Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bill B: 59-yr-old Guy's Viewpoint

I just received an email from Bill B., age 59, who brings up so many provocative topics and expressed so skillfully that I'm giving Bill his own post here:

Hi, Joan, I just became aware of your book about sex over 60 featuring the feminine perspective and look forward to reading it. In response to some of your questions, as a guy, I think we generally like things presented in a "Problem: Solution" format. For example; a chapter titled 'Rise & Shine' might present the various forms of ED, and then some of the available answers for each 'challenge'.

While I'm currently most interested in keeping my long term relationship viable and fun, I would like to know how I might have to deal with forming new relationships after becoming a 'sudden single'. I hope there'd be room and topic enough for both sides of relationship issues.

I would like to read men's perspectives on the issues, both from a what didn't work, to what did and, when possible, why. Possibly a survey of some sort, answered by both men and women might provide some supportive insight to the specific cases or examples you would cite. Maybe it would present something like:

"John's gruff attempts at intimacy made him feel like something else had been lost to aging; he couldn't remember the way to a woman's heart, so he quit trying because he would just fail again. Marcy is married to a man like John, and feels ... about it. Our Survey shows xx% of men say that they share these feelings and have found that ... helps fix the problem. yy% of women responding to Marcy's situation say ... Clinical remedies suggest that ... is usually effective in cases like this because ..."

I would also like a woman's perspective on the things I feel and experience. Sometimes a spouse can be too supportive, when a firm dose of reality might be better in the long run (maybe that's another 'guy' thing).

I like all the topics you suggest. Most guys in my age group were pretty heavilly 'John Wayne-ized' as kids, i.e.: emotions are for women and non-men. I think a chapter or section titled something like "I wonder if other guys ... ?" that dealt with subjects guys don't usually discuss could be worthwhile. I grew up in a single mother household and didn't get to see the daily life of a man. I'm far from alone in that. We've had to make it up, or copy it, from whereever we could.

Another thought occurs to me; If you want to lose a little title symmetry with your other book, you might call it "Sex after 60 for men: A user's guide" -- Muy Macho! I suspect that might cost you quite a few readers, because I think more women are still going to buy this book than men. After all; we're men, and don't need to stop for directions for anything (a feeling too true for too many guys).

Most of the sex manuals I've bought in the past were intended for my wife; I might browse some, pause at the art, and then put it somewhere she'd have to almost stumble over in hopes she'd read it and become my dreamt of 'whore in the bedroom' without my having to actually deal with anything. Of course it didn't work, so my fix was to stop buying those silly manuals -- they clearly weren't worth much! I wonder if any of the publishing companies have buyer stats on their various sex manuals, and if they'd share them?

You have my permission to post any or all of this email with my signed name. I'm clearly no author; these are just some ramblings that occurred to me as/after I read your request for thoughts. I'm 59, Male, Married, Cauc, Some College, retired from USAF, retired from a computer consultancy, and have way too much time to annoy others.

Best of luck with your project,
Bill B.


What good timing, Bill, because I'm drafting my new book proposal this month. You've reinforced my ideas and given me some new ones. Readers like you, who get genuinely involved in speaking out about senior sexuality, let me know that I'm not on this mission alone!

Readers: Please comment. Men, do you agree that you'd be interested in the book Bill describes? Any additional ideas? Women, do you agree that you buy the books about sex, even (especially?) those for and about men?

Thanks, everyone!

-- Joan

5 comments:

  1. I can't see how a book on senior sex could NOT have male input. I would say that Bill B. is a rarer guy in that he is willing to educate himself for the betterment of the bedroom for all involved. I know that my dear hubby is one I would have to drag kicking and screaming to read such a book and forget the suggestion of going to a seminar!

    Sadly sex education was a big no no for most of the people who are now calling themselves seniors. The only book I had access to when I was a teen and wanted to learn about sex was The Naked Ape which has reprinted passages from Masters and Johnson's studies. It was incomplete to say the least, but at I was able to get the 'basics' from it.

    And how many senior couples are wiling to go into a 'sex shop' to find good references as well as 'assistance'?!? Bet you can count them on one hand.

    Good to hear that updates including more male input are in the works.

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  2. GratitudeJune 04, 2007

    I agree that most men will not read a book about sex, because that would imply that they need improvement. It's my experience that most -- not all but most -- men think they are just born knowing what to do in bed, and that reading or trying to improve sexual skills, or learning what that particular partner needs and wants, means they just aren't very masculine and are just generally not okay.

    But I think Joan should write this book about older men and sexuality anyway. Midlife men are going through a change too, though theirs is not as dramatic as menopause, and are in need of recognition and an intelligent discussion of older age sexual issues, just as we midlife women are. Joan has a way of communicating that I think many men can be comfortable with.

    I got most of my sex education from my dad's paperback novels: The Group by Mary McCarthy, Butterfield 8, and the James Bond books.

    It makes me so sad to hear from teenagers about the awful neo-conservative directed "sex education" they get nowadays! No information, just "there's no such thing as safe sex." It would be better for these poor young folks if there were simply no sex education in the schools at all!

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  3. Thanks for your remarks, they're appreciated.

    I saw in one comment ... "It's my experience that most -- not all but most -- men think they are just born knowing what to do in bed, and that reading or trying to improve sexual skills, or learning what that particular partner needs and wants, means they just aren't very masculine and are just generally not okay."

    I can understand where that might be how it looks, but it runs a lot deeper than that; maybe I can tell you how it feels to me.

