How do you handle sex and dating?

You’re dating again, after years, maybe decades, away from the dating scene. How do you handle sex with a new person? Do you use/require condoms? Do you get tested for HIV and other STDs and request the same from your partner? What questions do you ask? In other words, what steps do you take to protect your sexual health?

When Robert and I started dating, we used condoms, talked openly about our previous experiences, and got tested. I don’t know if most people our age do that, or if they assume that they’re not at risk. I’d love to hear from you about this.

I wish I had included this topic in my book, and I may include it in a future magazine article. Please either post your comments here or email them to me, and I’ll post them for you.

Thanks —


10/21 update: Some very interesting comments have begun to appear on this topic — if they don’t display automatically for you below this post, click “comments” to view them. Please keep your comments coming!


  1. Anonymous on October 3, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Carolyn, age 68.
    Anyone can get an STD, young or old, so I always require the man I am with to use a condom EVERY TIME we have intercourse. Prior to an exclusive committed relationship, we must discuss our sexual histories as well as getting tested for disease. For example, Herpes is rampant and there is no cure yet so why subject ourselves to disease. The point of using condoms is not just the risk of HIV, but think about the many other STD's. Being sexually responsible is for every ones benefit and safety.

  2. g on December 2, 2006 at 12:59 am

    from gerard, age 63

    I’ve been in the ‘dating after being married a long time’ world for almost eight years.

    During that time, I’ve had 25 sexual partners. (my memory is good on those kinds of things). Most of the women were from a similar background as myself, professional, well-educated, married for a while before with kids. I guess on common denominator was coming of sexual age in the late ’60s or the 70’s when sex and free and easy and perceived as almost an entitlement -by lots of folks anyway.

    Guess those attitudes stay with you, even within a monogomous married lifestyle spanning decades.
    Of those 25 sexual partners I’ve had as a geezer, only one insisted on meusing a condom. And she was one who I met in a ‘swingers’ environment where she was having lots and lots of partners.

    There might have been maybe 3 others who initially brought up a half-hearted request (generally after things were getting libidoneous) of ‘ er, you’re going to a condom, aren’t you (pant). And a reply of something like ‘I haven’t had many partners lately (pant) or I’ve had a vasectomy put it to rest. And as for the other 21 partners, the topic of condoms never came up. I will mention that one partner asked me to have an aids test -but this was after we were intimate.

    I kind of feel like erica in that the chances of a serious STD are pretty low. The only people I know that got AIDS were those indulging in high risk behaviors, not heterosexual sex. The possibility is there, granted, but its pretty low. I’ve known way more people in my social strata killed by car accidents than by having sex.

    My experience has been that sexual customs really aren’t that much different in the dating world for people in my age group than they were when we came of age. Whether that’s foolish or not, who knows, but that’s the way it is.

    Final word from me is older women are way better sexual partners than young ones. Give me a 50something over a 20something any day.


  3. Seth, age 60 on October 23, 2006 at 5:05 am

    I have lot of conversation before having sex. Long gone are the days of easy sex. I am honest that I have had many sex partners up to now.

    What I have discovered is there was little conversation about herpes. I finally got it a few years ago from my committed relationship. She never told me and she had a major breakout while we were together. Since then, in conversations with past relationships, two women admitted that they had herpes and never told me for fear of losing me.

    If I reconnect with an old mate for a magical evening, I will use a condom. They have gotten so much better

  4. Rachel age 62 on October 22, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    Once a friend asked, “Did you practice safe sex?”

    And I replied, “We started on the floor so we couldn’t fall off of anything.”

    I came of age, sexually, during a privileged period. All we had to worry about was pregnancy. No STDs to speak of, and in our mileu, we thought only trashy people got ‘em.

    I was married for almost 20 years, and when I opened my eyes and looked around, it was a different world. A scarier world.

    In the past 15 years, following divorce, I’ve been with only four men. But it only takes one partner to end a person’s life.

    I’d like to tell you I’ve been cautious. That’d be a big fat lie. I’ve never been cautious. But I’m very smart and alert. Those four men? All good, all still friends.

