An old joke asks, What's the best form of birth control in later
adult life? The answer: nudity.
So goes the cultural stereotype of sex after, say, 45. What it
hinges on, says David Schnarch, is sheer misunderstanding--"the
piece-of-meat model of sexual intimacy" most people practice.
It equates physical contact, and anatomy, with sex. And it is
undoubtedly related to sex-text claims that males reach their sexual
prime in late adolescence while women reach theirs several years
But sex manuals don't tell what Schnarch has discovered in over 20
years as a sex therapist--we reach genital prime and sexual prime at
vastly different ages. Most people don't reach their sexual prime until
their 40s and 50s. "Sexual intensity is more a function of emotional
maturation than of physiological responsiveness."
Great sex requires real intimacy--the process of being in touch
with oneself in the presence of a partner. Older people have learned more
about themselves, so they bring more self to the party.
"The later adult years are when the most important exploration of
sexual potential occurs," Schnarch reports. Younger women struggle to
balance displays of eroticism with fears of looking cheap. Younger men
are "threatened by a self-motivated and sexually knowledgeable
The spectre of the gray-haired having what Schnarch calls
"wall-socket sex" can provoke anxiety, especially to their grown-up
children. "While some adults accept that their parents still copulate, it
is quite another matter to picture one's mother with her heels in the air
screaming 'Oh God, oh God!'" Amen.