Haven't felt in the mood to get in touch with yourself? During perimenopause and menopause, people who were born with vaginas will start to experience hormonal and physical changes that can impact their sex lives. The body’s decreasing levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone can lead to symptoms like vaginal atrophy, dryness, and lowered libido. As you adjust to all these changes, your normal sex routine — including your sex toy collection — might start to feel totally irrelevant. Not so!
Replenishing your sex toy supply — or investing in some for the first time — is a simple way to make sex with yourself or someone else less painful and a whole lot hotter.
Life transitions like peri/menopause can be a drag, but they’re also a great time to take stock of your routines and form new ones. Plus, if you’re not as worried about avoiding pregnancy, now you can start thinking about how to have more fun in the bedroom.
Not sure where you start? Consider this your Adult Sex Ed. Here are six ways to update your pleasure drawer, according to an expert.
Introduce the right lubricant
Vaginal dryness and thinning caused by menopause can make sex painful. Adding a personal lubricant to your sex toy drawer will help you reduce friction and get the most out of your sex life, says Wendasha Jenkins Hall, PhD, a sex educator at The Sensible Sexpert.
You need a lubricant that will last and not dry, which many do too early in the process.
There are many different options when it comes to personal lubricants. Water-based lubricants are most people’s go-to, as they rinse off easily and can be used with both sex toys and condoms. Try a water-based lube without warming or cooling ingredients if you find that your skin is more sensitive than it used to be. Good Clean Love is a popular choice that tastes lightly of vanilla, and SUTIL Rich was designed with menopausal users in mind.
If you’re used to using a water-based lube but find that it doesn’t last for long enough now that you have less natural lubrication, try an oil-based, silicone-based, or hybrid water-silicone lubricant instead. (Pssst, check out Oh My Glide if you're looking for a moisturizing oil-based lubricant for your Main Event.)
Silicone and hybrid lubes are great for menopausal users, as they add long-lasting slip but (unlike oil-based lubricants) are safe for use with condoms and dental dams.
Introduce non-penetrative sex toys
For those with a vagina, the clitoris is the source of most orgasms. According to Jenkins Hall, penetration can be a little bit painful around the time of menopause, so people may “go more toward toys that are clitoris-stimulating.”
If that’s something that appeals to you, she recommends trying products such as bullet vibrators, massage wands, or clitoral suction toys. (The Je Joue Mimi Soft, Magic Wand Rechargeable, and Womanizer Premium are stellar choices from each category.)
There are a ton of high-quality, body-safe sex toys available today in small, comfortable boutiques and online shops. There are more options available today for diverse populations, too: Sex toy shops aren’t geared only to straight, cisgender couples anymore. Jenkins Hall says sex toys are a good way to spice it up in the bedroom if you have a long-term partner — but they’re also awesome for solo use or to use with new partners.
Fine-tune your penetrative experiences
If you’re finding that your body is beginning to prefer shallower penetration as your vagina changes, Jenkins Hall recommends adding a sex toy like the Ohnut Buffer Ring to help control the depth of penetration. Another option, especially if penetration is important to you, is to stretch your vaginal muscles on a regular basis with vaginal dilators.
Explore new sensations
Sex can involve a lot of different sensations, so consider changing up the kinds you’re seeking. Instead of selecting sex toys for length or girth, reach for options made from materials like glass beads or textured silicone.
Glass and metal sex toys hold temperatures well and can be used to introduce hot and cold sensations, too. Hot (or, uh, cold) tip: Try submerging a metal sex toy in warm or cool water for two minutes before using it.
Make small changes in positioning and habits
As you enter midlife, you’ll start noticing changes in your body outside of your erogenous zones, too. You may lose flexibility or strength or perhaps start experiencing joint pain. Thankfully, Jenkins Hall says you really don’t have to do a lot of modification in the bedroom just yet.
Midlife is a great time to start introducing small changes, like using a sex pillow to make weight-bearing positions more comfortable. “Trust your body,” she says, and remember to “stop and modify” as you go. If something begins to feel uncomfortable during intercourse or masturbation, just pause, adjust, add more lube if needed, and continue.
(Re)think your kink
The one time Jenkins Hall says you may have to make greater modifications is during really physical actions. For physically taxing activities like shibari rope work, you or your partner might not be able to tolerate the same suspension positions or weight that you could when you were younger.
For everything else, she recommends that you just have fun with it. If something feels uncomfortable, try exploring new and novel sensations. Try swapping hard handcuffs for something “a little bit gentler on the joints,” like silk ties, or pivot from wood paddles to whips if the impact feels like too much. Many kinks, like BDSM or fetish play, involve more mental stimulation than physical, so they can be a great way to find intensity and intimacy with a partner even as your spontaneous libido decreases.
With a little lube and a couple of small tweaks, midlife is a great time to start living your best sexual life ever.
By Rae Chen
Rae Chen (they/them) is a queer Canadian writer who covers sex, tech, and beauty in between decaf oat milk lattes and trips to the dog park. Their work and interviews have been featured in Teen Vogue, SELF, InsideHook, Bloomberg, and more. You can find more of their writing at https://theNotice.net.
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