Monday 5 August 2013

Sex: What are the neighbours doing?

British spelling. At least I get to write clever things like, "Meeting you has been an honour... spelled with a YOU."

Thanks to the author @GoodDirtyWoman, the month of June turned into #AdultSexEdMonth, where a host of bloggers and pundits pitched in to share their expertise about (gasp) sex. Since we were talking about sex in anything but terms about procreation, I am sure far right Christian fundamentalists were apoplectic.

"Thou shalt not mess with women's reproductive rights." -Fallopians 4:28

Okay, don't get me started on a rant about politics. When I yell, spittle comes out of one corner of my mouth and it is kind of gross.

After a nonstop month of sex, sex, sex, I got to be thinking about the difference between what we think all of us are doing, that is, what is the norm as opposed to what really may be going on. When I look across the street and see the curtains drawn in the neighbours' bedroom, just what the heck is going on in there? Is everybody having way more fun than me? What is normal? Am I normal, perverted, undersexed, oversexed, or what? I need something to compare myself to because I can't seem to determine sitting here all by myself what may be right or wrong, normal or abnormal.

If it feels good, do it.
I can't find who originally said this although one person suggests this is a variation of the 1904 writing of Aleister Crowley. It certainly was a slogan of the 1960s, the era of free love. I also see that the author David Shaw in his book "The Pleasure Police" argues that our current culture is a long way from the 1960s and has turned into a repressive culture which looks askance at anything that feels good. If it feels good, don't do it because it must be bad for you. Ah guilt, the gift that just keeps on giving.

On June 13, 2013, HuffPost Live presented "Ageless Sex" to answer the questions, "Are couples ever too old for sex? If you're healthy and capable, is there any reason people well into their 80's shouldn't have a sex life? How do older couples keep love alive?" (2019-11-10 Unfortunately, I've discovered that Huffpost has taken the video offline, and I can't find it anywhere. Sorry, it's a loss.)

Joan Price, author of several books about sex and ageing, started the proceedings by quoting Dr. Jocelyn Elders, the former surgeon general of the United States under the Clinton administration.

"We’re sexual beings from the time we’re born until we die, and we need to make sure we understand our sexuality and realize that sex is about more than procreation." - Dr. Joycelyn Elders

It is thought-provoking to hear a panel of people all over the age of 50 (some over 60) talking about sex openly and freely as a wonderful part of their lives. There is no shame; there is no embarrassment. This is my right and God damn it; I'm going to enjoy myself. In reference to the question of masturbation, Joan Price, author of several books about sex and aging, reminded everyone to "use it or lose it." Yes, even when you're alone, you have to work out. If you don't stay in shape, someday you may not be ready when opportunity knocks.

Ken Solin, one of the panelists, (writer for Huffington Post, and author of the book Act Like A Man) talks about physical health but says at the age of 68, he has discovered that a great sexual relationship has everything to do with developing a deep emotional connection. No amount of Viagra will replace the passion that comes from being emotionally involved.

By the way, at this point in the recording, the moderator Abby Huntsman asks Ken two questions, "How old are you? And how often do you have sex?" Ken says he's 68 and he and his girlfriend (she's 64) get together three or four times a week and when they do they have sex a couple of times a night. I'm sorry, is it at this point I do a spit take? Ha ha. Geesh, are these two sexual athletes? From my reading, the national average is 1.3 times a week although another source pegged it at twice a week. Whatever the case, just where am I and what are the neighbours doing? Walker Thornton, another of the panelists, says she's having the best sex of her life.

In February 2013, I looked at a Canadian sex survey and found the following stats: (my blog: Canadian Sex Survey: The True North strong and (very) free)

How often are Canadians having sex?

8%: every day

33%: a few times per week

35%: a few times per month

19%: once a month or less

4%: never

How often do Canadians wish they were getting frisky?

