(Written by Jason Brick)
As men get older, they often have trouble achieving and maintaining erections because of a combination of hormonal, environmental and behavioral changes.
As women get older, hormonal and other physical changes can create a condition called vaginal atrophy, which can lead to erection loss during sex.
These two are not a pair of “great tastes that taste great together.”
They’re more of a recipe for unsatisfying sex, which can mean it’s a recipe for an unsatisfying relationship. The good news is neither of you are powerless against the age-related betrayals your body serves up against your sexual health.
We write often about what men can do to fight erectile problems, but here are a few things you can do when the problem is on the other side.
Technically speaking, vaginal atrophy is a thinning and drying of the vaginal walls due to a woman producing less estrogen and other sex hormones, which happen most often during or after menopause (source).
In the worst cases, it also includes inflammation which makes sex painful and can cause UTIs and other less-than-fun secondary symptoms.
Even in better (or worse) cases, that thinning can drastically reduce friction during sex.
Because friction is the primary physical factor for making sex feel good for men and women alike, this can seriously impact your sex life.
Without friction, there’s little physical going on to keep even a healthy penis fully erect. Once this starts happening, men can have difficulty achieving orgasm, or lose their wood in the act…which isn’t fun for anybody.
Most women encounter a version of this problem at different times throughout their lives, but vaginal atrophy can make it worse or make it happen more often. It’s the balancing act between too much lubrication (which reduces friction) and too little (which increases pain).
The solution is simple, but sometimes awkward to talk about.
Use a towel to reduce lubrication if she gets excessively wet, or apply the smallest necessary amount of personal lubricant if she’s too dry. It’s up to you to figure out how to suggest and execute this without saying something that kills the mood entirely.
If you’ve been having sex long enough to know there’s a difference between women in different decades of their lives, you also know how different positions increase or decrease friction during sex.
You’ve probably taken advantage of this at one point or another when you were afraid of ejaculating prematurely and ending the party before everybody has had their fun.
You can use the opposite to increase friction and keep your wood strong, with the following positions:
• Tight Squeeze — in this position, you lay your partner on her stomach and enter her from behind, then close her legs together. This closes her up tightly and provides the maximum amount of friction you can get from vaginal sex. You can get similar results from doggy style with her legs placed closer together than normal.
• Deep Thrust — lay your partner on her back like you’re going to go for missionary position, but put her ankles on your shoulders as you enter her and bring your head about even with her face. This opens her up for deep penetration (hence the name) while keeping things tight. You’ll get more sensation along more of your penis, and she’ll appreciate the “depth of your communication”
• Screw Position — not a pun. (Well, not just a pun). It’s kind of a combination of the two above. You put your partner on her back and enter her, then close her legs and lay them to one side or another. The twist in her torso is the origin of the name. You’ll get a lot of penetration and serious friction from her closed legs in this position. A lot of men find this one easier if they’re standing, with her at the edge of the bed.
You’ve already heard about kegels for women (and might even know how they’re done and what they’re good for), but did you know kegels for men can be equally helpful? Here’s your crash course on the his and hers of kegel exercises to improve sex when friction is unreliable:
Kegel exercises for men and women improve strength and control in the vagina and pelvic floor. Medically, they’re recommended for women with pelvic floor conditions like incontinence after childbirth.
However, the same exercises can help a woman keep her vagina tight, responsive and friction-friendly even after vaginal atrophy begins. For men, they help with a weak urinary sphincter — a common side effect of prostate issues that occur frequently in aging me.
Kegel exercises are simply a matter of tightening the muscles in the pelvic floor like doing abdominal isolations.
If you or your woman aren’t sure which muscles those are, you can find them by cutting off urine flow mid-stream. The muscles she engaged to do that are the same muscles she needs to exercise.
Three sets of 10 each day, holding the contraction for 10 seconds each time, is enough to make a noticeable difference. For best results, don’t breathe during the contractions. This helps you isolate the muscles and get the most out of each rep.
Vaginal atrophy is something that happens to most women sometime during or after menopause. It’s an unavoidable part of aging for women unless you want her to go on some kind of hormone therapy and risk the various side effects of that type of treatment program.
But “unavoidable” isn’t the same as “unsolvable.” Any of the tricks we talked about, or several in combination, can be enough to fix the worst impact this has on your sex life with your partner.