My Dear Friends and Readers,
Today I write about a subject that I have never thought about nor have I yet to experience with a male partner. Oddly, I have read or heard little about the aging process and male sexuality. While I have seen myriad commercials about drugs that address male impotence, I have never thought about how aging effects men. What I have learned has been enlightening and hopefully creates empathy and understanding in women who have partners affected by declining testosterone levels.
Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to deal with a dry vagina than it is to deal with a semi-erect or a flaccid penis. The changes in male sexuality including desire and and the ability to get erect and stay erect are the result of hormonal changes. Its called Andropause or Aging Male Syndrome. Andropause happens roughly at the same time that women experience menopause- around age 50. At age 30 production of testosterone in men begins to decline. Fortunately the decline is gradual unlike the sudden drop off that occurs in women. According to landmark studies by researchers at the University of Chicago among men ages 50 to 64 one third suffer from erectile dysfunction. From age 65 to 85 that percentage increases to 44%. However, these same studies indicate that more than half of older men never experience erectile function.
Even though the decline in testosterone is gradual, Andropause symptoms in men include lower sex drive, mood changes, decreasing strength and endurance and erections that are less firm. This is not erectile dysfunction, which by the way is not a direct result of aging, but rather the diseases that come with age. Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, being over weight and a sedentary life style are exacerbating factors to erectile dysfunction. Erections require blood flowing to the penis and anything that decreases or impairs blood flow to the penis will effect the ability to have an erect penis. Too much alcohol, smoking, anxiety and stress negatively affect blood flow to the penis.
Like with female hormone replacement there are hormone replacement therapies for men. One of the issues with testosterone replacement for men is that it can make prostate cancers grow. From late night television viewing we have become familiar with the medications that increase blood flow to the penis. Some of the well known medications are Cialis,Viagra, Levitra and Staxyn. These medications while increasing blood flow to the penis also have side effects, such as headache, upset stomach, dizziness, facial flushing, vision changes and nasal congestion. In conjunction with medications there is surgery that can help bring blood flow to the penis. There is also mechanical devices such as pumps and rings that can help a man get an erection and keep one. Both medications and mechanical devices or information about them are readily found on line.
There are simpler and more natural ways to prevent or lessen the effects of aging and male sexuality. These are all things that we hear about, yet sometimes are reluctant to do. Maintaining your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, getting daily exercise, reducing stress levels and getting enough sleep (at least 7 hours a night) are all positive influences against erectile dysfunction. Reducing alcohol consumption to two drinks per day and quitting smoking are beneficial to maintaining and keeping an erection. Researchers say that getting and keeping an erection is easier in the morning than it is in the evening after a long stressful day and a late dinner which might include alcohol. Regular sex will help keep you erect. If you don’t have a partner going solo is better and healthier than not having sex.
Finally, there is a silver lining to aging male sexuality. Post 50 men are less likely to have premature ejaculations and the slower rate of arousal in men after age 50 matches the arousal rate of women. Lastly, it is possible for male ejaculation without an erect penis.
Aging is inevitable but understanding how it manifests in men and women can aide in this transition. Kindness, love and care are great benefits that compensate for a less than erect penis.
Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes
Dear Friends and Readers,
As one researcher said “women are great thinkers, but there is a downside to this because we struggle with disconnecting from our problems. This can cause us to lose focus on our relationships and consequently, we lose our sexual appetite as well.” There is little in our American culture that sings the praises of older women. Role models portraying older women as fit, sexy and in command of their lives are few and far between. As a result, I hypothesize that women who are 50 and older simply give up in many categories, except perhaps for being grandmothers.
For many older women not engaging in sex are still satisfied with their sex lives. Women in their fifties appear to be satisfied with their sex life no matter how much or how little they were engaged in sexual activity. Yet in a study of older women, investigators found a majority of study participants reported frequent arousal and orgasm that continue into old age, despite low sexual desire. These are facts that appear to be contradictory, however these seemingly polar findings can be reconciled.
The study from which I am quoting, is a small study of 806 women who were followed for forty years. The study measured the prevalence of current sexual activity including demographics, health and hormone use; frequency of arousal, lubrication, orgasm, pain during sexual intercourse and sexual desire in older women. Sixty three percent of the women were post menopausal with a median age of 67. Half of the respondents who reported having a partner had been sexually active within the last month. Two-thirds of the sexually active women reported achieving orgasm most of the time.
