Has society’s view of senior sex changed? Question for my readers
Do you think that senior sex is now accepted, even celebrated, compared to five or ten years ago? I hope you’ll comment here.
Sometimes I really feel we’re changing society’s view of aging and sexuality — other times, I wonder if I’m deluded because I surround myself with open-minded, sex-positive people who applaud my ideas and communicate similar messages to their followers.
Sometimes I get so caught up in the momentum of the world I want to live in that I think we’ve already achieved it — but have we?
Are we just a small (but loud!) part of a society that still sees sexually exuberant seniors as laughable? Or are things really changing?
When my first senior sex book, Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty came out in 2006, it caused quite a stir in the media because it celebrated the joys of senior sex and included details of what was hot about sex after 60. (My personal favorite moment in that book is the nail-filing section — I love the smiles I see from women when I read that part aloud during a speech!)
Then I wrote Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex (2011) to address the challenges that prevent sex at our age from being as spicy and fulfilling as it can be. This book has won two major awards and is used and recommended by therapists and sex educators. I’m proud and grateful to all the people who contributed to that book.
Now I’m interviewed a lot and invited to speak at conferences and other gatherings. It really feels like I’m living in a world that recognizes that our sexuality is lifelong and ageless, and no matter what else is happening in our lives — medically, emotionally, partnered or not — we are capable of this pleasure.
I hope you’ll post a comment so that this topic can become a discussion rather than one woman’s monologue –or her wishful thinking!
As a 60-year-old, I have to say there is still a stigma about older people having sex. What is equally frustrating is that once we hit a certain age, for some reason, we're expected to no longer need affection, companionship, sex, love, or anything else. It's like we're already dead, shut up and act your age, will ya. Geeze. Will let you know how it goes with some plans I'm making for a special weekend with a new friend.
I'd like to see more about solo sex and/for older women.
I am grateful to those of you who have posted comments, and I invite you to continue. It's important to have a place we can express our sexual attitudes and experiences where no one is judging or flaming us. This is exactly what I hoped would happen when I wrote this post, and I thank you.
Anonymous (10/28/12), your thoughtful and articulate comment expressed just what I feel, and so beautifully. If you feel like emailing me and identifying yourself, I'd be honored to make your acquaintance. You write so well that I wonder if you're an author, too.
I currently have two client couples over 60 and both are working to improve their already good sex. The woman in one group exudes life-energy and when they come to me, she exudes her sexuality as well (Or as one aspect of life-energy) They are learning about sensual massage, better use of toys and much more. They also break all the stereotypes of body image as she is about 190 lbs and he is no Brad Pitt.
And they talk openly about sex.
First of all, I agree with Toni, that you, Joan, have done a great service to all older people by your open and generous attitude towards sex and sexual information on this blog, towards the whole life force actually, of which sex is part.
Having grown up in the generation of the 60s, I admit I was shocked when, faced with the opportunity to have a sexual life after many quiet years, I was unable to find much support from my women friends or information on what to expect in sex after 60. I even got brushed off by my gynecologist!
I recall the fury I felt that the generation which gave the future a more open attitude towards sexuality couldn't talk about it over the life cycle? Like it ended at, what, 40?
I managed,finally,through your site first, and then other sites, and one open friend, AND a direct talk with my gynecologist to put together enough information to move forward.
I think it really is about attitude, and about communication and about courage – about claiming your right to have a sexual life for your whole life, with another or with yourself, which somehow in American culture,at least, we are taught that we cannot do. Every element of our media landscape screams that 'old' is not where anyone wants to be.
I think that as the boomers affected major changes in civil rights, the women's movement and gay rights, all social justice issues, so we will also have to cut a new path to acceptance of sexuality throughout the lifespan. Thought of that way, I don't much care what younger people think of my wanting a sexual life after 60 – it's because of all of us who are willing to be open now, that it will become normalized for them when they age.
That said, I don't think it's easy, particularly for older women, to meet men who are willing to 'see' them, but I do think that each experience one has is worth it, and money in the bank of the future.
I too wonder if my perceptions of sexuality are because of the crowd I hang out with (and the ideas I have) or because of actual change in society. I think that's always the question. Only being in my mid 20s I can say that I've noticed a change in how my friends think about sex as we get older. Which, I suppose, is natural.
