How to Do It

I Know the Secret to Great Sex in Your 70s. I’m Worried About My Husband’s Reaction.

I am truly at a loss on how to start this discussion.

Older couple embracing.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear How to Do It, 

Like unicorns in the wild—that’s what I thought years ago about older people actually having sex. But here I am, an older woman and about to ask a question from a sex advice column! My husband and I are both age 73 and have been happily married for many years. We are lucky to be fairly healthy, and active and enjoy sexually connecting fully as often as we can. On a daily basis, we also try and recognize the other as a desired and sexual being. A lingering kiss, a squeeze of the hand, or a raised eyebrow and a glance that means “I’d blow you right now but I don’t think my knees are up to it today!”

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Although we are (thankfully) both still mobile, the physicality and athleticism of our younger bedroom years just aren’t there anymore. The reality is that anything involving knees is usually off the table! So our options are somewhat reduced from our days of going at it like rabbits. We have never used “toys” together before as they simply never came up. I would love to pursue a few optional possibilities by opening up for some toys to use together, to enhance, not take the place of what we already have. But I am truly at a loss on how to start this discussion with my lovely husband. My biggest fear is that what I would see as “more,” he would feel reflected back as feeling that he is now “less.” Any thoughts you might have about positively introducing this topic would be greatly appreciated.

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—Toy Joy

Dear Toy Joy,

You’ve been married to your husband for a while, so you know where his sensitivities are and what phrasing he responds well to. That said, no amount of semantic precision is guaranteed to prevent him from taking this personally if he’s already stressed about feeling “less than” his former self. Make sure you’ve got plenty of time to sort through any emotional fallout before you broach the subject, and start by asking if he’s open to having a conversation about your sexual relationship. If he isn’t, wait and try again at a different time. If he is, proceed.

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Start by establishing that your bodies are continuing to change, as all bodies do. Leave space for him to respond. From there, you might talk about all of the sexual specifics the two of you never got around to trying. You’ll have to fill in your own motivation for bringing this up. For me, it’d be curiosity. Again, leave space for him to respond and judge from there whether suggesting something concrete, like involving a toy, is likely to go over well in the moment. You might come at this from a different angle, by asking him how he feels about your sex life and whether there’s anything he’s always wanted to try. And you might be prepared with a suggestion for a toy or two that can be used on him, to make it clear that this isn’t about you feeling neglected so much as a desire to involve new sexual practices. Fleshlight, who I’ve had a licensing deal with since 2010 and can speak to the stability and respectfulness of, makes textured tubes with a representation of an orifice on one end. They come in a plastic case, but my move is to take the floppy sleeve out and use it as extra oomph for a handjob.

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If your husband expresses feeling threatened by toys, or generally upset by the idea of including them, ask him to tell you more about that. Have a real conversation, and see if there’s any wiggle room or something you can do to put his mind at ease.

I’d also like to steer you in the direction of jessica drake, who did an entire edition of her Guide to Wicked Sex series on senior sex with the help of author and speaker Joan Price. Joan also has a few books that you might find useful. I think you’ve got this.

Dear How to Do It, 

I’ve been with my boyfriend for two and a half years. We are still very attracted to each other and more sexually compatible than anyone else I’ve been with by miles. However, sex itself is increasingly disappointing, for logistical reasons.

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We live in New York City, home of $4,000 median rent, so my bedroom is tiny. I have a twin bed because that’s literally all that will fit in the space (trust me on this). Most twin beds are cheaply constructed and weight rated for children who will grow out of them. They are not designed for two adults and their repeated vigorous physical activity. We’re small enough and I’ve reinforced it enough—box spring, bunkie board etc.—that we can sleep on it OK, but sex is another story.

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Anytime we do anything but extremely slow missionary, the whole thing starts rattling, creaking, shaking, and banging against the wall This goes way beyond normal mattress squeaks—I keep waiting for the thing to break. And while breaking a bed through sex might sound hot on paper, in practice hearing it, desperately trying to hold the headboard still, and worrying about it collapsing takes us completely out of the moment. I go dry, he goes soft, moment over. It doesn’t help that the positions he likes, mostly girl on top, are by far the hardest on the frame. We can usually finish manually, but I don’t want that to be how it is every time, and I definitely don’t want my bed to break. Is there anything we can try (besides moving, which in this rental market isn’t feasible)?

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—The Bad Kind of Quivering

Dear Bad Kind,

Get rid of the bed frame entirely. Put the box spring on the floor. If that’s too low, you might add an extra box spring. If that doesn’t meet your standards for interior decor, and you have a couch, you can have sex on that more often. And if you don’t have a couch, there’s always standing or bent over the kitchen counter. Look around your apartment and consider other places you could find ways to have sex in.

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Long-term, you might see if you can get a larger studio over a tiny one-bedroom, where you can more easily accommodate a bigger bed.

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Dear How to Do It, 

I’m a bisexual woman in my late 30s just getting out of a 15-year monogamous relationship with a man. I’m doing the dating app thing for the first time ever, connecting with (mostly) interesting people, and generally feeling good about life.

What I’m struggling with is my natural inclination to dive in fast, and my monogamist tendencies. Intellectually, I want to be dating/sleeping around and I don’t want any big commitments. I want things to be easy. But I think with all the personal change, juggling too many people is starting to feel overwhelming. But also, I’m enjoying myself and the sex is fun and varied. (I should also mention that my sex drive is so high that I literally feel cognitively impaired at times and can see myself making impulsive and questionable decisions.) I suppose I’m looking for advice on navigating this next stage of my life while caring for myself, having fun, and, of course, being a considerate (albeit mostly casual) partner to others.

