En español | Sex never gets old, but let's face it: Age introduces new challenges — both mental and mechanical — to the bedroom.
Our bodies don't respond as predictably as they once did. Our hips or knees may creak and crack. We may need to allow more time for foreplay (or certain medications) to take effect.
Does that mean we cease to exist as sexual beings? Absolutely not. Every study on the link between sexuality and health that I have ever read — or conducted, for that matter — finds sexual behavior highly correlated to overall happiness and health. So if you're having problems, it's worth trying to fix them. No time of life is without its difficulties. Many 50-plus couples, though, are having the most rewarding and pleasurable sex of their lives.
Join the discussion: Talk openly with other folks about love, sex and relationships.
Q: Can you recommend good sex videos for older couples? My spouse and I would like to learn some new techniques, but a lot of the instructional websites we've seen advertised look flaky.
A: You can get wonderful tips from videos — and they can be a turn-on, too. Most of those from sinclairinstitute.com are narrated by respected sexologists; several are designed for older couples. Evesgarden.com also offers a variety of well-described videos.
And what about steamy movies? They're not porn, but they are exciting. Classics to check out include An Affair to Remember (both the 1957 original and the 1994 remake, Love Affair), Secretary (a bit kinky but ultimately sweet) and The Lover (set in French Indochina in 1929 and based on the true story of a young woman and her older paramour). On the edgier side, you might try Henry and June, Wild Orchid, Sex and Luciaor The Story of O. Happy viewing!
Q: I had been celibate for four years. Then I met a man (I'm 65; he's 61), and the sex is amazing! We call ourselves "friends with benefits." I'm delighted but a little scared. Is this normal at my age?
A: It's quite normal — and how fantastic to meet a man (at any age) who can bring erotic joy and adventure into your life! The only thing I worry about is whether you can be in a relationship labeled "friends with benefits" without wanting more.
If both of you can just enjoy great sex without wanting great love, more power to you. But sex has a habit of creating desire for emotional connection. If you eventually find that one of you wants a bigger commitment than the other, there may be some heartbreak in your future. But you're all grown up. So long as you are willing to take that risk, it's fine to enjoy the present.
Q: I'm a 54-year-old man. I usually have sex once or twice a week but never more than that. I feel like I'm really slowing down. Is there something wrong with me, or is this just how it goes?
A: Your rate is average. And if you're still having sex twice a week once you pass 60, you'll be doing better than average. Men do tend to slow down as they get older. Any number of factors — decreasing testosterone levels, aging knees, less overall energy — can make you want to read a good book, not have a great bonk. But that doesn't make the sex you do have any less fulfilling.
Q: I was put on AndroGel for low testosterone. Now my energy and libido are both up, but I keep dreaming my wife of 45 years is having sex with other men. The dreams wake me up, and they're so exciting that I can't get back to sleep. My doctor says there's no reason to be concerned. The problem is, I'm losing sleep. Ever heard of this before?
A: Watching one's wife being made love to by another man is a relatively common fantasy — and a highly arousing one at that. If it fires up your relationship and is not something you're trying to actualize (as some husbands do), I'd agree with your doctor and say just enjoy the dreams. And if your partner doesn't mind being woken in the middle of the night, why not use your heat to ignite her feelings and have sex on the spot? That will help you get back to sleep (and make her feel flattered by your attraction to her).
And this is, ultimately, an attraction to your wife: The dreams center on her; she's the one you're in love with. Your erotic imaginings may feature another man finding your wife irresistible, but you can use those dreams to have hotter sex together in the here and now.
You might also try making love right before you go to sleep; that should reduce the likelihood of sexual dreams — and help the two of you finally get some shut-eye!
Q: As a postmenopausal 60-year-old, I have terrible pain during sexual intercourse. I've tried lubricants without success, and as a breast cancer survivor I've been advised against hormone therapy. Is there anything else I can try?
A: Replens, an estrogen-free vaginal moisturizer, plumps up severely atrophied tissue. It must be used several times before you experience changes in the vaginal floor, but it should make a difference. (Pair it with a silicone lubricant such as Pink or Eros.)
