When we were asked if we would be interested in reading Joan Price‘s latest book, The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50: How to Maintain – or Regain – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life, HELL YES was our response. But because sex and aging is such an important topic to us, we didn’t just want to review the book, which is incredible- no, no -we wanted to interview Joan. Hey, it’s how we roll. So read, enjoy, and trust me when I say you need this book. Also, if you purchase a copy directly from her website, she’ll autograph it. How sweet is that? And if you haven’t already, please check out Joan’s blog, Naked at Our Age, where she’s talking about and celebrating the joys of senior sex.
Before I begin my interview questions, I have to say THANK YOU. Your words helped me uncover a piece of myself and my expectations about sex as I grow older. It has been a very interesting couple of days as I read your guide and asked my partner questions about the topics that presented themselves.
When I started your guide about sex and aging, I considered myself outside of your target audience. I’m in my early forties, so I was “safe” from those misconceptions and myths, right? Oh was I so, so wrong. As I began reading through the myths listed at the beginning of the guide, I felt uncomfortable, like I was poking a tender place that I hadn’t known existed.
It turned out that sex and aging is actually an issue for me. I’m a sex blogger and erotica author. My sexuality and sex life get a spotlight on a regular basis, and the idea of aging, even though I know that everyone is doing it, worries me. I’m in my forties now, but what happens in my fifties and beyond?
The idea for Vagina Antics was born in the demise of my marriage. I was almost 40 and about to embark on a new world of dating and sex. I begged Nikki to go on the sex blogging journey with me, because what set us apart was that we are older, single mothers, who had stretch marks and an unholy love of donuts. And we were going to do all this for the second time around, and it was all new again. That identity has become central to how I see myself. So now as my body changes, and boy howdy has it in some significant ways, I feel a fear for what’s to come. Well, I felt a fear but didn’t want to admit it until I read your book.
(And now I’m laughing at myself)
I read your guide in parts to my partner in bed. He seemed completely surprised that I was worried about getting older and what would happen to our sex life. We are kinky and live a BDSM lifestyle, and at one point in our discussion I exclaimed, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO CHANGE. His reply was… of course it is. His solution was that we would buy even more lube and that we’d rule out the sexual positions that hurt our joints. Ah… the practicality of men.
I really can’t thank you enough for writing your guide and agreeing to be featured on Vagina Antics. You’ve opened up a new realm of discussion for us here on the blog and personally. So thank you again, and on with my questions. (apologies in advance for my rambling)
In the beginning of your Ultimate Guide to Sex Over Fifty, you list common myths and misconceptions about sex and aging. It was this quote that made me first sit up and really listen. “I used to think that if we all banded together and refuted the ick factor, we’d change society. We’d lead the parade of women and men proclaiming our right to joyful sex, and soon everyone would acknowledge that we can be sexy at any age. We’d celebrate aging, rather than bemoaning it.”
1. This was a huge revelation to me, because up until this point, I had refused to even consider (or envision) sex in my sixties and beyond. I was very unconscious about this decision, and your guide was a pleasant slap in the face that I needed to wake up and pay attention. (I’m the type of woman who enjoys that type of thing.) Anyway! *cough* How does one begin looking at age and sex differently and challenging the messages that society and the media give us? Obviously buying your guide is a great place to start. But how do you revise the vision, and empower yourself, for your sex life after 50? When did you do that for yourself? Or did you always know that you’d be sexually fulfilled no matter the age?
We start by challenging the message from society and the media that sex is the domain of the young, that we’re weird or pathetic if we’re still sexually joyful after 60, 70, 80. We do that by talking out loud about it. I don’t mean that we have to disclose intimate details to the world – just that we stand up with the sex-positive attitude, “Hey, we don’t have an expiration date. We can enjoy sex through our whole lives. And so can you.” I’ve had interviewers tell me that they don’t like to picture their aging mothers/grandmothers as sexual beings. I say, “At what age do you plan to retire your genitals?”
No, I never thought about older age sexuality when I was young. I actually never thought much about getting older at all!
- Myth #3 is “If I’m not feeling the drive to have sex anymore, it’s not worth the bother, so I might as well just let it go.”
Hell, I know women in their thirties that say this. Our hormones change as we age, so how do you recommend that we manage those feelings of, “this is beyond my control and happens to all women/men at my age?”
We can acknowledge that it happens, but as you read in The Ultimate Guide to Sex after Fifty, there are many ways to address the lack of drive. We may not feel the biological drive that we felt when our hormones raged, but that’s not the only reason to enjoy sex! It’s good for pleasure, for health, for intimacy, for stress relief, for a sense of wellbeing. It makes us feel good, makes us laugh, and helps us sleep better! The point is to learn ways to overcome the sexual inertia that we may feel when the drive slows down. We can make a commitment to nurturing our sexuality.
