Amongst the many taboos around getting older, sex is definitely one. When I was younger I remember not thinking much about my parents’ sex life. I mean, obviously, I knew they must have had sex otherwise I wouldn’t be here, but actually imagining them in bed, you know, doing it? No thanks.
Now that I’m 57 and a parent myself (with kids in their twenties), I know that people my age definitely do have sex. Well, I have sex and I know lots of my friends do too. Not only that, it’s some of the best sex I’ve had if for no other reason than that I’m more comfortable with my body, more accepting of my partner’s wobbly bits, and generally not as fussed about orgasms as I used to be.
If my twenties were a time of emotional turmoil and wondering whether I was pretty/smart/funny enough and good enough in bed, my fifties are much more about letting go and doing whatever I please, including taking a nap midway through the act because it just feels right.
I admit, my libido isn’t raging like it once was – which suits me because, frankly, it has been a massive distraction for most of my life, leading me into dangerous waters too many times to count. Sometimes I thank God that my nutcase radar is strong, otherwise I might not be around.
Advice to my younger self
If I was writing a letter to myself as a younger person, one thing I’d advise myself to do is chill out and not worry so much about my personal appearance in bed. Most men I have known in my life could not have cared less if my nether regions were a jungle or hair-free. They just wanted to get in there.
I would also tell myself to slow down. Sex isn’t a race and though it’s great if you can come a hundred times or have multiple orgasms, figuring out how to please yourself so you can have one is just fine.
It’s often easier for men in general to orgasm, but the great thing about being with an older man, who may be experiencing his own loss of libido through depreciating testosterone, is that the playing field is a bit more even. Older men generally find it takes longer to come and much longer to recover, and that suits me fine as it stops me worrying that it’s all going to be over before I’ve even gotten warmed up. What a relief to not feel that I’m having to play catch up all the time!
It was in my forties that I learned that communicating in bed is key. It may seem scary at first to ask for what you want, but the scariness is short lived. Knowing what you like and asking for it is, more often than not, a massive turn-on for your partner, who would rather be told than have it is assumed he/she is telepathic. Alternatively, taking your partner’s hand and gently guiding it to your sweet spot is a less scary and more sexy option. Talking dirty is fun too, in small doses.
With childcare responsibilities over, I can set aside afternoons for play
I won’t lie. Having sex as an older person has its downsides too. When I was younger I remember it was much easier to get turned on and reach orgasm. Toys help, though, and sometimes I resort to using a vibrator when I’m close to the edge and just need a bit of extra stimulation. The loss of oestrogen makes the vaginal wall thinner and, often, drier. I keep water-based lube by the side of my bed for those times when I need a bit of help. I wish someone had told me as a younger woman about lube and just how versatile can be, although back then it was KY Jelly or nothing!
Having fun is important. Now that I’m older I’m often too tired for late-night lovemaking. Instead I like to set aside afternoons, and create scenarios that allow me to be playful. Relieved of the responsibility of looking after children now, it’s wonderful to have time and space with my partner for making love without worrying about a knock on the door asking me when dinner will be ready!
Equally important for me is the realisation that not all older people, especially women, desire to have sex – or they may have decided that they only want to masturbate. For many of them, sex never played a massive part in their lives and, freed from the responsibility of procreation, they would rather not have it at all. The best part about being older? Accepting who you are, without society’s pressure to behave in a certain way. Or as my friends like to put it, “Frankly my dear. I just don’t give a f***!”
Suzanne Portnoy is the author of the bestseller, ‘The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker: An Erotic Memoir.’ Now 57, she can occasionally be found writing about sex and relationships for Advantagesofage.com.
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