. You may have had a marriage or cohabitation or two under your belt and therefore have a keener awareness of what you want for yourself and another individual.
If you're female and past menopause, you don't have to worry about any of those concerns that might have cramped your style during your reproductive years--premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or periods or pregnancy. You may not be as youthful as you once were, yet you may be more fit and toned at 50 than you were at 20, thanks to this generation's interest in good nutrition and exercise.
If you're a midlife man, you may be concerned about the time it takes to get an erection and the longer refractory period between one erection and the next. But you may also find, like most of your generation, that it actually feels better to go slower--and that's what your female partner wanted all along! Taking things slower means you can really appreciate what you're doing and why you're doing it.
It's interesting to note how many individuals felt that they were rather repressed when they were younger but now have a new sense of acceptance and openness in the bedroom. A lot of inhibitions go by the board when you've lived long enough, so that in midlife, often both women and men feel a lot freer and looser about the kind of intimacy they'd consider. An interesting study by Phyllis Mansfield at the University of Pittsburgh indicated that long-married women in midlife might experience a decline in sexual response. But those who had a brand-new partner or serial partners were having a wonderful time. It was as if they were 16 all over again, but this time they didn't have to hide out in the basement to make love where their parents couldn't catch them.
Being interested and involved in your own feelings about sexuality and in another person makes you more involved in life generally. If you remember back to a time when you were in the first flush of a relationship, you will recall that colors might have seemed brighter, food tasted better, jokes seemed funnier. Your sensual powers were awakened as you became more sexual--and all your appetites were heightened. You felt great every day--ailments and injuries just didn't bother you. You may also have found that you were more willing to give and take, both in the bedroom and outside it.
So at this time of life, sex can make the difference between the glass appearing half empty or half full. A rich awareness of yourself is a gift that you can give to others too. The Sex Survey
The 1994 National Health and Social Life survey on adult sexual behavior, conducted by Edward O. Laumann, John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael, and Stuart Michaels at the University of Chicago, came up with some very interesting findings compared to studies that had been conducted in the past, including, of course, those of Alfred Kinsey. Although previously it was thought that sexual behavior and mores were a purely individual thing, formed by personality, hormones, and instincts, the 1994 survey came up with quite different results. This study indicates that sex is a highly social activity; that we act in a certain way because of the family, community, and socioeconomic group we come from. Our attitudes toward sex are different when we're young and when we're older--but not that different.
Actually, the older people in the study tended to be part of a couple and, therefore, had a more satisfying sexual life than the younger ones. They may not have made love as often, but their lovemaking seemed to be more fulfilling. The survey showed that 75 percent of the married women reported having orgasms consistently with their primary partner, as opposed to women who were never married and not living with anyone, who had only a 62 percent success rate. This speaks worlds about how much women crave emotional stability. Since they feel much more at ease with the person they know best, they have no trouble climaxing. But with a new partner, they're still on shaky ground and may hold back until they're certain the new guy is a "keeper."
A 1996 survey of 1,300 women and 1,000 men indicated that midlife sex can be great. A full 61 percent of postmenopausal women said they liked sex better than ever. The majority of husbands and partners looked forward to spending more time with their spouses, whom they considered their "best friends." Fifty-nine percent of the women and 53 percent of the men said that they were more sexually in sync with their partners than they had been in their younger years. Why Sex at Midlife May Seem Confusing
Not everyone finds sex at midlife more satisfying. Did you used to like sex but now find that it just doesn't appeal to you as much anymore? Maybe what's happening between the sheets has become routine; maybe you've lost the desire even to become excited. Or maybe you or your partner is starting to experience physical changes--a chronic illness or sexual dysfunction, say--that hamper your ability to get close. It's important to understand the issues before we offer solutions to these common problems.
There are three major reasons that sex at midlife becomes difficult or confusing for some women and men. The first is loss of desire. Before we can get intimate, we have to want to be sexual. Some individuals are born with a really strong drive--perhaps when they were in their 20s, they wanted sex once a day. And though they may slow down some in their 50s, they may still desire a potent physical release once or twice a week. Other people, who really never felt that excitement earlier in life, may see the flame flicker and nearly die out in midlife. This book will offer suggestions for boosting desire.
The second reason we may not feel sexual as often as we used to is physical. If we suffer from hormonal imbalances, vaginal dryness, or erectile problems, if we have a chronic illness such as cancer, heart disease, chronic pulmonary disease, arthritis, or any ongoing problem that causes major fatigue, or if we have a disability, it's harder to be active in bed. But there are many solutions to staying sexual while dealing with physical problems, as you will see in later chapters.
The third reason for a slowing down in sexual response is cognitive/psychological. If we were taught from our earliest years that sex was bad or something we should only do when we wanted to have children, we probably won't be rushing into our partner's arms in midlife. Depression at our changing body image or, perhaps, at the death of a partner also may make it harder to feel sexual. If, however, we have great role models for good sex in later life, if we learn to communicate with our partner and understand the healthful pathways of good sex, we can stay sexually interested and active. We'll talk about new ways to think about cognitive and psychological issues so that we can change direction if we want to.
All of these problems can be greatly improved and, in many cases, even solved. We make no claims that sex can cure disease, but it can boost an individual's well-being dramatically--it can make even chronically ill people feel loved and cared for so that they in turn are more motivated to take good care of themselves. And as we learn more about the connection between body and mind, we can begin to appreciate the fact that a person who is touched often and well in an intimate way actually can develop a stronger immune system that will work more effectively on pain and illness. The Joys of Midlife Sex
Sex, when you're young, is like downhill skiing. You get towed up to the top of this incredible peak, you let go, and whoosh, you zoom down to the finish; then it's over. But sex in midlife is like cross-country skiing. You get to take your time, you go up to a little plateau and admire the scenery, then come down a bit, only to move on to a slightly higher hill. When you reach the end, a long time later, you're tired and happy, and you feel like you've had a total experience, not just a quick rush that was over before you really got to enjoy it.
Whether you currently think of your sex life as good, just okay, or nothing to brag about, it can change. Rejuvenation literally means "to make young again," and that's just what this book aims to assist you in doing. If your sexual health is in decline, we will show you ways to improve your physical well-being markedly so you'll feel more in the mood. And the more sex you have, the healthier you'll tend to be in general.
You get an additional benefit as well. The really important part of sex at midlife is that, even when you can recharge the batteries and tap into that youthful exuberance you once knew, you get to see it through the lens of an adult. You can have both: the rush of your first affair tempered by the experience of the years you've spent as a sexual being.
In the next ten chapters, we give you the key to a world you may have just glimpsed. You'll be introduced to pleasure and invited to take time for yourself, to experience the wonders of your own sexuality and that of your partner. This is your time of life, and you owe it to yourself to enjoy it.