{Meet the SEXpert} Wendy Strgar

After experiencing severe physical reactions to mass-market sexual aid products,  FOF Wendy Strgar set out to create her own. The products she developed “saved her marriage,” Wendy says. Now, she’s taken her rescue mission mainstream. Her product line, Good Clean Love,  is available in stores including Whole Foods, Pharmaca and Fred Meyer, and features lotions, oils and body “candy” that is free of parabens, petrochemicals and glycerin. “When we give our samples away, I often tell customers not to waste them on someone they don’t love,” says Wendy. She’s completely serious.

FOF talks to Wendy about her life and loves.

Wendy and her husband, Franc                           

Tell us a little about your background
I’m 51. I grew up on Long Island, NY, the middle child between an older sister and younger brother. My father was in sales, then real estate development. My mother was a home economics teacher. They divorced when I was in 8th grade, the first couple to divorce in our community. My unhappy family was a primary inspiration for me to figure out how to make relationships work.

Please expand on that last thought.
I learned in college about the huge abyss between kids who had families at their backs and those who didn’t. When I went away to Gettysburg College I thought everyone would be on level ground, but realized that kids who are loved and connected to their families have their support even when they’re away from them. I finished my Bachelors degree at the University of Minnesota and also earned my Masters there.

Married? Kids?
I just celebrated my 29th anniversary. I met my husband, Franc, on a college trip to Minnesota when I was 19. I immediately knew he was the man I was waiting for. It scared him a little when I told him, after only two weeks, that we would get married. My husband is a psychiatrist. Besides his own practice, he provides services to organizations that support kids in our community. We have four children, aged 15 to 24, who all still live at home. Our two daughters and two sons are, without question, the best things I have done with my life and it such a joy to witness their friendships as they grow. Dinnertime is full of stories and surprises and I cherish these last months, knowing they will soon all be on their way. When they were little, I never let them go to bed angry with one other. Now, they’re present for each other and good friends.

What did you do following graduation?
I‘ve been an entrepreneur since I graduated. After creating and leading a language camp for kids, I started a business doing market research and sales for high-end French home products. Living in France for three years, during and after college, was a formative and memorable time. After the French franc dropped 30 percent in a month, and I closed the business, I went back to school for my Masters degree in organizational development. I had my first child just before I finished my thesis.

What brought you to Eugene, OR?
My husband’s medical training took us to different places for 10 years. He started his private practice here, where there was a need for more psychiatrists. It’s a beautiful and affordable place to live. The beach here is an untapped wonder.

Why and when did you launch Good, Clean, Love?
I launched the company in the fall of 2003, although it wasn’t called Good Clean Love for a few years. I started the business to answer a personal need in my own marriage, after having severe physical reactions to the standard sexual aid products available in drug and adult stores. I needed products that would allow me to keep up the lovemaking that was the glue in my marriage after four kids. GCL was created to provide healthy alternatives to the products that are filled with petrochemicals and parabens. My business saved my marriage because our products (that I have formulated over the years) give me a natural aphrodisiac boost through scent – and help me remember the lover in me. Our personal lubricants simulate the moisture I used to have when I was young. In fact, I feel youngest when I make love with my husband. As we started experimenting with my love products, I also learned that the more I physically loved my husband, the more loving he became.

[Enter to test a sampler kit of Wendy’s Good Clean Love products!]

What’s the significance of the name Good Clean Love?
We went through several name changes over the years. The products were originally called ‘sacred moments’ because I believe making love to someone who loves you deeply is a path to the divine… that didn’t work too well in the market place. Then we tried naked scents, but that was a little too adult for mainstream. Then we went with our original corporate name Good Clean Fun. Soon after we spent thousands of dollars on labels we had a trademark infringement suit. Good Clean Love turned out to be the best name yet. I always say the fun is right behind the love. We met our genius designer, who created our logo and brand, in 2010. I want our products to always be associated with the kind of lovemaking that makes you feel more loving, more loveable and whole. When we give our samples away, I often tell customers not to waste them on someone they don’t love.

What are three overwhelming boomer attitudes about sex that they should change and why?
There is so much misinformation about sex in our culture and real discussions and education about sex are still missing for so many people.. If you didn’t learn about sex when you were young, many people are still holding onto beliefs and myths about sexuality that prevent them from exploring their natural curiosity. Not uncommonly, people are afraid to ask for what they want, and even more afraid to enter into the open and vulnerable space that is the precursor to passion and orgasm. Here are three ideas to get you started thinking differently:

Learn more. Curiosity and wonder need to replace shame and judgment when it comes to human sexuality. These positive-thinking attributes can go a long way in encouraging a continuously evolving sexual mind set and healthier relationships. When you see yourself judging other people’s sexual choices and preferences – it is a good time to look at your own sexual questions.