    Would I recommend my own recklessness to others? Of course not.

    If you trust the person enough to take off your clothes and see what happens, then either you’ve known ‘em a long time or you process data very quickly. If you don’t trust ‘em, don’t wander off alone.

    There is no such thing as casual sex.

  5. Nina, age 67 on October 22, 2006 at 11:20 pm

    My partners and I always use condoms (only for intercourse) until and only when/if we have decided that he and I are going to be primary partners or monogamous partners for the forseeable future. Then we get tested and show each other results before ceasing condom use. I choose not to get into issues of trust with every new partner, though I do want his current version of his sex history–and I want to give him mine–but it is not, for me, associated with getting tested. If the test results are negative, and only then, can we go condomless. Even if his history is, say, that he’s only had one partner in the past 5 years and that he and she were tested before having unprotected intercourse, and I trust him to be telling me the truth, we will use condoms until our tests come back negative.

    For me it’s a matter of principle, not a matter of trust, at this point, Trust is, however, built into an agreement I require of every this partner That is, both of us will use condoms with any other partner without fail until such time as I decide that I want change the one partner I don’t use condoms with to someone else. If he decides he wants to be condomless with another partner, I’d insist that he start using them with me, until such time as I could assure myself that all three of us were risk free….which means to me that all three of us would have to agree to the “standards” of the one of us that was most risk averse.

    I don’t use condoms with my current partner, and he doesn’t use them with his other partner either (ours is an open relationship). How we got to that place is a sad and painful story, but it’s fine now. His other partner is monogamous with him, and was tested before she started having unprotected intercourse with him. He and I both were tested before we stopped using condoms.

    As far as assuming older people are not at risk, I’d never do that, in part because many older people have sex at least once in a while with much younger partners, but also, it is irrelevant to me what the risk is. As I said above, in these times, it is a matter of principle to get tested regularly, if for no other reason that to show solidarity with those are at very high risk.

  6. Considerate Lover, age 59 (male) on October 21, 2006 at 8:07 pm

    Glad to put my thoughts out on dating, sex, and barriers.

    Sex isn’t always part of dating, but when it is, my barrier policy is standard, long fixed, and known by all who have shared erotic times with me:

    Barriers are always used, for everyone, every time, for any genital contact.

    I suspect word gets around, at least to/from some quarters, so dates know I’m not treating them any differently than I treat others.

    This “every time – everyone” policy makes life simpler – no need for elaborate calculations as to number of partners, who they were, days since last std check-up, partners since our last date, etc.

    When sex is likely, or probably, or possible, or even a wisp of my imagination, I bring my own supply of barriers. Should the opportunity arise, and both having shed cloths, I simply say, “Ok, now time to get Charles (not MY name) dressed”, and put on a condom.

    Yes, some demur. I’ve had a very few dates insist upon sex without a barrier – in which case the date becomes a chaste one and a last one. On the other hand, I have had dates thank me for using a barrier, and for being a guy they have confidence always does use one. A successful line is: “I’m not worried about catching something from you, I’m sure you are quite healthy. I worried about giving something to you”. And if I did, without
    a barrier, I would have to worry about catching it back again.

    Steady dates, people with whom I have sex repeatedly, get the same treatment each date – “every time – everyone”.

    I have myself checked for std’s some four times a year at a clinic specializing in such. No std has been detected in the over three decades of the “every time – everyone” policy. Such was NOT the case prior to adoption of this policy.

    I do not ask my dates about std check-ups, partners, etc. One reason is that I am going to use barriers regardless of my date’s answers. The other is that people can have an std of which they show no signs detectable outside of a laboratory. Relying upon a visual examination to guard the health of the two of us is unfair to both of us.

    I believe this “every time – everyone” policy protects my dates, myself, and my community.

    Yes, even people my age – 59. A sad fact is that HIV is being transmitted in our retirement homes – by their residents. It is already there waiting for me.

    Some couples in which sexual exclusivity is not part of their “monogamy” use barriers with others, but not with each other. To me, this is risky. An std which gets to one partner likely gets to the other. The last person you want sick alongside of you is the one with whom you are sharing your life. But, this is the voice of logic, not of experience.

