Friday, April 27, 2012

"Outstanding Self-Help Book" says ASJA about Naked at Our Age

Photo by Dorri Olds
 I wrote in an earlier post that Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex won the outstanding service (which means self-help) book award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), the nation's professional organization of independent nonfiction writers.

Last night, I received the award in person at the ASJA conference in New York City.The award was introduced with these quotes from the judges:

Naked At Our Age: it's a disarming title, so appropriate to a topic that's often ignored -- senior sex. Forget "don't ask, don't tell." Joan reached out to older men and women, straight and gay. Boy, did they ask, and wow! did Joan tell.

 Joan is a recognized sexuality expert*, so of course her book provides educational and heartfelt advice about sex (including some very personal and moving reflections). 

If you're thinking, "been there, read that," think again. Joan isn't afraid of opening the reader's mind about how to think and talk about sex. The book is comprehensive -- if you've ever thought about it (even in your best dreams), you'll read about it here. Prepare to be educated, surprised, or sometimes shocked.

We're pleased to honor Joan with this ASJA award.

Photo by Mark Bennington
*The big laugh of the evening came when the presenter misread "expert" as "subject," saying "Joan is a recognized sexuality subject" -- which sent everyone into gales of laughter, including me! Photographer Mark Bennington captured my reaction!

Then I gave a short acceptance speech, which I'd love to share with you here:

It is a profound honor to receive this award from my ASJA peers – the writers I read, respect, and sometimes envy!  

 Many of you longtime ASJA members knew me for decades as a health and fitness writer.  What happened to morph me from rah-rah-fitness-is-for-everyone to preaching and teaching the pleasures of older-age sexuality? 

Writing has always been an avenue – maybe call it a running path – for following my passion. I became a high school English teacher to be the teacher I always wished I had. Then in 1979, my daily fitness habit saved my life after a car crash – my heart was strong enough to go on automatic pilot while I waited for help, smashed and bloody – so I became a fitness writer and, once I could walk again, an aerobics instructor. 

So it was natural that when I fell in love at age 57 with a man who was 64, I turned my writing to senior sex. Our profound and spicy love affair became the inspiration for the book I wrote at age 61, Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, to celebrate the delights of older-life sexuality. 

I started calling myself an advocate for ageless sexuality. The media called me “senior sexpert” and “wrinkly sex kitten” – I’m still trying to grow into that one. 

Many readers, however, wrote me to call me "wrong." They told me that they were not having great sex lives. 150 readers sent me their stories and their questions. I realized that finding answers for them needed to be my next book, my most important book. 

I didn’t know the answer to every question, but I knew the experts who did, and I assembled 45 of them to write tips and answer reader questions. The stories and the expert tips, along with my candid commentary, became Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex

This book means the world to me both professionally and personally. Robert, my lover who inspired my senior sex writing and who became my husband, died when Naked at Our Age was a book proposal. Writing it was my way to paw my way through grief and re-commit to my mission to help others through my writing. 

Not usually at a loss for words, I don’t know how to express how much this award means to me. Thank you.

Thank you, Dorri Olds and Mark Bennington for permission to use your photos here.

If you'd like to purchase Naked at Our Age from Amazon, here is the direct link.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dr. Joycelyn Elders speaks at Momentum 2012

I've been promising you more tasty morsels from the Momentum conference since I wrote Part 1. Momentum was full of amazing people and ideas from start to finish -- and afterwards, because I couldn't stop thinking about what I had learned and the people I had met.

The high point had to be Dr. Joycelyn Elders -- former Surgeon General of the United States under Clinton, 1993-1994. She was born in 1933, making her a vibrant 78 now.

I met her shortly before my "Senior Sex Out Loud" speech. Dr. Elders exited the elevator and sat down across from me, where I was making last minute changes to my notes for my talk that was about to happen. I introduced myself to her and told her about my upcoming speech.

"That sounds very interesting," she said. "I think I'll follow you to the room." I don't usually get stage fright -- I love interacting with audiences! -- but I admit my hands shook and my toes tingled at the thought of Dr. Elders -- a role model for talking out loud about sex with a "bring it on!" approach to controversy! -- would be in my audience. (Read about my speech here.)

Dr. Elders, if you remember, was fired for advocating that schools teach children about masturbation in answer to a reporter's question.

Later that afternoon, Dr. Elders was part of the closing plenary. I wish you could have been there! Some of her memorable quotes:

  • "80% of men masturbate. 70% of women masturbate. And the rest lie."
  • “95% of Americans didn’t wait until marriage. We need to teach them to be responsible, rather than telling them, ‘Don’t have sex.’” 
  • "The best contraceptive in the world is a good education."
  • “The vows of abstinence break far more easily than latex condoms!” 
  • [about sex-positive activism:] “When you’re dancing with a bear, you can’t get tired and sit down.”
  • "We're sexual beings from the day we're born until the day we die."
  • "If you think babies aren't sexual beings, you've never changed a baby boy's diaper."
  • "When I am 95 I will still be a sexual person."

Although her speech at Momentum was not recorded, this video of a speech she gave in 2006 is similar and will show you her intelligence and sassy style.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Safer Sex for Seniors

I've been shouting about this for six years, and now we've got a Safer Sex for Seniors website, a video, a poster, and an advertising campaign to encourage/ inform/ bludgeon our age group to use condoms!

The campaign launched today with this video and a website filled with FAQ about safer sex for seniors written by thirteen sex educators-- most members of the Sexuality and Aging Consortium. (I wrote two of these:  Tips for the Condom Conversation and 10 Tips for Hot Solo Sex.)

I think the video is entertaining enough to get people to watch and share it (though I wish some non-heterosexual couples had been depicted). Will the message get through? Certainly if people click to it will.

Help me pass the word, will you?

Monday, April 09, 2012

Momentum 2012: Part 1

That hardest part about writing about the Momentum conference in Washington, DC, is figuring out what to leave out so I don't write 20,000 words.

Dr. Joycelyn Elders
I want to quote all the bon mots, tell you about the presenters and their topics, rave about the exhibitors, describe the awe I felt meeting and learning from the amazing Joycelyn Elders, former Surgeon General under Clinton (yes, the one who was fired for advocating teaching young people about masturbation) -- and eagerly describe my own presentation and the response I got.

I'll start with that, and write more posts later.

I spoke on the topic "Senior Sex Out Loud."If you worry (as I often do) that we have a long way to go before senior sex is accepted as normal and wonderful, a sex-positive conference like Momentum is the place to recharge!  I've been speaking for years, and the Momentum audience was the most enthusiastic ever in my career. They not only applauded, they cheered!

The loudest cheers came when I removed some of my clothing.

I'd better explain that.

I had been recounting some of the highlights of my 6-year journey as an advocate for ageless sexuality, and I was telling the audience some of the things I'd been called. When I got to "wrinkly sex kitten," people laughed, as I did, and I added, "I'm still trying to grow into that one... not the wrinkly part -- I've got that down -- but the 'sex kitten' part. But I'm trying!" With that I removed my polka dot jacket and presented the rest of my speech in a red camisole.

I then explained, "I'm not doing this to show off. It doesn't matter what my body looks like. What matters is that this is the body I live in. It gives me pleasure. I  own it."

I talked about much more than body image, of course. No, we didn't make a video. But I'd love to come to your area and give this talk for you live! Contact me if you want to talk about that.

Instead of trying to pack in far too much information in one post, I'll call this one Part 1 and write again soon about more of Momentum.

If you work in any area of sexuality, I hope you'll make a point of going to Momentum next year. I'll be there for sure.

See my interview with the organizers of Momentum here.