Turn judgments into questions about yourself. The quest for a specific kind of sex, or the belief that there is only one kind of sex that works, is a dead end on so many levels. When we approach sex with a specific end goal in mind, we lose sight of the process. We forget how to use all of our senses to bring us fully into the moment.

 Be present. Focus on your immediate experience and add sensual stimulus to wake up your senses of smell and touch. Don’t be in a hurry to get somewhere, savor each moment for as long as you can.

What’s your personal attitude about sex?
Sex is one of my greatest teachers and I believe it has the power to deeply heal and transform your relationship to yourself, your partner and even to the divine. There is no better moment of the week than the crazy abandonment I feel when I make love with my husband. We’ve made love thousands of times over the three decades we’ve shared a bed, and while there are elements that are familiar, it never feels completely the same. Our sex life continues to surprise me, mostly because we let ourselves be vulnerable and open to experiencing the unexpected. After we’re done, we look and wonder in disbelief how it actually gets better every time.

I always think ‘Who was that woman?’ Somehow, it doesn’t feel like me, the same me who shops and makes dinner and all the rest of it. I feel like I’m meeting multiple versions of me who get set free. Orgasmic release is a total system reset. There is little else at our disposal that calms, centers and energizes in quite the same way as orgasmic connection.

What are your greatest passions in life?
I’m pretty passionate about most of life. My husband and kids are the universe that define my sense of belonging and safety, but I am lucky to love my work and also to have daily practices that I work at to keep me positive. I love to walk in nature and smell the changes of season. I love to write because I learn what I think, I love to stand up and teach about love and positivity. I love to meditate and feel energy move through me. I love to prepare and eat food and taste new things. I love to love!

What’s the most romantic place you’ve visited?
Hawaii is one of my favorite places on earth. We’ve had the blessed luck to visit as a family many times and the warm ocean has been a beautiful and healing soup for our family. I haven’t taken very many trips with my husband alone, but it was romantic just the same to be in tropical locations, even with our kids. Now, warm beaches mean family time.

I’m also planning a trip to Costa Rica, which is called one of the ‘happiest countries in the world.’

Name some of the things that put you in a romantic mood
For one thing, I think that our need for ‘romance’ can sometimes get in the way. If we’re too committed to what it must look like before we get intimate, it could actually block intimacy. That said, I always light candles, play favorite music and use sensuous love products. I’m also a believer in lingerie, because when we dress the part, it’s easier for us to let loose into a new space. We’ve always had to plan our sex dates, since our kids were usually around, but that’s romantic for me because I like to anticipate the intimacy. I also get a lot of free erotica to review and I like to peruse some of the stories that I’d never have the nerve to write. It’s remarkable how easy it is to let suggestions tap a sexual nerve. Food also can be really romantic, whether it’s preparing it together or sharing some exotic flavors. I also love to bathe with my husband, which can be very sexy.

Name things that kill romance
How we think can kill romance faster than anything else. Unfulfilled expectations can turn into all kinds of unromantic encounters. Likewise, if we have doubts, fears or shame about our bodies or sex itself, then we end up leaving out so many potential ways we could connect. Our brains can’t process those emotions at the same time they’re creating passion and orgasm so unspoken feelings are not romantic. Lastly, I think that distraction kills romance. What we all want most is for our partner to be fully present, listening and looking in our eyes. Digital toys, for example, take us away from that.

What’s more important, if you could only have one: A great companion or great sex?
I don’t think I can answer this because I believe that great sex creates the glue for great companionship, and having a great companion creates the safety and space to explore our sexual selves. Even for couples with medical issues that inhibit or change their sexual rapport, it’s really important to remember that sex begins in the brain, not in the genitals. There are many sweet, sexy ways you can interact with someone that don’t necessarily include intercourse.

 

{SEXpertise} The 3 best selling sex enhancers from Sinclair Institute are…

Since many of our FOFriends aren’t exactly forthcoming with the types of sex toys they’ve purchased recently, we went straight to the source–Sinclair Institute, the leading retailer of sexual health products and videos in the United States.

If you guessed A, B and C–you aced the test! Now, read on to find out why these three sex enhancers are practically flying off the shelves at SinclairInstitute.com.

Butterfly Kiss G-Spot Vibrator, $14.95 (on sale for $9.95)

What it does: “The bulbous tip touches the G-spot while the butterfly and its antenna give you some clitoral and vulval stimulation,” says Betsy, customer acquisition manager at Sinclair Institute. “It has 3 vibration speeds and is waterproof.”

