In our house we don’t have secrets — bad people tell kids to keep secrets-a topic for another column — so we have surprises! And what is more surprising than waking up one day to find gray pubic hairs.
Not only is sex taboo but aging bodies with sex get an extra heaping spoonful from the
we-don’t-talk-about-it bowl. Who do you go to when your body starts to change again!? Ovary owners will experience some level of symptoms from menopause and penis owners will start to notice that not everything is ready to go like it used to. Beyond the genitals and related hormones, our entire bodies are aging including our minds. It’s like puberty but you also have adult responsibilities. What the fuck!
As ever, I am here to peel back the curtain and shine some light on what you can expect your body to up and do (more likely to sag and do) as you age.
SaggingAs we age our muscles begin to age with us. Even those of us in great shape now make experience some muscle loss. When our muscles are no longer at their peak things begin to drop and by things I mean the specific areas of our body that muscles help to hold up in our youth, breasts and the scrotum come to mind. Breasts that were once perky and generally upright may begin to head south towards your belt line. A scrotum that did the important job of lifting and dropping the testicles to maintain a perfect temperature will now just drop.
Additionally, vagina owners may notice that their vagina has “smoothed” out. The vagina is a muscle and when it is strong it feels wrinkled or bumpy. ** Education coming at you: the vagina is the internal part of the genitals where tampons, fingers, a penis, dildo may be inserted. The vulva is the external part of the genitals and is what you see on the outside! Vulva. Vagina. Two separate things.** You may also notice that urinating becomes a whole thing. Either you can’t keep it in or it doesn’t want to come out! The muscles in and around your urethra (genitals) play a big part in successful urination. These same muscles play a big part in functional genitals during sex.
Don’t forget that the other muscles in your body are going to be going through the same loss so certain sexual positions will have to be rotated out of your repertoire.
Body CompositionAging bodies can include weight gain and a whole slew of related and unrelated health issues.
Diabetes, hypertension, thyroid issues, gut health, colon health, chemical and hormonal imbalances, heart problems, vascular issues, and more. Too much more!
For penis owners the weight gain in the stomach region can encroach on the penis, specifically around the root of the penis. The extra fat can create what seems to be a shrinkage in your penis size. It’s not that your penis has actually gotten smaller but the fat is taking up space where the penis used to be.
Other issues for penis owners to keep an eye on are heart and vascular issues because the sole tool that gets an aroused penis erect is blood flow. If your body is having a difficult time getting your blood around your body then you will begin to have problems with erections—getting and maintaining them.
I encourage regular doctor visits as you age to test for colon and penile cancers. Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. And penile cancer has a cure—removal of the penis.
MenopauseAlright ovary owners, we got the short end of the aging stick. Menopause is puberty in reverse and it can be brutal. Night sweats, hormone imbalances, acne, mood swings, cramps, sweating, fucked up menstrual cycle, vaginal dryness, chills, slow metabolism, interrupted sleep, thinning hair and skin, breast shrinkage, and possibly more. The cherry on top - menopause can be a 20 year process. I shit you not. Many people will begin noticing symptoms of what is called perimenopause, the little pause before the big pause, in their early 40s and by the time the body gives up the ghost on releasing ova they could be in their late 50s.
The great news for most ovary owners is that you may only have a few of these symptoms for a few years. Some truly lucky ova producers barely have symptoms and then their periods stop. And then there is the other group that is tormented for years with wicked difficult symptoms and bodies that feel possessed before they drop their last egg and the symptoms slowly taper off.
My advice is to build a support group, ask for menopause friendly gifts like breathable sheets, and if you are able, connect with a doctor who will be by your side for the duration. There are also naturopathic remedies that are more accessible than they used to be to help ease you through this time.
HormonesThere will come a time in your body’s aging when the arousal and sex hormones produced begin to fade. It’s like a slow drop off a cliff. These hormones are what stir up butterflies of attraction in your stomach, ramp up your come-and-get-it energy, and plump up your genitals with blood for the benefit of pleasure! When these hormones show up in lower doses your body’s response is like a teenager that doesn’t want to do anything, “Meh.”
Does this mean sex is over, forever? Hell no! And trust me if you saw the rates of STI transmission in assisted living facilities you’d know that sex is on until you are dead and gone. You will need more lube, more patience, creative solutions for positions, a sense of humor, and lots of self-love for your ever aging body. Medical science does offer solutions for hormone support or replacement. It also offers viagra for penis owners but clitoral owners are still waiting for their magic pill.
Embracing the Gray HairsThe ever wise and straightforward Bette Davis said, “Getting old is not for sissies.” I will pause to call out the gendered and homophobic slur of “sissies” and throw that shit in the trash. Let’s look at Bette’s intent, which is that getting old isn’t for weak people. All types of people get old but it could be argued that facing down old age with a bottle of lube and a bit of attitude can help us all come to terms with the horror of finding that first gray pubic hair that heralds the beginning of the end.
Erin Brandt (she/her/hers) has been a sexologist for 15 years. When she’s not spreading sexual knowledge, Erin can be found learning from her child, hiking with her partner, cuddling with her pitbull, knitting with her cat, dancing with friends, and searching for the nearest hammock and ocean breeze. Want more? Visit www.positivesexed.comThe first rule of this taboo club is: There are no secrets