The myth is that after 50, sex is like older men’s hair—it recedes then disappears. There’s a germ of truth to this. After 50, libido declines. Older women develop vaginal dryness and/or atrophy. And older men suffer balky erections or erectile dysfunction (ED). These changes can render intercourse difficult or impossible, even with lubricants and erection medication.

But as sexy 70-year-old Joan Price writes in her terrific new book, The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50, if you let go of the idea that sex equals intercourse and expand your erotic horizons to encompass pleasure that includes the genitals but involves the whole body, older sex just might be the best sex of your life. Here’s why:

• Older lovers are more erotically in synch. Young love is hot and juicy, but many young men are all finished and falling asleep before young women have even warmed up to genital play. In addition, young women tend to be less genitally focused than young men and more interested in playful mutual whole-body massage. These gender differences often cause conflict.

But after 50, men’s and women’s erotic sensibilities converge. Men need more time to become aroused, and as erection and intercourse become problematic, men who remain sexual usually warm up to the whole-body sensuality that women enjoy. “Compared with young lovers,” says developmental psychologist Richard Sprott, Ph.D., of California State University, East Bay, in Hayward, “older couples are more sexually similar. Couples who appreciate this can enjoy richer, more fulfilling sex at 65 than they had at 25—even if the men can’t raise erections or manage intercourse.”

• Older men don’t need erections to enjoy sexual pleasure. Sexologists agree that at every age, satisfying lovemaking has less to do with rock-hard erections and pounding intercourse than with kissing, cuddling, and leisurely, playful touching all over—mutual whole-body massage that includes the genitals but is not fixated on them. This message is often lost on young men driven by testosterone. They plunge into intercourse before their lovers or their penises are ready, resulting in irate women and premature ejaculation. Older men are less ruled by their hormones. Despite balky or absent erections, if older men embrace what sexologist call “outercourse,” that is, mutual whole-body pleasuring with fingers, lips, tongues, and sex toys, they can enjoy deeply satisfying lovemaking without erections or intercourse.

• Women are more likely to get the sex they want. As older men slow the pace and learn to enjoy playful whole-body mutual massage, women get more of what they’ve always wanted. Many resent men less and relax and enjoy sex more, which increases women’s erotic responsiveness, creativity, and satisfaction.

• Older men don’t need erections to have marvelous orgasms. This surprises many men, but it’s true. In an erotic context with vigorous, extended manual or oral stimulation, men with semi-firm or even flaccid penises can still enjoy satisfying orgasms. Many men have difficulty adjusting to sex and orgasms without erections, but when men adapt to their new situation, they often report orgasms as enjoyable as any they’ve ever experienced.    

• Concerns about pregnancy and contraception disappear. Remember the hassles of preventing unplanned pregnancy? Condoms, diaphragms, the Pill—all in the past. Older couples can make love with no anxiety about its consequences. This new freedom allows deeper relaxation, which boosts erotic pleasure.

• The kids are gone—finally! Many couples enjoy music during lovemaking and some like to whoop it up. But if teen or young adult children are still at home and coming and going at all hours, their parents often feel constrained and self-conscious about playing too enthusiastically in the sack. Once the nest empties, this issue disappears, and lovemaking can be enjoyed anywhere around the house, anytime, at any volume.

In The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50, Price deftly deals with these issues and many others: dating in older adulthood, rediscovering diminished or lost desire, sex toys for older lovers, how to comfortably stretch your erotic boundaries, relieving sexual pain, enjoying sex despite chronic illness, and more. It’s a wonderful, life- and love-affirming guide that I heartily recommend. It's available from Amazon.

Of course, it’s not easy adjusting to the sexual changes of older adulthood. Change is always challenging, especially when it involves sex. But if you can transition from sex focused on intercourse to sex based on outercourse, you may be surprised to discover that older sex can feel marvelously fulfilling—and just might be the BEST sex of your life.

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