Last week I read Ann Brenoff’s HuffPost article, “Why The Thought Of Old People Having Sex Makes Young People Squirm.” She wrote a line that deftly captures the heart of youthful bias: “younger people just believe sex isn’t something older people are supposed to have.”
My reaction, when I read the piece, was anger: who are these young people to tell me I’m too old for sex? Why do we need to be reminded of the propaganda that great sex has an expiration date, and if yours is up, well, settle down for the next few decades on the sexual sidelines?
I thought of this article when my boyfriend Sam and I were dining al fresco at a local restaurant last weekend. At 48 and 52 respectively, we’re two lust-driven middle-aged people who like to have sex and talk about sex as much as possible. Sam, in fact, was talking enthusiastically about a particular sex act when the waiter arrived with our artichoke dip. I glanced around the patio at diners who looked to be in their 20s and wondered a) if they could hear him and b) what they thought about us if they could?
Were they surprised that we “still” have sex at our advanced ages? Were they disapproving? Grossed out? I started to wonder why young people think they have the patent on sex when old people have been doing it a lot longer.
It’s youthful ignorance, of course. You don’t understand what you don’t know. And what I would like all those to the left of 30 to know is this:
1. You will get older too. Yes, really. You will get gray hair and skin creases and you will still want to have sex. And you will not care at all what young people think.
2. Older people do it just like you, only better. Penises still enter vaginas. Tongues still lick genitals. Just with a lot more finesse than yours.
3. You don’t have to worry about pregnancy. Worrying about getting pregnant, or not getting pregnant, takes up a lot of space in your head. When baby-making is no longer a concern, you can enjoy sex in its purest form.
4. Sex isn’t tied up with rings and babies. Pregnancy isn’t the only issue that can make sex feel less sexy. The pressure to create an adult life, complete with the house and the kids and the holiday cards, can sap psychological energy and sex drives. One reason people often experience greater sexual enjoyment in middle age is that the exhausting tasks of young adulthood are behind them.
5. Older people don’t necessarily want to think about you having sex either. Some older people get creeped out watching frolicking porn stars young enough to be their children. Some older women would prefer not to read about yet another multi-orgasmic, dim-witted virgin. You may cringe at the image of your parents getting it on, but believe me, they don’t really want to think about you getting it on either.
6. The same body parts yield pleasure. Loose skin, lack of lubrication and erections that need coaxing don’t signify lack of desire or gratification. And because you are no longer taking the express train to Orgasmville, you will experience sex with greater nuance and meaning.
7. Staying sexually active keeps you feeling vital. Some people welcome midlife and beyond as a time when it’s “okay” to stop having sex, and that’s a valid choice. But most people want to continue having sex in their second and third acts and find that the more they have it, the more vibrant they feel.
8. You will still like all the same sex acts. If you like it from behind when you’re 20, chances are you’ll like it from behind when you’re 60. You may not be quite as acrobatic, but you may be more creative, and with the pressure of rings and babies behind you, you may enjoy what you’re doing more.
9. You will still have orgasms. They may not be as strong or as frequent. Or they may be more powerful if sexual shame enveloped you when you were young. But you will have them with a partner, and when you’re flying solo.
10. Sex is about more than orgasms. When you’re young, sex tends to be one-dimensional, with orgasm and validation being the goals. When you’re older, you realize that sex is about the journey, not the destination. You enjoy exploring each other. Sexual confidence comes from finally being comfortable in your own skin regardless of the the appearance of your body parts.
Photography by Nick Holmes