|Rae Padilla Francoeur
“It takes intention to keep movement and sexuality in our lives,” Rae Padilla Francoeur quotes me as saying in her insightful, sensitive, and generous profile, which she titles “Life lessons from a senior sexpert.”
Thank you, Rae, for the most amazing birthday present.
I love how Rae combines three parts of me that define who I am: my commitments to senior sex education, physical fitness, and endless learning. She captured my drive when she wrote about my recent trip to New York City, when I had the pleasure of staying with her and her love Jim,
The only time you weren’t working or making connections with others throughout the city was when I was talking or when you were sleeping.
Rae’s profile is such a heartfelt tribute that I want it read at my memorial service (not soon, please) and printed on a t-shirt.
I expect it would have to be in small print to fit on a t-shirt, especially my petite size, so I’m picturing grey-haired gents putting on their reading glasses and getting close to peer at my chest–a pretty nice fantasy for my 68th birthday today!
Speaking of t-shirts and chests, Rae and Jim gave me this “Naked at Our Age” t-shirt. At the time I took this photo, I was sitting outside a coffee shop in Ventura, CA, where I was visiting to present two workshops. I discovered that three men were staring at me. Flattered, I smiled and they looked away. Later I realized they were probably just trying to figure out what I meant by the message on my shirt.
If you’re not familiar with Rae’s work, I encourage you to read her erotic memoir, Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair. I reviewed Free Fall in 2010 before I knew Rae personally. Our admiration of each other’s work led to a strong friendship.
|Rae, Joan, and Jim Hicks
I was interviewed by Audacia Ray for her Naked City column for the Village Voice online. Audacia asked me, “How has your idea of what ‘sex’ is changed over your lifetime?”
In my teens and early twenties, I was trying to shed the restrictions I had been taught by family and society about sex being bad until a wedding band somehow transformed it, so sex was rebellion. Although I willingly shed my virginity at 17, I didn’t have an orgasm until two years later. Being a child of the 1950’s, I didn’t even know what/where my clitoris was or what made it work, until a more experienced college boy showed me. I haven’t stopped enjoying it since!
From my mid-twenties to early-thirties, sex was both an expression of love and an exploration of what turned me on. I was in two committed relationships (serially) during that time, and I loved the high and the bonding of sex.
In my mid-thirties and through my forties, sex was the Big O: orgasm, as frequently as possible. I was in a love relationship for part of that time which was sometimes exclusive and sometimes open, and after that broke up, I went a bit crazy with the excitement of multiple partners. This was my real coming of age, sexually. I discovered the glory of powerful orgasms, whether alone or with a partner (or series of partners), filling my drawers with vibrators and my datebook with eager men.
During all this time, my hormonal, biological urge was propelling my sex drive. After menopause, all this shifted.
I was a post-menopausal single woman, needing lubricant, taking longer to get aroused and reach orgasm, and as eager as I was to keep my sex life going, often I felt invisible to potential partners. I still felt youthful and vibrant in my mind (still do, at 64!), but my face started showing my age, and boom, men were no longer interested. It was amazing to me, really.
Then at age 57, I fell in love with Robert, who was then 64. Our love affair was the reason I wrote my book, Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty. My sex drive was no longer hormonally driven. Rather, it was driving by love, the yearning to bond deeply, and a deep commitment to my lover’s pleasure as much as (sometimes more than) my own. We married when I was 62, he 69. Ours has been the great love of both our lives. It has also been the best sex, because joining together is a culmination of everything we’ve experienced in our lives as well as our deep love for each other. It’s spiritual as well as physical.
How would YOU answer the question, “How has your idea of what ‘sex’ is changed over your lifetime?”
For the rest of the interview, please click here.
I was recently interviewed by Karen Rayne, Ph.D., a sex educator for teenagers and their parents who has a blog about adolescent sexuality . I’d like to repeat that interview here and get your comments:
Karen Rayne: Why do you think senior sexuality is important?
Joan Price: It’s important because we’ve been seen by society and by the media (and sometimes by ourselves!) as asexual, unsexy, and altogether icky if we are sexually active and enthusiastic about it. We need to change that, not just for those of us who are already in our golden years, but for all ages. I offer this plea to young people: Help us change our society’s view of older people as either sexless or ludicrous and disgusting for wanting sex. Realize that our bodies change, but we’re still the same lusty and loving people that we were when we were your age.
Karen Rayne: What do you see as the life-long path that can lead to healthy senior sexuality?
