Posts made in August, 2014

Sex Shaming Has No Age Limits: Guest Post by Walker Thornton

Posted by on Aug 8, 2014 in aging, sexuality | 5 comments

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece in response to a Huff Post article about aging and cloaking and sex in midlife.  That topic reared its head again this week in a Facebook group and I was fortunate to be turned onto a brilliant post by fellow writer, Walker Thornton. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Walker or her work, she is a writer, sex educator and public speaker, and is entrenched in midlife women’s sexuality. I encourage you to visit her website. And please, show some love; this is an important topic that deserves attention and dialogue. I am honored to feature it on Flashfree.


[Nu (Nu debut). Artist: Jean Metzinger, 1911]

Why is it that some women feel compelled to shame other women? To label their activities as slutty and dismiss their stories? It has happened to me and other women writers I know; it seems to occur when we choose to be open about our sex lives.  There will always be some self-appointed know-it-all ready to shame, judge or blame and then tell women what they “should” do.  There are no shoulds when it comes to sex…unless we’re talking about protection from disease and safety. And, even then, who invested me or you with the power to force our opinions on someone else?

I’m fuming this morning over some of the conversations spurred on by an article Robin Korth wrote about a dating encounter. Things were going well until they got to the sex part and then 55 yr old Dave (she doesn’t share what he looks like) became completely turned off by the body of the similarly aged woman he was about to have sex with. Dave clearly has issues. He wanted her hair to be longer, he wanted her to wear the little black dress, he had to have sex with her in the dark so he could pretend she was young. A man with issues. She chose not to give into his demands and her story has provoked many people. Some people were irritated by her description of her size 6 body. One older woman said that mature women should never show their naked bodies to a man…we’ll never have sex again (what Kool Aid is she drinking?).  And of course there was male-bashing.

We live in an ageist culture, surrounded by myths, put-downs and advertising promises all designed to make us feel dissatisfied with ourselves at a given age.  This is really on my mind as I approach 60 in a matter of days–single and on a dating site. I’m not going to lie about my age and I’m not going to reach out for pills and injections or surgery to try to erase the years. Admittedly it’s hard to look in the mirror sometimes and see the changes in my body but I consider myself blessed to have made it this far in life, relatively unscathed.

I don’t intend to let anyone dictate how I show up for sex or work or walking down the street. And, I hope you won’t either.

We bring ourselves to every situation, every relationship just as we are. And, we’re accepted for that or we’re not. Those who can’t see our true beauty aren’t worthy of being in our lives. Isn’t it that simple? If any one person is judging us or telling us what we have to wear, or how to ‘show up’ they aren’t really seeing us. And clearly that person isn’t the least bit interested in true engagement. That’s where we get to exercise our choice–to pursue a fuller life, to find a more compatible partner, to let go of a ‘friend’ who no longer supports us. We can choose who comes into our life.  We can invite or deny access to our bed.

One of the conversations that got under my skin had to do with letting men see our naked bodies. It was suggested that mature women shouldn’t let a man see them naked. Why on earth would a woman want to have sex with a man who couldn’t bear to see her body? Should she hide in the dark, keeping her beautiful, aging body cloaked as if it were a thing of shame?

The best sex you’ll ever have is Naked Sex.

Naked Sex is sex where both parties are willing to drop their protective armor and allow themselves to become fully immersed in the experience. There is no subjugating our own desires to make sure he’s happy. No hiding because you fear he/she won’t like your body. No manipulation, no coercion.

Naked Sex is about showing the real you. You can be naked or sensuously draped in lingerie that excites your senses. Both of you take ownership of your own desires and needs. You are able to communicate with each other and willingly enter into a moment of sexual pleasure.  It’s when we find each other to be equally engaged and desirous that we have the most satisfying experiences.

Feel free to share your thoughts in a civil, sex-positive manner. No sex shaming here!

About Walker Thornton…

Walker Thornton is a writer, sex educator and public speaker.  She is a strong advocate for midlife women’s sexuality, encouraging women to ‘step into their desire’. ranked her blog,, #17 in their top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes of 2013. Walker is the Sexual Health columnist for Midlife Boulevard and writes about sex and the older adult for You can connect with her on her website ( ), Facebook ( )  Twitter  (  and Google+ ( ).