Why it’s flying off the shelves: “It’s a simple, non-threatening vibe and the price point is fantastic,” says Betsy. “And it’s cute–it’s a butterfly.”

Real review: “I bought this for my wife because she is intimidated by larger toys,” said one reviewer, Mr. D. “Within 30 secs of [using] it on high she was done. This product has really enhanced my wife’s pleasure and helped her feel more comfortable with toys.”

Super Head Honcho Masturbator, $24.95 (on sale for $19.95)

What it does: “This masturbation sleeve for men is made larger so it can accommodate a lot of different penis sizes,” says Betsy. “It makes is easier for a woman to please her man. This also provides more stimulation to a man than from his partner’s hand alone. There are all sorts of stimulating nubbies inside, as well as a suction action that’s triggered  when the device is moved up and down the shaft.”

Why it’s flying off the shelves: “Many men are apprehensive about purchasing a masturbator because they say, ‘I’ve been using my hand for years, what do I need this for?’” says Betsy. “We see many females purchasing this for men because it optimizes male pleasure and makes the job easier for women.”

Real review: “I have tried several masturbation sleeves when my wife is not around or not in the mood. This one provides a truly unique experience,” says one Sinclair Institute reviewer . “The texture inside is quite intense, but not overwhelming. I especially like that the end is open because you can squeeze it and create GREAT suction! Great addition to our collection!”

Wet Wabbit Rabbit Vibrator, $44.95

What it does: “It’s a three-speed, waterproof Rabbit vibrator with beads at the shaft for extra stimulation. It’s more advanced than your basic Rabbit model since the rabbit ears move at a higher velocity and an extra bullet at the base gives it some extra kick,” Betsy explains.

Why it’s flying off the shelves: “It’s inexpensive compared to other Rabbits. Rabbit vibrators made their debut on Sex and the City in the late 90s. When Samantha talked about using one on the show, it made a big sales splash. This one also is waterproof so you can use it in the shower, hot tub, bathtub and pool,” says Betsy.

Real review: “I have been happily married for almost 14 years and have always had a great and healthy sex life. I surprised my wife with a basic vibrator about two years ago. We used it frequently (always as a couple) until it broke a few months ago,” says one Sinclair Institute reviewer. “For Christmas this year I surprised her with the Wet Wabbit. The look in her eyes was telling me ‘what’s that?!’ But, I began to use it on her and she had a response that I had never seen. This was something special.”

FOF Exclusive! Save 20% off your order at Sinclair Institute.  Use code “FOF20” at checkout. Offer expires August 31, 2013.  Some restrictions apply.

{SEXpertise} Don’t Let E.D. Keep Him Down

 5 Toys that Could Fix Your FOF Man’s Impotence for Good

Each month, for the next six months, Sinclair is offering complimentary instructional sex videos to FOF couples or singles that want to experience the best sex lives possible. Read the story below, then, enter below, to win.

If you’re breathing, you’ve likely seen an ad for one of the many pills that treats erectile dysfunction. Cialis, Viagra, Levitra…the names alone may conjure images of smiling FOFs, walking hand-in-hand on the beach, or–oddly–sitting side-by-side in bathtubs in the middle of a field.

But what if pills alone are not enough to conquer your man’s issues with impotence? You may want to try a sex toy, according to Dr. Michael Werner, MD, a urologist and specialist in sexual dysfunction in Westchester, New York. “Well, we would actually call them  . . . devices,” adds Dr. Werner, who typically prescribes gadgets such as penis pumps and rings in conjunction with pills, injections or other medical ED treatments. “Unfortunately, a lot of men don’t know that there are options beyond Viagra,” he explains. “They will try pills prescribed by their general doctors and when those don’t work, they throw in the towel.”

Erectile dysfunction–which is defined as the inability to achieve and sustain an erection–affects 30 million men in the United States, but, according to Dr. Werner, it is largely a treatable condition. And sex toys–or “devices”–can be a vital part of that treatment. “Besides helping men get erections that are good enough for penetration and ejaculation, these devices also can make their sex lives better and more interesting.”
Here, his top toys for helping your man overcome ED.

1.  A vacuum-powered penis pump

It may look Draconian, but a penis pump can be your man’s–and your–first line of defense against ED. It works by creating a vacuum that actually draws blood into the shaft of the penis until it becomes erect. A retaining band, placed around the base of the penis, helps keeps it hard. Many men report that the pump actually adds length and girth to their usual erect size. “These work very well during sex,” says Dr. Werner. “Sometimes we advise men to use them alone–in the shower for example–to get the blood flowing and to get themselves more excited. Beware of novelty pumps that don’t have a release valve,” says Dr. Werner, “as they could cause injury.”