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—(Sex)Dazed and Confused

Dear (Sex)Dazed,

I wasn’t concerned until you said that you “feel cognitively impaired.” Let’s dig into that. Are you making impulsive and questionable decisions? How about in areas of your life that aren’t sexual? If you’re making decisions that are harmful to you, that’s a sign to slow down significantly and maybe speak with a therapist. Are you worried you’ll make impulsive and questionable decisions? How often do you worry about your choices in general, and how often is that worry founded?

Sometimes, especially when we’re exploring areas of sexuality that society still largely judges, we experience internalized shame. It can be difficult to tell the difference between other people’s expectations and our own values. Journaling, thinking in the shower or on a walk, or speaking with a trusted friend or therapist are all great ways of sorting through your thoughts and feelings. You might ask yourself why you question your decisions and interrogate where that comes from and whether you agree with it.

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There’s also a limit on how many people we can juggle at a time. Each person has their own capacity, at various points in their life. And each lover has their own needs regarding time and energy. You may be stretching yourself too thin. Do you take evenings for yourself sometimes—to read a book, spend time with pets, or do something nice for your body? Are you masturbating? Seeing your friends often? These things are important.

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Be clear about what you can offer people—casual encounters with a focus on fun—and treat people as individuals. Listen to what they tell you they need, and take stock of whether you can give that to them. Tell them what you need, too. If something isn’t feeling right, start a conversation about it. And if you aren’t having fun, remember your initial goal and move along.

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Dear How to Do It,

A couple of years ago I became friends with, and then started flirting with, a woman who lives on the other side of the Atlantic. (We are both women in our mid-20s.) We knew we were interested but didn’t want to make the jump to a long-distance relationship without seeing each other. A chance came up for us to spend a week together in person, online chemistry translated to real-world chemistry, and now we’re dating. She’s lovely, we talk all the time (when we’re both awake) and have a standing “date night” video call.

We spent a lot of the week we were together having sex, and it was fun, but we are both inexperienced—she had only ever kissed someone. I had fooled around some with men in my teens. Next time we see each other I want to make the most of it: figure out how to breathe while I’m going down on her, try out a strap-on, etc. But it’s hard to know what I’m doing or build up stamina. How can I go about doing that? I want to physically get better at sex, not just sext/have video chat sex so we get a better idea of what the other likes (that’s already happening).

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I don’t think opening up the relationship to hookups would work for us. I’d consider it in other circumstances, but with the distance and who we are as people it seems like it would hurt rather than help. But if there’s a solo hip-thrusting workout routine out there, I’d love to hear about it.

—Strapped for Ideas

Dear Strapped,

There actually is a solo hip-thrusting workout routine out there, and I’ve invited dear friend and fitness coach Pea, the Health Hussy, to give you the details. She suggests a four-step process.

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“To train for your strap-on marathons, you can focus on your:

1. Lower core/ab work, specifically utilizing pelvic tilt engagement (like cat-cow in yoga, but then narrow movement down to your lumbar and sacral spine and perform while on your back).

2. Glutes, with hip thrusts and bridges.

3. Upper body stability with planks and pushup variations, in order to hold yourself up over your partner.

4. Functional mobility for hips (single leg hip cars/circles) as well as hip flexor stretches.”

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Mixing up your positions will help you rest parts that are overworked, too.

“Also remember that strap-on sex is not just about missionary position, and the tips above will also help with: kneeling thrusts with her legs held up, doggie-style for depth, or seated style for comfort, control and connection (you can stare into each other’s eyes), standing and bent over for extra bossiness, and then there’s always the faithful cowgirl—which is perfect for when your muscles have all given out but you still want to keep going,” Pea added.

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Another aspect of weidling a strap-on is making friends with your new appendage. Pea has some tips for that, too.

“First thing to do is to find a harness and dildo you like and get comfortable with them! How it interacts with you will inform how you move with it. Perhaps wear the harness during masturbation and/or your video sex dates to get used to it. I personally love when the harness has an open option and the dildo base rests against my clit so that the thrusting also stimulates me. But finding a comfortable, secure fit will let you focus on your own technique and endurance.”

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I like SpareParts’s TomBoi harnesses, personally, but you may have to try a few until you find one that fits. If you live in an area with a progressive sex shop, you can go in and ask the staff for help in finding the right harness for you.

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As for breathing while you’re eating pussy, I’m wondering if you’re expecting too much from your lungs. The key is to take breaths before you really need them, and in a rhythm with the motions of your tongue and lips. You might inhale as you pull away to tease her clit with the tip of your tongue. You might stop every 30 seconds to lift your nostrils off of their pubic mound and get some air. You are not a vibrator, and you’ll frustrate yourself if that level of non-stop stimulation is your goal. Have fun with it, breathe into your belly, and good luck.

—Stoya

More From How to Do It

Last year, my husband of two years—together six—and I were out to drinks with his childhood friend and the friend’s fiancée. (We’re both straight couples.) When we were several in, we were talking about losing our virginities, and his friend’s fiancée made a comment along the lines of “well, you know what they used to do.” I did not know what they used to do!

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