Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Daring to Date Again by Ann Anderson Evans

3/11/15 update: This Sunday, March 15, I'll have the pleasure of being on a panel with Ann Anderson Evans called "Never Too Late to Date" at the Tucson Festival of Books. I'm moving this post, originally published 11/13/14, to the top so that you all know about Ann's book and our discussion of safer sex:

When a sixty-year-old, twice-divorced woman starts to date again, she's not pinning her hopes on an invitation to the prom. She is financially stable and professionally creditialed. She is a matriarch, a pillar of her church, a member of a choir. She has children and neighbors who might disapprove. She has a lot at stake.

So begins Daring to Date Again, a lusty memoir by Ann Anderson Evans about looking for romp-in-the-hay partners after 12 years of celibacy.

Evans is smart, sassy, articulate, and a darned good writer, pulling you right into her adventures. You’ll laugh, empathize, and sometimes worry as she jumps into bed with her Mr. Right-for-the-Moment parade. She wears her heart on her sleeve—or she wears nothing at all—and we share her adventures, her thoughts, her desires, and her evolution from repressed and unhappy to evolved, sexy, and joyful.

Evans finds many men who are interested in having no-strings sex with her, but towards the end of the book, she wonders whether true love even exists -- and if so, where is it hiding? I'm not ruining the book by telling you that she meets Terry -- a fellow professor and a bachelor at 63. They fall in love and marry. But that's not until the last chapter!

I enjoyed this well-written book, and I recommend it to you, whether you're exploring sexual possibilities yourself or you just want to share her escapades vicariously.

However! As a safer-sex advocate, I was concerned because there was no mention of safer sex or any discussions of condom use with the men Evans bedded. I questioned her -- no, they never used protection. Then I challenged her to explain her decision(s). She wrote this to me:

Joan chided me for not mentioning safe sex in Daring to Date Again. Logic suggests that simply interrogating a man regarding his sexual health is not sufficient protection, but that is what I relied upon. Why was I more concerned about cleaning the chopping block after cutting up chicken than about having unprotected sex? Why would I maintain the prophylactic habits of regular dental visits and colonoscopies, and yet have unprotected sex? Good question, Joan.

Indulgence was part of it. Pregnancy had been such a persistent worry when I was a young woman that having sex spontaneously was a joy. It was like winning the lottery.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, I was taught either nothing or nonsense about sex. The bogus teachings were embedded in religion. “Chastity is the cement of civilization,” I read in the Christian Science scriptural companion, the Science & Health, when I was a student in a Christian Science college. I closed that book and have never reopened it.

The nonsense of the times I grew up in was also embedded in school. My only sex education was a couple of gender-divided classes in 7th grade that explained menstruation twinned with the unforgettable fact that when we brushed our teeth we should also be careful to brush our tongues. I was stunned when I got pregnant at 18. I thought I had to want to become pregnant in order to be so.

Between the church and school, I felt manipulated, demeaned, and endangered. Many of those who matured in the 60s rose up in mighty defiance of the bullying traditions of ignorance. In answering Joan’s challenge, I am surprised at my resurgence of anger when I think back.

Perhaps unconsciously, I placed barrier protection during sex in the basket which also included the bogus virtues of chastity, heterosexuality, sitting primly with your legs crossed, wearing a girdle, avoiding nudity, and virginity upon marriage. These virtues are so often ignored that they can only be seen as vacuous wishes. My failure to protect myself was a visceral, instinctive, and senseless act of defiance.

I take responsibility for my own actions, but it would have been helpful if the doctors (including gynecologists) had asked me if I was sexually active during that time. One general practitioner did ask me, and when I told him I had had sex with four men within the last two years he sidestepped the issue, saying, “I think you should talk to your gynecologist about that.”

I sympathize with the doctors. Discussions of sex with patients are probably minefields of religion, politics, family tradition, and personal history. But the medical profession has obviously given up the fight. How often do you see an ad for condoms displayed in your doctor’s office alongside the latest drug for depression or high blood pressure?

I felt embattled during my three years of promiscuity. Not one of the men I was involved with ever mentioned using a condom. If any of them had one in their pocket, they didn’t mention it. Joan might be better equipped to say whether men are just as likely as women to insist on condom use. In my experience, this has not been the case.

