Technically, the baby boomers didn't invent sex. They didn't even lead the sexual revolution — sexologist Alfred Kinsey published the first of his two groundbreaking sexual-behavior studies in 1948. The oral contraceptive pill appeared in 1960. And a complex confluence of social and cultural factors helped unbuckle Americans' sexual lives in the late 1960s and 1970s. But you'd be forgiven for giving boomers all the credit, since they're the ones who got to enjoy the fruits of the revolution.
Coming of age as they did in this heady, horny time, it's little wonder that sex has always loomed large in the boomer psyche. Now that the youngest boomers are celebrating their 50th birthdays, has anything changed? To find out, we asked 1,816 people to share the intimate details of their sexual lives for an exclusive AARP survey. The good news? Most boomers (71 percent) say sex is still important to their lives. Only slightly more than half (54 percent) are satisfied with their sex lives, however, and 67 percent admit that their sexual desire has receded in the past 20 years.
The raw numbers, of course, don't tell the full story. So we asked some of our favorite writers and thinkers to offer personal observations on the ever-changing, ever-fascinating shape of human desire.
Holy Cow, Look at Me Now!
By Sally Koslow
Last year I met with a plastic surgeon and stripped to the waist faster than [burlesque performer] Dita Von Teese. I'd been diagnosed with breast cancer. A unilateral mastectomy was in my future. The doctor told me that when he did the replacement surgery, he could fit me with implants on both sides and make not only my faux breast a bit bigger than its original, but also add a small implant to the healthy breast, so my girls matched. Lots of women do this, he explained.
Holy cow. Through the scrim of anxiety I glimpsed a silver lining, though it might have been the glimmer of hot-girl lingerie in my future.
I'd never felt my sex life had been diminished by having small breasts. I am married to an aficionado of legs and a pert behind, and on both scores, my husband had always given me 9.5 and no lack of amorous attention. He is also a guy who held my hand during cancer's darkest moments, changed post-surgical drains, found my drugged word slurs charming and never stopped making me feel great about my body. Still, I couldn't wait to get my cleavage card punched.
I'll admit I'd forever envied more voluptuous women, i.e., virtually every other female on Earth. A sleek chest is an asset for running and sleeping on your stomach, a male comic's punch line and … that's it. I'd been wearing wee bras since seventh grade. I thought it would be fun — and frankly, an aphrodisiac — to see how the other half dressed.
Depreciated self-esteem is common after breast cancer, but for me, self-esteem spiked. Do my new breasts look natural? Hell, no. They look better than natural. We're not talking Las Vegas knockers, but I love the way I look, especially in the upgraded underwear I prance about in at every opportunity. And my husband says that if he closes his eyes, he feels he's with a 25-year-old. Last night he gave high praise to the new bathing suit I modeled. Sayonara, leg man.
Every couple needs sexual novelty. I never expected ours to come in 32D.
Sally Koslow is the author of Slouching Toward Adulthood and The Widow Waltz.
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