To get an idea how extraordinary these findings are, here are statistics about women and orgasm in general; however, before you read the numbers, researchers say that the number one reason women don’t experience orgasm is that they are overly conscious of how their bodies look. With that being said here’s what research indicates about women and orgasm:
1. Only one third of women experience orgasms regularly during intercourse.
2, One third can reach orgasm with intercourse but need extra stimulation.
3. A third never achieve orgasm during intercourse but can by manual or oral stimulation.
Within the same previously mentioned study, 40 percent of all of the women stated that they never or almost never have sexual desire, and one third of the sexually active women reported low desire. These results indicate that while older women can actually have orgasms, we don’t have the desire to have them. The lead investigator, Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, MD, in the study concluded “Despite a correlation between sexual desire and other sexual function domains, only 1 in 5 sexually active women reported high sexual desire. … In contrast with traditional linear models in which desire proceeds sex, these results suggest that women engage in sexual activities for multiple reasons, which may include affirmation or sustenance of a relationship.”
In response to Barrett- Connor’s conclusion other researchers say the number one thing that women should do to increase sexual desire or the desire to have sex is to give up the notion that sex is more about their partner’s satisfaction. Sex is for you and if you are engaged in sex why not enjoy it instead of enduring it? Women should also give up the idea that “it’s taking too long” to achieve pleasure. The good thing for women over fifty is that we tend to have more time. All women should learn to take their time when having sex.
My second hypothesis is that perhaps one reason for low desire for sexual activity is that as a culture our visions or what we should expect orgasms to be like are unrealistic. We all remember Meg Ryan’s character in “When Sally Met Harry”, but orgasms are not always experienced that way. An orgasm is not always an earth-moving experience and there is nothing “wrong” if a woman does not reach orgasm. Because of these notions of what orgasms should be like, some women have orgasms and they don’t know that they have them. Physiologically speaking orgasm occurs when the pelvic floor muscles contract. But reaching a peak of arousal after which women feel very relaxed and contented counts as an orgasm. This thought coincides well with what the author, Susan Trompeter, M.D., of the previously mentioned study found, “In this study sexual activity was not always necessary for sexual satisfaction. Those who were sexually active may have achieved sexual satisfaction through touching, caressing or other intimacies over the course of a long relationship. … Emotional and physical closeness of the partner may be more important than experiencing orgasm. A more positive approach to female sexual health focusing on sexual satisfaction may be more beneficial that a focus limited to to female sexual activity or dysfunction.”
I agree with Dr. Trompeter, however know there is no age limit on sex for women. Although older women may become aroused more slowly than younger women, many find that their desire increases when they no longer have to be worried by interruption by young children and getting pregnant. Finally, to prove that sex and older ages are compatible in the study half the women aged 80 years old and older reported arousal, lubrication and orgasm most of the time.
While I understand joining a book club can be mentally stimulating, stimulation need not be limited to the intellect. In fact if you are in a reading club two good books to read are “Sex and the Seasoned Woman” by Gail Sheehy and “Still Sexy After All These Years” by Leah Kliger.
In closing researchers in the area of older women and sexuality say focus on your strengths; be creative in making yourself feel more attractive; focus on giving and receiving pleasure and remember sex is good for you.
Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes
My Dear Friends and Readers,
I sit at the card table of emotions. I would like to bet all of my “chips” on something or someone or some event and yet I cannot because there sits a “governor” who controls or triggers my ability to play. That governor is called emotional detachment. It’s a condition associated with both anxiety and depression.
There are two kinds of emotional detachment and in my case certain people trigger it and sometimes I choose it. The first kind of emotional detachment is when someone can not emotionally connect. That’s me sitting at the card table of emotions unable to bet. The other kind of emotional detachment is when someone chooses to detach in order to emotionally survive. An example of the second kind of emotional detachment would be a parent who emotionally detaches from a child who refuses to seek treatment for a life threatening illness. The parent must detach in order not to be emotionally drained by the emotional world wind of a loved one who won’t do what’s necessary for their well being and there is nothing that the parent can do. This second type of conscious detachment is considered a positive and healthy thing to do. The first form of detachment manifests from a broken past triggered by something or someone in the present.
But have some empathy or sympathy for the emotionally detached- the kind that can’t emotionally connect. The emotionally detached appear aloof and seemingly unperturbed. Oftentimes this aloof behavior hides anxiety and depression. This is the case with me. Emotional detachment can start in childhood when an infant senses that his caretaker does not like him or the caretaker gives inconsistent messages. For instance, the child’s bad behavior is ignored one day but punished and criticized on other occasions. The child will resolve these inconsistent responses with the only tool he has which is to detach. In other words emotional detachment becomes a way of not being harmed. Nothing risked no gain, but no pain.
