I turn 76 on November 10, 2019. I meant to write this on the eve of my birthday, but I’m rushing it by two weeks. Right now my home is under an evacuation alert because of the huge Kincade fire not far away and projected high winds tonight and tomorrow. The power will go out any minute. The bad air is exacerbating my asthma. Somehow it feels important to write this now.
This past year has been astonishing, both personally and professionally. Who could have guessed that age 75 would be filled with all of these?
- A new book, Sex After Grief, that helped bring closure to my own grief and let me help others who are grieving;
- Making a film (!) about sex and aging, a project that I never envisioned doing until the lovely jessica drake told me it was time to do it together;
- Speaking events in the US and abroad and much media attention;
- A stimulating and nurturing relationship that delights me every day.
Do you want to know what matters less than I predicted? Wrinkles. Puckered thighs. Loose skin. I hear people bemoan their aging bodies, say they have to cover up. Some tell me they’re giving up sex because they don’t understand why anyone would desire their old bodies. Yes, wrinkles startle us, showing up in places we didn’t expect — even cleavage in a push-up bra! — but hey, our bodies are the youngest they’ll ever be from now on! We can celebrate our bodies, or hate them, or ignore them. Which choice serves us best? We can’t go back in time, but we can go forward accepting ourselves and glorying in our life experience. The more we accept and celebrate ourselves at our age now, the sexier we will feel.
My view: let’s celebrate the ability of our bodies to move us, to stimulate us, to feel sexual pleasure. And why should we see ourselves as less beautiful or less desirable because we wear our experience on our skin? Isn’t that a badge of living? I’ve been indulging myself with lingerie photo shoots every few years, and I have one scheduled with Perry Gallagher on my 80th birthday. The point is not to show off my body — it’s to accept it and see it with new eyes, and chronicle my aging process.
I’m amazed, actually, at how well my body functions, despite its many health challenges. (You don’t need to know specifics,
other than I need 5 medications a day to keep them at bay.) I realized a long time ago that I can’t change what I inherited (family history of early heart disease; a mother who took up smoking during her pregnancy, resulting in my low birth weight and breathing problems since infancy) and what happened to me (auto accident body destruction).
But I can change what I do to keep my health day by day, hour by hour. I’m a fanatic about exercise, tracking my steps and minutes, challenging myself with 1.5 to 2.5 hours a day of fitness activity: teaching line dancing, brisk walking, Pilates. I lead a very busy life, but I always make time for exercise because it gives back more than it takes — my mental acuity and physical energy are charged up by movement, the more the better. I feel lighter in my body when I exercise. I embrace my physicality. That translate to more joy, better sex, and myriad unseen health benefits.
I wrote the following on Facebook, and I’ll expand on it now:
I often reflect on this: every path taken or not taken, every relationship that starts and/or ends, every life decision — all of these open doors (and windows) to what happens next.
I realize with the perspective of almost 76 years that our paths aren’t linear. They wind around, sometimes end up where we started, but with new knowledge. Or they lead us to a new place entirely. Sometimes the sign posts along the way are helpful, other times they’re in a language we don’t know, so we make our best guess.
I think the only mistake we can make is to be afraid of taking a path because we don’t know what’s at the end of it. The truth is, we don’t know where it will take us even if we think we do.
My advice (if you want advice):
- Move as much as possible — your health depends on it.
- Adopt the “if not now, when?” mindset and live your bucket list now.
- If your relationship situation needs changing, change it.
- Put plans in place now that you might need later: financial, healthcare, will, advance directive.
- Take care of things now that you don’t want your loved ones to have to figure out when you’re unable.
- Spend time with friends — we don’t know how long they’ll be with us.
- Tell the people you love that you love them.
- Learn from the past, celebrate the present, be unafraid of the future.
As I wrote this list, I cringed at a few items. I have a list of important and time-consuming tasks I keep putting off because other things seem more urgent and easier to complete. I’ll check in again later once I’ve followed my own advice on those things!
Did anything on my “advice” list resonate with you particularly? If you were giving advice, what would you add to my list? Please comment and include your age.
Many assume that erotic writers are young people who write about young characters, but more and more people over 60 are discovering the joy of erotic writing.
Why? When we write sexy stories, we recapture peak moments in our lives. We can conjure all kinds of sensory details that make the story vivid. Or we can imagine an encounter we never had and bring it to life as a fictional story. We realize our desires in a safe space. Anything is possible on the page!
