In conjunction with the release of her film Soul Sex, Erika Lust reached out to Joan Price, a one of a kind expert for ageless sexuality, to talk about the joys and challenges of sex at a later-age. How much do we actually know about sex after 50 and beyond, and why do we seem to hold on to the idea that senior sex is distasteful and that only young bodies are desirable? Joan shares her wisdom, breaks taboos and sheds light on senior sex.
If you’re young, you may think you don’t need to read this article, but I invite you to stay. The better you understand sex and aging now, the easier it will be to adapt when the inevitable changes start. And if you incorporate some of these ideas and suggestions now, you’ll expand your capacity for enjoying great sex lifelong!
Sex can be marvelous as we age, and it can be challenging. The two are not mutually exclusive. Arousal changes, body aches, medical conditions, medications, and lower libido may become obstacles to great sex as we used to know it. But that’s the key to enjoying sex in an aging body: letting go of the old assumptions that “great sex” must be the same as it used to be. Instead, let’s discover what sex can be now. With an attitude shift and new knowledge, we can learn how to increase sexual pleasure whether we’re 50 or 80.
Let’s acknowledge how aging enhances sex:
- – We know ourselves, our bodies, our desires.
- – We know what we like sexually, what we respond to, what kind of partner we want.
- – We’ve practiced communications skills.
- – We’ve learned from our relationship mistakes.
- – We understand that we don’t have an endless future ahead of us, which translates to taking pleasure in everyday joys.
- – We have decades of sexual experience—for many of us, more than half a century!
But that’s the key to enjoying sex in an aging body: letting go of the old assumptions that “great sex” must be the same as it used to be.
That doesn’t mean that later-life sex is easy. Often it isn’t. We may feel less responsive sexually and require more stimulation for arousal. It may take a long time to reach orgasm. We may not know how to ask for what we need now. Our desire may dip or seem to disappear. Our aching joints may refuse to let us get into positions that used to be our favorites. If we defined sex as penis-in-vagina (PIV) intercourse, this may not be comfortable or possible anymore.
These problems do not mean that great sex is just a memory. Once we educate ourselves about what our bodies are doing and why, we can develop strategies to turn problematic sex into a new kind of great sex.
Problem: My vagina is not lubricating enough for comfortable sex.
Solution: Our hormonal changes affect our ability to lubricate. Buy a good lubricant and use plenty of it. Choose a lubricant designed specifically for sex from your local or online woman-friendly sex-toy retailer, not a drugstore brand that is less effective and not as good for you. Keep it easily within reach for all sex, solo or partnered.
Problem: Arousal takes too long.
Solution: Change your thinking. Change “too long” to “wonderfully long.” Slow arousal is a benefit that comes with aging, not a defect, because long, leisurely arousal time means more time for pleasure. Schedule sex dates with yourself or a partner when you have plenty of time and no need to rush. Enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
Problem: It’s difficult to reach orgasm.
Solution: We need more stimulation than we used to. Incorporate sex toys to intensify sensation to the clitoris or penis. We’re lucky to live in a time when outstanding vibrators and other sex toys that will help get you to orgasm are easily available. Not sure what to choose? I review sex toys from a “senior perspective” on my blog. I emphasize a product’s qualities that make orgasms easier in an older body: strong intensity, comfort, and ergonomic design for arthritic wrists, for example. I think of sex toys as “sex tools” for orgasm.
Problem: My penis (or my partner’s penis) has erection difficulties or erectile dysfunction, so how is sex possible?
Solution: It’s a common misconception that sex isn’t “real sex” if it isn’t a hard penis thrusting into a willing orifice. Not true! We have hands, mouths, and sex toys that provide exciting stimulation and powerful orgasms, often more easily than through penetrative sex. If you’re heterosexual, know that only 25% of women experience orgasms through intercourse alone, and I’m sure that percentage is even lower at our age. Non-penetrative sex can be great sex. Realize also that a flaccid penis is capable of arousal and satisfying orgasm without ever becoming erect. Lack of erection does not mean lack of sexual enjoyment for either partner.
Non-penetrative sex can be great sex. Realize also that a flaccid penis is capable of arousal and satisfying orgasm without ever becoming erect.
Problem: I’m on medications that I think may be affecting my sex life.
Solution: Many medications do affect libido, sexual function, and/or arousal. It makes me furious that doctors often don’t warn us or question us about the sexual side effects. We need to tell our doctor when this happens and ask if there’s a different medication that might work better, or a way to time our medications so that sex is less affected. Often a pharmacist will be best able to resolve this.
Problem: I cannot get physically aroused, no matter what I do.
Solution: See your doctor now. When the penis or the clitoris cannot respond to stimulation, this can be an early sign of a medical condition that needs to be treated. For example, lack of erection can mean that blood flow is not getting to the penis or clitoris (yes, the clitoris has erectile tissue), and it’s important to find out why. Lack of physical arousal is not a normal sign of aging. If your doctor says it is, find a new doctor.
Many medications do affect libido, sexual function, and/or arousal. It makes me furious that doctors often don’t warn us or question us about the sexual side effects.
Problem: I don’t know how to ask for what I want. I fear that trying to change things will hurt my partner’s feelings
Solution: If you don’t ask for what you want, the answer is always “no.” If you do ask, you’ll have a good chance of hearing “yes.” A good partner wants to please you, and mind-reading is vastly overrated. It’s a gift to communicate clearly and lovingly what you’d like your partner to do so that sex is pleasurable for both of you. Instead of criticizing what’s happening now, say something like, “I’d love it if you’d…” or “It turns me on when you….” Communication is sexy!
(For much more about how to make older-age sex satisfying and joyful, my books about senior sex are packed with information and practical tips.)
If you want to see an illustration of how an older couple has joyful sex in aging bodies, I hope you’ll watch “Soul Sex.” This beautiful film presents Annie and John, who make love every morning, sometimes more often. Their attitude is, “When you learn to do it the slow way, you get such pleasure!” Here’s what I loved about “Soul Sex”:
- – Their sexual interaction is slow and tender.
- – They spend a lot of time touching each other all over: stroking, holding, cuddling, and gazing at each other lovingly.
- – Penis-vagina penetration is just one part of their sexual expression. It’s not the goal nor the route to orgasm.
- – They’re vocal throughout their lovemaking with words, utterances, moans, gasps, and whispers. They frequently say, “I like it when you…” to communicate love and enjoyment.
- – He does not have a full erection, demonstrating beautifully that an erect penis is not a requirement for his pleasure or hers.
- – He has an orgasm when semi-erect, shattering the myth that erection is a requirement for orgasm.
- – They enjoy every moment. There’s no rush to any goal.
- – They laugh a lot.