Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dr. Ruth on Sex After 50, by Sally Wendkos Olds

When my friend and writing colleague Sally Wendkos Olds wrote me that she heard Dr. Ruth Westheimer speak in New York City, I invited Sally to write a guest post  about it. Enjoy! -- Joan

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, age 83, 2011
Photo by Sally Dougan
What a treat I had last night – hearing the 83-year-old zesty, wise, and funny Dr. Ruth Westheimer hold forth on the topic of her 2005 book, Dr. Ruth’s Sex After 50: Revving Up The Romance, Passion & Excitement! Her talk was presented by the New York City chapter of The Transition Network, a wonderful national organization for women over 50.

You can enjoy sex until you’re 99 years old! Dr. Ruth proclaimed. (“Why not 100?” I should have asked.) Just keep her words of wisdom in mind:
  • Intercourse is not the whole story – you can achieve sexual satisfaction in other ways. 
  • Post-menopausal women: For intercourse, use a lubricant so that sex will not be painful. If you have pain despite this, see your gynecologist. 
  • Men: If you no longer have a psychogenic erection (one that comes with just thinking about sex), you need direct physical stimulation. Both you and your partner need to know this. 
  • Both sexes: Take advantage of morning erections to have the best sex – don’t wait for night-time. Instead, get a good night’s sleep, wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, turn off your phones, and hop back into bed. Men who don’t have morning erections: see a urologist. 
  • Men who tend to rush into intercourse and then fall asleep immediately afterwards: Remember that the arc of women’s arousal is slower than yours, and take time to bring her to readiness – and then afterwards, if you feel yourself getting sleepy, prick yourself a little with a pin to stay awake so you can hold her and cuddle. 
  • Women: Take responsibility for your own sexual satisfaction. Teach your partner what you need, not necessarily in words but in ways that make your desires clear. 
  • When about to embark on a new sexual relationship, use condoms – or agree with your partner that before sexual activity you will both be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Once you’re both given a good report, keep the relationship exclusive. 
  • Condoms: Men: practice putting one on in front of the mirror when you’re alone, and women: learn how to help him put it on. 
  • When to keep your mouth shut: When you’re having fantasies about other partners or remembering old lovers – your present partner does not need to hear about them. 
  • When to keep your mouth open: When you want to give oral sex, which can be done at a time when you don’t expect, plan, or need your own orgasm. Simultaneity is over-rated – you can take turns. 
  • In front of the mirror, pick out something you do like about your body. To enjoy sex you have to feel desirable, so don’t sabotage yourself by focusing on what you don’t like. 
  • In the Jewish tradition, married men have the obligation to provide sexual satisfaction to their wives, even after menopause, thus confirming that sex is not only for procreation – but also for recreation. 
  • If you have teenagers at home, don’t wait for them to go to sleep – teens never sleep. Instead, go out to a motel for a few hours where you can have total privacy. 

Dr. Ruth has a turtle collection: A turtle is well protected in its shell, she says, as long as it stands still. But if it wants to move, it needs to stick its neck out, to take a risk. So that’s what moving ahead demands – sticking your neck out, taking a risk, and when things don’t work out, shrugging your shoulders and moving on.

 So here’s to moving on!

Sally Wendkos Olds has written extensively about intimate relationships, personal growth, and developmental issues throughout the life cycle, and has won national awards for both her book and magazine writing. In addition to her classic, The Complete Book of Breastfeeding, first published in 1972 and revised for its fourth edition in 2010, she is the author of ten other books, including Super Granny: Great Stuff to Do with Your Grandkids. She is currently writing a book for people whose life partner died a year or more ago.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hollywood Sex Wars: If this is young sex, I’m glad I’m old.

Hollywood Sex Wars is a hideous film. I detest these stereotypes:
  • Women are big-breasted lust machines, willing to do whatever it takes to please men as long as money and/or gifts are bestowed in exchange. 
  • Men are sex-crazed animals who don’t want relationships, just a quick get-in, get-off, get-her-outa-here, tell-the-guys. 
If this is young sex, I’m glad I’m old.

The plot is a 14-year-old boy’s wet dream – plenty of nipple shots, obscenities, drugs, and ordinary guys getting the hottest girls. FYI, despite the profusion of bare, jiggling, surgically (or digitally) enhanced breasts, penises are always off-camera, unless you count a couple of dildos.

I can only imagine the effect of the denigration of women’s looks on an impressionable, self-conscious teenage girl. Average-sized breasts are unsexy. Fuller sized bodies are unsexy. Average looks are ugly. The guys are far from dashing, but those who understand the attraction of money and drugs will score anyway. Yecchhh. Both genders are equally degraded.  