31%: Everyday

47%: A few times per week

19%: A few times per month

3%: Once a month or less

Wait. What? Compare the numbers between what people are doing and what they would like to be doing. I return to Ken Solin's comment about developing a deep emotional connection to have the passion necessary to sustain a greater level of love-making. Are people missing something?

No sex for three years
As you can imagine - or if you can't, I'm telling you - I got to be cogitating over the state of affairs, okay the state of my affairs. I know that if you stop thinking about sex, if you stop fantasizing, your interest in sex will diminish. The joke (joke?) is that the brain is our biggest sex organ and if that is stimulated, everything else will fall into place. Yes, there may be physical limitations; our bodies change. But with desire, without having something in the head, nobody's going to be thinking about "it." Over time, do we get stuck in a rut and stop thinking about sex? Do we stop thinking about passion?

I had to chuckle when I heard that 50 Shades of Grey had been seen as rejuvenating the sex life of middle-aged people. Reading a piece of erotica and thinking about sex made them want to have sex. (my blog: 50 Shades of I'm getting lucky tonight!) Certainly the scientists have proven this to be true. Unlike food, where being deprived of food makes you think about it, being deprived of sex means you start to think less about sex. The less you think about it, the less you do it. The less you do it, the less you think about it. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. (my blog: Sex fantasies make for better sex lives)

On the other hand, the more you think about it... well, there's Ken Solin talking about three or four times a week. Holy cow!

So, this leads me up to a couple of poolside lounge chairs shooting the breeze with Gary who is 59 years old. He's been divorced for 15 years. He's been with Karen for about 10 years and she moved in about 5 years ago. They are not married. I admit when I see these two, there is a bit of an undercurrent. It's controlled but I can't help feeling something is tense between them.

We chat about the usual innocuous stuff but I've got all the above stuff buzzing around in my head, so out of the blue, I turn to Gary and ask, "When was the last time you had sex?"

"We haven't had sex in three years."

Okay, this is where there is a big, I mean really big pregnant pause in our conversation. Holy cow. What? Here I am curious about Ken Solin's confession about having sex three or four times a week, knowing the averages from that sex survey, wondering about myself and my own sex life, and a guy tells me three years. Three years???

Gee-sus H. K-rist. What's the point of having a relationship? Hell, what's the point of living? Ha, ha. A day without sex is like a day without... well, sex.

I'm stunned. But then again, this seems to be indicative of what I've been suspecting for a long time. All is not right with the world. It's really what I've been writing about ever since I've started this blog. We're all running around living our lives. We are bombarded with the messages from family, peer groups, the news and social media but this is the public face of our lives and we do not necessarily know what's really going on. We may be having issues; we may be facing problems; but we do not necessarily know what to do. And more importantly, the public interactions we have are controlled by religion, politics, and our perceptions of what is acceptable and not acceptable in our society. We shut up afraid to talk, afraid to be criticized or ostracized by our peers. We suffer in silence because we don't know what else to do. And even then, we may end up not being able to talk to our partner, the person with whom we are supposed to be able to discuss everything without criticism and without censorship.

Life is terrific
PollyAnna started out blogging about her divorce, but has taken to talking about her life. Here is a woman who has had a hysterectomy, gone through breast cancer with a double mastectomy, and suffered what appears to be a traumatic split with her husband. Now in her early 40's, she is rediscovering herself while being a single mother, a businesswoman, and a writer. In her latest column, "So that's why they call it a rebound", she writes about her transition from divorced wife to single woman and rediscovering men. I couldn't help but smile when she talks of a relationship that led to a special moment by saying, "Sex is AWESOME."

Yes, it is. It is the glue which binds us together. It is the physical manifestation of our connection to one another. It is beautiful. It is wonderful. If ever there was a gift from God, sex is it. I may be wrong, but I don't think I am. I think everybody wants great sex. I think everybody wants what Ken Solin describes as an emotional connection. I think everybody wants to keep going and nobody wants to roll over and die.

Life sucks
Then how do I or anybody else explain three years. Three years!!!

