The Same Old Story
Small Pleasures

Can We Talk about Sex? Eldersex?

Mention, the other day, of woman-seeks-man as the boringly repetitive storyline in movies got me thinking about age and sex. It’s a topic so abhorrent to writers (or perhaps it’s the publishers and producers who find it so offensive) that there’s hardly anything in mainstream media and literature about people older that 40 being intimate.

Oh, there was a trickle of interest a year or so ago in what some people labeled matron lit - books that were (and may still be) extensions of romance novels wherein women discussed hot flashes and other midlife issues, but were still looking for their one true love – or their second or third.

Earlier this year, Gail Sheehy took a stab at resurrecting her decades-old Passages thesis, stealing what was a shocking book title (Sex and the Single Girl) when Helen Gurley Brown thought it up 40-odd years ago and turning it into an eldersex trend with Sex and the Seasoned Woman. Media interest lasted about ten minutes.

And don’t go telling me about that movie with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton a while ago. Such films turn up about once every five years; hardly a trend. Plus, they always star actors who were hot stuff in their youth and so carry some of that allure in their later years – at least for us older folk if not 20-somethings.

But the media’s taboo against elder sex isn’t what I’m here to talk about today. There’s more than enough public sex to go around and perhaps it lends a little dignity to our later years to be excluded from the display.

What I’m really here to talk about today is elder sex itself. I have a confession to make: not only do I have no interest in sex, but when I’m occasionally moved to think about it as today, my lack of libido is one of the top five best things there are about getting older.

It hasn’t always been this way. When I was in my 20s and 30s and as recently as six or seven years ago, sex was way up there on my list of compelling interests. So high up, in fact, that I sometimes wonder in retrospect how I got anything else done.

Sex is time-consuming. First you need to find the man who pushes those buttons, although that’s hardly difficult when the horns are out. But unlike the kids who “hook up” today, there was at least the pretense of getting to know one another first – dinner, theater or a movie, maybe a late-night club drop-in before heading home for playtime. And that was just on week nights. Losing entire weekends in sexy little hideaways out of town played havoc with getting the laundry and house cleaning done. But sexual adventure always took precedence.

And don’t forget the additional prep time: an extra shower after work, redoing makeup and hair, trying on several outfits and high-heeled shoes to produce just the right effect before setting out for the night. And what for? I never met a man who, once he knew he could get you in bed, ever backed out because your hair wasn’t just so.

Sex is a powerful motivator that consumed a large part of my consciousness every day, and I never understood how thoroughly hormones controlled my behavior for so many years until they didn’t anymore. It is a welcome relief to be finished with it.

I was sad when I first noticed my waning interest in sex. I mourned the loss of that definition of myself – sexy chick – for several years, and also the loss of an activity that had given me so much pleasure. I mean, come on - sex feels terrific. But you can’t fake interest in it or, at least, I can’t.

Then I discovered that it’s not gone completely. The urge toward sex is just much more sane that it was for most of my life. It lies in wait - asleep, hardly noticeable - until there is an object of its desire. Then it bursts forth as in the past, although not with quite as much intensity. It is ignorable now, if I choose, which it wasn’t when I was younger and for that, I am grateful.

When day is done now, the last thing I want to do is primp for a man. When, some evenings, I slob around in my oldest, hole-y, oversized teeshirt while crawling around the floor to play with the cat, or when I nod off to a repeat of Law and Order, I am no sight for male fantasies. But I am a contented old woman.


Hear! Hear! And are we not tired of having people tell us that there must be something wrong with us if we do not lament our no longer pushed about by hormones? Heaven forbid we should actually enjoy the added freedom.

Oops! "...our no longer being pushed...."

Okay, I have to confess...I've been single for 10 yrs. now, and without a boyfriend for over a year -- and I miss sex. Not the physical pleasure so much as the intimacy of a caring partner where there is a meaningful relationship. But finding and building a new relationship at my age (56) is not easy, in fact it is a lot of hard work and takes a lot of time, which I just haven't had enough interest in doing lately. But I still miss sex with a loving partner. Not that I ever want to get married again!!