Joan Price: Acceptance of our own sexuality and open-mindedness about any consensual sex taking place between people of age to give consent — and by that I mean emotional age, not legal age of consent necessarily. I know that at age 17, I was fully ready to engage in sex with my 19-year-old boyfriend. We had been dating for two years, and only waited that long because we were scared to death that either my parents would find out or I’d get pregnant. (The first happened; the second didn’t.) I fear for girls who become sexually active before they’re emotionally ready, though — to please a boyfriend, or because “everyone’s doing it.” I encourage teens to talk to older, trusted adults before becoming sexually active, and definitely to use barrier protection (condoms) every time.
Karen Rayne: How can parents and teachers best help children and teenagers start down that road?
Joan Price: I was a high school English teacher for 22 years before I switched to a writing career, and I still have a great love for and enjoyment of teenagers. When I was teaching, many students talked to me or wrote in their journals about their relationships. Sometimes they confided intimate details that they didn’t feel they could tell their parents. I encourage teachers to make themselves accessible and safe, letting their students know they’re available, opening up topics in class that let the teenagers know that the teachers understand and have useful perspectives to share. I encourage parents to do the same thing, but realize — and please accept this — that as open-minded, accessible, and loving as they are, their teenaged sons and daughters might feel more comfortable talking to a different adult. (I’d love to hear from teenagers about how they feel about this topic.)
Also, see your body as a lifelong source of sexual pleasure, and see the beauty in older people. I know it’s difficult, when our society and especially the media stresses that beauty and sexuality are the domain of the young. For your own sake, please reject this notion. As you age, welcome the new image of sexuality that you’ll see in yourself and in your peers.
I also invited Karen’s readers to visit this blog:
As young people (and I’m talking to both teens and parents!), you may resist reading about people who are 60 or 70 or older talking so openly about their sexual attitudes and experiences, but I think it’s very important that we talk and you hear us, just as you want us to hear you.
I look forward to reading the comments of the teens and their parents who visit us here.
Thanks to Jeremy Egner for his enlightening article, “The New Definition of ‘Sexy'” on the men’s lifestyle channel at MSN.com.
Egner cites a recent poll of more than 10,600 American adults that found that “sexy is more an attitude than it is a perfect physique.” More than 76 percent said a woman can be sexy if she was a size 14 or larger (well, sure!) and that “women (84 percent) are much more likely than men (63 percent) to say sexiness derives from an intangible quality … rather than looks.
Egner interviewed me about how non-physical qualities become even more sexy as we age. On page 2, he writes,
But as we get older and gain status, emotional security and hard-won wisdom, we’re looking less for hotties and babymakers than for compatible mates that will help create durable and rewarding relationships, says Joan Price, author, blogger and self-described “advocate of ageless sexuality.”
Such considerations feed our personal ideas about what is sexy. Other factors include our awareness of our own changing bodies.
“We have wrinkles, sags and bags. If having perfect faces and unlined bodies was a prerequisite for sexiness, we’d be out of the story already,” says Joan Price, 63, who wrote about evolving sexuality in her book, Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty. “We yearn for the same touch and intimacy but we have to first internalize the changed idea of what sexy is. We have to see ourselves as sexy.”
Price recalls asking her 70-year-old husband Robert, whom she married last May, to explain exactly how he could consider her to be as beautiful as he claimed when she could plainly see all her lines and physical imperfections whenever she looked into a mirror. (So don’t expect those sorts of questions to go away anytime soon, guys.)
“He told me, ‘If I am to know myself and accept my own aging process, how could I want anything less from you?'” Price says. “I tell that story sometimes when I’m asked to speak somewhere and women always ask, ‘Does Robert have a brother?'”
“When two people who really accept themselves come together, that’s where good sex happens,” she adds. “The most powerful sex organ is the brain.”
With this article, though, is a slide slow of the so-called “Sexiest Women Over 35,” which I found very disappointing. Why? The oldest “woman over 35” is Elle Macpherson, who is just 44 (a teenybopper in our world). Why isn’t Sophia Loren (73) on that list? Julie Christie (66)? Lena Horne (88)? Or any of the other women listed on my post, How Old Are They Now?
Or does “over 35” have a nine year cut-off date?
This list is one more reminder of how much work is left to do in tearing down the stereotype of sexiness as synonymous with youth, and substituting real live role models of sexiness twice as old as the youngsters MSN.com chose as the “sexiest women over 35”!