The Endow Vacuum Pump from The Sinclair Institute® has the power and the safety “release valve” found on doctor-prescribed pumps that cost as much as $500 but it’s only $129.

2.  Constriction bands

Constriction bands help men maximize erections and maintain them by holding the blood in the shaft off the penis. “There are very basic versions–simple bands of silicone–as well as more sophisticated ones with vibrators attached. The vibrators can help both the man and the woman achieve orgasm. We’ve had couples do fabulously with the fancier models,” says Dr. Werner.

Sinclair Institute Select® Enhance Couples’ Love Ring combines a constriction ring,  a “bullet” vibrator to provide clitoral stimualtion, and a longer sleeve which goes over the penis to add firmness, length and girth.

3. Vibrators

“Many men get treated for E.D. and are able to achieve an erection, but then have trouble ejaculating. Now that we have so many treatments for E.D., this is an increasing problem,”  says Dr. Werner. “Vibrators stimulate the ejaculation reflex. If I were to put a man to sleep and then put a vibrator on his penis, he would actually ejaculate.”

The Sinclair Institute Select® Oh Rings are a set of constriction rings that come with an attachable 3-speed bullet mini vibrator powerful enough to help a man ejaculate. Also, the bullet vibrator doesn’t have the phallic shape of many vibrators, to help men feel more comfortable while using it.

4. Aneros

“There is a plexus of nerves that runs along the back of the prostate that can actually cause a man to orgasm without anyone even touching his penis,” Dr. Werner explains. “An Aneros device is inserted into the anus and stimulates these nerves by rubbing against the prostate. It doesn’t necessarily provide an erection, so it can be used in conjunction with a device that does, or it can be used alone to cause orgasm without erection.”

The Aneros MGX Prostate Stimulator works “with your body’s movements to achieve strong, continuous, non-ejaculatory full-body orgasms for complete sexual pleasure,” according to the Sinclair Institute’s website. 

5. Videos

Wait, we know what you’re thinking, but this is NOT your typical sex video. Knowing that many men are nervous about seeking professional help for ED, the Sinclair Institute created a film that literally follows a couple through a complete medical ED consultation with a urologist. They learn about every possible treatment–pills, injections, surgery and toys–so that you and your partner can, too, from the comfort of your sofa.

Get in on the action

Each month, for the next six months, Sinclair is offering complimentary videos to FOF couples or singles that want to experience the best sex lives possible. We want FOF men and women who are willing to be open and try new things. And have a sense of humor about it all.

Our goal is to feature people each month who view the video of their choice, personally apply what they learned and talk about the results openly and honestly.  We hope you’ll consider this challenge, even if you’re somewhat shy or embarrassed, so you can give yourself permission to experience the pleasure you deserve. The review can appear anonymously.We’ll change your names for the article and we won’t show your photos if you’d prefer to be completely anonymous.

Kathy Brummitt from Sinclair told us this is the one question they most often hear: Is my sex life normal? “Since no one talks about their sex lives, they don’t know what normal is,” Kathy says.

Let’s change that, starting now.  We invite you to explore Sinclair’s website and comment below about which of these educational videos you’d like to watch and make sure to add WHY.


Twelve FOFs will win. (See all our past winners, here.) (See official rules, here.) Contest closes March 28th, 2013 at midnight E.S.T. Contest limited to residents of the continental U.S.

{SEXpertise} FOFs in Toyland

Two FOF doctors (and friends) buzz about the tools every FOF woman really needs to put the spring back in her sex life.

 

Dr. Patricia Allen and Dr. Hilda Hutcherson are two of the most esteemed women’s sex and health experts in the United States. They’re also two of the funniest, realest FOFs we know. Here, they dish about the FOF sex aids that really work: vibrators, lube and of course, jewelry.

