Self-stimulation isn’t just for pleasure as women get older.
Compared with male masturbation, female masturbation is considerably less common. According to the National Health and Social Life Survey, 39 percent of American women ages 18 to 60 reported masturbating during the previous year, compared with 61 percent of American men. There are many benefits linked to female masturbation, however, and practicing masturbation techniques appears to be particularly helpful for older women.
Benefits of Female Masturbation
As you age, your body undergoes normal physical changes that may affect your sex life. The good news is that all these changes aren’t bad: Aging can have positive effects on sexuality. Some women, for instance, report feeling the freedom to enjoy sex more as they get older and don’t have birth control issues to contend with. Other women, however, experience emotional or physical changes that can make sex less enjoyable.
One common problem that older women experience is physical changes in the vagina. As a woman ages, her vagina becomes shorter and more narrow. In addition, without regular supplies of estrogen, the walls of the vagina can become thin and stiff. For this reason, it is common to experience vaginal dryness, or a lack of natural vaginal lubrication (wetness), as you get older.
Practicing masturbation techniques can help remedy some of these problems by stimulating the brain to produce physical changes in the vagina. “Masturbation, which may include stimulation of the clitoris, urethra, and vagina, activates various neural pathways responsible for clitoral swelling, vaginal congestion, lengthening of the vagina, and lubrication,” says Cathy K. Naughton, MD, director of the Metropolitan Urological Specialists’ Center for Sexual Health in St. Louis.
Age may not be the only reason for vaginal dryness and pain during sex. A lack of sexual arousal can also contribute to these problems. Practicing masturbation techniques and becoming sexually aroused more frequently can be especially beneficial for older women who are experiencing less lubrication and more discomfort during sex.
And for women who no longer have an active sexual partner because they are divorced, widowed, or have a partner who is ill, masturbation can be a satisfying substitute for sexual intercourse.
Sexual Arousal in Older Women
The good news is that researchers say there are no differences between postmenopausal and postmenopausal women when it comes to being physically able to get sexually aroused. When researchers have looked at vaginal congestion — increased blood circulation to the walls of the vagina, which is a marker of sexual arousal — in response to erotic stimulation, they have found that older women are just as able to become aroused when they are sexually stimulated as are younger women are.
If problems such as vaginal dryness are making you uncomfortable or are interfering with your sex life, you may want to try masturbation techniques. But be sure to address any feelings of guilt you may have when it comes to masturbating. And since female masturbation can be used to compensate for a lack of sexual satisfaction, avoid using masturbation to mask problems you may be having in your sex life with your partner.
“From a medical perspective, masturbation is physically safe and can offer individuals practice and sexual self-esteem,” says Dr. Naughton. “However, it may be problematic if it is associated with excessive guilt or used compulsively to avoid intimacy.”
Bottom line? Having a healthy sex life includes masturbation, well into your golden years.