Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sex after 50 Applies to All Ages: Guest post by Penny

Joan and Penny
 Note from Joan: CatalystCon West 2013 was filled with amazing educators, new information, and a sense of community that I wish we could all feel everyday, everywhere. Normally I would write a synopsis of this conference, sharing what I learned.

 But this time, I give the floor to Penny, a remarkable, 26-year-old sex blogger, who attended the session I gave: The 5 Biggest Myths About Sex and Aging. She started this guest post on the plane going home, she told me, tearing up as she wrote it. I'm proud to share it -- and her -- with you here. With allies like Penny, we' can indeed change the world.

Why Sex after 50 Applies to All Ages: 
Guest post by Penny

I went into Joan Price’s panel The 5 Biggest Myths About Sex and Aging at CatalystCon with the attitude that I was going to take a leap and learn about something that doesn't apply to me, at least not yet. I told Joan this when we ran into each other in the hall before her panel, and she smiled and said with a chuckle, “Maybe you’ll find what I have to say useful in about 30 years.”

But I quickly realized that what Joan was teaching in her panel didn't only apply to people aged 50+ -- it was relevant to anyone, including myself now, at age 26.

The first myth that Joan debunked about sex and aging was the idea that what felt good to us in the past should still make us feel good now, and that when it doesn't, there must be something wrong, and we might as well just give up.

photo by Roman Roze
She explained that as our bodies change with age later in life, the ways we experience arousal and pleasure change as well, and that this is perfectly normal. She went over specifics, like the differing needs that seniors may require in a toy, such as very strong vibrations, the ability for the toy to last long enough to endure a longer cycle of arousal, ergonomically comfortable designs for arthritic hands, easy to use controls, etc.

Sure, Joan was describing the specific sexual needs of people outside of my age demographic, but the underlying message was universal: We must remember that sexuality is fluid and that it changes. Our bodies change, our lives change, our needs and wants change. Self-exploration is a continuous process.

I may not be 50 yet, but what turned me on when I started having sex at age 16 is dramatically different from what turns me on now. My challenges with arousal are not the same as senior challenges, but they’re there. Some weeks I feel down and emotional, and I don’t want to take the time to give myself the self-care that I need. I have moments when I think, why isn't this working like it usually does? Why can’t I just orgasm like I usually do?

Joan made me realize that in these moments, I need to give myself the compassion I would give a friend. If someone came to me and said something wasn't working for them, I would encourage them to keep trying because they deserve pleasure. I would try to help them find new ways to experience arousal and suggest new toys and techniques. I would also tell them that there is nothing wrong if something just isn’t working right now, and that pleasure and orgasms don’t always come easily.

Everyone deserves that encouragement and support. We must allow ourselves to exist as we are right now, instead of trying to conform to what society expects of us or even what we expect of ourselves.

Like this myth of feeling like an “alien in our own bodies” because we've changed, and we feel like we aren't ourselves anymore, everything Joan discussed was not only relevant to seniors, but to everyone. The importance of communication between partners, adaptation to change, making time for pleasure and practice, and continual commitment to self-care, sexual health, and sex education are always important.

Towards the end of her talk, Joan shared a personal story about her grief in losing her love and partner. Her words shook me deeply, and as tears streamed down my cheeks, my sniffles were echoed by a woman sitting near me. Grief is incredibly personal, and I cannot pretend to know what Joan has gone through, but in that moment I felt like her grief was somehow also mine. Grief for her loss, for everyone I've lost, and for myself and the deep fear I don’t usually even realize that I carry with me: that I am alone, that nothing is certain, and that any day could be my last or my partner’s last.

But as I listened to Joan share her story, I also felt her strength. She said that what lives on after us is what we pass on to others, what we give to people, what we share, our love and compassion. In that way, she said, we become immortal. I’m often so wrapped up in my own needs, wants, concerns, challenges, and privileges that I forget to seek out others’ experiences, to listen as much as I speak, and to share what I have.

As she ended her talk, Joan asked us all to help her with her cause, to speak out against ageism, to stop and say, "That’s not funny," if we hear malicious, ageist “jokes,” and to tell people that they are beautiful exactly as they are. In return, she offered up her own voice, to help us in whatever injustices we battle.
Her words echoed Yosenio V Lewis’s speech from the Opening Keynote, when he called us to take on someone else’s cause because it is our cause as well, to come together instead of staying in isolated groups, to collaborate and realize that we are all ultimately fighting for the same things: love, compassion, and acceptance. 

Penny is a freelance writer and photographer from Austin, Texas. She explores sexuality creatively through her blog Penny for Your (Dirty) Thoughts, which is known for its variety of writing, unique sex toy photography, and erotic self-portraiture.
Penny for Your (Dirty) Thoughts

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Open letter to Miley Cyrus about sex after (gasp!) 40

Really, Miley Cyrus? You think sex ends at 40? You told Matt Lauer that at 55, he was "definitely not sexual"?

On what planet? Oh, right, the youth planet!

Miley, you could teach me plenty about fame, music, handling bad publicity, and, I suppose, twerking (if I thought that I needed it to feel sexy, which I don't, and if my 69-year-old back would handle it, which it wouldn't).

But I could teach you a thing or two about sex. 

My day job is writing and speaking about senior sex, which you think doesn't exist. Here are just a few facts about it:
  • Sex can be better after 40, 50, and 60 than it ever was in our 20s. Then, we as young women were driven by hormones, anxious about our partners liking us or finding us sexy enough, and not terribly good at communicating what we needed to reach orgasm. Our partners, also hormone-driven, rushed to their own finish, often leaving us behind. Often, our fear of pregnancy outweighed our enjoyment.

  • Now, we're no longer propelled by our hormones -- we're having sex for other reasons: sexual pleasure and release, intimacy, joy, bonding, emotional well-being, and about a gazillion other good reasons. We know how to slow down and enjoy the sensations and the feelings. 

  • Is sex the same at 50 or 70 as it was when we were your age? No. We do have challenges. We also have the knowledge (or know where to find it, such as in my award-winning book, Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex) to overcome those challenges, and the communications skills to deal with them. 

If you'd like to discuss this or battle me in a televised face-off (with Matt Lauer moderating), please have your people contact my people. I'd be delighted.

Please slow down and hear this:

If you want your sexual exuberance to match mine three decades after age 40, start listening to your elders -- at least the ones who are winking at each other after hearing your statement about sex ending at 40!

Miley, I'll be happy to send you a copy of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty to further your education (and, I hope, delight you), if you send me your mailing address.

You're welcome.

Brian Alexander, a top sex and science journalist, interviewed me yesterday about this. Please read his smart and sassy article here. "You're going to laugh about what Miley Cyrus just said," he said when he called me. Yes, I laughed, I commented, and it got me so revved up that I had to expand my views here a day later. Thank you, Brian.