Masturbation, polyamory, bondage, paying for sex? Not what usually springs to mind when you contemplate senior sex…

Posted by: on Oct 25, 2013 | No Comments

NakedatOurAge+cover

Joan Price’s new book ‘Naked at our Age: Talking out Loud about Senior Sex’ is an eyebrow raising account of a generation who refuse to give up on sex despite the physical, psychological and relational  limitations imposed by ageing.

Throughout this inspirational book the unheard voices of ordinary men and women in their fifties, sixties and seventies describe the highs and lows of remaining sexually active in later life, and a bevy of the world’s best experts including Carol Queen and Lou Paget offer frank and uncensored advice.

In the foreword, the legendary sex educator Betty Dodson describes how, at the age of sixty seven, she opted for a bilateral hip replacement because she couldn’t comfortably open her legs to allow her partner to penetrate her. Dodson had a ten year affair with a man in his twenties when she was in her seventies and now 83, she says she will remain sexually active for as long as she can hold a vibrator in her hand. Respect!

Elsewhere in the book, fifty nine year old porn star and founder of ‘Femme Productions’, Candida Royalle describes her weekly dates with her Natural Contours Energie vaginal barbell. It’s designed to exercise the pubococcygeal muscle, prevent urinary incontinence and strengthen her orgasm, natch. Sage Bold provides help with restoring sex after cancer treatment, Joe Hansen talks about sex after bereavement and Michael Castleman discusses the difference between erectile dysfunction and erectile dissatisfaction.

Other participants offer more radical solutions to disfunction, or disinterest. Doctor Ken Haslam describes how multipartnering or swinging can be a way for men with ED to meet their partner’s needs. And 56 year old Claire describes how she enlivened her sexless marriage by employing a male escort who now regularly meets her needs on a candle lit massage table.

Price is clearly an advocate of “self pleasuring’ and says that in later life, “instead of desire coming first and the physiological response following, older couples need to do whatever it takes to physically turn their bodies on and create that physiological response. We used to feel really driven by our urges but post hormones, we need to be driven by other instincts such as the fact that sex is good for my health, or for my relationship.”

It is a pragmatic and practical approach which flies in the face of ingrained ideas about sexual spontaneity and passion, but Price is absolutely right. As we age, sex becomes more challenging, physically and mentally. Negative body image is, inevitably, a major issue. And not just for women. Price describes how she “was giving a speech last night and a man came up to me and told me that he goes to nudist resorts. He explained that he saw people there with all kinds of bodies and that he didn’t go to gawk but to help himself accept his own body.”

The issue of ageing with dignity is one that will not go away. Price believes “it is up to us to change how we see ourselves” but that is easier said than done. Despite the fact that the number of over 85’s in the UK will double to 3.6 million by 2035, the elderly remain largely invisible in the media. The few specimens of old age that do get rolled out in public such as William Shatner or Joan Rivers are so nipped and tucked that they have become completely asexual.

The personal histories in “Naked at our Age confirm that Bette Davis was right when she said “aging ain’t for sissies”, but the book is a candid reminder that anyone who is prepared to make the effort can continue to enjoy sexual satisfaction as a senior citizen.

In this exclusive introduction, Joan Price explains how finding love in later life inspired her to write ‘Naked at our Age”

I started writing about senior sex after falling in love, at age fifty-seven, with the love of my life, artist Robert Rice (yes, his last name differed from mine by one letter), who was then sixty-four. We gloried in our close connection, our spicy and exhilarating sexuality.

Our sexy love story propelled me to write a candid book celebrating senior sex: Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, published by Seal Press in 2006. I was on a mission: It was time for our generation to talk out loud about senior sexuality and prove that wrinkles and decades of birthdays are no deterrent to hot sex.

I spoke at bookstores, women-friendly sexuality shops, senior expos, even a naturist resort where many in my audience sat nude (I stayed dressed). As I traveled and met new people, two common themes kept coming up. Women and men started saying to me, “Well, bully for you for having such great sex, but I’m not, and here’s why . . .” And men in the audience told me, “Better Than I Ever Expected is for women. What about us? Where’s the book addressing our concerns?”