Elder sex involves quite a bit more work than play. I was afraid of sex when an inexperienced adolescent, but I am far more afraid of it now. What do we do, if coupled with someone who is secretly using an ED drug? What do we do with someone lusting for as much as four hours? Gad, all you women elders, run for your lives. Down with sex - get me a eunuch.

I remarried at 55; now, we are 60 and 62 (I'm the elder). I used to be baffled by anyone who regarded sex as just another interesting thing in life like visiting Crater Lake (no metaphor intended) or having a hot slice of homemade bread with butter.
Now, it is just that, and, as Ronni writes, a welcome change.
But who are these people writing about eldersex in the media -- and cheerleading the "sexually active until you're 98, hurrah hurrah!"? And what do they mean by "sexually active"? Some verson of our 30s? God forbid.

AMEN! The dogs are sleeping and I say "Let them lie".

This topic and the six comments I've read so far have caused me a great deal of discouragement. I'm possibly headed for a bought of deep depression now.

Until I read this, I at least had SOME quantity of hope left. What's the sense in spending limited income for those expensive ED treatment medications when all you elderly women are glad not to have sex any longer? All my fantasy periods are wasted time I guess.

What a bummer!

I'm 48. I can't eat as much as I used to. I can't walk as far, I can't think as fast, I can't mow the lawn in one setting, and I'm OK with all of that. Such a nice, thoughtful post. We move on. I do take a little umbrage at your idea of men "knowing they can get you into bed." From my limited experience (23 years married), it's more cautious than coup, and "no" sometimes was a relief. Let's just all enjoy the ocean. I love your posts.

Ronnie has taken up a great topic here, and comments show how the subject needs more airing and discussion. There is so much we need to learn about it, so many misconceptions floating around.
Roberta S. voices a common one: that "ED drugs," by which I assume she means viagra and other pills for erectile dysfunction, make men into sex-fiends. Many people think this, because advertisers don't want to tell us the complete truth: that viagra et al. cure the lack of performance, but not the lack of desire. And since it's desire that triggers performance, and desire - in people who aren't rapists or predators - takes two to kindle, you don't have to worry, Roberta and others who don't feel like having sex. It's most likely not going to happen unless you want it.
So Clarence, I'd advise not taking any of those expensive pills unless desire is present all around. If it isn't, nothing's wasted.

From my studies on new media, the two topics -- sex and money-- are still relatively taboo in blogs, regardless of the age of writers!

Not only is it good to see this aired -- here -- in the same way it has been good to see others air their inner thoughts and secrets regarding ended pregnancies. Online discussions such as this space allow these things to be spoken. Oops. Typed.

Ronni I agree with you so totally! And I am only 53. But I am able to live my life so much more sanely now that the reproductive urge is not driving me. (And I chose not to have children! But poor Mother Nature/hormones did not know that...) It is SO freeing.


Hmmm. I do have a different level or definition of passion at age 52, but my personal situation may be different than other commentors here. (a "new" bride at age 50)

While it may not be the all-nighters of my youth, passion and lovemaking still has importance to me. No, sex doesn't interrupt my daily thoughts as it did when in my teens and twenties, but it certainly stays on my radar. At 52 ( and agreeing with Melinda) it's more about the intimacy and caring aspect.

Yes, Ronni, the spark remains - just needs a little extra kindling.

I would agree we're fortunate that as we age, we are spared some of the promotion of ourselves as sex objects. The focus stays on the young, whose hormones rage, and now the younger ones, not yet teenagers, whose hormones are about to rage, as if they all aren't exploited enough.