  • FOF: So let’s start with the most common toy—a vibrator . . .
    • Dr. Pat Allen: Well, first of all, if you’re a woman who no longer has estrogen because you’ve gone through menopause, do not decide that you’ve read an erotic book or had a sex talk with your girlfriends, and now you’re ready to start using a vibrator. Because if you use it on an un-estrogen-ized clitoris—well, honey, that might cause some discomfort—the opposite of what you want!
  • FOF: (laughing) So what’s the solution?
    • Dr. A: Preparation. To restore health—pinkness and plumpness–to genital tissue, we begin with the use of high-dose vitamin D for three weeks. Then a woman can choose to use vaginal estrogen, which generally in two forms—a cream (Estrase and Premarin are the two most common) and a pill called Vagifem a tablet that’s inserted twice a week.
  • FOF: What about dangers of estrogen treatments?
    • Dr. A: Vagifem is designed to limit its absorption in to the blood vessels, however there is a black box warning on it and all estrogen products noting that some small amount of the estrogen many enter the blood stream and could increase the risk of breast and endometrial cancer. Hilda, would you agree that is the general party line?
    • Dr. Hutcherson: I would agree.
    • Dr. A: We have to say it, you have to write it, but it’s thought to be extremely low risk.
  • FOF: How much Vitamin D and how much estrogen cream?
    • Dr. A: After 3 weeks of high-dose vitamin D (5,000 IU of vitamin D every day for three weeks), one can add the Vagifem. The first week, it should be every other night and then twice a week. A woman will decide, depending on how her genital tissue feels, if she needs a little estrogen cream on the outside. I tell patients that they shouldn’t use estrogen cream on the same night as the vaginal pill. And they’re to use a lima bean amount— which is a very tiny amount for those of you who did not grow up on a farm.
    • Dr. H: I don’t recommend as much preparation because I’m just so pro-toy. I tell women to start off with something mild first and work up to something stronger. Start out with a small, gentle “finger vibe” and lots of lube.
    • Dr. A: Yes, some women can use that. But if they’re several years past menopause, I suggest that they first get the tissue prepared. When their tissue is atrophic and thin and it itches and burns and cracks, first it has to heal.
  • FOF: Which vibrator do you like best?
    • Image
      The “Pebble” vibrator was designed
      by Japanese sculptor Mari-Ruth Oda.
      Dr. Pat likes it because it
      “doesn’t look like a vibrator.”

      Dr. A: I recommend one from MYLA called the pebble, and the reason that I like is that the maid can find it and not know what it is. I like a vibrator to not look like a vibrator.

    • Dr. H: The finger vibe. It’s discreet, but it’s probably enough to get you where you want to go.
    • Dr. A: Is there somewhere to go other than orgasm?
    • Dr. H : (Laughing.) Well, no.
    • Dr. A:I just wanted to make sure I hadn’t missed something or that there wasn’t something beyond orgasm besides jewelry.

    • Image
      Dr. Hutcherson recommends starting out
      with a “gentle fingervibe” and lots of lube.
      Pictured: Fukuoku 9000 Vibrator And Body Massager,
      available at sinclairinstitute.com

      **Dr. H: I also like the Pocket Rocket and The Bullet. Or for a woman with a great deal of experience, she could even choose something called The Rabbit.

    • Dr. A: That probably has multiple prongs…I can’t imagine.
  • What about lubricant. Is there one you recommend?
    • Dr. H: KY intrigue is a silicone-based product that’s especially good for women who are many years past menopause and have chosen not to use an estrogen product.
    • Image
      KY Intrigue is “especially good
      for women who are many years
      past menopause and have chosen
      not to use an estrogen product.”

      Dr. A: For women who are allergic to the propylene glycol found in some of these products, plain old mineral oil is a wonderful lubricant. However, no man can sustain an erection if presented with a one-quart, tin bottle of mineral oil, so do decant it into something pretty and pink. Now, mineral oil would not work with a condom–you must use a water-based lube with a condom. Many of my patients like Astroglide–a water-based lube.

    • Dr. A: Some women don’t want their partners to know that they’re not getting lubricated. For that, KY ovules, used twice a week, on a regular basis, could be enough to keep you lubricated when the time comes. However, a seductive FOF woman can certainly have fun using lube as a part of foreplay.
    • Dr. H: That’s certainly a way to put foreplay back into sex. Also, KY Intense is an arousal gel for women who like to have their clitoris warmed up.
    • Dr. A: A hot, relaxing bath is another great way to warm up and have some genital and clitoral engorgement.

Want to hear more about the sex life of women in midlife? Check out these titillating topics at Women’s Voices for Change:

A History of the Vibrator
 
Sex Diary of a Satisfied 62-Year-Old Woman

Author
Patricia Yarberry Allen, MD & Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, MD,Patricia Yarberry Allen, MD, director of the New York Menopause Center, is a gynecologist affiliated with New York-Presbyterian Hospital and a board- certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a spokesperson on women’s health, and the publisher of Women’s Voices for Change.Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, MD, is presently a Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Associate Dean for Diversity and Minority Affairs at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. She is also the author of What Your Mother Never Told You About Sex and Pleasure: A Woman’s Guide to Getting the Sex You Want, Need and Deserve.