I realized that I had to write a new book about senior sex, this time addressing both women and men, and this time dealing with their problems head-on. I solicited interviews from boomers, seniors, and elders who had sexual concerns related to aging. I rewrote the questionnaire I had used for Better Than I Ever Expected, concentrating on the problems more than the delights. I emailed this questionnaire to readers who had contacted me already, and solicited more interviews on my blog, other blogs read by the age fifty-plus community, and at my talks and workshops. In the questionnaire, I asked interviewees to answer in detail any question that applied to them and ignore the rest, or to just tell their story in their own way. I promised confidentiality— they would choose a “code name” (a first name of their choice) and no one but me would know their true identities.

Questionnaires poured in from both women and men, sharing intimate details that sometimes even their partners didn’t know. People really wanted to share their stories and ask questions. They needed help and information.

As I read the questionnaires, I started making a list of the topics that kept coming up and which interviews related to which topics. Then I pulled excerpts from each questionnaire and turned them into the reader’s “story,” keeping the interviewee’s personal style and wording.

I didn’t personally know the answer to every question, but I knew where to find it. I contacted experts in the field, asking them to respond to the issues that kept coming up. Some of these experts were specialized—dealing with sexuality and cancer, erectile dysfunction, or vaginal pain, for example. Others were counselors or sex therapists who dealt with a range of issues. I matched the experts with particular stories, and their responses became the information and advice in each chapter.

And a new book was born. Each chapter addresses a particular, age-related sexual concern, and includes both stories from the questionnaires and expert tips.

I was working on this book when Robert—whose leukemia and lymphoma were in remission after chemotherapy—was diagnosed with a new cancer: multiple myeloma. This cancer affects the bone marrow’s ability to produce healthy blood. I put the book on hold and concentrated on loving Robert, exploring medical options, keeping him close, and treasuring the moments we had left.

Robert experienced extreme fatigue. His fragile bones broke, and as treatments failed, he aged and weakened before my eyes. But almost to the end, he and I kept talking about this book: what would be in it, and why it was important to write it, no matter what happened in our personal lives. He said earnestly many times, “Promise me you’ll keep doing your work.”

Robert died in August 2008. I catapulted into extreme grief and depression. I kept collecting interviews but basically put the book on hold for more than a year. I couldn’t concentrate enough to work, though my promise to Robert stayed in my mind.

Sometimes I heard Robert’s voice guiding me, comforting me. One day he seemed to say gently, “I don’t want to be the reason you’re not living your life.” I decided that I needed to get back to work on this book.

I am happy and proud to share it with you here.

Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex is a candid, straight-talking book addressing senior sexuality in all its colors: the challenges, the disappointments, and the surprises, as well as the delights and the love stories. Naked at Our Age gives real-life people, age fifty to ninety, a voice to tell stories of their past and present sex lives, ask questions, and get straightforward advice and information. No topic related to elder sexuality is off-limits.Women and men, coupled and single, straight and gay, talk candidly here about how their sex lives and relationships have changed with age, and about how they see themselves, their partners, or their single life. Many of the people featured in this book are having unsatisfying sex, or no sex, and are seeking solutions—help that sex therapists, health professionals, counselors, and other experts featured in this book have so generously provided. To learn more about the people giving advice in the book, turn to the Meet Our Experts section, in the back.

Naked at Our Age addresses the myriad changes in body and mind that affect sexuality. The stories people sent me reveal that what affects our sexuality isn’t one single medical issue, hormonal concern, or marital conflict. Many physical and psychological dimensions create the ups and downs in our sexual response and satisfaction. The older we get, the more one change shapes another. A bad back, or prostate cancer, or a late-life divorce, for example, influences our mood, self-image, communication with a partner, and body experience, as well as sexual response. Naked at Our Age is not just a book on sexuality—it’s a book about life force, about rebounding from life’s challenges to keep on loving.

I love to hear from readers. I hope you’ll email me (joan@joan price.com) and read my sex and aging blog, www.NakedAtOurAge.com, where we’re keeping the conversation going.

Joan Price, Sebastopol, California

You can buy ‘Naked at Our Age’ here (Seal Press £8.99)

Leave a Reply