Depictions of the sex lives of older adults are slowly entering into mainstream pop culture — through books, movies, and television series like Grace and Frankie. But the practical conversations about pleasure and sex for older bodies still have a long way to go before they’re in those generations’ comfort zones.
In the third season of Grace and Frankie, which premiered last year, audiences were given a look into a conversation that’s rarely depicted in mainstream media: older women buying sex toys.
In the episode, the roommates ordered fictional vibrators punnily called the “Ménage à Moi.” The toys were especially designed to be arthritis-friendly with older women in mind, and the show’s creators got plenty of real-life inquiries from women wanting to get their hands on the toy.
While the Ménage à Moi unfortunately isn’t for sale, there are plenty of products on the market that older people can — and should — make good use of.
Carol Queen, PhD, a staff sexologist at Good Vibrations and co-author of The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone, spoke to Considerable about what older buyers should look for when choosing a toy.
She urges senior women to check in with their needs with these questions: “What is the surface of the toy like? Post-menopausal seniors in particular might find that a dildo or vibrator to be used for vaginal insertion will seem rougher or more textured to them than it might have felt when they were younger, and they might enjoy something smoother than a younger person might choose.”
And while not all older men experience erectile issues, it’s very common and might influence their toy choice.
How about the size? Ditto. Some post-menopausal folk might choose a smaller diameter for insertion. (In both these cases, it might make a difference if they’re on hormone-replacement therapy, which can stave off some of the vaginal effects of menopause.)
Is it more difficult to get aroused? If so, toys like the Womanizer that focus on the clitoris, or a pump that covers the vulva, might be a newly attractive choice, drawing blood into sensitive areas.
Queen recommended the Ohnut, a toy that prevents too-deep penetration, for post-menopausal women who might need it.
“Some sleeve-style toys are made of very soft material and might be easier to penetrate with a partially erect penis; others may seem too tight,” Queen said. “And there is a terrific sleeve-style variation (here’s one version of it) that basically wraps around a hard or soft penis — no need to insert into it. Many younger men don’t think of vibrators as being for them or of interest; seniors of any gender identity might appreciate the stimulation vibrators can give.”
Queen went on to urge that older users lube up. “Lubricant is fabulous for young and old alike, but age can make us more sensitive to friction and our skin may thin — I’m not just referring to the vaginal lining here, either. So the right lube (and what a person looks for in a lubricant) could change; thicker or creamier lubes might feel better than the thinner water-based varieties. We are beginning to see balms (usually oil-based), some with CBD, that might assist those who could use more moisture.”
When it comes to any toy use, mobility issues might hamper people with arthritis or other physical challenges to dexterity. This might mean trying a smaller vibrator, or one with a reinforced grip.
According to Queen, there aren’t a lot of sex toys marketed expressly to older customers, and she had some suggestions for serving this growing market.
“Brands can matter-of-factly mention any senior-relevant information when they send out fact sheets and design web pages around their products,” she said. “This informs and normalizes.”