{SEXpertise} He has Viagra. You have…

Our favorite sex experts reveal the pills, creams, tricks and toys that actually work to get FOFs in the mood.

The hard truth: menopause depletes our estrogen, which can cause vaginal dryness, loss of arousal and loss of sexual satisfaction in some women. Or, in the words of Dr. Michael Krychman, Director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health, “orgasms were once like thunder and lightening, and now they are the pitter-patter of rain.” But, being FOF also brings increased confidence, freedom and self-awareness which can lead to the most satisfying sex of your life. At the end of the day, the former is fixable and the latter is fabulous.

Here, our most trusted authorities on women’s sexual health, Dr. Patricia Allen, Candida Royalle, Dr. Holly Thacker and Dr. Michael Krychman, reveal everything that’s really worked to help their FOF patients get the “thunder and lightening” back in the bedroom.

  • 1. Get your “equipment” in working order.
    • Dr. Pat Allen: “Lack of estrogen can cause vaginal tissues to become dry and thin–not very arousing. To restore pinkness and plumpness, I prescribe the use of high-dose vitamin D for three weeks. Then a woman can choose to use vaginal estrogen, which generally comes in two forms—a cream (Estrace and Premarin are the two most common) and a pill called Vagifem that’s inserted twice a week. Vagifem is designed to limit its absorption in to the blood vessels, however some small amount of the estrogen many enter the blood stream and could increase the risk of breast and endometrial cancer. It’s thought to be an extremely low risk.”
    • Dr. Michael Krychman: “If you don’t want to use or can’t use hormones, you can try non-hormonal vaginal moisturizers such as Me Again or Replens which are applied on a regular basis to help hydrate the vaginal tissue and improve skin quality.”
  • 2. Lubrication, lubrication, lubrication.
    • Candida Royalle: “Use a good water-based lubricant, especially around the outer opening to the vagina.”
    • Dr. Holly Thacker: “Water-soluble lubricants such as Astroglide® or K-Y Jelly®, can help a lot.”
    • Dr. Pat Allen: “For women who are allergic to the propylene glycol found in products such as KY, plain old mineral oil is a wonderful lubricant. It would not work with a condom–you must use a water-based lube with a condom. Some women don’t want their partners to know that they’re not getting lubricated. For that, KY ovules, used twice a week, on a regular basis, could be enough to keep you lubricated when the time comes.”
  • 3. Try an aphrodesiac that actually works.
    • Dr. Holly Thacker: “There is an over-the-counter ‘feminine arousal fluid’ called Zestra that’s available without a prescription. A small, randomized trial showed that when women applied Zestra to the genitals–versus some other over-the-counter oil–they had better sensation and slightly better ability to climax.”
    • Dr. Michael Krychman: “I’ve seen good results with two over-the counter products: Zestra, a proprietary blend of essential oils that increases arousal, and ArginMax, a supplement that helps by improving circulation.”
  • 4. Edit your sexual script.
    • Dr. Michael Krychman: “Patients often come to me and say things like, ‘We always have sex on Friday night after Letterman.’ Just changing one thing about your sexual routine–the location or time for example, can have a major effect on arousal.” Read “Keeping Sex Hot.”
  • 5. Rub a Dub Dub. Get going in the tub.
    • Candida Royalle: “Take a warm bath before intercourse to help you relax. You could even begin some sensual self-stimulation and caressing while in the bath to get you in the mood. Consider adding a waterproof vibrator.
  • 6. Tell him the doctor made you do it.
    • Dr. Michael Krychman: “Forty percent of women don’t have orgasm during penetration and many have a much easier–and better–time when a vibrator is involved. But women are nervous about bringing vibrators into the bedroom for fear their men will feel threatened. I tell my patients, ‘Tell your husband that your gynecologist prescribed it.’” Read Sinclair Institute’s “Definitive Rabbit Buying Guide.”
  • 7. Lights, Camera, Get Some Action.
    • Candida Royalle: “Many women claim watching an erotic movie that they like works better than anything else they’ve tried. Consider movies made by and for women. Or read erotic stories together. Some couples become well-versed in telling their favorite erotic stories to each other, which can really put you both in the mood.”
  • 8. Practice makes perfect.
    • Candida Royalle: “Masturbate regularly to keep yourself vaginally and sexually fit. This will help your body continue to produce “sex hormones” and enable you to be more easily be aroused. Also, doing regular Kegel exercises not only helps keep the muscles strong to enable good bladder control; it also increases blood to the vaginal walls, which will increase lubrication and keep your vaginal walls toned and able to feel sensations more easily.”
Author
Dr. Holly Thacker, Dr. Patricia Yarberry Allen, Dr. Michael Krychman and Candida RoyalleDr. Holly Thacker, MD, FACP is the director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Specialized Women’s Health and the of authored two outstanding books on menopause and hormones.–Dr. Patricia Yarberry Allen, MD, director of the New York Menopause Center, is a gynecologist affiliated with New York-Presbyterian Hospital and a board-certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.–Dr. Michael Krychman is a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist and the Director of the Southern California Cetner for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine.–Candida Royalle is a renowned sex expert and the the founder of Femme Productions, and female-focused erotic film company, and of Natural Contours, a line of intimate sexual toys for women.