Talk about a sorry state of affairs. Although I'm sure it can't be all that uncommon. Depending on the source, the rate of divorce stands between 40% and 50%. While some analysts state that the rate of divorce has come down in the past ten years, I'm sure the rate seems significant if you're the one facing the proceedings. Now admittedly, there is probably a long list of reasons which go into explaining why anybody would want to get a divorce but I can't help thinking that if the sex isn't good, you've lost that emotional connection with the other person, the emotional commitment to the relationship and it's inevitably game over.

Life is better
What the heck is going on out there? Ken Solin has sex three or four times a week. Joan Price says it's still possibly to go for the gusto at any age. Sex is... can be... is supposed to be awesome. What the heck is going on? Is everybody having more fun than me? Okay, everyone except Gary.

Of course, when one utters the word better, when one points to the other end of the spectrum of sexual activity, I am sure we can all start imagining the wildest things possible and yes, those wild things do exist.

Several couples film themselves having sex and post their cinematic endeavours on various porn sites. Some of them have turned this bit of personal naughtiness into a business and are actually making a living from it. (Never mind porn sites. There are amateur sites hosting pictures and videos posted by John and Jane Q. Public showing off their naughty side. Anthony Weiner? He's nothing.)

I read about a couple of people who follow a polyamorous lifestyle. One couple has been together for over thirty years all while both of them have had other lovers. Just last year, at the age of 62, they decided to get married but they both continue to be proponents of open relationships and open marriage.

I read about a woman who has been married for over twenty years and is a mother to three children. Just your typical suburban housewife. Except that she and husband belong to a sex club where the two of them occasionally participate in sessions involving multiple couples and partners.

Pamela Madsen is a suburban housewife, married to her high school sweetheart and mother of three kids. At the age of 43, she set out on a personal journey of sexual self-discovery which she detailed in a book. (my blog: Book Review: Shameless by Pamela Madsen) Since then, she has become an advocate, teacher, and promoter of women getting in touch with their sexuality. (Part of Pamela's discovery was the world of BDSM, a world fairy unknown to the mainstream. - Fetlife, a web site devoted to this world, apparently has over two million members.)

I discovered the blog of a woman who writes about her life, lately detailing her hysterectomy at the age of forty. A seemingly ordinary life with the problems we all have. Except she and her (male) partner have an open relationship and she also talks about her sex life. In a recent posting, she talks about having sex with several men at the same time. Actually, it was interesting to hear her describe the logistics of arranging such a thing by taking into account health issues and safe sex plus finding safe caring people as participants. I'm sure some in reading this may jump on the moral bandwagon but the story as she told it made it all seem like a fun party. How many people get the opportunity to live out a fantasy in a safe, controlled environment? How many people if given such a chance would do so? ("A Sex-Positive Gang Bang" by Kendra Holliday)

Final Word
Three years without sex. You can't tell me that is normal. There's one couple who needs help straightening things out or they need to go their separate ways. I'm reminded of a twist on an old saying. "We only go through life once. We can go kicking and screaming but we're going to go through this once."

I look at the above section "Life Is Better" and I see some people doing some pretty wild things in their lives. If sex is consensual and nobody gets hurt, the rest is left up to one's individual taste. And what a variety of tastes there is. The sexual spectrum is a broad one.

Ken Solin has a point. An emotional connection means passion. That means better sex. That probably means more sex. Quantity is good but quality is paramount.

What are the neighbours doing? They may be doing some pretty extraordinaire things. Or they may be doing nothing at all. I just hope all of us manage to find our own good, safe place in life with that emotional connection to a wonderful partner. Like PollyAnna, I would very much like to be able to say, all in caps no less, "AWESOME!"


Update: 2019-11-10: It's now nine and a half years that Gary and his partner haven't had sex. Needless to say, that relationship is dead. Why are they still together? Finances. Neither of them can afford to leave.