The problem of unprotected sex is far more pervasive than that of a single American raised before the Enlightenment. Our failure to identify and rectify the sociological, psychological, historical, and political reasons why people do not use condoms or other barriers has guaranteed that AIDS and other STDs continue worldwide. Saying the answer is education is simplistic. Why we don’t use them is baffling. The reason begins in the outside world of church, school, family, and government policy and all of these play themselves out in the bedroom.

Thank you, Ann, for your eloquent explanation. I can't help hoisting my 4'10" self up onto my soapbox again to remind my readers: Have all the fun you want, but please have it safely!

Ann Anderson Evans - Daring to Date AgainListen to Evans read an excerpt from Daring to Date Again here.


  1. I can so relate to this author's decision to find love again and to try it online! I set out on a similar adventure when I turned 60 and ended up having an wonderful adventure with a great guy...and then also writing a book about it! It seems there are many of us out there and I applaud anyone who is willing to share their experiences and hope with others. Life is just too darn short...and getting be afraid of social repercussions. I echo what Joan says, "Have fun, but be safe!"

    1. Mindy's book is Lube of Life
      A Tribute to Sex, Love, and the Pursuit of Happiness in the Boomer Age. Thanks, Mindy! I need to do a roundup of boomer and senior sex & dating books -- there are several that I haven't reviewed.

    2. Thank you for the shout-out, Joan! And thanks for giving me the courage to move forward in my own dating life. I read your books quite a few years ago and that led me to the realization that there is love after midlife! You carry a powerful message.

  2. Absolutely 'Have fun but be safe ', and mature sex without physical barriers is so much more free, spontaneous and creative without having to think condom/femidom.
    But the obvious alternative to 'protection' -- to me at least as a sexually-active 65-year-old man -- is to be STD-tested regularly, so you can say clearly to any prospective lover that you take sexual health, both your own and theirs, seriously.
    My advice would be that if you're planning to set off on the path of sexual exploration, and what a very rewarding one it can be, you owe it to yourself and your potential lovers to know your STD status. That in itself is reassuring, rewarding -- and responsible. And in my experience it encourages my lovers to take the same active interest in their sexual health.
    John in faraway Stroud, England.

    1. sexygenarians, I appreciate your comment. But I have to disagree -- getting tested but continuing to have unprotected sex does not protect you or your partners, and only reveals your status of 3-6 months earlier. I've written a lot about this -- I hope you'll read the safer sex chapter of Naked at Our Age, for example. Barrier protection can be eroticized and does not need to detract from the sexual experience. Truly!

    2. Hi Joan -- I have indeed read that important chapter, and absolutely agree that barrier protection can be an important part of the erotic -- and trust-creating -- getting to know a lover. But -- like Ann -- I bet you that the vast majority of older people who become lovers neither practice safe sex, nor even want to risk communicating with each other about it. That's the perfect breeding ground for STIs, and the perfect way to scupper finding the reward in mature shared sex.
      Maybe I overstressed knowing ones STI/STD status -- it is important, and if you're being sexually active with different partners I'd advocate testiing every 9-12 months, and/or if you think you may have put yourself at risk and/or have any symptoms (and important of course to know what they look like!).
      But knowing your status is only part of being responsible. Making sure that you have protection available when it looks as though fluid-sharing with a new partner might be imminent is another -- both partners should ideally think about this in advance. More important than anything, though, is talking about safe sex before doing potentially unsafe sex. I know this goes against the convention of sex being something that tends to 'just happen' when you're both in the right mood, but making sure you've talked about it is vitally important both to your sexual health and to the level of honesty and trust in the burgeoning relationship.
      So you're right Joan -- barriers, especially in first sexual sharings, are key. But barriers, known STI/STD status, talking about safe sex (including both people's recent and other current sexual partners) are all important elements of enjoying physically and emotionally safe sex. And much much better than -- as I'm pretty sure most often happens in the Real World -- just doing it and hoping that all will be okay.
      At least at our age we don't run the accidental risks of becoming parents again :-)

    3. I don't think that any STD tests diagnose HPV in men, which can be easily passed to a partner and possibly result in cervical cancer.

  3. Sounds like a fun read...having been there myself I can relate. Thanks for the review and the nudge to readers to think about protect from sexually transmitted infections.