Of course such techniques results in massive emotional failing. While it resolves inner disputes by not having to cope with them, it comes at a very high cost. The outcome of continued emotional detachment is a lifestyle that is not rewarding. Nothing really gets you down or up. You can process almost everything logically but there is no enthusiastic attention paid to anything. People who are detached end up alone without close or loving relationships.That’s because the moment the emotionally detached get close to somebody they experience a sensation of uneasiness or disquiet. The sad result is that the psychologically disconnected person who is trying to prevent emotional harm is actually harming him or herself in even more devastating ways.
My emotional detachment started a very long time ago. I am only discussing and discovering that I am at the effect of it because of visits from two of my sisters on separate occasions. I would be terribly sad if I lost either of them, yet I don’t feel anything for them. I cannot experience their love for me and I cannot feel my love for them. It took two separate occasions to get me thinking that there was something out of wack with me. I had anticipated their visits. Things were going well and yet I felt empty and unconnected. The odd thing was that during the visit with one sister, two colleagues came to visit. I felt emotionally attached and loved being with my friends. I realized that unlike my friendships, which were chosen, my siblings were not chosen and our divergent life experiences and history trigger my emotional detachment. They could hurt me. They have hurt me. During their visits was testing whether I still feel the hurt or whether I am still angry. What I found out was that I felt nothing. I called it a closed heart. It is called detachment. I thought that I would look up how emotional detachment manifests and I recognized myself in the definition.
Emotional detachment can be healed. Counselors say to first start out by choosing to respect and allow all emotions. Suppressing your emotions will only lead to heartache because suppressed emotions can pop up at inappropriate times. The second step is to realize that your emotions and your actions are not connected. You can be very angry and yet not become violent. When these intense emotions arise therapist suggest that we try to figure out what’s behind them. Are you angry because you have been hurt or are you sad because you feel betrayed and alone? Rather than isolate, which is what I do, counselors suggest that the emotional detached reach out and try to connect with someone. Take good care of yourself and accept this pivotal fact: you need other people in order to heal your emotional detachment. When the inability to emotionally connect persists seek professional help.
Just realizing that my pervasive sadness has a name: emotional detachment makes me feel a little better. I will work on connecting and not being critical of those who are overly demonstrative, sensitive or emotional. I guess in someways I am envious of those who have and express big emotions.
With love and in health,
The Addict Writes.
When I was a little girl, everything that impressed me was black. First there was the music. My parents would take me to the Carter Barron Amphitheatre which was an open air entertainment venue on 16th Street in Washington D.C. where I grew up. Two of the most memorable performances I saw there were Johnny Mathis who I thought was the handsomest man in the world and Dianna Ross who has been my heroine for years. By the time I was a pre-teen there was H.Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Later that summer, Tommie Smith and John Carlos would raise their fists in a black power salute at the 1968 Olympics and I knew clearly where I belonged- straight hair and slanted eyes be damned!
In 1968 when I was 12 the District of Columbia exploded in riots at the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. I woke up to find the National Guard in front of my house. “Why are they here?” I asked my mother and she answered that they were protecting us. I wondered from whom and it wasn’t until later that year my race and ethnicity became an issue for me.
The question I got all the time was “You aren’t black are you?” I would staunchly say that I was. “You talk white though,” both my friends and enemies would say. “You don’t even know how to dance,” was the worst condemnation. It was true, I didn’t know how to dance and I had little rhythm” but these were not things that should keep me from saying that I was African American.
It was true, I was not born in the United States. I was born in a British colony which ultimately became emancipated, Guyana, but to me that didn’t matter. In my soul I was “Black” and it didn’t matter to me that some people thought the texture of my hair and the slant of my eyes would disqualify me. I was a Black person.
By the time I was 16 Angela Davis became my new heroine and I wished I could grow my hair like hers but at best I got frizzy locks. By the time I entered college and tried to become a member of the Black student union, there were actually people who felt that I should not be there. I was saddened and left the group, which I was never allowed to become a member. Because I already felt unwelcome, I did not push the issue. It was a club, and I was not wanted by some members.
After college, when I went into television news the question of my race became more important than my ability to report the news. “We don’t know if you… are what we are looking for in this market.” I was hired at my first television job amidst protests that I really was n’t black and questions as to whether the black community would like me. The answer to that question was that lots of people liked me.