    Barrier use can be eroticized to become a fun and arousing part of sexual interaction. The variety of barriers is large – try them all. Happy experimenting.

  7. Anna, age 64 on October 20, 2006 at 3:25 am

    I recently taught a sexuality class at my church, and warned the kids that they must use condoms. We even had a Condom Olympics, in which we demonstrated all the neat things condoms could do (like not break), and how yummy they were (coconut, if I recall, was a popular one). But when it came to my having sex, I did nothing past asking new partners if they had any diseases. I had a sexual partner in Zimbabwe, and discussed with him the high incidence of AIDS there, in the context of his sexual health and our relationship, and he reassured me that it was not high in his community, told me that he had no diseases, and we continued into a sexual relationship.

    I am almost ashamed to say that, after teaching the children how important condoms were, of the many sexual partners I have had in the last three years, I have only required a condom once, and that was of a man I met in a sex club. In an odd turn of events, that man and I have now been dating for 8 months. After that night in the sex club, I never required it of him again.

    I had a relationship with a man who was a practicing ER doctor, and an epidemiologist, and we followed the usual (to me, and to the men I have met) procedure: “Do you have any diseases?” “No.” Then full steam ahead. He did say that if I were to have sex with any other man during our relationship, I should tell him so he could wear a condom. I didn’t; however I could have already been infected when I met him. I asked if he would like to test me, which he declined to do. He didn’t use a condom.

    I have relied on peoples’ word, and have collected bits of information about their lives, before having sex with them. None of the men have insisted on wearing them either, after being reassured by me that I am healthy.

    Condoms are awful. I hate them. They burn against the vagina, especially if the man wearing it is older, in which case it will probably take longer for him to reach orgasm. My sexual history includes 12 years of celibacy, 25 years of faithful marriage(s), and only a few sexual partners in my 20’s. Before menopause I was sufficiently terrified of unintended pregnancy that I used contraception without fail, but I think I have had sex with a properly condomed partner only a handful of times in my life.

    The only time I got any disease was from my Greek fiance, in the 1970’s, who had been fooling around with Athens prostitutes, I think, and brought home a couple of infections which were easily cured, though frightening. He thought that having snagged me, he now had carte blanche to go out with other women. He wasn’t my fiance for long.

    So, in short, men have neither insisted on wearing condoms, nor insisted on my being tested for disease, and I have not insisted that they wear condoms, nor that they be tested, except in a handful of first-time situations. While I am educated enough to know that STD’s occur at all stages of sexuality, I depend on a person’s intelligence, experience, past lifestyle, and facts about their life (such as recent long-term relationships which produced no disease) to piece together a confidence that he is being truthful with me when he says he has no diseases.

    I have been on a bit of a sexual tear the last few years, and have had many partners. I do not dissemble with my prospective partners, but tell them that I have had affairs with quite a few men in the process of getting to know them. I want to establish, among other things, that I am a free woman, and until I give my word to someone, I will give no promise of fidelity. Instead of turning away from me as a health risk, it seems to turn them on.

  8. Erica, age 63 on October 20, 2006 at 3:15 am

    I never worried about AIDS or using protection because I thought it was dumb. I’ve never been an overly cautious person in any case, and it didn’t seem to make much sense. I don’t know a soul with AIDS or even know anyone who knows anyone with it. What’s the chance of my getting it? A hell of a lot slimmer than getting in a car accident, like many people I know, or know of. Should I stop driving? I figured the men I was sleeping with were, like me, married for the past 20 years and missed out on the AIDS epidemic.

    I asked my internist if I should use protection and she said yes. Then I asked her if she knew anyone my age with AIDS? She said no. I asked what was the point of using condoms. She said there wasn’t any good reason really, but don’t tell anyone she said that.

    It’s hard enough to get guys my age hard in the first place, much less stopping to put on a rubber. I hate the damn things. So I’ll take the risk. I take a lot worse risks every day eating stuff I shouldn’t or passing cars on two lane highways.

Leave a Comment