  4. Ann certainly hit on some good points in her response to you. The pure joy of uninhibited sex in our later years can be refreshing, liberating and just plain fun. In a way it can almost be a right of passage after years of responsibility, monogamy and then, for some of us, inevitable celibacy due to circumstance. Becoming sexually active again, awakening those buried feelings and desires can be and is exciting, and different than when younger partly hecause the "head games" aren't there anymore. And maybe because we have finally been able to lose the stigma that sex means "bad", at least that was firmly imbedded in me in early years. Not just growing up in small town prairie, but as a young adult. Those who "experimented" were whispered about.

    Embarking on my sexual of adventure of late (started age 64) I was concerned about my sexual health. Once my initial partner nd i started to expand our sexual horizons we talked about it. I have since observed that, and yes there are exceptions of course, but for the most part it is the woman's responsibility. Which ticks me off because growing up in the 60's birth control seemed to fall on the shoulders of the woman. I could go on and on about that, but will spare you.

    So, I have my very own box of condoms. My incredible fwb partner gave them to me, very gallant of him, esp since he is very much encouraging our "exploration" together. Problem is, as our men age something happens to their little guys and it seems they are so much happier just curling up in their little nest and chilling out. That makes the use of a condom less than fun as, although little guy can get nice and strong it appears to be an effort to stay that way. I have no problem with that. I love my older men and wouldn't trade them in for a younger model ever. The whole package works for me and we have loads of fun in spite. However, that loose condom on a semi hard ....... spoils the mood, big time.

    I talked to my doctor and get tested regularly now. That was almost overwhelming. I had noticed that for about the past four years my doctor had not asked about my sex life during my annual exam, no doubt because he was aware of my situation and relatively certain I was not sexually active. So, I brought the subject up on my own. He didn't miss a beat, ordered some test, examined me, counselled I get an hepatitis shot etc. But, and I don't think this is my imagination, our relationship has changed. It is just different now, a bit distant. I mentioned this to fwb partner who coincidentally has same family doctor and he replied "well, he's looking after you now". Like he wasn't before, but I knew what he meant.

    Mature sex, as beautiful and fun as we make it, is different. We have to become quite forgiving and Plan B is often utilized. We know about being responsible and we know about protection, it's just that it can be a reminder of days gone by when an erection was as easy as turning on a light switch. That would be why, unless I were to have that uneasy feeling about someone or he has spent the previous half hour listing all off his conquests, I will opt to go au natural. And go visit Doc.

  5. Many thanks to those of you who are making such thoughtful comments. Getting this kind of conversation going is a strong reason why I do this work!

  6. I have sex with one man until that sex partnership ends. I'm not interested in polyamorous sex myself. But if my partner at the time is polyamorous, then we have "3rd base" sex -- all the kissing and fondling above and below the belt, but no sharing of juices.

    If I'm with a man where we commit to monogamy, then we do the 3rd base love making for three months while we wait for that time to pass so we can get STD tested. When the tests come back clear, we go for it! If my partner comes back with something like herpes, we use a condom.

    I'm really happy with this flexible and safe set of standards because we can have fun depending on what the situation is. I consider anything that revs my engine to be sex!

  7. Miriam, age 61November 14, 2014

    Forgot my age…..

    1. For the sake of clarity, which is important for safe sex…when we aren't doing penetrative sex, the kissing is above the belt and the fondling is above and below the belt. Let your fingers do the walking!

  8. I only know many young people dare to sex date to protect from sexually transmitted infections. And mostly of senior people know about this, but I don't think this is the reason that they dare to date again, the main reason is that they were suffering from the hurt of the past and they always consider of their age.

  9. I loved her book; but had similar concerns about condoms and such, as you Joan; wrote about it in my Amazon Review:

    "I gave Daring To Date Again a four rather than a five stars for personal reasons more than the work. I wanted her to stay true to her hot sex quest even after she turned the corner to wanting the hot love part more. She tells of a serious time with a limp dick diabetic who is a jewel of a human being but sex handicapped by health. But even this is a key part of her love tale.

    I did want more details along the way on how her adult children viewed her journey; and I did want more nasty details of the drippy messiness of the sex. I also wanted to know what she did or didn't do around STIs and condoms and lovers who had other lovers, and getting tested before bareback sex, for example. This weakness made it more of a chick book than a guy book, which I missed. Yet this work is a quick read that will give many hope.
    Yes, more details of the drippy and not so drippy/condom sex; the messiness of the CONVERSATION about safe sex. A man that doesn't have one in his pocket is either arrogant or a dumb ass. Says this man.
    -Dan, 67


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-- Joan