Erotic writing reminds us that we are sexy at every age. As we play with words, we push back on social assumptions about older people and sex. The very act of creating a story is sexy.
Reading erotica created by others our age is also fun, and a great inspiration. Some examples I love:
- Dorothy Freed published her sexual memoir, Perfect Strangers, at age 75.
- Joan Price edited a collection called Ageless Erotica, featuring writers Dorothy’s age and older.
- Free Fall by Rae Padilla Francoeur is a fabulously well written erotic memoir with an older heroine.
You’ll find more examples on my website, www.stellafosse.com. These books are enjoyable, and you can even use favorite sentences from their stories as writing prompts for yours.
If you experiment with erotic writing — and please do! — it is important to keep a playful and relaxed attitude about what you write. Even for longtime authors, first drafts are just a place to try things out. So pat yourself on the back for being brave, and write without judging.
Now let’s give it a try!
Recall an especially sexy experience in your life. It could have happened yesterday or twenty years ago. Remember it with all your senses:
- What was the other person’s aroma?
- How did it feel to touch them and for them to touch you?
- What did you say to one another, and what other sounds did you make?
- What did you especially love about the other person’s appearance?
- What about the circumstances: What was going on in your lives that made this moment memorable?
On your first writing day, take just ten minutes and begin to write what you remember. If some aspect of the experience eludes you, feel free to make it up as you go.
The next day, write for ten more minutes about that experience. If you keep writing for ten minutes each day, soon you will have a complete draft of an erotic story that you can look back upon and savor.
I hope you will try writing erotica, and that it brings you much joy.
– Stella Fosse is an erotica writer, the author of Aphrodite’s Pen: The Power of Writing Erotica after Midlife, and a late bloomer whose erotic life blossomed in her late 50s. Access a free story writing course from Stella here.
The Vagina Bible: The Vulva and the Vagina—separating the Myth from the Medicine by gynecologist Jennifer Gunter is a lively, educational guide separating information from misinformation, presented in a clear, smart, sassy style.
“There’s a lot of money in vaginal shame,” writes Jen Gunter. She is known as the clever and outspoken OB/GYN on Twitter (@DrJenGunter—follow her!) who challenges celebrities and companies trying to sell us unneeded (and sometimes harmful) solutions for invented problems. She rips their claims and substitutes solid facts. All of this book is educational, revealing, and empowering. Examples:
- “[T]he other problem with doctors not asking about sex is women who have medical conditions that interfere with their sex life, typically conditions that cause pain with sex, end up minimized. Many women suffer for years not realizing they have a medical problem that has a diagnosis and treatment.”
- “It is hard to overestimate the damage done by Sigmund Freud in popularizing the myth of the vaginal orgasm. Only one third of women are capable of achieving orgasm with penile penetration alone…so the idea that everyone should be having orgasms this way results in two thirds of women believing there is something wrong with their sexual wiring when really they are perfect. Not orgasming with unassisted penile penetration is not a flaw, it’s a feature.”
- “MRI studies looking at anatomy during heterosexual sex reveal that the clitoris can be compressed by the penis, which is why some women can orgasm with penile penetration.”
- “Vulvar cleansing has never been studied. That is interesting, considering the array of products that claim to be gynecologist tested or approved…Some of these washes make claims they can reduce bacterial vaginosis (BV). They can’t. An external wash cannot possibly impact the inside of the vagina, and washing internally with one of these products (some women do that—please don’t) could definitely increase your risk of BV by killing good bacteria or irritating the vaginal mucosa.”
Parts of The Vagina Bible are so hilarious that you’ll want—as I did—to read them aloud to a companion:
- “Almost every woman has been told at least once…to wear white cotton underwear as a medical recommendation to prevent yeast infections and other vaginal mayhem. This makes it sound as if vaginas and vulvas are accidents waiting to happen. The vulva can handle urine, feces, and blood, and vaginas can handle blood, ejaculate, and a baby, so this idea that a black lace thong is the harbinger to a vaginal or vulvar apocalypse is absurd.”
- “I have read about plastic surgeons who do labiaplasty [surgical reduction of the labia minora] so women can look ‘sleeker in so-called athleisure wear.’ I know some people call this look ‘camel toe,’ but I prefer ‘labial cleavage,’ and the answer is not surgery—it is better-fitting athletic wear.”
