Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Senior Sex Research: Here's what I'd like to know

When I started writing about senior sex in 2005, it was difficult to find studies about sex and aging. It's somewhat better now, though still limited. Researchers are more open to including our age group, but I wonder if they're asking the right questions.

I'm not looking for statistics, such as how many of us are having sex. Doesn't that depend on (a) how the researchers and the subjects define "having sex" and (b) whether we have what we need (partner, privacy, physical ability, emotional intimacy) to have the kind of sex we want?

I'd like to see research into how we think about sex now, what determines quality of sex, what's missing in our sexual worlds, what we're learning about sex and about ourselves during our later years.

So while we're waiting for the right research to be done, here are some questions for you if you're over 50, 60, 70 and beyond:

1. If a researcher asked if you are "sexually active," how would you answer? What would you mean by that answer?

2. How has the definition of "what is sex?" changed or evolved for you over time? What did it used to mean? What does it mean now? What made your definition change (if it changed)?

3. If you could be in any kind of sexual relationship you wanted, what would it be? Never mind how you might be judged -- what would be ideal for the real you, maybe the secret you?

4. What would you like to tell our society about sex and aging?


I asked the good folks who follow my Naked at Our Age Facebook page, "If researchers wandered over here to learn what studies we'd like to see conducted about sex and aging, what would you suggest?" Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Studies toward normalizing serial monogamous relationships. As we age, the chances are that we will lose our partner. When that happens, it should be easier to establish new relationships without feeling that we are betraying the partner who has died. We don't have to give up our former love in order to love another person. I think we can keep the truth and warmth of the past love, have an additional love or two, without feeling that we have violated the truth of the first. 
  • I'd love to see more of an in-depth study on how illness/ disability/ aging affect our sexuality and sex lives.
  • How about a serious, non-judgmental look at the multi-faceted, complicated reasons for diminished libido as we age? (hormonal, psychological, physiological) Why it affects some and not others and methods - again multi-faceted - for those who indeed want to revitalize their libido.
  • Can ingrained sexual scripts be changed enough so that new ways of "having sex" aren't seen as less satisfying than former ways? 
  • What is the most effective way to help older adults get on board with safer sex? 
  • The best ways to empower older adults to set, communicate, and respect sexual boundaries.
  • I'm fascinated by what seems to be a growing popularity of open marriages or open relationships in the over 50 crowd. Is this just anecdotal or have others noticed it too? 
  • Re-defining what "satisfying sex" is to align better with how bodies change with age. This could go hand-in-hand with the ever-popular yet hardly discussed question, "What is sex?" It can be so many things. 
  • Seniors discovering and accepting polyamory.

I'm eager to hear from you, whether you'd like to answer one of my questions or add to the list of what researchers should study. Please post a comment and include your real age. You can choose any name you want when you comment, so be creative and please choose something other than "Anonymous"! (Choose "Name/URL" from the comment drop-down menu. You can then type the name of your choice, and you do not need to include a URL.)

Let's keep talking. The conversation has just begun!



P.S. When I invite you to comment, I'm inviting you -- real people -- to share your personal views. I'm not inviting ads for escort services, ED "cures," porn sites, or other commercial enterprises. And I don't need to be told to repent -- not gonna happen. I shouldn't have to say any of this, but the number of comments I have to delete indicates otherwise. [I know, the trolls and robots aren't even reading this, but I have to try.]  

27 comments:

  1. Topaz age 72January 03, 2017

    I define sex as any activity that gets me excited and gives me an orgasm. So yeah, I'm having sex (with my vibrator). But to answer your #3, I wish I had a sexy, affectionate man or two who would visit me for special hours when we felt like it and then go away until we wanted each other again. I don't want a full-time relationship, but I sure would like a regular FWB (or two). These need to be men that I really enjoy as people, not just bodies.

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  2. Siouxie age 69. I'd love to see more emphasis on redefining sex. It doesn't have to include penetration, which can be problematical for seniors. I'd like for men to get the message that their erection doesn't make them a great lover: their attention to their partner does. I'd also like for everyone to get over the idea that vibrators and other aids are some kind of a cop-out instead of a wonderful adjunct to nature.

