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


  1. Very applicable to an over-50 person like me.

  2. A wonderful piece and some very inspirational . . . and motivational . . . statements. As one who is (more-than very slightly) older than Penny several of the sentences here strike a key and have a personal relevance.
    I would have love to have attended, and love to have been able to listen in person. But Penny's post has meant I shall be re-investigating you further Joan.
    Thanks to you both for sharing.
    Xxx - Katie (aka Modesty)

  3. What a wonderful piece of writing and I can wholeheartedly concur with the both the writer and Joan's thoughts. I'm on the cusp of 50 and things have changed a lot for me over the years and I'm sure will continue to do so.
    As I was reading I remembered a class I took with my daughter at her high school last year in Film And Lit (What I was doing there was another story entirely) We watched the film Cocoon and then we discussed it as a class. I was kind of taken aback when the kids discussed the not so graphic sex scene between two seniors. Their were lots of gross old people having sex, yuk, comments floating around the room at that point and it suddenly dawned on me they would look at me and consider that gross old person having sex in not so many years, if they already didn't. Then I recalled that when I was their age I had the same reaction to that scene, yuk, gross, but now I viewed it in a different light.
    My point being that not only does our sex life's change as we age, but also our perceptions, even though we don't always realize it until we have an ah, ah moment such as I did in that class.

  4. That's an important point, CliticalJenne. We often go along with the misconceptions and stereotypes until we have our own "aha!" moment -- or as we used to say in the early days of Ms. Magazine, the "click" moment.

  5. Older people? That's me. I say half the time it's our own damn fault.

    I went camping last weekend w/ 28 guys; some younger than my kids. A man younger than my oldest son paid me a big complement on the last day: "It's been fun hanging out w/ you. You're like the dirty uncle I never had." Wow. What he meant was we could as two guys, smoke a cigar and tell dating stories and sex stories and what we learned about valuing and learning how and when and why we love women stories. We were teaching each other things. About love, and sex and relationships.

    Married several years and older now, many of my peers want me to shut up and be over all that sex/love/relationship stuff. Well, I'm not. For example: My wife (63) and I (65) drove 3hrs to attend Joan's workshop on sex and aging. To stop learning about love and intimacy? It would be like being a stuck mouse in a sticky trap. The flip side is staying alive and vibrant and naughty and teachable to the end.

    We seniors have to stand up for ourselves. We need to be an (erotic) example to children! Grown children. Thank you Joan for being sometimes a lone senior voice leading the way.

    1. Thank you, Dan. Your joyful spirit and commitment to inquiry and adventure were a real asset to my workshop!

  6. I love reading your post because it's so inspirational to us oldie people that we can still have sex and enjoy the pleasure. Thanks much!

  7. I often communicate with people over 50 and sex is obviously an important topic. I have learned a lot through Joan's blog. Thank you.

  8. Thank you for such a complete post. I wanted to add that like seniors disabled persons of all ages have sexual urges and face similar challenges to getting there. The topic is so taboo that its seems like no one talks about that.

  9. I often talk to my friends that sex is some important for age after 50 than any time, for the essential sex is not only our physiologically needs, but also the sublimation of love. Sweet love life is the best lubricant to those over 50s.


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