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A Few Words About Elder Sex

Posted Mar 25 2013 8:30am

Hi there, everyone. I missed you and I'm glad to be back after a week's breather. Shortly before the beginning of my hiatus, I mentioned that I had intended to talk about sex that day but something that seemed more important intervened.

In the comments, Tarzana and Ali both asked, “So when are we going to talk about sex?” and a couple of readers even emailed last week to remind me. Okay, today we talk about sex.

There is so much to say, we might need several of these chats. But let's start here:

There's a media taboo about this subject – elders and sex – and even though demographic changes are beginning to produce a slowly growing body of film, television and books with elder lead characters, they are not having much sex. Too icky, I think, for people not yet old who produce these works.

There are a few websites devoted to elder sex. They usually are selling books and the copy is too often more graphic than I am either comfortable with or need.

Six or seven years ago, Gail Sheehy, who gained fame in the mid-seventies with her book Passages, published Sex and the Seasoned Woman announcing that the new generation of old women is committed to a passionate second half of life that includes lots of sex.

Hurray for them, but as I mentioned at the time, I doubt that the women who, in their youth, marched for civil rights, women's rights, against the Vietnam War, burned their bras, adopted “the pill” as their own when it was new and went on to win previously unheard-of consideration and rights in the workplace need either permission for or instruction about sex in old age.

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in having a lot of practice. For most of my adult life sex was near or at the top of my list of compelling interests, so much so that I now wonder how I managed to get anything else done.

Although I didn't married again after my divorce at age 30, there were a couple of long-term relationships, plenty of short-term liaisons and some friends with privileges along with two or three romances so beautiful they can still break my heart when they come to mind.

Every one of those involved lots of sex. Lots of good sex and that is usually what I find wanting in discussions I've seen of elders and sex - that the goal is, as when we were young, quantity. I find that to be - well, juvenile thinking.

Sex was a big part of my life so I was saddened when, 12 or 15 years ago, I realized that I had stopped thinking about it every day. Over a period of time, the urge for an activity that had reliably and regularly given such enormous pleasure drifted away and I mourned that loss and with it the sense I had of myself as a hot, sexy chick.

As it does, time helped me come to terms with my new, older, less sexual self and I came to see that I had never understood how completely hormones controlled my behavior for so long until they didn’t anymore. It has been a welcome relief to be free of that.

Which is not to say sex has completely died for me. These days it naps, hardly noticeable for extended periods of time until there is an object of desire. What's nice about that is there is (or would be should someone of that description turn up) so much less carnal urgency than when I was young. There is time now to know one another first than was always true in the past.

There is an abundance of terrible jokes about performance in old age – or lack thereof. Generally, I don't like them because they are of a piece with late-night comedians' diaper jokes that rob elders of their dignity.

For ourselves, however, certainly at our ages we are grown up enough to take sometimes waning capability into consideration (with or without little blue pills). There are all kinds of nice, feel-good things two naked people can do together that are fun and express their feelings for one another.

I think that's something the television commercials for Cialis leave out – that the central act is not always what's paramount in old-age sex. Coziness and warmth and affection and love too, when it is there, count for a lot – more even than when we were young and horny all the time.

That is a decent-sized hole in my aged single life. There is no one to touch or who regularly touches me. Sexual or friendly - both, actually – touching is a powerful kind of human connection that single old people hardly ever have, or have enough of, and I don't know an answer for that.

Returning to the media for a moment, on the rare occasion elder sexuality is discussed in books, magazines and online (intelligently or stupidly), it is almost exclusively aimed at women.

Can it be that because men have Viagra and Cialis, no one believes there is anything more to say to them? Can that be so?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: Turning 75 on the Ides of March

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