3. Myth #5 is “A man who can’t have a dependable erection cannot satisfy his partner or enjoy himself.
Preach! I started hearing apologies about “lackluster” penis behavior from men in the 40’s, and instead of worrying about what we would do in the bedroom, I felt a deep compassion for what they had deemed shameful and embarrassing. You quote sex journalist Michael Castleman and define this as “erection dissatisfaction.” In fact, you devote an entire chapter to Sex Without Erections. This is a super-sensitive area of discussion for many men. What do you recommend as the best way to begin a dialogue with your partner regarding erection dissatisfaction? There are many other options besides erection pills. Would you talk more about that to our readers? (You wrote about using a strap on and I squealed with joy!)
I’m delighted that I made you squeal for joy! Bringing up the topic is very hard for men. If we’re partnered with a man, we can ease into the conversation by letting him know that we understand that erections aren’t dependable at our age, and that’s really okay, because we can have great sensual and sexual pleasure with hands, mouths, and sex toys. Rather than introduce the anxiety over whether the erection will happen or stay hard long enough for penetration, let’s just have sex in all these other ways.
If this is a new relationship, the penis owner may be especially anxious. It’s helpful to say while stroking his body (all over, not just genitals, but not excluding genitals either), “Are you enjoying the sensations from my touch? Then just relax and enjoy.” Welcome him to explore how to please you without an erect penis, too. The better you can communicate what you like, the more relaxed he’ll be.
Of course there’s a lot more in the book about sex without erections – as you said, an entire chapter!
4. Sex and Safety – This is a HUGE hot button for me. It should be a hot button for everyone! One would assume that barrier sex would be assumed for all ages, but it’s not. You state some scary statistics that point to the opposite in your guide. Toys need to be safe too when using them with other people! What ways do you find it’s easiest to bring up protection when dating someone new? What are your guidelines regarding keeping toys safe?
Bring it up after the first hot kisses and wandering hands, but before the clothes are off. Being direct is simplest, like, “Let’s talk about safer sex. I always use barrier protection.” If it’s clear that sex will be happening very soon, “Let me show you the condoms I have – do you have a favorite?”
Toys that go into more than one orifice or into more than one person’s orifice need to wear condoms and the condoms need to be changed between orifices. Wearing the FC2 receptive condom (aka female condom) is another way to stay safe when using a toy (or a penis) with more than one vagina or anus at a time, without having to change the condoms, since there’s no exchange of fluids.
I’ll get straight to the nitty gritty.
“As a woman nearly sixty, I can say with certainty that there are days when I feel like the “hot thang” who stopped traffic back in the day – other days I feel like the detour sign.”
I’m knocking on the door of 45 and I can totally relate to that statement. It’s so easy to let that detour sign beat us down to where we are stuck in the rut of feeling far from the sexual being we once were.
I recently read where Erica Jagger wrote that she requested an STD workup during her well-woman visit at her gynecologist. She was stunned, as were her readers, when her female doctor told her she wouldn’t need to worry about that for much longer because women usually stop having sex around the age of 65. Why do you think doctors discount or even disapprove of sexuality in aging women?
I’m furious about Erica’s doctor’s comment. I have a whole chapter on doctors – why they’re uninformed, how to ask questions, how to get the information you need. Doctors not only don’t get the training in older-age sexuality, but they’re people, too, with their own misconceptions and prejudices. We have to let them know that yes, we are still sexual beings, and no, it’s not okay to dismiss us.
And finally, I’m curious. When you speak at engagements, are there a large number of men in attendance? What is the most common question you’re asked by them?
Oh yes, men want to learn. They want to understand their own changes and their partners’ changes. I’m asked about erections, desire, how to please a long-term partner when the sex has grown stale, whether they should be worried if a partner can’t orgasm without a vibrator, how to communicate, what new things they can try, when and how to bring up sex when dating – and so much more.
As Heather said above, thank you for speaking out so passionately about such an important topic. I’ve often wondered how I will approach sexual issues as they arise in the future, and now I know.
Thank you both for treating this topic so seriously and for including your own personal reactions. I love that the conversation is now open!
“Living ‘happily ever after’ may be the stuff of fairy tale endings, but in this forthright and important book, Joan Price shows us how ‘sexy ever after’ can be a new beginning for the senior set.” —Ian Kerner, New York Times bestselling author of She Comes First