    Ever since the Neolithic (give or take an era or two) families formed largely because a woman said 'yes' to a particular man. In most (I think) guys' eyes, particular is defined by the woman's definition of 'best provider' (or sometimes just 'best available').

    Now, since our culture has largely said it's the woman's choice; men are trying to figure out how to fit into her 'best whatever' definitions AS WE GUESS THEM! -- I sometimes wonder if statements of our expectations of one another are even more distrusted than an explanation of our absence on a given Thursday night. My point being that we each think we understand the others expectations, no matter how many times we may be shown or told otherwise.

    So anyway, we have this guy assuming he understands what miss right-now wants of a prospective mate. This is probably the basis for most romantic comedies, but let's move on. This guy postures, showing he has all the attributes HE'S sure she wants, and she receives or rejects or puts him in the 'maybe' pile according to whim, her present alcoholic consumption, or her serious consideration.

    If her reaction is one of the accepting ones, the relationship begins. OK, nothing new here, and I've probably bored you to read this far. The interesting thing here is that their assumptions about the others' expectations RARELY get compared; after all, if their assumptions were wrong, a relationship wouldn't have formed, right?

    It's 35 years later, and a whole lot of things have changed -- except for those nagging assumptions that are probably still out there. They're the cause of a lot of the fights you've had: "I thought you wanted it THAT way ..." or "Why don't you understand ... ?" -- assumptions.

    The reason why you see guys looking like they think they know everything is simple: guys think you want them to know everything and be a great provider. We're afraid that if you knew that we don't have all the answers, you'd pack up and leave with a 'better' man, and we'd be back on the streets trying out our latest assumptions of what women want. Sometimes, the brasher the presentation, the greater the fear.

    At least, that's what I assume the situation is.

    I think (assume?) most women buy the 'inside every guy is a boy running things' model of who 'men' are. I think there's a lot of truth to the idea; it certainly helps me excuse some of my more hair-brained ideas as 'boy-inspired'. The analogy applies further; boys have irrational fears. Men are afraid of losing women who wouldn't leave them until after the world ended. Sometimes the guys will go out and run around, just to remind themselves they're still desirable (sound a little familiar, ladies?) and sometimes they're the jealous rage types (see me) because we're pretty sure we couldn't do a damn thing to make you stay if you wanted to go, and are frustrated over our lack of control of something so dear to us.

    So it all comes down to this; we act like we know it all because we're afraid of YOUR image of us, not nearly so much our own.

    Of course, I say this so you'll all know how smart I am ...

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  4. I appreciate these comments -- what an interesting discussion!

    >We're afraid that if you knew that we don't have all the answers, you'd pack up and leave with a 'better' man, and we'd be back on the streets trying out our latest assumptions of what women want. Sometimes, the brasher the presentation, the greater the fear.

    Wow, Bill, I think you've hit something major here. Do you think it's too late (for those of us who are past midlife) to change that mindset, one person at a time?

    -- Joan

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  5. GratitudeJune 10, 2007

    A big THANK YOU to Bill for these comments, which are so insightful, explain a lot, and really got me thinking.

    I can definitely see sexuality with men in terms of providing pleasure, and I can understand men needing to come across as knowing what to do. (Now to put this new insight together with getting what I need too!)

    It’s so true that a lot of this is “wired” into us. Sex is not an intellectual activity. Sexual attraction is still, after about a million years of human evolution, a very gut level, visceral happening. With me I’m either attracted or I’m not, and my libido is not always so practical or well reasoned.

    I realized that I myself think it’s very sexy when a man appears to know what to do in bed. And I thought about, in these days of women having power and independence and running for president, how much I sometimes long to just be a girl.

    The feminist wave of the 70’s caught all of us up in one way or another and changed a lot of things in everyone’s lives. I was right there, rah rah, most of the time. But feminism neglected sex, and especially man woman relationship sex. The motivation behind getting us safe legal abortion and birth control for single women was to protect women's safety and health, and to provide us with more control over our own lives, not to allow women more opportunities for sexual pleasure. In fact being seductive and sexy was seen as traitorous back in the day.

    Feminism brought us a lot of advantages, but it neglected to take into account men’s emotional needs and neglected to realistically redefine the rules for men with any clarity. Feminism took away one form of -- for lack of a better word -- machismo and didn’t offer any good ideas about replacing it with another. Macho was just seen as wrong and bad, something to be done away with altogether. But as much as we wail about the darker side of machismo, as much as we make fun of its other aspects, men need to be macho in one way or another.

    Men’s issues need attention in the light of women’s new position in the social order. As a society, we need to acknowledge what men need to feel sexy and potent as males. We also need to get real about the things which aren’t going to change about men. (Most women if left to our own devices will come up with this vision of the man we want, who is really two or three men, one of them stereotypically gay, rolled into one.)

    Discussions like the one on this thread are really important. Bill pointed out how couples make assumptions about each other and never test them, and how men are continually guessing about what women want. Women are continually guessing about what men want too, believe me. Men and women may never totally understand each other, and that might be a good thing, but it seems to be up to our generation to find ways to make all of this easier. I think the separatist camps (the “women’s movement,” the “men’s movement”) have already served their purpose, and now men and women need to work this out together.

    What would happen if sex education material for hetero males were re-framed, like calling it something other than “sex education?” Then package it in a way that makes it appealing to men. (This will probably not be appealing to women.) If it’s books maybe have lots of pictures of hot naked bodies. Maybe things which involve using technology, my husband would love that. And if most men learn about sex from porn, as the author of the post that follows this one says, then why not have porn flavored videos and dvd’s about making love to women which take both gender’s real sexual needs and desires seriously?

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