Many doctors believe that estrogen-based cream is locally absorbed, which would make it safe for women who've had cancer. Feminist and cancer specialist Susan Love, M.D., has strong opinions on the use of hormones. Though she does not recommend topical estrogen for women who have had breast cancer, she suggests talking to your doctor about a slow-release estrogen ring.
Q: After my wife died three years ago, I became involved with an old friend. Then she died of a stroke three months after I lost my father. Since then, I've been having extreme bouts of loneliness. I'm now dating three women. I know I shouldn't have three gals at once — and that's making me more depressed. What should I do?
A: Take things slowly: It's OK to make sure you're with a great person who's good for you, but only time can determine that. Though all three women may want you to make a decision sooner, you must explain your need to get to know someone very well before you can make a commitment.
The main thing is to be honest. If each woman knows what's really happening, she won't feel betrayed if you don't choose her. In fact, if a woman discovers that the man she's dating is seeing other women at the same time, she always has the option of going out with other men herself. Alternatively, she may conclude that her expectations for the "multi-dater" were too high, and move on. I hope your choice becomes clear before too long. Do this right and you might even remain friends with the also-rans!
Q: My wife gets irked when I drop hints about meeting in the bedroom. But when we do (infrequently) have sex, she has roaring orgasms, which I love to help with. Why has she gotten so hard to seduce?
A: Women's sexual desire is so variable, it's almost impossible to predict. Just because a woman is orgasmic and enjoys sex when she has it doesn't mean she'll be in the mood at the next opportunity. That may strike men as odd, but women's sexual response is governed by so many things — hormonal changes, daily life, the relationship — that you can't draw a straight line between desire and orgasm.
You can, however, draw a straight line between relationship satisfaction and desire: Study after study has shown that high relationship satisfaction is likely to increase both desire for sex and orgasmic response.
So when a man mentions being on a different sexual wavelength from his wife, it makes me wonder how the relationship is going. I'm not saying a woman's sexual interest is dictated exclusively by her happiness with a partner — far from it. All kinds of other things can be involved, ranging from endocrine issues to worries about money or children. But the relationship is always a good place to start.
Q: I'm an active 60-year-old woman, and I'd love to meet my perfect match. I know that age doesn't protect me from STDs [sexually transmitted diseases], but what happens if the man can no longer hold an erection? That means condoms can fall off. When I've suggested to beaus that we have blood tests before having intercourse, I've gotten shocked looks and comments that I don't trust them. What's a gal to do?
A: You could start by finding a guy who's a grownup. Haven't these men read about the prevalence of STDs among single daters over 50? Even long-term care communities have run into problems when residents have not used condoms. Think about making condom use sexy: Get one that's micro-thin (available in drugstores) and present it to the man in question as a "sex toy." If he can't keep it on when he's at half-staff, you might mention Cialis or Viagra as well.
If these options aren't viable, take a second look at the female condom: Recently improved, it no longer feels like a plastic bag inside you.
One other thought: Explore each other's bodies with your mouth or hands, but hold off on intercourse until you both really want it. Then, just before penetration, try an ultrathin condom. If he's very excited, the condom may not deter the proceedings.
Q: I had a knee replacement five weeks ago, and now I can't kneel above my spouse when we have sex. Is there a book that can show us different positions?
A: Is there ever! The Joy of Sex shows all kinds of positions (the first edition has drawings; the second shows photos). British sex therapist Anne Hooper has a number of books with photos of a variety of sex positions. There is also a fun book called The Guide to Getting It On! — it offers detailed instructions on, and drawings of, various options.
Q: Can a person's gender preference change with age?
A: Yes. It's a gobsmacking event when it happens, but researchers are discovering a person's sexual orientation is not carved in stone. In Sexual Fluidity, Lisa Diamond chronicled her research on nearly 100 gay women over 10 years. During that time, several of the women changed their sexual orientation. The most frequent cause for the U-turn? The "switchers" had fallen in love with a member of the opposite sex. Other researchers have compiled case studies of gay men who fell in love with women, as well as of heterosexuals, both men and women, who unexpectedly became involved with a member of their own sex. Love, it seems, really can conquer all.
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