Sex

Does Sex Have an Expiration Date?

After age 50 sex still can be great.

Posted Feb 17, 2020

During a recent podcast episode of mine, I spoke with Joan Price, who calls herself an advocate for ageless sexuality. Joan is the author of four books about sex and aging, including the award-winning book “Naked at Our Age.” At age 76, she continues to speak loudly about senior sex. In this podcast, we talk about sex after 50 and sex after grief

Here is an excerpt from the podcast.

As people get older, they worry about sex and how it will change. What would you like to say on this subject?

Joan Price (JP): Sex has its challenges. Your responses change, lots of things change, but that doesn’t mean we give up. It means we learn from it and learn how to adapt to the challenges. What can we do to make sex great again? For every problem, there is a solution.

IStock by Getty Images
Source: IStock by Getty Images

There's a natural grieving process because the body changes, sexuality, and sexual abilities change. You wrote the book “Sex After Grief, Navigating Your Sexuality After Losing Your Beloved.” I would imagine there's a lot of myths about sex and grief. 

JP: How do you get back to your own sexuality, your own life source as a sexual being when the person you want most to have sex with is dead? I took my own grief experience, which was substantial and long-lasting and profound. I combined it with what other people sent me from their own experiences. What I learned was there is no one way to grieve.

We need to accept our own natural process and that goes for how we get back to sex. For some people, it's a very long period of celibacy. For others, it's very quickly into a new relationship. And for many, it’s not wanting an emotional relationship, but one that’s more of casual sex or a hookup or having a friend with benefits. 

What would you say to somebody who's lost a partner over a long period of time together?

JP: Whatever timeline is right for you is right for you. For example, we may feel we never want to be with anyone else again. This is a natural feeling, but it’s also temporary. In time, with a natural life force that is going to push to be released, we're going to start to feel those twinges. This will happen eventually. Don't close off to that, but also don't rush ourselves, this is the way it should go.  

Older people have a right to have healthy sexuality, right? 

JP: We are sexual beings lifelong. Sex has no expiration date. It changes. Many people will give up on it. How sad that is. What doesn't work anymore is just one step toward figuring out what does work. We may find, for example, that in the past penetrative sex was our go-to for sex. Maybe now that's not what we want. That may not turn us on anymore. Our body changes, but we can adapt to those changes and instead of seeing this as a defect, we see it instead as a new chapter, or a new superpower. 

In my office, men talk with me about their penises not getting erect. They're older, they feel like sex is over. What is the main complaint of women as they get older? 

JP: There are three things. One is that they don't feel desire. The other is that it doesn’t feel as good as when they were younger. And the other is if they happen to be in a partnership with an aging man that the partner isn't getting erect and isn't willing to find other ways he can have sex. The desire part, it is the concept of responsive desire vs. spontaneous desire.  

Can you explain what responsive desire is compared to spontaneous desire? 

JP: What we perceive as feeling desire is often what we call spontaneous desire, which is really a biological urge to have sex. As we age, we don't have that biological urge anymore. We are left without that spontaneous urge to have sex. However, if we just start physiologically, if we just get going with ourselves or with a partner, the desire will kick into physiological arousal. Don’t wait for the mood. Just get started.

That's the cultural myth. Romantic love is what we read in books and see in movies. We're always ready. And that is not a relationship. That's the beginning and it's the shortest part of a relationship. And it's sad that we're always using that as the gold standard. 

Why would this podcast be of interest to young people? Why should young people care about old people sex? 

JP: That's such an important question because if we're lucky, we all will get old. We should learn at an early age how to expand our notion of sexuality and not have goal-oriented sex but have pleasure-oriented sex and have more items in the buffet than just one. We learn how to express what brings us pleasure and what doesn't and learn to ask our partner about what brings pleasure and what doesn't. If we learned to do this at a younger age, aging is not going to be any kind of deterrent to good sex. 

Can you talk more about goal-oriented sex and pleasure-oriented sex?

JP: As we're growing up, we thought the only goal had to be penetrative sex. If that didn't happen, then we were broken. We are not broken if we need to or want to have sex in many other pleasurable ways. My most popular workshop (and webinar) is called “Great Sex Without Penetration.” There are plenty of other ways to be sexual.

You can take turns. That makes sex even better because you're concentrating fully on one person's pleasure and then you're concentrating fully on the other person's pleasure. That makes twice sex twice as good, doesn't it? 

JP: As a senior in training, you may think you know it all because sex works just fine for you right now. But explore other ways, other techniques, other experiences to get more sensation. It’s helpful to already have some knowledge and some experience so you don’t have to learn all over again when you get older. Please don't say nothing will ever change because guess what? It will.

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