Silver Sex: The Case for Sex Toys and Why There’s No Retirement Age for Intimacy
While people are becoming more open about the use of sex toys in general, a survey showed that 60 per cent of people aged 55 to 65 said they had never bought or used sex toys. Photo: Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images
The assignment? Write about “silver sex.”
So, sex in the later years? Check.
Consult an expert? Check.
Include information about how sex toys such as vibrators can play a role? Uh oh!
Now, there is nothing unseemly about sex toys.
In fact, sex toys are so seemly that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth honoured Lovehoney, a British business that sells sex toys, lingerie and erotic items on the Internet. She bestowed the Queen’s Award for Enterprise on Lovehoney after overseas sales soared by 365 per cent.
“We are thrilled to have received official recognition from the Queen,” Lovehoney’s chief commercial officer, Debbie Bond, responded.
“Her Majesty has been a wonderful supporter of Lovehoney as we have grown into being the world’s leading sexual wellness brand.”
(Lovehoney is based in Bath, Jane Austen’s favourite city, home of the Jane Austen Museum and the setting of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. You can’t help imaging a mash-up between Austen and Lovehoney…)
When I contacted Lovehoney, I confessed that I was a vibrator virgin.
Soon after, a heavy box arrived for me at the concierge desk. The box is still sitting, as I write this, unopened beside my bed.
I’m not alone in being sheepish about sex toys.
In a survey, 60 per cent of people aged 55 to 65 said they had never bought or never used sex toys, according to Berlin-based Johanna Rief, global director of sexual empowerment for Lovehoney.
“There is a change overall in society with more openness to sex toys,” says Rief, “but above [the age of] 50 it’s not as great as below 50.”
Aging and Sexuality
Sex educator, author and speaker Joan Price, 78, thinks we’re missing out on something enjoyable, even delightful. She suggests that, at any age, it’s appropriate to be sexually active and open to including sex toys in our lives.
“Even as we get older and our bodies change,” she says, “we never age out of sexuality.”
So why is senior sex such an issue instead of just being taken for granted?
“Because society judges us,” says Price, author of Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex and Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved.
“Sex is portrayed in the media and in jokes as belonging to the young and beautiful with firm, hard bodies. They think we age out of sexuality and we seniors have internalized that view and start thinking that we’re no longer sexually vibrant and sexually desirable and that it’s icky to be desirous of sex. So we give up instead of learning about what’s going on with our bodies, adjusting, and trying new things to enjoy sex for the rest of our lives.
“What worked in the past changes,” says Price. “Maybe the penis doesn’t work way it used to, maybe the clitoris doesn’t work the way it used to, maybe penetration is not as pleasurable, maybe I’m not feeling sensations as easily as I used to.”
And that, she says, is why sex toys were invented. “That’s why vibrators exist.”
Rief’s company, LoveHoney, sells hundreds of different vibrators including We-Vibe — vibrators that can be paired with a smartphone app for remote-controlled use from anywhere in the world.
One of the products currently available on the Lovehoney website is a “whisper-quiet We-Vibe remote controlled wearable clitoral panty vibrator for solo or partner play.” It comes with a USB cable. The remote control has a range of up to three meters or can be used with the free app “to control from anywhere.”
(Imagine the possible scenarios …)
We-Vibe and Womanizer, an innovative clitoral stimulator that uses pulsed air without contact, are manufactured by Wow Tech Group.
According to the New York Times, the German company reported online sales for both brands over 200 per cent higher last April than the year before. “Some of this can be chalked up to quarantine boredom,” the NYT suggested.
Lovehoney also develops more than 150 products in-house every year, says Rief. Among them is a vibrator “that looks like a facial brush, something you can leave on the night stand and no one would even realize that it’s a sex toy.”
Making sex toys less intimidating to senior sex toy newbies (like me!) — taking away the fears and taboos in that generation — is one of Lovehoney’s marketing missions.
“There are ways to phrase it that are a little less scary,” she says, adding that she often refers to sex toys as “pleasure products” or “electronic products for adults.”
Another issue in promoting vibrators to the senior demographic is the attitude of men, says Rief. “The older the people are that I talk to, the more the men have the feeling of being replaced. They were taught that the men provide the orgasm so for that generation it feels more like a replacement.”
Senior sex maven Price knows this can be an issue for older couples. She suggests telling male partners, “You and I and a vibrator are a team. It’s not one or the other.”
Price explains, “Vibrators have one function only — to give orgasms. They don’t give pillow talk, they don’t make you laugh, they don’t tell you how gorgeous you are, they don’t make you dinner after sex.”
“Guys, don’t be afraid of using a vibrator”
She adds, encouragingly, “Guys, don’t be afraid of using a vibrator.”
Rief says another challenge in marketing sex toys to seniors is finding older models representative of the target group of older adults. Models aged 60 to 65 look way younger in the pictures, she explains. “We need models that are 70 to 75 for video ads or print ads geared to seniors.
“Society thinks that people stop having sex at certain age. Older people still have sex drives and they have the right to have sex. But they may come to a point in life where they need assistance. Also, she adds, later in life, people have the time for sex.
Indeed, Glamour Magazine declared that “masturbation” is a great way to pass the time …. and seeking self-pleasure is one of the greatest forms of self-care.”
Rief adds, “In homes for the elderly, there’s lots of time for masturbating or having sex.”
I asked sex maven Joan Price whether we’ll ever reach the point when grandma gets a vibrator for her birthday. “I’d rather they give her a certificate to a sex shop and let her pick out her own,” Price replied.
Speaking of picking out a vibrator, I’m wondering what exactly is in that box …
Whatever I find, it’s good to know that Her Majesty the Queen approves.