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  3. KC, male, 68. A big change for my wife of 44 years and I, is libido. Be it hormones or just physical desire, hers has dropped to zero while mine remains high. This being out of sync leaves me with delima... seek out other partners, or continue solo masturbation. Both resulting in terrible guilt feelings.

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  4. Wife and I have been married 56 years. She has always been a wonderful giving, lover. At about the age of 37 we decided to give the swinging lifestyle a try. After much discussion, attending clubs, etc we finally broke the ice and had sex with another couple. We have done that intermittently since. We are both now in our mid 70's, and still sexual but not anything like we once were, but it is still everybit as good as ever. She had breast cancer, one removed, but while her libido has certainly decreased, she seems to be able to will herself into the mood, so we still have sex about once a week. I have some erectile problems, but we do much of what is suggested in your book and frequently masturbate together which is surprisingly wonderful. We both have very intense orgasms. Not often, but we occasionally still invite a single guy to join us in the bedroom and that still is fun and seems to keep us turned on for days afterwards. We are in the process of reading to your book, about midway thru, and find it to be very insightful. She is still amazing and when she does get turned on, she is still orgasmic defying all of conventional wisdom that once through menopause things will not work.

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  5. I'm 71 and still love sex. I had an active sex life in my younger days but now I have ED and no erections. Mostly I give my partner cunnilingus, which we both love, while I masturbate to orgasm. It's all good, but I would like my partner of 14 years now to be more adventurous. I would very much like to be spanked, but she refuses. I would also like various other kinky stuff but she can't deal with that. I'm anxious to please her any way I can, but I feel she doesn't reciprocate, which I think is rather selfish. It's a major
    disappointment.

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  6. First, sorry, this is long. If I'm going to comment, I'm gonna do it all the way...

    1. If a researcher asked if you are "sexually active," how would you answer? What would you mean by that answer?

    Yes I am! After approximately 4 years without. I’ve entered into a “casual sex” relationship with a younger man, as in OMG I’m a Cougar! Proud and embarrassed and guilty all at the same time.


    2. How has the definition of "what is sex?" changed or evolved for you over time? What did it used to mean? What does it mean now? What made your definition change (if it changed)?

    Brought up in a strict Italian Roman Catholic environment, sex was just scary. Then it was special, but still something very intimate and part of a loving relationship.
    Now… Here I am engaging in casual sex. Who’d a thunk that would ever happen? While I love how his attention and interest has me feeling (not old and done anymore), there is a definite downside for me.
    What made it change? First, there was an attraction and I fantasized about him, for about two freaking years! Then, we exchanged phone numbers and it progressed from there. I found out that the attraction was mutual and he’d been fantasizing also along with hints that went totally over my head. DUH! However, I really struggle with the “casual” sex-just-because-it-feels-good aspect of this relationship. I set the ground rules – I like my life how it is, the freedom, no one else to take care of or worry about. Eat what I want when I want. He responded he didn’t have a time for a girlfriend. Then I amazed myself by grabbing his shirt and hauling him in to my bedroom saying “let’s do this and get it over with”. VERY bold for me! In hindsight, I think I set those rules to protect myself – no promises + no expectations = no hurt or disappointment.

    3. If you could be in any kind of sexual relationship you wanted, what would it be? Never mind how you might be judged -- what would be ideal for the real you, maybe the secret you?

    A loving sexual relationship is still what makes my skirt fly up. This new relationship has led me to discover that I like to be taken by the hand and led. He can lead me just about anywhere and I’d follow; as long as it’s not up to me in the first place. This casual sex stuff is exciting, but it’s also nerve-wracking. I want to be made love to, not fucked because we’re horny. Casual is all about the sex, right? Lately I’ve felt … I’m not sure what it is, performance anxiety? Guilt? Embarrassment? This “relationship is still new (under 4 months), and I have tried so damn hard to step outside of my comfort zone (even my fantasies are G rated porn). Our most recent encounter went like this: I went out and bought lube (after chickening out earlier in the day)! I watched porn and got myself so very worked up. I “sexted” and told him to get over here and meet me in the shower. Then just about threw up with anxiety over what I’d started. We still had some great sex, but no orgasm for me. My body just went numb on me. I can’t begin to describe what that’s done for my confidence. I’m seriously considering calling it all off and just telling him I can’t do casual, I’m just not wired for that.