{SEXpertise} My libido is gone. Should I care?

Is low sex drive a cause for concern, or a natural part of aging? FOF investigates.

“FOF patients come to me all the time complaining of low sex drive,” says Dr. Holly Thacker, Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at The Cleveland Clinic. In fact, 50 percent of the FOF women we surveyed reported a loss of sexual desire as they aged.

But what’s behind this lacking libido? Is it menopause?
Is it a physical problem that requires medical treatment? Or is it just a natural part of aging? Here, Dr. Thacker explains how to suss out the origin of your sexual dilemmas.

Is loss of libido an inevitable part of aging?
For most women, some loss of sex drive with aging is inevitable. The purpose of a sex drive is to reproduce, so if a woman is past reproductive age, she’s not going to have the constant sexual thoughts that she might have had when she was younger–and that her male partner may have.

What’s the connection between menopause and libido?
Loss of estrogen following menopause can lead to changes in a woman’s sexual functioning. Menopausal women may notice that they are not as easily aroused, and may be less sensitive to touching and stroking, which can result in decreased interest in sex.  Read about Hotter Senior Sex. 

Further, the emotional changes that often accompany menopause–including anxiety and depression–can add to a woman’s loss of interest in sex and/or inability to become aroused. In addition, lower levels of estrogen can cause the vagina to be thin, pale, and dry. The lower one-third of the vagina can shrink, leading to painful sexual intercourse.

Is this something women should learn to accept, or can these problems be fixed?
There are many options for women and ways to improve sexual function, and some problems, such as vaginal pain and dryness, are absolutely medical issues. Figuring out the causes of the problem are key to know how and if it should be treated.

How do you treat vaginal pain and dryness associated with loss of estrogen?
Vaginal atrophy happens to at least 80 percent of women after menopause if they’re not on hormone therapy. The vagina gets thin and delicate and goes into a pre-pubertal state. Obviously, sexual activity can become painful if not impossible. That’s very easily treated. We have estrogen creams, tablets, and even a small estrogen ring called the Estring. For women who can’t or won’t take vaginal estrogen because they have a history of uterine cancer or blood clots, we mix up compounded vaginal DHEA in a little suppository that’s put in the vagina. All of these improve sensation, lubrication and sexual function.

Are these creams something you use just before you want to have sex?
No, they’re used as maintenance to keep the tissue healthy. Estrogen cream is not a lubricant. Whether or not you’re actually having intercourse, we still want you to have a healthy vagina so you don’t end up with other infections.

Image

Speaking of lubricants . . . can those help as well?
Vaginal dryness during sex is a common complaint among menopausal women. You can use water-soluble lubricants such as Astroglide® or K-Y Jelly®, and that can help a lot. There is also an over-the-counter “feminine arousal fluid” called Zestra that’s available without a prescription. A small, randomized trial showed that when women applied Zestra to the genitals–versus some other over-the-counter oil–they had better sensation and slightly better ability to climax.

What is the active ingredient in Zestra? Is it an estrogen product?
No. It’s a botanical oil that contains Evening Primrose Oil, thought to improve blood flow.

When should you consider menopausal hormone therapy to treat sexual dysfunction?
If you have good sexual function before menopause and then it deteriorates suddenly after menopause, or if you have other serious menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, bone loss, etc. But you have to make sure it’s not just a partner issue. The vast majority of women who come to be complaining about sexual dysfunction . . . a lot of times they’re not attracted to their partner or they have other relationship issues. That will not be fixed by hormones or medication.

What if you’ve been attracted to your partner, but then you lose your libido from menopause and you think, ‘I’m just not attracted to this man any more.” How do you know what’s your partner and what’s biological?
Well, that’s not so much that case usually…most patients are able to identify if they’re attracted or neutral or repulsed by another person. Often a woman is sexually functional, she just has less of a sex drive than her partner. For example, she may have spontaneous sexual drive twice a month, and her partner has the drive twice a week or even twice a day. So she may be having sex more than once a week–to appease her partner–and therefore never feeling her spontaneous drive. It’s sort of like, if you ate a little before every meal, you’d never feel very hungry for the meal itself! Read more about attraction.