Wonder if it may still be hard for many of those promoters, mostly younger adults, maybe mid-lifers grasping for their youth, who make the ads, movies, etc., to acknowledge on some level their parents, thus other older people, as sexual beings? So many pitches and story lines reflect a Jr. High School mentality. Their inability to view the aging as sexual beings could partially be why we're spared their exploitation, so we must not reveal too much about our sex lives less they assualt us, too. ;-)

On the other hand, Ronni, I'm glad you pointed out the libido for many aging people is not dead. To conclude otherwise is simply another false perception about older people some have, regardless of the ED meds issue.

I would agree that libido does change with aging, but may wane in varying degrees at any age, depending on the individual, circumstances and situations. Obviously, a person's physical health and mental attitudes are a factor.

Yes, we generally do seem better able to cope with mediating our libido as we age. But I think we're still not immune from sometimes being susceptible to lesser ability to do so during stressful times when we may find ourselves more vulnerable; but that's probably true at any age.

Perhaps changes occur in what stimulates the libido, as years go by, i.e. if classic beauty or physical build was a primary attraction for many years, appreciation for other individual traits might predominate more with aging.

Personal qualities, values, intellectual appreciation which might not have provided satisfaction at one age might at another for others.

I think the very definition of what constitutes sex can change with aging, along with libido stimuli, attitude and practices, i.e. sex for aging individuals may be more inclusive of intimacy beyond just the physical level than at younger ages.

I certainly would agree, there's much to be said for being in a relationship where a partner doesn't have to meet the other's fantasy. Women sometimes put males in that same difficult position where they often place us.

And then, there's that whole issue for some older people in relationships, about whether or not to enter into the legal ties of matrimony and all those related issues.

I visit this wonderful blog often but came here this morning to see how Ronni does her Technorati link since she's front-paged there right now!, and I've been wondering how their tags work, etc. I didn't find the Technorati answer here but did very much enjoy these comments about elder sex.

We struggle (well, I do) to find out what it means to be a 'senior' and whether we are truly limited by real physical conditions or are just labeled and crippled by the stereotypes and prejudices of our youth-oriented culture. Sex and money - everyone talks about them but only in generalities, not on the personal level. Ronni helpfully broke the ice by remarking on her own experience. My impression is that she, you, Ronni, began by saying 'I don't care anymore, ha-ha, and I'm glad and at peace' but then realizes later that 'well, if the situation were to arise..' The trouble with sex is it's like happiness, I think, and does not serve well as a goal but is a by-product of something greater, something worthwhile. I can't take my daily walk looking for happiness, but I may well find it. And a couple in a meaningful relationship will find ways to express their feelings, one of which could be sexual intimacy.

I'll have to agree that the best sex is a byproduct of something greater... but that something greater is having the wisdom to know that the mental or emotional part of intimacy can never be replaced or reproduced artificially.
What WERE they thinking when the likes of the many ED drugs were developed???

I personally think our problem is that we all try to make everyone like everyone else. We do this with working moms versus stay-at-home moms and now we do this with elder sex. Let's face it. It is all over the place. People in their late 70's who think about it at least once a day and people in their late 50's who seldom think about it. It is biology and history and that is what makes us what we are.

At 64 and single, mostly I don't think about it. And then I see/meet/hear a man who makes me remember that I did use to have ovaries, and amaze myself by being interested again. That doesn't mean I have to do anything more than take a second look, but it is interesting to discover that I'm not immune.

" lack of libido is one of the top five best things there are about getting older."

I totally agree. I feel free to spend my energy for more "giving back" to my communities.

I happened across this great post...

"Argue for your limitations and they are yours... "

August 3, 2006 07:01 PM
"Ohh, I'm no longer young.,.. boo hoo, I can't live my life.

Seriously, do you fall for that? The youth can keep their youth. I would NEVER go back to being young. Why? Because older women are better in bed so I got that as an older man. Secondly I am WAY smarter about life than at 20 and realistically I can take a year out and not worry about some stupid corporate ladder or a career.

Your life begins now and pondering the past is pointless. Live now! You have no choice. Think about it.