    4. What would you like to tell our society about sex and aging?

    Redefining sexual boundaries later in life can be hard. Introducing lube or toys is a huge step for me. I have a vibrator, and admitted it to him. He wants to meet BOB and I adamantly refuse. Just can’t go there yet, but want to be able to. Getting over the upbringing most of us experienced (Good girls just don’t!) can be a monumental hurdle. Overall, I’m very glad that I’ve made some progress. I feel sexy again. I feel not so old anymore, and I feel desirable. The “exercise” is good for me too. He’s very, very good for my ego and self-esteem. I just have to come to terms somehow with letting go of outdated (olde fashioned) notions and enjoy sex for what it is – a natural act between two consenting adults. That’s a tough one with my upbringing.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cougar, thank you for answering with such detail. I know that your story will resonate with many women of our generation who struggle between the rules we were taught and the desire for sexual abandon.

      Can you talk to your lover about what you've expressed here? Or let him read this? I don't know that the problem is that you're "wired" for casual as much as that maybe you want it and feel ashamed of or not entitled to your desires. Since you say your lover is "very, very good for my ego and self-esteem," how about having a heart-to-heart talk with him. He may be confused, too, because he doesn't know what your boundaries are. (Sex in the shower, yes; meeting your sex toy, no...)

      Overall, it sounds positive to me that you're exploring your desires and questioning the old rules. But it needs to make YOU happy, and I can't tell if the anxiety outweighs the pleasure.

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    2. Typo: I meant "I don't know that the problem is WHETHER you're "wired" for casual..."

      Delete
  7. What is sex for older married couples?

    Dan, M68, Married a decade (in the church).

    1. Sexually Active? Yes. 1x or 2x or 3x a week; once with my wife at home; and twice with “our” girlfriend at her place. Complete honesty and transparency. And, as a mature man, I don’t always come with intercourse; at home or abroad. I sometimes finish manually; with her; on her. And I sometimes use a knockoff Viagra or Cialis in order to go longer; six hours is good. You have to call the doctor after four? I don’t think so.

    2. What is sex? Getting naked; making out, heavy petting, intercourse, conversation; outercourse, main course. All is good. Yes, all things sexual have changed after age 60.

    3. If you could be in any kind of sexual relationship you wanted what would it be? Married a decade and madly, equally hot for each other 3x week. Married a decade we got real and read Mating In Captivity by Perel; then More Than Two by Veaux; then The Poisoning of Eros by Lawrence.

    4. What would you like to tell our society about sex and aging? Id say: "Stupid people give up. Don’t be stupid."

    ….
    Poly for the dead?--We put in our Advance Directive for Health Care:

    “Hey kids. Dad started getting old, demented, distant, limp. He told mom years ago to get a boyfriend if he ever started failing in the bedroom. She listened. I hope you will, too. Get over it. I want her happy! Stop judging her. It’s what I wanted and still want; I’m smiling from heaven. And, by the way, I’m naked. Oh shock. “
    --Dad

    Libido—As a guy my libido was set at 3x week; hers 3x month. She let me have a girlfriend; and I reciprocated. Problem solved. We taught our kids to share, right? Now we do. And, her libido went up BTW. Nice. I win twice!

    Safer Sex –Wake up. Use a condom! Get tested. Treat your friends like they matter.

    Communication—Talk. Often. Transparency, honesty or nothing. If you are going to be naughty, be ethically naughty. And talk about jealous feelings; you will always have them.

    Boundaries—If I can’t trust your No? I’ll never be able to trust your Yes!

    Open Marriage—King David did it and I love his Psalms. I’m not out as poly; but I’m certainly in. We read all the books; talked about it for a year; dove into the pool. It’s not easy but it is good. Do read The Poisoning of Eros by Raymond Lawrence, 1989.
    Satisfying Sex—The connection is the key. I’ve/we’ve had sex for hours and never come. Get over what Hollywood told you. If I come on Monday and she comes on Tuesday? Still good.

