I’m collecting examples for an upcoming talk. Comment here or email me with the subject header “Invisible.” I won’t use your name if I quote you. Please include your age.
Here are some examples from readers of my Naked at Our Age Facebook page (which I hope you’ll “like” if you haven’t already) to get you thinking:
? I’m 64. A few years ago, I saw a male physician who began almost every sentence to me with “A woman of your age….” as if I was geriatric in every sense of the word and he needed to explain how I no longer had the physical abilities of a “young and healthy” woman. He was lecturing me on how I needed to change my expectations for my body and make allowances for those changes. The irony was his age, at least 50 himself.
? I was using the free wi-fi at the Senior Center. Anything that has “sex” in it is blocked.
? I’m 53, and I often feel invisible in social groups. I was in a mixed-age group once online where younger men were telling sex jokes. An older woman joined in, not flirting with them, just telling her own stories. When she mentioned being in her early sixties they flipped out, complained about feeling sick, and so forth. Honestly a lot of men my own age aren’t much better. Sometimes I look in the mirror to see if I’ve grown a second head with the way that they act. I just don’t feel comfortable flirting and being sexual the way I used to because of the negativity I keep seeing towards women over 50.
? Try being a gentleman and over 70. If I compliment (all PC and non sexist) a woman under 50, I get the “dirty old man” look! Can’t a compliment just be that? My wife often will compliment another gal on her fashion, and it’s accepted with a smile. I wouldn’t dare try that!
? I want to be invisible, in fact miles away, when someone at a family gathering starts talking about:
* his Viagra use
* how he pees in the middle of the night
* how, when he was a kid, he used a piece of liver to jack off
* asking pretty young women to sit close to him
All of these fall under too much information (TMI). I don’t need word pictures of things I don’t want to see.
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!
Recently, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by TV documentary film makers Lauren Buongiovanni Hunt, Linda Duvoisin, and their crew about my older-age sexuality views, experiences, and attitudes.
It was a fabulous experience! The film project, titled “69 and Up! Sex and Intimacy in the Golden Years,” is intended to reveal the sexual wants and desires of people age 69 and over, presenting us positively and joyfully.
Would you like to be involved? Here is the call for volunteer participants from Lauren, both written and via video, explaining what she and Linda are looking for. Again, the experience was totally positive for me — respectful, fun, absolutely non-sleazy. I hope you’ll want to participate, too.
From Lauren Buongiovanni Hunt:
I’m making a documentary film that explores sexuality, intimacy and older adulthood. I have a belief that my desires and drive for intimacy and sex will remain present throughout my lifetime While they may change (and/or even grow!), they will remain present and intact as I grow older. It seems to me that as the generation of the ‘sexual revolution’ enters older adulthood our culture needs to undergo an attitudinal revolution about how we view older people and their sexuality. After all, more and more of us will grow to live in older adulthood. Yet, one does not need to look very far to see how our society values youth and eschews the possibilities of the beauty of sensuality in older adults.
The film, 69 and Up! Sex and Intimacy in the Golden Years, will interview sex experts, doctors, sociological professionals as well as older adults who are beautiful examples of what the possibilities can be. The purpose of the film is to portray that the science and the practice demonstrates that sexuality and intimacy in the latter part of life is alive and well.
I am seeking volunteers who are willing to share their story – straight, gay, married, dating, widowed, etc. – as long as you are willing to be open for the purpose of sharing your experiences for the purpose of illuminating the challenges, successes and joys of sex and intimacy in older adulthood. I am seeking both men and women.
Email me at Lauren@gingersnappublishing.com for more information and/or questions about volunteering.
One of my favorite sex nerds, Dr. Debby Herbenick, recently retweeted something that I’ve been thinking about for a while:
True. @hotaction: “Everyone should spend some time looking at photos of naked old people because that’s what the future looks like.”
— Dr. Debby Herbenick (@mysexprofessor)
Today is the 20th anniversary of the date that I met my partner. In the last two decades, we’ve both changed a lot. We’re both much more secure and solid in who we are. We’ve grown and challenged each other to overcome many of the habits that caused friction in our lives and in our connections with other people. We’ve learned many, many ways to support our relationship. And yes, our bodies have changed, too. While I’d love to have the physical resilience that I used to have, I wouldn’t trade my current life for the one I had back then. I needed that ability to bounce back- without it, I never would have survived the drama I caused myself and others.