Adding to the racial confusion that bothered some people, was my very Anglo-Saxon German first and last name which was Ingrid Bernadette VonDerPool, before I changed it to Brianna Clark.
When I was accepted to law school at the University of Washington School of Law, I had chosen African American as my racial designation. At the same time I was applying for law school I was also divorcing my first husband who was opposed to me attending law school because he thought I would not be able to make dinner for the family. Naturally, as you can imagine the divorce was timely. But when, my then husband filed a lawsuit against the University of Washington School of Law demanding that they rescind my admission because I had lied on my application, I was literally floored. He claimed that I was not black. He said I was a dark skinned Asian. Fortunately, the University of Washington batted his law suit away and said that whatever my racial background, I was clearly not white and my admission did not hinge on my race. Bravo! University of Washington School of Law.
Imagine my surprise, however when I joined the Black Association of Law Students and one of my classmates suggested that I joined the Asian American Law Association. I was stunned. For a moment, I thought he was kidding and then I realized that he was serious. “Me?” I asked him, “I’m black.”
“But you are also Asian.”
“I don’t relate to myself as Asian,” I countered and he looked at me as if I had made a terrible mistake.
Today I am still surprised when people ask “You are Filipino, right?”
“No,” I’m black,” I reply and hope they don’t ask further stupid questions. Sometimes they do, other times they don’t. The funny thing is no Asian people ask me if I’m Asian. In fact I had an Asian contractor when I was remodeling my condo. I said to him one day that I was part Asian. He said, “No, you like Michael Jackson.” Also, to date no Indian person – neither American Indian or otherwise have ever come up to me and ask “What tribe are you from?” Nope, its never happened.
In these days when race is the topic on every one’s lips and it could be deadly to be black at the wrong time and place, my heart will never change and neither will the color of my skin. I am Black.
Oh, by the way the first picture is of my grandfather who was half Black and half White. Despite his sandy blonde hair and blue eyes he was very clear that he was Black.
Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes
Dear Friends and Readers,
We are a nation in need of a transformation. Three years ago, I went to hear Marianne Williamson speak. The topic of race and racism arose and here’s what Marianne Williamson did:
She had all the white people in the audience stand up and apologize as a group to every black person in the audience. Each white person apologized for their ancestors who enslaved the ancestors of any black person alive. Then the black people in the group had an opportunity to accept the apology. Every black and white person participated. Then if audience members of either race chose to they could personally extend an apology or accept an apology from members of the audience sitting near them.
It was a tear filled moment that I will never forget. I was pleased to see across my face book feed that a similar occurrence took place in Dallas over this weekend. During a “Black Lives Matter” protest a counter protest across the street was forming. A member from each of these groups met in the middle and shook hands. What happened next was not only moving but hopeful. Across the lines members from the opposite groups began hugging each other. It was a beautiful moment.
I was glad that the weekend after ten police were shot in Dallas that America did not erupt in race riots like those that occurred in the late 1960’s after the assassination of Martin Luther King. I was 12 years old and living in Washington D.C. when those riots occurred. It was a scary thing for a pre-teen who did not understand why people were burning the businesses in the communities where they lived. I understand now.
This weekend I happened to be in Chicago and went to see the Gordon Parks exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. The photos in the Parks exhibit were taken in 1936 and showed the run-down conditions in Harlem, New York which was at the time the largest community of African Americans in the country. The pictures showed the wide spread poverty and deplorable conditions in which many in Harlem lived during the middle of the Great Depression of 1929 which lasted ten years.
The exhibit also featured writings of writer Ralph Ellison who wrote and published “The Invisible Man”. I have never read Ellison’s book, but I intend to do so and to also read Ta nehisi Coates’ book “Between the World and Me”. From what I understand both books portray the struggle of the black man in a white dominated America. However, without reading either book, it was clear to me from the pictures in the Parks exhibit and the words of Ellison, the struggle continues in the same areas since the time of emancipation.
I was disquieted by the Parks exhibit as I was with the shooting of ten police officers in Dallas. Murder is never an answer. This fall we have an opportunity to express with our votes in local and national elections for the America of the future. I hope that either our current president or our in-coming President will make a public apology for slavery. I think it will be a start to begin healing the wound in this country which continues to fester.
Let there be Peace and let it begin with Me.
Brianna S. Clark,
The Addict Writes
Brianna S. Clark,
The Addict Writes
Happy Fourth of July. Do your part to positively impact the illusion that we are separate.
Brianna S. Clark,
The Addict Writes