Masturbation & Menopause
Written by Renee Denyer
The menopause is a tricky Mistress. For some, it’s a wonderful release but for others, it’s like an unwelcome houseguest who’s decided to move in and is now slowly taking over your life.
Masturbation is another complicated topic – maybe more like a guest you’d like to come stay, but you don’t know them well enough to invite them over. The great Nadia Deen once said: “To have great sex, you have to have great sex with yourself first” and I totally buy this. Spending time finding out what you like and how your body works is key.
Women, in particular, carry a lot of internalised shame around masturbation. Your attitude to self-pleasure has lots to do with your background, your personal beliefs, and the kind of sexual partners you’ve had. Having been brought up to believe sex & pleasure are taboo subjects make it much harder to relax into the wonderful world of sensual self-play, but it’s never too late to learn new skills…
Sex Drive & Arousal
In women, both oestrogen and testosterone contribute to libido. Whilst oestrogen levels dip sharply at menopause, testosterone decline slowly and steadily as we age. With the decreasing hormones, many women find that their libidos dip too.
Libido is what happens in the mind when you become turned on, your sex drive.
Arousal is the physical process, the stimulation of the body which includes nipples perking up, blood rushing to the clitoris and vulva, and natural lubrication increasing.
About 80% of women reported some decline in sexual desire during menopause according to a study published in 2013 (The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist). The same study revealed that this is an unhappy change; 84% of the women taking part said that maintaining an active sex life was still important.
Lower levels of oestrogen cause a drop in blood flow to the vagina. Membranes grow thinner and drier. Sexual stimulation may feel less intense and it usually takes longer to become aroused (though this isn’t the case for everybody). According to the North American Menopause Society, vaginal thinning, dryness, and tightening due to lowered level of oestrogen make sex and penetration painful for 64% of women.
If penetration isn’t a dish on your pleasure menu, this might not matter so much. But if you enjoy internal play, you might be feeling more than a little alarmed if this starts happening to you. There is an out-dated belief that women should be plenty wet on their own and using lube is only for those who are “old and dry.” RUDE. And totally untrue. Wetness doesn’t equal level of arousal so let’s forget about that straight away. A good bottle of lube is your best friend. Lube ensures play is slippery and sensual and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It will make a difference to your sex life, I promise.
Reading, watching or listening to something erotic is great for increasing both sex drive and arousal. I recommend apps like Dipsea or Ferly for audio erotica and FrolicMe for good ethical porn. If you prefer reading, there’s an abundance of excellent female erotica authors and The Brit Babes website should be your first pit stop.
Masturbation is an activity that comes under the banner of self-care. Whether you’re single or partnered-up doesn’t matter, you deserve a ménage a moi. Turn off your phone and hang a do-not-disturb sign on your bedroom door. This.is.Your.Time.
Add a drizzle of lube to your fingers and let them slide over your vulva and labia lips. Don’t focus too much on what your hand is doing, just explore the lush folds and enjoy the sensations. Let your brain focus on what you are reading, watching, or listening to - this way your body & mind are encouraged to work together. Once the heat starts building (don’t worry if it takes a while; declining hormones, remember?), just keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t rush it.
ON Arousal Oil has proven itself to be a most excellent arousal assistant too. A natural blend of essential oils, a little bit goes a long way (towards orgasm). Adding a drop or two to the clitoris whilst playing will increase blood flow to the area and you’ll feel erotic thrills growing. ON can be used in conjunction with lube – one doesn’t cancel out the other.
Playing with Toys
A 2016 study of 70 women who had difficulty becoming aroused or reaching orgasm found that two-thirds of participants reported increased vaginal lubrication, orgasm, and genital sensation after using a vibrator for three months.
I’m pro-sex toys and they can be incredibly helpful when it comes to kickstarting arousal and libido. There is still stigma attached to the use of vibrators, but let’s smash this: Who cares if pleasure comes with a battery-pack attached as long as it (or you) comes! Exploring yourself with the help of a vibe is a great way of waking up nerve-endings that have gone into a menopausal coma and here are my top two sex toy tips for women with stubborn libidos:
Je Joue Mimi is a pebble-shaped vibrator with a low, strong rumble that stimulates not only the external part of the clitoris, but also the internal bulbs and clitoral legs. This is an excellent choice for a smaller, more discreet vibe that packs a punch. Lay the pebble flat against your vulva, or stroke it up and down your labia lips – use it to explore all your pleasure points.
Doxy Wand is a hefty piece of kit but it delivers consistently. Again, deep vibrations rumbles through the body tissue and stimulates the entire pelvic area. I know of one woman who orgasmed through her jeans within 30 seconds on her first use! A Wand is a great option if your libido has all but vanished over the hills.
Fun Fitness for Your Fanny!
Exercising your PC muscle helps tone and strengthen vaginal muscles which in turn helps increase arousal, boost blood flow to the vagina, and amplify the intensity of orgasms.
An orgasm is a series of involuntary and rhythmic contractions of the pelvic floor, and a well-toned PF can work wonders for your orgasmic abilities. To make kegel exercising more fun, I recommend incorporating it into your masturbation routine; doing your Kegels whilst playing with fingers or a toy can help bring on an orgasm as well as keeping incontinence at bay!
Let your pelvis rock & roll whilst you squeeze and release your PC muscle rhythmically. The marvellous Betty Dodson, Godmother of Masturbation, calls this technique “fucking forward.” Many women discover their G-spot as they age and I think this is to do with the changing landscape of the vaginal canal (this is just my personal belief and there’s no scientific data to back it up). Inserting a toy to squeeze against offers not only resistance for a better PC workout, but it can also ‘wake up’ your G-spot if it’s been elusive so far. For internal toys, I would recommend a small-ish size vibrator or dildo, especially if your vagina has started atrophying. Make sure to coat it in a water-based viscous lube before inserting. Internal play can help bring back some vaginal elasticity and it’s also a great way of preparing yourself if you’re returning to penetrative play with a partner after a period of singledom.
Use It or Lose It
Use it or lose it is a true adage when it comes to menopausal vaginas. Regular masturbation is good for overall vaginal and mental health, and it lets you be in the driving seat of your own pleasure. Try it – you might just like it!