After two decades with Elizabeth, I think she’s more beautiful than ever before and I’m more drawn to her than I could have imagined when we first met. And I think about the many people who stop being attracted to their partners and trade them in for someone younger. This seems to be more common for men, but I’ve also seen women do the same thing in increasing numbers. While I’m fully supportive of people creating the relationships they want and ending them when they no longer serve them, I can’t help but wonder about our tenacious grip on the idea that younger is better and how that affects things.
In a world that only presents the latest 18-25 year olds as sexy, it’s a challenge to not compare oneself or one’s partner with that fantasy. Personally, I’ve found that became easier when I stopped watching TV and reading the drivel that passes for news (and don’t even get me started on popular magazines). But it takes more than that. Every time you compliment someone’s appearance by telling them that they look young, you’re reinforcing the idea that we lose value as we age. I feel sadness around that because it encourages us to deny our histories, to pretend we’re something we aren’t, and to create an image of who we wish we were rather than celebrating who we’ve become. And let’s not forget that many of the cosmetic treatments to make us look younger don’t work all that well and are promoted with ads that are photoshopped like crazy. My willing suspension of disbelief snapped a long time ago.
Maybe I’ll have something different to say in another 20 years. But right now, I think that the physical expression of experience and growth is incredibly sexy. It’s an outward manifestation of the individual’s evolution. Personally, I find that much more attractive than someone who strives to look like they’re still 23. This is something that many of us have to practice. When the only images that we see define attractiveness as equivalent to youth, it can be difficult to not make comparisons.
I’ve spoken with quite a few people who are convinced that nobody will want to have sex with them because they have grey hair, or wrinkles, or scars, or stretch marks, or health concerns, or any of the other effects of age. I feel sadness that they’re so sure that they’re unattractive to others because they’re unattractive to themselves. I wonder how much of that comes from never having thought of people over a certain age as desirable. I wonder how much of that comes from the fact that so much of the breathless commentary about attractiveness (especially female attractiveness) is tied up in how young someone looks. What a waste of the incredible beauty and wisdom that surrounds us, if only we could see it.
If Elizabeth and I are fortunate, we will have lots more time together. And someday, we may get to be like the people in this photograph. I look at it and see something to be celebrated. I also know that many people will look at it and feel disgust, shame, or squicked. So what are you going to do when you get to be that age? How are you going to feel about yourself or your partner(s)? Will you be able to be naked with your partner without feeling self-disgust or shame?
The time to start thinking about older people being sexy is right now. This is the time to stop shaming elders who express desire or who want to have sex. This is the time to stop mocking their bodies or describing them negatively. When you get older, you’ll be struggling with a lot of cultural momentum and the longer you go along with it, the harder it’ll be when you finally get around to resisting (if you do). That’s especially true for women and their partners, given the extra pressure and judgement attached to youth and attractiveness for women. But really, we’re all affected by the idea that younger is better.
Instead of thinking of someone as “looking good for their age,” how about simply letting them “look good”? Instead of telling someone that they look so young, compliment them on something specific like their hairstyle or their outfit. And instead of saying insulting things about older people’s sexuality, acknowledge the feeling as your own judgment. There’s a huge difference between “that’s gross” and “I feel discomfort.” The more we can change how we think and feel about elders and sexuality, the better off we’ll be if and when we get there.
I also highly recommend Joan Price’s book Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex. Even if you’re not there yet, there’s a good chance that you will be and many of the sexual concerns that can arise are much easier to deal with when you aren’t surprised by them. Joan interviewed and quoted lots of medical professionals, sex educators, and therapists, so it’s like you’re getting the benefit of a whole panel of experts in one book. It’s amazing.
Good Vibrations, an
occasional university professor, and a sexuality educator. He teaches and
writes about sex-positivity, sex & shame, sexual practices and communities,
relationships, and other related topics. Check him out at his website, twitter, or on Facebook.