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  8. I'm a 71 yr old male. My wife passed away a few years ago, and I'm in a monogamous relationship with a woman my age. With the help of Cialis, and lubrication, we are Sexually active, meaning erection, vaginal penetration, usually no orgasm, but great satisfaction. We give each other orgasms manually. We enjoy vaginal penetration several times a day when together, usually 4-5 days a week, and orgasms once every 2-3 days. We both say this is the most satisfying sex we've ever experienced. We appreciate this service you are providing the senior community, and send our thanks

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  9. i wish i could relate to all you seniors with a sexual appetite. I have none. I'm female, married x 28 years. monogamous. I hate sex and stopped having sex 2.5 years ago. Sex was never "for me". It's something i did to please my partners throughout my life. it was almost always (except before age 25) a chore, a task, a job to get over with. i feel bad for my husband, who remains with me but isn't happy.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous from Jan.30: Thank you for pointing out that not all seniors are enthusiastic about sex or even interested in it. Have you relaxed your monogamy agreement so that your husband can seek sex elsewhere while remaining in your marriage? Or is he required to be sexless also?

      I don't mean this as a challenge -- it's a sincere question, because this issue comes up a lot. Usually I hear from spouses whose partners no longer want sex and expect them to do without, too. They're conflicted and miserable because they don't want to break the monogamy agreement and cheat, but they can't bear to give up sex forever, along with the intimacy that comes with it.

      Would you be willing to let me use your comment (and mine) in a separate blog post? It's such an important issue and I'd like to focus some discussion on it. Since you posted your comment publicly, I can go ahead with this idea if you don't check back and respond, but I'd like to offer you the courtesy of checking with you.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for asking. This issue has caused me terrible anguish anxiety and guilt. In part I hate sex because my partner and I are sexually incompatible and have always been. We've had lots of counselling, as recent as 1 year ago. The advice: separate. Neither of us want to get divorced. I have not given my partner permission to go outside the marriage. He would have to divorce me. I just think sex is completely irrelevant and unimportant, and wish my partner thought the same. For the record: I've been told I'm attractive. I am fit, athletic, active, no medications or medical issues, have lots of friends, lots of interests. Sex disgusts me, and the thought of it makes me highly anxious. I would be interested to read your blog about this, to know if I am the only person on the planet who feels this way. It's a lonely topic, I can't talk about it with anyone.

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    3. Anonymous from Jan.30, I'd like to be able to contact you via email before I write a post about your topic. Please email me at joan[atsign]joanprice[dot]com and let me know how to get in touch with you. Thanks.

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  10. I'll be 75 this March. Last partner was half my age, I was 56 and she 28. She cheated on me, we broke up. I've had no intercourse since November, 1999.

    Tried dating sites but they restrict the age match ups. Not attracted to old women who's granchildren are the most important thing in their lives or want to go on cruises or have walks on the beach, etc.

    My libido is still quite high, wake up with errections from hot dreams a lot, masturbate most every night, and a generous massage therapist provides successful "happy endins" to our sessions orally.

    While I have met some women over 50 who were attractive most all seem to be hung up on their grand children and have low sex drives. They seem quite fragile.

    I ride a motorcycle, fly large kites, play frisbee, etc. and have a difficult time relating to the "senior" cliches. Perhaps I am too imprinted on younger women whose ebergy level is more adventurous as most of the couple of hundred I've been with have all been 30 or younger.

    Living off the grid in the country on acreage doesn't help the dating scene. Any insights?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. Give women our age a chance. 30-year-old women aren't interested in men 2.5 times their age (unless there's a financial incentive). At my last dating workshop, women outnumbered men 10 to 1. The women were active, smart, clever, sassy, and sexy. And they're wondering where to meet men like them.

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    2. Thanks for at least replying. I don't know where you have your work shops but in the White Mountains of AZ it is bereft of those women who are attendees.

      I have given "women our age a chance" and shared the results above. I hoped you would address my issue more equal in temperment and logic. Being "sexy" is not the same as being sexual. One is cosmetic and role playing, the other is a natural urge from loving men.

      Since there is no way to really communicate at a higher level here in a comment box I will thank you for your time.