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Guyside: Breaking good

Posted by on Aug 6, 2014 in general, Guyside, health, general, men | 0 comments

A sketch of Bryan Cranston's character I’m a pretty lucky person. While my life isn’t perfect, I have many advantages, and I’m thankful for them. It’s easy to forget about that when you get focused on some problem or other.

But sometimes good enough shouldn’t be, you know?

Think about Walter White, a/k/a “Heisenberg” of Breaking Bad. He was a guy who had a “good enough” life — wife, son, baby on the way, a steady job that is respected, if not well-paying… and then a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer shattered everything in his life and forced him down a radically different path.

I’d be perfectly happy if not one person ever got diagnosed with lung cancer. And, for that matter, if people stopped making and using crystal meth. But I think that we don’t have to “break bad” — why not “break good?”

I’ve been trying to change some of my routines recently. For example, since I work from home I do most of the dinner preparation for the household. It’s the sort of thing that can make a break from staring at the computer or talking on the phone. And, like most people, I have a repertoire of dishes that I know well enough to essentially make without a great deal of thought.

So to break that up, I’ve started to search out new recipes, new ideas. It’s fun to try (especially when they work out well), and it breaks me out of the cooking rut and both me and my partner out of the taste-rut. Example: it being summer, coleslaw is a natural side dish for things we cook on the BBQ. I was used to buying bagged coleslaw from the store, then dressing it with a commercial dressing. Somehow I realized that hey, coleslaw’s just a few shredded veggies. So I started making my own. Then I tried some dressing recipes. WAY better than before. (FYI: I’ve become quite fond of this dressing recipe, with a few variations. Try it.)

I’ve changed other things recently too. I love beer. But having that end-of-day beer or the beer with supper, or the finished-the-yard-work beer can become a little … routine. So for a few weeks now, I’ve haven’t been bringing beer into the house. Now, when I have beer — like I did yesterday during an end-of-day business meeting, or like I did when I was visiting family recently — it’s DELICIOUS. At some point, I’ll likely restock the fridge, whenever I get the desire to do so.

There are all sorts of little routines that we establish in our lives. Many of them are there for very good reasons. We get up and shave and shower because we like being clean. We brush our teeth because we want our breath fresh and we don’t like cavities. But changing habits can be good for you. It stimulates your brain. It can make you think about the reason behind the habit. And that’s never bad.

Look at the routines of your day — the way you interact with people in your life, what you eat, drink, how and when you exercise, your activities, your leisure, your work. Pick one to play with, to try to change.

A lot of meditation practices focus on mindfulness — on simply being aware of your circumstances. If you feel good, note  it. If your knee is sore, note that. If you want another cup of coffee, be aware of the desire. Assessing the little routines, experimenting by breaking one of them for good, and seeing if it improves your daily life — that’s part of mindfulness too. And failing is part of changing habits too. If you don’t like a change, or you can’t stop biting your nails, or whatever — just note that. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

Try it, just for fun.

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Vaginal atrophy: an alternative to hormones

Posted by on Aug 4, 2014 in vaginal atrophy, vaginal dryness, vaginal health | 4 comments

sea buckthorn berries

I have been a bit disturbed by the surge of attention in the menopause space to vaginal atrophy, i.e. thinning and drying of the lining of the vagina. Mind you, I don’t feel that impact that vaginal atrophy can have on a woman’s life should be marginalized, however, when I see my colleagues racing to write about hormones and ending the silent suffering of tens of thousands of women, all I can do is shake my head in disbelief; you see, my space is not for sale to any bidders. Let me be clear: vaginal atrophy affects roughly 43% of women during menopause and can lead to extreme discomfort, dryness, burning, itching, pain and lack of sexual desire. Since most women spend about a third of their lives in postmenopause, this can be a huge issue and one that warrants attention. However, to represent vaginal atrophy as an epidemic of epic and burgeoning proportions is simply irresponsible.