So to some extent, your sense of your libido has to do with your expectation of what it should be.
Exactly, a lot of women come in complaining of low sex drive, but when you get into their history they have a good relationship, they’re able to climax some of the time, they don’t have pain with sex, and it’s enjoyable–they just don’t have the same drive to be as active as they were when they were younger. That’s not a disease or a problem, that’s just the natural state.

Do you think some women come to you wanting permission to not care about sex anymore?
Some want permission to feel that there’s not something wrong with them, especially if they’re getting their information from the media–movies, TV–which tells them they should constantly want to be having sex. Some women never feel that way or they can identify wanting that only in their 20s or 30s. Once women understand that their sex drive isn’t meant to be what it was in their 20s and 30s, they feel better about how they’re feeling.

So what do you do if you’re not particularly motivated to have sex, but your partner is?
One question I always ask women is, ‘Once you get involved in sex, do you enjoy it? And they say, ‘yeah,’ and i say, ‘Well, it’s like exercise.’ Most people aren’t addicted to exercise–they have to force themselves to do it. But once they start exercising, they enjoy it and feel good and they think ‘Why don’t i do this more often?!.’

I’ve read that men also experience loss of sexual drive and ability with age But, they have Viagra! Is there a similar pill for women?
Doctors are studying whether a combination of estrogen and testosterone may be helpful in creating sex drive in women; however, there aren’t currently any drugs available in America to treat sexual problems in women.

Why is that? Viagra has been around forever…
Women’s sexual function is a lot more complicated to evaluate and study than male sexual dysfunction. I also think we have a very paternalistic FDA. For example, in Europe and Canada, the testosterone patch is approved for low sexual desire and female sexual dysfunction, and in America it’s not, and I think that’s a shame.

So there’s no way to get testosterone in the US?
We are forced to use compounded testosterone for women who have low testosterone or have had their ovaries removed. There are some ongoing studies with a testosterone gel, but it has not reached the market. The company that was developing a pill for low sexual desire in pre-menopausal women have unfortunately stopped studying the drug–Flibanserin–based on the feedback they have received from the FDA.

What happens if a woman uses Viagra?
Even though we don’t have a female Viagra, we will use off-label Viagra in certain circumstances, for example women who are on anti-depressant drugs, who are interested in sex but have difficulty climaxing. In those cases, sometimes the use of Viagra does allow them to climax. Or sometimes we change their antidepressant medication to something call Wellbutrin or Bupropion which can help them climax more easily. Sexual dysfunction and loss of libido can be a side effect of some medications, so it’s important to visit your doctor with a complete list of medicines you’re taking.

Even if you can’t medically increase your libido, are there non-prescription ways to get in the mood?
The most important thing is to educate yourself about your physical anatomy. A lot of women just don’t understand their bodies–they don’t understand what their erogenous zone is. For some women it’s the clitoris and for some women it’s the g-spot, which is the interior lower one third of the vaginal wall, and some women just need to be educated and given permission to explore their bodies.

Image

That can be easier said than done. How do you get a woman who’s over fifty to suddenly start exploring her sexual self?
I might send her to a sex therapist who can give her very specific exercises or help her work out a communication issue with her partner. For women who can not climax, there is one very specific, FDA approved device called the EROS .

For other women it’s using erotic materials such as books and videos. It can be helpful to try physically stimulating activity that does not include intercourse, such as sensual massage or even exercise.

While overall libido may decrease, many women understand their bodies and are more comfortable with themselves and actually are more orgasmic after the childbearing phase.

NOTE: Want to learn more about this topic? Dr. Thacker recommends two “excellent” resources:

A guide to sex and aging available on the North American Menopause Association website.
The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause, which has a detailed chapter on sexual function.

This Article is created in partnership of with Speaking of Women’s Health, a national women’s health education program from the Cleveland Clinic Center for Specialized Women’s Health.

Subscribe today to Speaking of Women’s Health e-newsletter to receive health articles, recipes, quizzes and more in your inbox monthly at http://www.fathompbm.com/SpeakingofWomensHealth/SWH-FOF.html

Author
Dr. Thacker
Cleveland Clinic CenterDr. Holly Thacker, MD, FACP is the director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Specialized Women’s Health, one of the world’s foremost clinics for women. She has authored two outstanding books on menopause and hormones and is a recipient of the “Lila Wallis Women’s Health Award” in recognition of her lifetime achievement in the field. She’s also a straight talker and a totally FOF woman.