This article first appeared in Liv Fun magazine and appears here with permission.
“Does sex get better or worse as you age?” my students ask me. “Well,” I reflect, “that depends on what you mean by ‘sex.’
If you define ‘sex’ as one organ plumbed into another for a wiggle, wiggle…pop! Then ‘sex’ poses new challenges as we age. Older body parts don’t work the same as before. And if you haven’t learn to talk with a partner about sex as you’re maturing, then it’s probably going to get worse.
On the other hand, if you define ‘sex’ more broadly, such as how we use the word ‘love’…you can love your mother, love your dog, love pizza, and love freedom. Sex can mean more than just plumbing; it can mean the pleasure that comes when bodies meet and tangle in a place of mutual safety, respect, vulnerability, and transparency. With this expanded (and more truthful) definition of sex, aging opens a new sexual landscape–deeply textured with the precious recognition of mortality and divinity.
Maturity often brings an acceptance of our bodies, appreciation of our partners, and grace for enjoying each breath, touch and word. If we define sex as an intricate web of attention and touch that expresses our innate longing to play, connect, belong and experience our bodies as sacred, then sex definately gets better with age.
An older client confessed to me, “Finally, I get to enjoy my arousal.” With Maturity, men slow down, and genuinely seek more intimacy. They often rethink past conditioning which causes them to withhold their feelings, work too hard, and go for the goods–both in the boardroom and bedroom! Women change too; they stop apologizing for what they want in a man’s world and start expressing their unique brand of sensuality. They become more confident, initiating and taking responsibility for their own pleasure. With aging, a new playing field opens.
Mature lovers don’t expect the other to read their mind. They know forgiveness is the lubricant of love. The number of orgasms, or even having an orgasm, isn’t the main attraction. Sex that used to be ‘destination-bound’ with a predictable beginning, middle and end (boring), transforms into ‘meandering sex’, where each moment, each wisp of hair, fingertip on the spine, lick on the ear, or laughter–surprises and delights.
Sure our bodies change, whether you’re twenty or eighty you are aging. For both men and women orgasms become less muscular, tissues thin and dry, and the vascular system relaxes. To counter these physical changes, we can choose to enhance the mental aspects of lovemaking–heighten our focus, deepen our attention, and learn how to receive pleasure! The skin is the only organ that increases in sensitivity as we age; we can learn to slow down to drink in more pleasure.
I’ve ask a room full of women, “Does size matter?” Overwhelmingly they say the size of a man’s attention and caring is what they’re most desiring. Mature lovers throw away the old scripts: there is no right way–just this way, with this person, this time. They stop trying ‘to do’ or perform, and start noticing sensations.” Beyond the thinking body–is the feeling body. Beyond controlling–is the noticing body. Beyond doing–is the being body. Why does it take us so long to discover this?
Does sex get better or worse as we age? You get to choose. And choice is what makes us human.
My mother at age eighty-five was sitting naked in a hot tub with me at a nudist resort–our first time! I asked her about whether she still had orgasms. She smiled at my question. “Remember when I visited China with the University Friendship group–before President Nixon “opened’ China to the West?” I smiled at my globe-traveling mother who brought me back a Mao jacket and acupuncture needles from her journey. “I got a vibrator at a Chinese medical clinic for back pain,” she told me, “and discovered putting it elsewhere felt great. I still have that vibrator (she was holding back a big smile), and I can tell you my orgasms are as strong now as they were 40 years ago.”
Shame that we don’t raise our kids to understand that yes, sex is great when you’re young, but for the real turn-the-universe-inside-out kind of sex, you’re just going to have to wait–no way around it!