There is definitely a good feeling of the older you get, the better sex gets. The more experience you have, the more likely you are to know what your body enjoys. The less focus there is on achieving an orgasm, the more focus on enjoy yourself. That's been my experience – and I can only assume (or at least hope) that that mentality grows the older that you get.
I'm looking forward to finding out, and with the reading that I've done (and of course your blog) have felt more comfortable with the idea of sexuality with age.
I went riding horses with my mom a few years ago and during our ride and chat it came out that my dad was a regular user of viagra. I said, "That's great mom but I really didn't need to know that." Thinking back I still laugh but she was right to be happy. I'm glad that their sexuality was strong. I hope I will be a regular user of viagra too someday.
"There are no men I know who are over 55 who are still having sex with their wives." (Anonymous)
My husband will be 55 next month, so maybe his opinion isn't valid. But he says, "I don't know if my men friends are having sex with their wives because we don't talk about that."
As his wife, I can tell you that we still are.
"– other times, I wonder if I'm deluded because I surround myself with open-minded, sex-positive people who applaud my ideas and communicate similar messages to their followers."
Hate to be the wet blanket here, but I would have to say that your above statement is true. I'm 62 and my wife lost all interest in sex about 15 years ago at menopause and feels that this is natural and normal, and that you don't try to fix normal. In my social circle this seems to be the common opinion. There are no men I know who are over 55 who are still having sex with their wives.
To Anon hospice worker Oct 13, have self help group attendees watch one of several (Netflix) versions of Lady Chatterley. Great tale of disability/death/sexuality; the needs of the well spouse. I actually updated my Advance Directive to invite my spouse to find a lover if I'm way out of it, as in this Lady Chatterley tale. Her husband gives her permission to find a lover…then sort of revokes it. Great for discussions for aging couples.
-Dan, 64, Scotts Valley
themI' a social worker in hospice care. I've found that many of my co-workers (the majority of them in their 40s-50s) are uncomfortable at best…and shocked at worst…when the surviving partner of someone in their 70s and 80s brings up the issue of missing sex with their deceased partner, or about sexual concerns with a new partner. I also lead a caregiver support group. I make it a point to bring up sexual issues related to grief/loss about the sick/dying partner who many no longer be able to or have desire to participate in sex. I can just see the look of relief in the eyes of many in the group when someone is finally willing to acknowledge their loss in this area of their lives! Keep up the good…and necessary…work!
More seniors can talk about sex without feeling embarrassed. The young people may feel awkward hearing seniors discussing their sex lives. If love is ageless, the same thing goes with sex.
I was just having the thought that maybe young people don't want to hear about senior sex because it reminds them that their parents have sex. Then along comes Dan's comment (Oct. 9th).
Excellent points, Dan! And thanks for speaking up with the younger guys. I'm sure they could use the mentoring. And someday they'll look back and appreciate it. Their partners certainly will.
Could there be a correlation between Internet dating and a new perspective of senior sex? Who would have thought Internet dating for seniors would be one of the fastest growing segments of that industry. Maybe that enabled seniors to become more open about what they want, especially with new partners.
I'm in a men's support group with 9 other guys who meet weekly; some younger than my sons. I've picked up that the youngsters (mid to late 20s early 30s) expect me, 64, to shut the hell up about my sex thoughts and life. I love getting in their face now as a "grampy stud guy" and I've started speaking up, reminding them how child like stupid they are sometimes about sex, knowing not much more than what to put where but not particularly why. Many are starting to get it, even liking the thought that this energy Never goes away…unless you decide you actually want to be…in bed by 9 old. A dumb idea. We have to speak up. We need to come out and be proud, like…"I felt rushed last week, making love, doing the nasty for 1.5 hrs. I hate it when my lady and I don't allow enough time or show up late to spanking class." Indeed. The youngsters are starting to get it. We have to be the gray sexy we want to see in the world.
-Dan in Scotts Valley
Joan, you've done an important service by bringing senior sex "out of the closet." Many seniors have always had an active sex life, but were embarrassed to talk about the joys and challenges. Thanks to your books, blog, and talks, more seniors now know about helpful hints and products, and where to find answers to their questions. You are NOT alone in wanting to continue the discussion.