This year, there were nine recipients of the highly sought after funding by the state-run Danish Council for Independent Research, one of which is a study about how to make the perfect sex toy for post menopausal women. Svala Vagnsdatter Andersen, the researcher pioneering the sex toy study, told us that her research is "about giving voice to elderly women as a sexual minority that seldom has a say in the field of lust, desire, and sexuality." Besides doing text studies, Andersen will interview post menopausal women about their sexual needs and, eventually, give her data to the students at the School of Design in Copenhagen and have them construct the perfect sex toy with this specific group in mind.
Seeing as the Danish government thinks it's worth a couple of million kroner to find out what sex toys granny is using, we figured we'd look into it too. As Svala has barely just begun researching the matter, we had to look elsewhere for a source well-versed in the art of self-pleasure. So we found 71 year old Joan Price, author of several books on the subject of senior sex and reviewer of vibrators on her blog Naked At Our Age, and asked her what she needs to get her motor running these days.
VICE: How did you get into sex toys?
Joan Price: I've been into sex toys since I was 30 years old. At that time I discovered the Magic Wand as a "personal massager" which was supposed to be a muscle toner that gives you a rosy glow. Well, I got a rosy glow from it, but it wasn't from those muscles. Then eight years ago my husband died and when I felt ready to empower myself sexually, I wasn't ready for a partner, but I was ready for sex toys. So I just started trying one after another to see what worked best for me now at my age. I then began reviewing sex toys from a senior perspective on my blog, Naked At Our Age, and by now I've reviewed over 75 and have a drawer full of more waiting for my rating!
How have sex toys changed in the last 40 years?
They're varied! There are dozens of varieties, hundreds of permutations of those varieties. They're offered in women-owned, women-friendly stores that specialize in education as well as product sales.
What gets an A+ rating on your blog?
First of all, it has to be able to go on for a long time because we seniors are slow burning these days. We don't want it to lose its charge, which has happened to me, or overheat, which has happened to me, or catch on fire. That has not happened to me, yet. It needs to be able to run on the highest intensity for long periods of time, because with lack of blood flow to the genitals most of us have decreased sensation as we age.
Next, if it's a penetrative toy, I want a slim one because if you are not having penetrative sex with a partner, it can be painful to insert a toy. Length is not really an issue because we can adjust that, but you can't change the girth of a dildo.
Third, our fingers are going to be full of lube so if there are buttons on the toy to change intensities, we need to be able to feel that clearly with our lubed up hands without having to put reading glasses on.
And lastly, the material has to be body safe and organic. Many cheap toys are made out of toxic materials that they wouldn't even put in dog chew toys.
I've heard that using vibrators will desensitize me and using dildos will stretch me out. Are either of those true?
Both of those are 100% myth. Sex toys help to sensitize us; it's totally the opposite from the general fear. Sex toys help us to reach orgasm, that's it. You will be less sensitive naturally as you get older due to less blood flowing to the genitals as I mentioned earlier, so using a vibrator will help you to learn to orgasm more easily through a sort of practice.
As for getting stretched out; a baby can come out of there, you think a great big dildo is going to ruin it? Also, with hormone depletion your vaginal tissue will thin out and therefore rubbing the tissue will be more painful, so you'll actually get tighter in a way because you'll need to use smaller toys.
Is it also a myth that your sex drive goes down after menopause then?
That is unfortunately not a myth, for most women anyway. Some women take it as a green card to go at full throttle because they can't get pregnant anymore, but for many, without that biological reason to have sex, we don't get turned on the same way we used to. However, the more you do it the better it becomes, and you realize that being sexually active is an important part of living a healthy and happy life. Sex after sixty can be better than ever in many ways: we know ourselves, we've made our relationship mistakes already and we enjoy the long arousal time.
How about older men? Are there sex toys out there specifically for them?
Oh yes! In fact the star on my blog right now for men is called The Pulse. What's special about The Pulse is that it can be used on a flaccid penis, unlike most masturbation "sleeves" like the Fleshlight. The Pulse holds the penis and then does the movement itself, helping men to get hard if they have difficulties but also if they can't get an erection at all for whatever reason, The Pulse can give them great pleasure and even an orgasm in some cases.
Do you feel you've already found your ideal sex toy?
Almost, yes, and that is the Palm Power. The Magic Wand is almost ideal for me with power and speed, but it's so big and heavy that it's almost impossible to use if you have moderate to severe arthritis. The Palm Power is little but it still has a lot of power. The one thing I would add to make it even better would be if it had a cushion on the head that was soft.
Once these products get made, how do you market sex toys to seniors?
Well first of all it's a myth that seniors don't know how to use the Internet, we do. Then besides sending the toys to me for review, I think they should be marketed through doctors! I wish more doctors were preaching the benefits of senior sex because our sexuality is important.
Thanks Joan, this has been quite enlightening.