- “I’ve stared at more male butt cracks (gluteal clefts) than I care to remember…What I never hear is that men should seek out plastic surgeons to get their gluteal clefts sewn shut. I also can’t imagine a similar industry for men that profits from surgically trimming penises so they look better in tight jeans.”
The second half of this book is a serious, comprehensive, scientific resource about infections, conditions, symptoms, and treatments. Dr. Gunter has been treating vulvar and vaginal diseases for nearly 30 years. If you have discomfort, pain, or other symptoms that might be a medical issue, read the relevant chapters of this book, then, armed with this information, take it to your doctor.
This guidebook to the care and functioning of the vulva and vagina by cheeky gynecologist Jen Gunter should be on your bookshelf. Thank you, Dr. Gunter, for this much-needed resource: The Vagina Bible.
Lynn Brown Rosenberg, age 76, writes about a safe way to have sex with strangers — in online chat rooms:
I had gone 12 years without sex, and I didn’t want to live that way anymore.
I changed psychological medications and that made a difference right away. But I also realized I had been repressed sexually for decades. That began to crystallize when I told my urologist I hadn’t had an orgasm in many years. She suggested I get some porn and a vibrator. I did exactly that!
Although reluctant at first to discuss my sex life, or the lack thereof, with my therapist, I began to relax after he reassured me, “Don’t worry, I’ve heard it all.” I learned from him about porn you can watch in the Internet.
I watched some pretty interesting stuff and became especially intrigued with one video where the woman talked to the man, telling him what she was going to do to him and asking him if he liked it. She stroked him as she talked, and this was all he needed have an explosive orgasm. This aroused me — it was sexy, safe, and the kind of part-way point I needed to get back to sex.
During another session, I told my doctor I missed having no one in my life to talk to about my sexual desires. He told me about sex chat websites like BeNaughty.com and Flirthut.com. What?! There was no way I was going to talk sex with strangers. And besides, what in the world would I say?
And then I remembered the woman who talked and brought the man to ecstasy. I went back to that video and wrote down word-for-word what she said. Having the words pushed aside my unease. Sure, I was nervous, but willing to give it a try.
There’s not a lot of chit chat on these sex chat sites. The goal is arousing each other to orgasm. After introducing yourselves, you get right into it.
“Are you horny?” I asked.
The conversation that followed was raw. Graphic. Forbidden. Exciting. I was on an exhilarating ride. After escalating the dirty talk, he came hard, and thanked me profusely. Should I be thanked for such a thing?
Through this and future chats, I felt my sexuality was validated. In fact, I wanted to explore the dynamics of my sexuality even further. How far could I take this? How far was I willing to take this?
Sometimes I wasn’t the only one fantasizing. I titled this “Ben’s Fantasy” in my book. An instant message (IM) from a fellow I had chatted with made me light up. His message read: “I was fantasizing about you today.”
“Really?” I wrote. “What was your fantasy?”
“I was daydreaming that you invited me back to your apartment. You offered me a glass of wine. After we had some wine, you led me to your bed. We began to kiss and you unzipped my jeans.”
I pictured him in low-riders, shirt off, revealing a sculpted chest.
He described an entire fantasy scenario, while I just listened and encouraged him with words like “And then?”
Afterwards, he told me, “Since you gave me pleasure, I’d like to give you some.” But what he had in mind was meeting in person for sex, and that set off brightly flashing warning lights. “I don’t think so,” I told him.
“Why not?” he asked.
I explained my reservations, that it seemed unseemly, which didn’t make all that much sense since I was having an erotic chat with him, a virtual stranger. But that’s how I felt at the time. And I’d have to confess my real age, not an insignificant detail. I was a lot older than I had represented. I figured since I would never meet any of the men, what difference did it make?
You don’t have to use your real name on these chats, or you can use your first name only. You can have steamy, no-holds-barred naughty chats with a variety of people. To be assured of your safety, I recommend not meeting anyone in person. I confess I broke my own rules a couple of times, but that’s still my recommendation. If you want the joy and novelty of anonymous sex without risk, keep your chats to the net.
I looked at internet sex as a “filler fantasy” until I found the real thing. It was exhilarating and fun. And it allows you sexual joy on your terms.
Lynn Brown Rosenberg is the author of a memoir, My Sexual Awakening at 70. She has written articles for SALON, The Sunday Times of London, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, and others. She will be reading excerpts from her memoir at Barnes & Noble, 6326 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach 90803, on Sunday, August 18, 2019, 12:00 noon.