As I step off my soapbox, let me share the true reason for this post: Finnish researchers have discovered a potential treatment for vaginal atrophy for women who cannot use or choose to forgo systemic or topical estrogen therapy — sea buckthorn oil. Sea buckthorn oil is derived from the fruit of deciduous shrubs and has long been used in Central Asia to treat inflamed genital organs and uteri. When it is ingested, it has been shown in clinical studies to positively affect blood fats, dry eye, the aggregation of platelets that can cause heart disease and even reduce system-wide inflammation. Woo-woo? Hardly; my point is that sea buckthorn oil has been studied in scientifically-sound, clinical trials.

In a study published online in the journal Maturitas, 116 women were asked to take sea buckthorn oil (3 capsules, or 3 gm daily) or placebo for three months. Vaginal mucous membranes were examined both at the beginning of the trial and at the end and were analyzed for elasticity, integrity, moisture and fluid. The women were asked to score the severity of their symptoms — vaginal dryness, burning and itching — at the beginning, middle and end of the trial and also and also kept diaries on other menopausal symptoms.

Sea buckthorn oil was shown to significantly improve the integrity of the vaginal lining by about 50% compared to placebo; women taking the oil trended toward increases in their vaginal health index, which was a composite of all vaginal atrophy symptom scores (i.e. elasticity, integrity, moisture, fluid and pH). Sea buckthorn oil also appeared to decrease night sweats but did not appear to benefit other menopausal symptoms. Moreover, while the women taking the oil experienced improvements in their vaginal symptoms from the start to the end of the study, the difference compared to placebo was not significant enough to demonstrate the lack of a placebo effect and clearly, more research is needed. Another important finding was the lack of effect on cell types, which indicates that sea buckthorn oil does not have an estrogen effect. Finally, common side effects, which affected both groups about equally, included GI symptoms. Because sea buckthorn oil may slow clotting, it is not recommended that it be taken along with other agents that likewise, affect clotting, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and warfarin.

It is unclear whether or not topical use of sea buckthorn oil might provide greater comfort without some of the GI side effects. A quick search shows that it is readily available online and depending on the formulation, retails for anywhere from $12 to $30. As always, use caution and speak to a knowledgeable practitioner before starting any regimen with sea buckthorn oil. Most importantly, it is nice to know that researchers continue to explore avenues other than hormones for common conditions like vaginal atrophy.


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Caffeine and hot flashes

Posted by on Aug 1, 2014 in hot flash, nightsweats | 0 comments

Depositphotos_13475137_xsTrue confession: I hated reading this study and I truly dislike the findings. But I feel obligated to share what I’ve learned about caffeine and menopause, if only to provide you with additional options for symptoms management. If you are a long-time reader of Flashfree, you will remember that I’ve previously covered the health benefits of coffee so the news isn’t all that bad. However, if you are experiencing frequent hot flashes and night sweats, you may want to considering cut down on your daily consumption.

Recently, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN surveyed over 1,800 women who visited the clinic for menopausal complaints. The women were asked to respond to a scientific survey — the Menopause Health Questionnaire — that assesses a variety of important factors such as demographics, reproductive/gynecologic histories and the presence/severity of symptoms. With regard to caffeine intake, the women were asked if they consumed drinks with caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, soft drinks) and current smoking status was also evaluated. Because of the subjective nature of pre- and perimenopause, these women were grouped and then compared to women who were in full menopause.

Although the use of self-reported questionnaires always introduce possible bias for skewed study findings, it’s important to note that compared with women who did not use caffeine, caffeine users scored higher for vasomotor symptoms. Moreover, even after the researchers accounted for possible confounding factors such as smoking and menopausal status, ingesting caffeinated beverages was still significantly associated with an increase in bothersome hot flashes and night sweats. Evidently, caffeine use did not affect other common symptoms, such as sleep issues or sexual function).

A possible explanation lies with way that caffeine possibly interacts with the body’s estrogen; for example, it may inhibit an enzyme that converts the hormone androgen into estrogen. Another theory is that is affects the levels of other sex hormones, such as testosterone. Regardless, if you are experiencing frequent hot flashes and night sweats and have come to your wit’s end, you may want to consider how you are using caffeine. Breaking up is hard to do but it may save you a drop or two of that sweaty, hot stuff!


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