      Delete
  11. Today I heard your comments in my ears when I was with a group of women "older" and they were talking about their grandchildren. Maybe you need to find someone below your age 65 to 70 years young and try that age group. On dating sites I have had a few dates after I weeded out the liars or the ones that weren't my kids ages late 30's that lie on these sites.There is someone out there for you they say when you least expect it you meet someone.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry about the late reply. Thanks for your advice. In my life experience I was an exlporer of reality and consciousness living off the grid before it was known there was a grid �� This means no family, boats, vacations abroad, etc. While this was very attractive to younger woman, older woman wanted the conventional house, kids, etc. so I wound up with lots of smart, creative, fun women, many in year or more long relationships.

      Living out of the main stream means a lack of shared experiences leading to certain matchups of convenience or focus. As the years went by and young women became shallower and shallower following pop culture values and phony feminist values of being anti men and not pro women a vast gap appeared.

      Now this is coming from a man who covered the first Women Take Back the Night march for KPFA radio and was a Bay Area supporter of the original feminist movement, not the CIA sponcered one.

      The market for compatible women is quite thin up here. I guess a 75 yo creative, intelligent, stable (financially and psychologically) bohemian is just not attractive.

      While I do see attractive, say 60 year old women, they are very conservative and don't give a well groomed, long haired, goateed, smiling faced guy a look. I am playing my music out again, maybe that will be the glue? ��

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    2. You are selling yourself short didn't you ever hear the story "don't judge a book by it's cover" but I still feel you need to get yourself out there and you never know. Best of luck to you.

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  12. Here's another perspective. I'm 65,and while I do talk about my grandchildren and daughter sometimes,I also talk about many other things,such as progressive politics,literature,nature,and music. I continue my long-time activism,teach part-time,am working on several writing projects,exercise,and am interested in other people. I'm a widow and have had one relationship with another widower my age; although we had many things in common and laughed a lot,and the sex was great,it turned out he had a major gambling addiction,which he hid very well.He had trouble keeping agreed-upon dates,let alone making a commitment...The 3 men I've dated since then,whom I met online after very careful screening and talking on the phone before meeting in person,were on paper 98-99% compatible. In person,though,they wanted to have antagonistic "debates" and had hidden anger problems. It also turned out I was much more stable and fiscally responsible than they were (I've paid off my mortgage on the house I've lived in for 25 years and live modestly and within my means)which they seemed to resent. I've about given up trying to find someone who can truly participate in an equal partnership,with shared responsibilities and goals.

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    Replies
    1. Compatibility on paper (or on the screen) is a great initial screening, but you're right, people's dark sides emerge once you get to know them. I recommend meeting someone fairly quickly so that these problems come out sooner than later. Don't give up! I'm giving my "How the Heck Do I Date at This Age?" webinar on 3.5.17 -- can you attend? Are you on my newsletter subscriber list? http://eepurl.com/cx2Nab

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    2. Of those last 3 I mentioned,there were between 1 and 3 platonic dates.I try to give people a chance,but I see your point.

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    3. I place a high priority on my emotional and physical safety.

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    4. This sort of discussion about fears are so far from my reality that I don't get it. Just how bad of a world do you live in because stuff like that never crosses my path? Some sort of big city condition? Is it that way for younger women too?

      Thanks

      Delete
    5. Violence against women is a huge problem nationally and internationally. You said above you "covered the first Take Back the Night March for KPFA radio." These nationwide marches focused on street violence (I participated in the late 1970s); women are also at risk in the home,as children and adults,regardless of whether or not we live in rural,urban,or suburban areas. Our Bodies,Ourselves would be a good place to start to learn more about this huge problem. I was a contributor to the 40th anniversary edition. Check out the book or the website.

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  13. Sex to me has a different meaning. It includes self pleasuring, partner sex with internal and external stimulation, heavy petting, intimate conversation that is positive.

    I am now sexually active via self pleasuring. I have relearned this since undergoing pelvic floor therapy for a medical issue. As a former non I never connected the vaginal issues (what? the pee and poop functions are right there with the sex function-duh). So after doing my proscribed exercises, I naturally proceed to the self gratification)

    What would be my ideal love? I fantasize sex with a partner, hopefully a man, who is gentle, patient, non judgmental, and willing to help me come to orgasm, even if needing to include a vibrator or clitoral pump. I imagine sex would be more fulfilling with a partner.

    I would like be to see research conducted on older adults, especially people like me, who are older yet inexperienced (virgins or virginal in experience).

    ReplyDelete

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-- Joan