What a happy coincidence that the publication of my second book about senior sex — Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex — coincided with my 50th high school reunion the summer of 2011. Living in California, I hadn’t returned to my hometown of Ithaca, New York in decades and hadn’t seen any of my classmates since 1961. I decided to attend and asked to be put on the event schedule to talk about senior sex and show off my new book. I had been a good student in high school, but I didn’t stand out particularly and I didn’t run with the “in” crowd. What would the reaction be if little Joanie gave a sex lecture?
My presentation went well. But when I asked for questions, for the first time in my public speaking career, no one said a word. I waited. Nothing. Finally I said, “I understand. The last time we were together, we were all randy teenagers. Now you’re embarrassed to ask me about things like vaginal dryness and erectile dysfunction in front of your classmates. But I’ll be here all weekend. Feel free to tap me on the shoulder and tell me you want a ‘consultation in the corner.’”
It was no surprise that I was kept busy all weekend doing “consultations in the corner”! My two favorite comments:
- “My wife says I need your book.”
- “I would have voted you the ‘least likely to be doing what you’re doing now’!”
Naked at Our Age addresses the problems that readers sent me. It includes about 150 reader stories and questions on all aspects of senior sex, along with my commentary. These questions are answered by 45 experts who have different specialties in the sexuality field. This book went on to win awards and continues to be my best known book, though I’ve written several more since then.
I’d like to share an excerpt with you:
“I want my sweet tooth back!” a beautiful, gray-haired woman announced in my sex and aging workshop. She described how sexually juicy she used to be—both emotionally and physically—always ready for sex, driven by the urge she welcomed and enjoyed. Now, although she has sex, it never feels urgent. She misses that driving desire.
It makes sense that we don’t have that driving urge. We’re no longer biologically driven to reproduce. Our “I must have sex now!” hormones have receded and we desire sex for other reasons: to be touched, to enjoy our arousal and orgasm, to bond with our partner, to release stress, to have fun, to feel whole and fully alive. Emotional and physiological needs abound, but they’re not the biological force that we experienced during our fertile years.
Maybe we’re not spontaneously turned on by a thought, a kiss, or the shedding of underwear. But we can learn ways to nurture our sexual selves. We may need to get to know our changing bodies and brains all over again, but as long as we realize that this isn’t a lack or a loss, we can enjoy the journey.
In the Mood
If you wish you were in the mood for sex but you’re not, get yourself aroused physically, and it’s likely that the mood will follow. It often works, and it’s one important key to improving your sexual relationship if you don’t have the urge you used to.
Please don’t misunderstand me—I am not suggesting you give in to pressure to have sex when you don’t want to, or when it’s painful or distasteful, or when the relationship is unhealthy. I am suggesting that if you’re in a loving relationship, you give your sexy feelings a chance to surface by understanding that arousal often follows action at our age, rather than the other way around.
In order to desire it, do it, and the desire will kick in once you become physiologically aroused. And the more you have pleasurable sex, the more you’ll want to have it. Cool how that works!
What’s Not Working?
Changes in our desire and arousal pattern are normal, and though they’re disconcerting, they don’t have to impact our relationship negatively or make us retreat from sex. We may need to get to know our changing bodies and brains all over again, but as long as we realize that this isn’t a lack or a loss, we can enjoy the journey.
Is It My Body or My Brain?
Arousal and desire used to be united, thanks to our hormones. Now, they may operate separately. Are you not feeling desire—does sex not interest or appeal to you anymore? Or are the changes in arousal and sensation just making it more challenging to get physically stimulated enough to feel sexual pleasure?
If you are interested, but you arouse slowly, that’s common. As we get older, both blood flow to our genitals and our nerves’ response to sexual stimulation slow down. To help counteract this, you can keep yourself as healthy as possible with a nutritious diet and regular exercise, work on communication with your partner, reduce stress in your life, and take plenty of time for sexual pleasure. Stay in the habit of regular orgasms—one or more a week—whether you’re partnered or solo. The more you nurture your sexual responses, the better they’ll keep working.
Sudden Loss of Arousal or Function
If you experience any sudden or extreme changes in how your body feels or responds, get thee to a doctor. Sudden changes in the experience of arousal or sensation in women and erectile dysfunction in men are clear signals that there is something wrong, and can be an early sign of heart disease or a number of other treatable medical conditions. Get checked out.
What Does It Take Now?
Talk honestly with your partner about your changing desire and arousal and discover together what you need to get aroused. Maybe it’s a lot of love play before you get under the covers. Maybe bringing sex toys into your relationship would aid your arousal. Your partner would appreciate knowing the truth and joining you in the journey to discover what turns you on.
– Excerpted from Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex by Joan Price (Seal Press, 2011), © Joan Price, may not be reprinted without permission.
Joan Price calls herself an advocate for ageless sexuality. She is the author of four books about sex and aging, including the award-winning Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex and her latest: Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality After Losing Your Beloved. Her award-winning blog has been offering senior sex news, views, and sex toy reviews since 2005. At age 76, Joan continues to talk out loud about senior sex—partnered or solo. She is the co-creator of “jessica drake’s Guide to Wicked Sex: Senior Sex.” Find Joan at https://joanprice.com.