I am dating a woman who is 30 and identifies as a virgin. Her reasons are manifold: she was raped as a child and from there simply shut down, attempted a few relationships but was unable to connect with anyone intimately.
She has sought therapy and wants to be ready to enjoy sex on her terms. I am not kidding when I say I am near to shitting my pants over this. It feels like a huge responsibility I'm taking on, yet at the same time I don't want to be another person who leaves her or takes no responsibility for her sexual well-being. Please offer me any resources and ideas you can as I embark with her on this.
Phillip Strapp is a sexological bodyworker. "You're right about its being a big responsibility," he says, "and this relationship will likely be a test of your sexual self-control. If you're not ready and willing to stop what you're doing at any moment - even if you're on the edge of coming - then this relationship probably isn't for you. You might want to seek some support for yourself as you cope with the disappointments and frustrations you'll likely experience while she works through her healing process. For example, Ariadne's Thread is a group for partners of sexual abuse/trauma survivors.
"Trauma recovery is often an incremental and ongoing process, meaning that ‘surprises' may happen at any time - even years after therapy. Partly, this is due to the nature of conventional therapy: talk only goes so far. Experiential or somatic therapy techniques help a lot, but they also have limits. They somewhat controversial, and she might benefit from hands-on sex therapy.
"I or another hands-on specialist can provide a safe environment for her to reconnect with her body, release the trauma and explore her pleasure sensations that may currently be blocked. This kind of therapy helps people learn to ‘stay present' in their body during sexual arousal and ask for what they want, which will likely be among her challenges. For more about this approach to healing, visit ReclaimYourPleasure.com."
I have also found the work of Staci Haines very illuminating when it comes to sex trauma recovery. Haines practises the aforementioned somatics (generativesomatics.org or healing-sexthemovie.com/media.html)
And Ran, I'm not sure if this woman says, "I identify as a virgin" or if you are using that language yourself. If it's the latter, please think about why you use this expression. Virginity is a complex notion. When we feel that the experience of having sex on our own terms has been taken away from us, it increases suspicions about the sexual self we are grappling to reclaim. If she is using the term "virgin" herself for whatever reason - empowerment, reclamation, levity, questioning - I encourage you by all means to support her in this.
Game of Crones
Menopause has finally reared her head, and while my sex drive remains intact (so far), my sex organs are a desert. I will admit I'm not exactly thrilled by the idea of having to pull out a giant dispenser of lube every time I make love, but I guess I'm going to have to get used to it. I would like any recommendations you may be able to make about those that are good and as natural as possible.
Here Comes the Crone
You've come into menopause at a great time, sister. We have officially entered the golden age of lube, and many wonderful options are available to those who desire or require a little moisturizing assistance.
Please is a creamy, water-based lubricant. As Camilla Lombardi from Good Vibrations says, "This lubricant was formulated with women's bodies in mind, including women going through menopause or post-menopause. We liked that this was considered during formulation and not just as an afterthought. It's super-slick but still allows the user to feel friction - which isn't something you find with all lubricants. Natural ingredients are a plus, especially for women who find themselves more sensitive than they were earlier in their lives."
Please is also glycerin- and paraben-free and silicone-toy-safe and animal-product-free.
"You would be surprised," says Lombardi, "at how many products contain animal products."
Aloe Cadabra has a nice, slick texture once it heats up a little and is almost entirely made of aloe vera gel. The flavoured versions of this lubricant are delicious and sweetened with stevia.
Carol Queen also weighed in. It's been a while since I've spoken to Dr. Queen, but her enthusiasm for all things sexual has not been dampened one bit. She is such a gem. Here are three of her top choices:
"Gel lubes are thicker than average, which helps cushion thinning vaginal walls," says Queen.
And Pink Lube
"For those who like thin, slick lubes best, silicone is a good option," says Queen, "and this one has vitamin E and aloe, too."
As a lady of reduced vaginal fluid myself (geez, I seriously can't believe I've been writing this column so long, I've gone into menopause during my tenure!), I am really enjoying Please. Of all the ones listed, it's my top pick. Many stores carry sample sizes of these products so you're free to select an array and do your own testing.