|Joan and Penny|
Note from Joan: CatalystCon West 2013 was filled with amazing educators, new information, and a sense of community that I wish we could all feel everyday, everywhere. Normally I would write a synopsis of this conference, sharing what I learned.
But this time, I give the floor to Penny, a remarkable, 26-year-old sex blogger, who attended the session I gave: The 5 Biggest Myths About Sex and Aging. She started this guest post on the plane going home, she told me, tearing up as she wrote it. I’m proud to share it — and her — with you here. With allies like Penny, we’ can indeed change the world.
attitude that I was going to take a leap and learn about something that doesn’t
apply to me, at least not yet. I told Joan this when we ran into each other in
the hall before her panel, and she smiled and said with a chuckle, “Maybe
you’ll find what I have to say useful in about 30 years.”
But I quickly
realized that what Joan was teaching in her panel didn’t only apply to people
aged 50+ — it was relevant to anyone, including myself now, at age 26.
aging was the idea that what felt good to us in the past should still make
us feel good now, and that when it doesn’t, there must be something wrong, and
we might as well just give up.
|photo by Roman Roze|
She explained that as our bodies change with age
later in life, the ways we experience arousal and pleasure change as well, and
that this is perfectly normal. She went over specifics, like the differing
needs that seniors may require in a toy, such as very strong vibrations, the
ability for the toy to last long enough to endure a longer cycle of arousal,
ergonomically comfortable designs for arthritic hands, easy to use controls,
people outside of my age demographic, but the underlying message was universal:
We must remember that sexuality is fluid and that it changes. Our
bodies change, our lives change, our needs and wants change. Self-exploration is a continuous process.
I may not be 50 yet, but what turned
me on when I started having sex at age 16 is dramatically different from what
turns me on now. My challenges with arousal are not the same as senior
challenges, but they’re there. Some weeks I feel down and emotional, and I
don’t want to take the time to give myself the self-care that I need. I have moments when I think, why isn’t this working like
it usually does? Why can’t I just orgasm like I usually do?
myself the compassion I would give a friend. If someone came to me and said
something wasn’t working for them, I would encourage them to keep trying
because they deserve pleasure. I would try to help them find new ways to
experience arousal and suggest new toys and techniques. I would also tell them
that there is nothing wrong if something just isn’t working right now, and that
pleasure and orgasms don’t always come easily.
Everyone deserves that encouragement
and support. We must allow ourselves to exist as we are right now, instead of
trying to conform to what society expects of us or even what we expect of ourselves.
because we’ve changed, and we feel like we aren’t ourselves anymore, everything
Joan discussed was not only relevant to seniors, but to
everyone. The importance of communication between partners, adaptation to
change, making time for pleasure and practice, and continual commitment to
self-care, sexual health, and sex education are always important.
about her grief in losing her love and partner. Her words shook me deeply, and
as tears streamed down my cheeks, my sniffles were echoed by a woman sitting
near me. Grief is incredibly personal, and I cannot pretend to know what Joan
has gone through, but in that moment I felt like her grief was somehow also
mine. Grief for her loss, for everyone I’ve lost, and for myself and the deep
fear I don’t usually even realize that I carry with me: that I am alone, that
nothing is certain, and that any day could be my last or my partner’s last.
strength. She said that what lives on after us is what we pass on to others,
what we give to people, what we share, our love and compassion. In that way,
she said, we become immortal. I’m often so wrapped up in my own needs, wants,
concerns, challenges, and privileges that I forget to seek out others’
experiences, to listen as much as I speak, and to share what I have.
her cause, to speak out against ageism, to stop and say, “That’s not funny,” if we hear malicious, ageist “jokes,” and to tell
people that they are beautiful exactly as they are. In return, she offered up
her own voice, to help us in whatever injustices we battle.
Her words echoed
Yosenio V Lewis’s speech from the Opening Keynote, when he called us to take on
someone else’s cause because it is our cause as well, to come together instead
of staying in isolated groups, to collaborate and realize that we are all
ultimately fighting for the same things: love, compassion, and acceptance.
Texas. She explores sexuality creatively through her blog Penny for Your (Dirty) Thoughts,
which is known for its variety of writing, unique sex toy photography, and
On what planet? Oh, right, the youth planet!
Miley, you could teach me plenty about fame, music, handling bad publicity, and, I suppose, twerking (if I thought that I needed it to feel sexy, which I don’t, and if my 69-year-old back would handle it, which it wouldn’t).
My day job is writing and speaking about senior sex, which you think doesn’t exist. Here are just a few facts about it:
- Sex can be better after 40, 50, and 60 than it ever was in our 20s. Then, we as young women were driven by hormones, anxious about our partners liking us or finding us sexy enough, and not terribly good at communicating what we needed to reach orgasm. Our partners, also hormone-driven, rushed to their own finish, often leaving us behind. Often, our fear of pregnancy outweighed our enjoyment.
- Now, we’re no longer propelled by our hormones — we’re having sex for other reasons: sexual pleasure and release, intimacy, joy, bonding, emotional well-being, and about a gazillion other good reasons. We know how to slow down and enjoy the sensations and the feelings.
- Is sex the same at 50 or 70 as it was when we were your age? No. We do have challenges. We also have the knowledge (or know where to find it, such as in my award-winning book, Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex) to overcome those challenges, and the communications skills to deal with them.
If you’d like to discuss this or battle me in a televised face-off (with Matt Lauer moderating), please have your people contact my people. I’d be delighted.
Please slow down and hear this:
Miley, I’ll be happy to send you a copy of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty to further your education (and, I hope, delight you), if you send me your mailing address.
Brian Alexander, a top sex and science journalist, interviewed me yesterday about this. Please read his smart and sassy article here. “You’re going to laugh about what Miley Cyrus just said,” he said when he called me. Yes, I laughed, I commented, and it got me so revved up that I had to expand my views here a day later. Thank you, Brian.
A 30-something blogger/swinger/ sex worker who calls herself and her blog The Beautiful Kind (“TBK”) posted a two-part story of her sexual adventure with Leonard, a 92-year-old man who hadn’t had sex in 30 years: Robbing the Graveyard and Robbing the Graveyard Update. At first I worried, because of her post titles, that she was making fun of Leonard, but she writes with respect, concern, and kindness.
I won’t give away the ending to this true story, except to say that it’s sad and disturbing. Read the two entries in order. I encourage you to discuss them here once you’ve read it.
Caveat: TBK’s blog lives on the wild and raunchy side, as does TBK herself, so visit with caution if you’re not accustomed to blogs that are more explicitly sexual than this one. If this caveat makes you laugh rather than wince, go for it!