Sexual Health Roundup: All About Female Orgasms, Bicycle Seats, and Sex Over 55


VIDEO: Safe Sex for Seniors

In the past 5 years, the rate of STDs among active seniors has risen over 70%. This public service announcement promotes the importance of using condoms, illustrated by mature adults in various poses of the Kama Sutra. [via]

All About Women’s Orgasms – Should We Care Where They Originate?
A series of essays in the Journal of Sexual Medicine looks at female orgasms and is once again fueling the debate over how orgasms are made — do they come from the clitoris, the vagina, or the elusive G-spot. The issue includes an essay by researchers at Rutgers University who conducted multiple studies in which they asked women to masturbate while having an MRI. They found that different areas of the brain are activated from clitoral stimulation and vaginal stimulation. The areas overlap but only slightly suggesting there really are different “types” of orgasm. Others disagree, however; a French gynecologist writes in her essay that female orgasm is dependent on clitoral stimulation and suggests that because the front wall of the vagina is closely linked with the internal parts of the clitoris, so-called “vaginal” orgasms could in reality be clitoral in origin. Yet another essay suggests that women who can have vaginal orgasms — without any clitoral stimulation — are physically and psychologically healthier.  It pointed to research finding that women “who have vaginal orgasms have a lower resting heart rate than others who did not experience them” and that those “who can reach a sexual peak without clitoral stimulation are less likely to use specific maladaptive psychological coping mechanisms.”

While I think we can all agree that these kind of studies are interesting, I fear they can hurt women.  Orgasms feel good no matter where they originate or which parts of the brain they light up and I think we should just be encouraging women to have whatever kind they can have. As one of the authors put it: “Looking for the G-spot orgasm or the vaginal orgasm as a need, as a duty, is the best way to lose the happiness of sex.”

Spin Class May Be Bad for Your Sexual Health

In a recent sexual health roundup, I noted a study that found exercise can lead to spontaneous orgasms but all exercise regimens might not be created equal when it comes to sexual health. A new study, also in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, may have you thinking twice before hitting your usual spin class. Research has already concluded that spending too much time on a traditional bicycle seat is bad for men’s health as it can lead to erectile dysfunction. Researchers at Yale University have now determined that these seats—which have a pointed nose—are not good for women either.  For the study, researchers had regular cyclists—those who rode upwards of 10 mile a week bring their bikes to a lab where they watched them ride (the bikes were set up so they were stationary) and measured the impact on their pelvic floor. The women also reported whether they were experiencing pain, numbness, or tingling. 

The study concluded that the most important factor was the height of the handlebars—if the  handlebars were lower than the seat, women were forced to lean forward which put more pressure the perineum— the region between the back of the vulva and the anus which is made up of soft tissue.  This can lead to pelvic floor pain.  

As the researchers point out, this is correctable.  If you don’t want to switch to yoga or Pilates, at least see if you can raise your handlebars.

Safer Sex for Grandma

Forgive me if I’ve told this story before but when my grandmother started dating a few years after my grandfather died, the good sexuality educator in me couldn’t resist the opportunity to tell her she really ought to be using condoms. The exact response from my grandmother, who was a health care professional might I add, was “I don’t have to.  If I got HIV, by the time I’d get sick, I’ll be dead anyhow.”  I’m not sure how many older adults who find themselves back in the dating scene after being divorced or widowed feel exactly this way but data suggests they aren’t using condoms and they are getting STDs.

Over the past few years, research has found that STD incidence among adults over 55 is on the rise. For example, between 2005 and 2009, the number of cases of syphilis and Chlamydia in seniors in central Florida rose 71 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

A new campaign, which includes a Public Service Advertisement (PSA) and a website, encourages older adults to think about safer sex. The 30-second PSA shows fully clothed older people of all shapes and sizes simulating amusing sexual positions and ends by saying while there are many ways to do it there’s only one way to do it safely: “Use A Condom.” The ad directs viewers to the website http://safersex4seniors.org.  As Melanie Davis, the coordinator for the site explains, the ad: “…celebrates the sexuality of adults in mid- and older age. The joy in the actors’ faces captures the message we need to get across: that healthy, protected sex is life affirming and enriching.”  

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