Argue for your limitations and they are yours and as you get older the arguing comes easier. You needn't follow the rules of the flock if you refuse to be part of it. It is way easier than you think (or are conditioned to think).

Julian Cook

As always,intriguing posts.I'm in my middle fifties,and certainly understaand the difference between youth and health.

Thanks for initiating this discussion. There is lots more to be said, considered, elaborated upon. Humans come in an infinite variety of forms, and there is no particular "development stage" in sexuality for everyone. Just like the rest of life, it changes with the circumstances.

sex was way up there on my list of compelling interests. So high up, in fact, that I sometimes wonder in retrospect how I got anything else done. [ ... ]

I never understood how thoroughly hormones controlled my behavior for so many years until they didn’t anymore. [ ... ]

Then I discovered that it’s not gone completely. The urge toward sex is just much more sane that it was for most of my life. It lies in wait - asleep, hardly noticeable - until there is an object of its desire. Then it bursts forth as in the past, although not with quite as much intensity. It is ignorable now, if I choose, which it wasn’t when I was younger . . .

Perfectly put, Ronni.

Someone (Gloria Steinem? not sure) said that when her middle-aged friends were writhing in agonies of romance, she'd tell them, If you can't take the heat, stop taking the hormones.

Since our culture holds youth up as the model for all things, we're supposed to take estrogen and have cosmetic surgery.

I think I would probably still (though, exactly as you say, much more sanely and take-it-or-leave-it) be interested in sex if I thought some man I liked would be interested in me. Since my face has now become what I once described as "a peeling billboard for out-of-business ovaries," that seems unlikely, and the waning of hormones seems to preserve not only my new freedom but my dignity.

So how about it, Clarence! :D

Oh, Clarence, I was one of the posts that preceded yours, and I'm afraid I didn't make myself clear: I enjoy sex immensely and I adore my (okay, fourth) husband. What I meant was: let's's like going on a hike in the redwoods ... with all awersome splendor, etc. etc., and finding a trillium in blossom. Life over 60 is the hike...and sex is the trillium.
When I was younger -- including the 50s, good grief, no one warned me about the immediate post-menopausal surge in what? leftover hormones? --
sex was the only reason for the hike in the first place. Sort of like how the Germans walk in the Alps: let's keep moving, there's a restaurant two miles up the mountain.

Once again I agree! I'm 62, have been divorced since 1975, and lived alone (except for my son until he went to college in 1987) ever since. I've dated way too much and enjoyed lots of sex. I never thought I'd be happy to lose interest in it, but it's been a relief for the last several years not to think about it. I have more time for other activities I enjoy with friends and alone ... besides, I don't do stupid things that embarrass me to think about now.

My college roommate who's been married forever to the same man asked me if there weren't any eligible men around here. She didn't seem to get it when I told her I didn't really care if there were or not because I was fine without meeting them except as friends. I told her I didn't want a man underfoot and really like living alone. That's when her husband told her not to talk to me anymore. LOL

There are times I do think about sex and miss it a little, but it seems like too much trouble now to do all that.

Great post! We're free to know each other as people better than ever before.

These are really interesting posts and really relevant to me right now. I miss my libido..I think there's so much fundamental creativity, aliveness to sexual energy and desire...that when it's gone a certain aspect of aliveness goes as well. I have felt "flat" inside. Unlike most of you, guess I haven't found growing older to be all that much fun. Maybe because I support myself, work full time with much younger people and things like not being able to think as sharply, react as quickly, hear as well, move through airports as fast; walk through the streets of Dallas and New York in 100+ temperatures like it's nothing..all of the differences are just so much more apparent in the workplace. Sorry..just having kind of a bad week.

Oh, my goodness, it's just the best ever. Hubby is 74 and I just turned 65. The desire seems to get stronger the older I get! Go figure. Anyway, we are definitely enjoying this time of our lives.

I have to say that we are very active in all kinds of ways. Travelling, gardening, redoing the house, keeping up with little grandkids, etc. I KNOW that helps!!!! And, a little pill ....

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