I’m the first to admit that in the past my attitude toward sexual health was pretty blasé. I used condoms in the initial phases of courtship; when I was using an improvised sex toy such as the zucchini which features in my first post (if I had one available); during a brief experimentation with swinging in the 1970’s or, when engaging in anal sex in some form. I have had pap smears and breast screens after I’d been prompted by my doctor and avoided colonoscopies like the plague until recently. I do a breast examination when I think about it or something feels strange when I’m touching myself. Despite a fairly active sex life I’ve managed to avoid acquiring any STD’s and, apart from the occasional if “inevitable” bouts of cystis and thrush, felt I was in pretty good health down there.
In retrospect this was more due to good luck than good management. I have had a number of close encounters through improvised or textured sex toys when the mood was on me- some of which left me with small scratches or a UTI, but these could have easily blown up into a more serious pelvic inflammation. Similarly I’ve used a variety of readily available oils, some of which were probably not advisable; or, no lube at all, depending on the occasion.
My gynaecological history has left me with scars from a caesarian section; a missing ovary from surgery for an ectopic pregnancy which burst, and a good deal of additional internal scarring from endometriosis. This has led to intermittent pain, complicated matters for medical procedures, and sometimes limited what I can do sexually. I’ve used the pill when it was first available, HRT for about 12 months during menopause and I’m considering using a very low dose again to maintain some internal suppleness. (update: decided I don’t need to just yet).
I say this because as I’ve aged I’ve noticed obvious changes to my cunt* which in turn has brought their own challenges to my sexual health. Specifically my vaginal walls have become thinner and to a certain extent drier, while I sometimes experience urethral discomfort from pressure placed on it internally from my bowel. G-Spotting just creates a similar uncomfortable sensation – albeit from a different direction.
In general what this also means for me is that these days I simply need to be more mindful of what I put in my cunt. As I’ve mentioned above toys (improvised or otherwise) with interesting textures or poorly made surfaces can wreck vaginal havoc, no matter how appealing they might be in my fevered imagination!
Since my vagina and the area around my urethra presents a site of potential irritation and infection, I’ve discovered that I need to use plenty of lube, and that the lube I do use is a quality, body safe product, that doesn’t irritate me. I also need to stop pleasuring myself sometimes even when I want to continue. This is tricky as I am sometimes slow to reach orgasm – it may take at least two hours, by which time my wrist is killing me, my fingers are numb from holding a vibe and I’m sleep deprived and exhausted. Midnight might be the starting hour at the Oasis, but 2 am or even 2.30 is ridiculous when there’s things to be done next day.
Update: I have altered the time I take now through a process of self education. I have learnt that I come sooner if I either cut back on masturbation to once or twice a week or do to it more frequently but not expect to come day one (unless I go for hours,) and then masturbate again the following day. Day one seems to prime the pump…
I have also found that a combination of my preferred clitstim (Womaniser Pro 40) and either Downunder Toys’ Tulip, Mystim Eric or a glass or silicone dildo (sometimes all of them) seems to work. And I think it’s not just G Spot stimulation but also A spot that does it for me because I now respond to a longer reach.
Using a glass dildo has also revolutionised my interest in anal sex and stimulation of this area has become a more popular option for me, in combination with the vaginal and clitoral stimulation.
After starting to use my sex toys I haven’t had issues with age related tightening of my vagina, but in a post menopausal “drought” some years ago I definitely experienced this. It hurt a lot and it took a while to get comfortable again once I’d started having sex. My doctor, lovely caring woman that she is, is always super careful while doing my pap smears, and she made my day the last time I visited by telling me that my vaginal walls were more open than the last time she did this procedure and that I had a “lovely healthy cervix”! This makes me consider contributing to the Beautiful Cervix Project.
I was delighted on both counts. I’m not happy to have a prolapsed or sagging vagina any more than I want one that’s been tightened by neglect or “atrophy” (horrible word!). I am however very pleased to have a vagina which is capable of gripping an elongated object like a sex toy or a penis without pain. I put the improvements in vaginal tone down to the frequent use of my toys combined with some deliberate exercising of my pelvic floor muscles. I’m also doing this because while Mum remained continent for most of her illness, I do have stress incontinence from time to time, and this is not part of the aging process I see as desirable or inevitable. Of course the other benefit of regular pelvic training is the “stronger orgasm factor”, and this may ultimately prove to be the greatest motivator of all!
Although it is feasible and cheap to practice squeeze and release techniques without using any of the readily available devices on offer, I do find I lack discipline – my exercise regime is pretty hit and miss. In keeping with the 21st century enthusiasm for wellness apps, there are devices which will remind you to do your exercises, help you to do them and even keep a record of your progress. Although I haven’t tried these out yet I’d like to.
While I am eager to keep my vagina in working order, I’m not so fussed about the changes occurring outside, around my vulva. It doesn’t especially bother me to experience greying of my pubes, although I don’t like the look and feel of the thinning hair, so I recently decided to take it off (it’s since grown back, but come summer it will be removed again). Although having my first ever Brazilian was totally tortuous, I felt much fresher and cleaner down there. This was a huge boost to my self confidence, as there were times when it seemed that no matter what I did or how often I bathed I still smelt (and presumably tasted) different and less appealing than I had in the past. I think this was not only related to aging but also to the PH of my vagina being out of whack. So now in addition to avoiding soaps and perfumed cleaners, I’m super careful about my lubes and toy cleaners as well. I’m also learning to drink more water, trying to drink less coffee and alcohol, and attempting to improve my diet.
Finally, an unexpected plus of the changes outlined above is that my clitoris is slightly more exposed now because my inner labia have almost disappeared. This, combined with fairly frequent interactions with my clitstim, means that the visible part of my happy place seems somewhat larger than before and is more easily stimulated by the light friction of my underwear. Something to be pleased and proud of…
*I used to find the word “cunt” abhorrent given how its been used as a misogynist slur in the past, but reading Kate Lister’s erudite discussion on the word on Unbound, I’ve begun to use it far more often. I now prefer it to pussy.