Typical lines from the movie:
  • “We don’t want girlfriends, we want to bang hot chicks.” 
  •  “Although girls want to get fucked and do drugs, you have to trick them into it.” 
  • “Hone your inner pig.” 
  • “The women we’re after are money grabbing hos.” 
  • (One woman to another:) “You like to fuck and party, don’t you? Those are marketable skills, and totally tax-free.” 
Ghastly, isn’t it? The girls barter gifts for sex (stripper shoes = a blow job; shoes costing over $500 = he gets laid). The boys learn to use cocaine to attract the hotties. Both genders are equally duplicitous and manipulative.

Shortly into the movie, I wanted to turn it off, write my review based on 15 minutes, and move on to work that didn’t leave the taste of dog poop in my mouth. But I wanted to see Fabio, the only person of our generation who, I discovered close to the end of the film, has ten seconds and one line in the entire movie. Totally not worth it.

The worst moment (of nothing but bad moments) for me as a sex educator is when one boy describes how he cuts a hole in the condom so that it rides up and away as the friction proceeds. By the time she knows, he pretends he’s so big that it broke. This is followed by a brief safe sex warning, which is undermined by everything else in the film. When one girl finds herself pregnant, for example, she hits up maybe a dozen sperm shooters for abortion funds.

Of course one couple falls in love despite the training from their homies, with sweet background music, walks in the park, posing with statues, you get the picture. Equally predictably, their pals manipulate the dissolution of their relationship. I won’t tell you how that ends, because, frankly, who cares?

If more than five people see this despicable, reeking repository of vomit-worthy stereotypes, I’ll have failed in my duty to inform you.

So why am I, a senior sex writer with a reputation to uphold, using my precious time and yours to review this loser film that none of you will ever see (please promise me that)?

Hollywood Sex Wars was a reminder to me that if we’re to have a chance of changing our society’s view of older-age sexuality, we have to counsel young people about theirs. Who better to help young folks put relationships and sexuality in perspective than those of us who have been around the block and figured out our own sexuality and self-image at age 20, 40, 60, and beyond.

Will they want to talk sex with us? Surely not at first, but if we continue to be outgoing, candid, and respectful of ourselves and them (something the movie doesn’t even pretend to do) then we have a chance.

Thank you, Hollywood Sex Wars, for reminding me what we have to fight against.

I’d love to read comments from both my age and much younger. Tell me, have I done more harm than good by giving Hollywood Sex Wars the publicity of my review? Should I have listened to a friend of mine, who said, when I invited him to watch this movie with me:

I want to thank you for the invitation, but after watching the trailer, I decline. And I don't know that your name should be heard anywhere near this movie.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Older Women Wear Lingerie Revisited

  I wrote "Older Women Wear Lingerie" in 2009 about my photo shoot at age 65 with photographer Ruth Lefkowitz. It was a liberating experience, both during the shoot -- I had no idea how much fun it would be to disrobe and flaunt my underwear in front of a camera! -- and afterwards, when I viewed the photos.

Two years later, I knew I looked older. Grief ages us, and I could see it in my face. I had stopped coloring my hair. My skin was looser, more wrinkly. My thighs and fanny were bigger.

But I felt beautiful, because I've really internalized the message I keep communicating to you:

We don't have to buy into our youth-obsessed society's view that only young, firm, fertile bodies are sexy and alluring. We are beautiful, handsome, sexy at our age.

That statement is true for you, too, no matter how many wrinkles or extra pounds you see in the mirror. It doesn't matter.

If you accept yourself, enjoy yourself, and feel sexy within, it will show. 

Ready to walk my talk (or pose my talk, more accurately),  I approached Ruth about doing a repeat of our photo shoot, with new lingerie, a new attitude, and two more years under my belt -- I mean camisole.

She said yes. We did it two weeks ago.

Again, I loved the experience. We laughed, we romped, I posed, she clicked the camera.

 I am delighted to share our photos with you today, on my 68th birthday.

If you live in Sonoma County, CA, and would like to talk to Ruth about doing your own lingerie photo shoot, please email me and I'll forward your email to her.

As always, I welcome your comments! How would you feel about posing in lingerie?

Ruth Lefkowitz is fascinated by how the camera captures spirit, beauty and style in a magical instant. She especially enjoys photographing the female figure--a subject of art through the ages--to create images that capture and preserve a bit of a woman's inner life. In her day job, Ruth is the chef and owner of Ruthy's Real Meals, a high quality, organic and locally sourced meal delivery service in Sonoma County, CA.

Thank you, Rae

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