NY Times - July 28, 1996
If It Feels Good, Don't Do It by Richard Klein
A review of the book "The Pleasure Police: How Bluenose Busybodies and Lily-Livered Alarmists Are Taking All the Fun Out of Life." by David Shaw.

Better After 50 - Feb 12/2013
Is a Sexless Marriage Reason To Divorce? by Shannon Bradley-Colleary
In the midst of the divorce, when Bethany had lost twenty pounds and couldn’t sleep and doubted herself, she clung to one simple truth, "I can’t live the rest of my life without passion."

A passionless life. Not just sexless, but passionless. We all need to have a passion. Whether it’s passion for our partner or spouse, our work, our children, our hobbies. The lack of sex in Bethany’s marriage had eroded the passion of her spirit. She was living a rote, predictable, stagnant life.

A Good Woman's Dirty Mind - Jan 16/2013
Ordinary People, Extraordinary Sex by MsQuote
We look like a delightfully pleasant and polite middle-aged couple … the kind you might have an interesting and intelligent conversation about politics, music or literature at a brunch or cocktail party. We don’t give off that "hot" vibe. I could easily be mistaken for the suburban housewife type that shops at Macy’s and prefers ballerina flats to fuck-me-pumps. He’s the guy who wears New England sensibility well … Oxford shirts, khakis and loafers.
we have the greatest sex life we know of.


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PollyAnna said...

Oh this made me laugh. And maybe cry.

Yes, sex is AWESOME. I could not believe how great it was when I tried it again. I couldn't believe that when I thought I had a mind/body/heart connection, my body completely relaxed and I enjoyed myself more than I dreamed possible at this stage of my life. Yes, it was awesome. Amazing, surprising, and wonderful.

The guy wasn't all I'd hoped, and he's history, which puts me back to the drawing board. Ugh. Pandora's box has been opened, and my libido is all dressed up with no place to go. To say this is a bummer is an understatement.

Especially because your reference to three years was ironic, because that is how long it was between my ex-husband and the now ex-lover.

I don't think I'll take that long again. ;-) I've got a new bounce in my step that others are noticing and I'm enjoying the attention, even if I don't quite understand it. One of these days, hopefully sooner than later, I'll meet someone who will inspire me to remember just how awesome sex can be once again.

Because it's AWESOME. :-)

Pauline Gaines said...

Whenever I read articles about how hard it is to feel sexual after 50, or Hey, Look! I'm 50 and Still Enjoy Sex!, it takes me awhile to remember that I'M 50. Who are all these miserable, non-sexy 50-year-olds? True sexiness comes with age and maturity. I'm much sexier, and comfortable with sex, than I was in my 20s and 30s.

Cuckoo Momma said...

49 yo and having the best sex of my life with the best emotional connection of my life so that is probably no coincidence. POOR Gary.

Walker Thornton said...

My moment of fame, "having best sex of her life". INDEED.....
I think we're all vastly different in our approaches to sex and the truth of what's happening behind our curtains... interesting contrast between Ken Solin and your friend Gary--Where is the middle ground?

Great article, with lots of links and food for thought--as always! Thank you.

Joan Price said...

Superb post, thank you. I'll share it with my peeps. Thank you for mentioning me in it.

We are truly complex in our sexual attitudes and behaviors, and these get even more complicated as we try to adapt to aging bodies and, often, stale relationships. In Naked at Our Age, people over 50 told me stories of great sex, awful sex, no sex.

What many older people don't realize is that for every problem, there is a solution. Don't give up on sexual delights -- rather, find the information that will help you enrich your own sex live.

Joan Price

Author of Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex and Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, and editor of the new Ageless Erotica.

Join us -- we're talking about ageless sexuality at said...

Wonderful post and so important, especially to us boomers. We are living longer and staying healthier. Sexual-wellness is not only important for our physical well-being but for our mental well-being and for healthy relationships.

Unknown said...

"We shut up afraid to talk, afraid to be criticized or ostracized by our peers. We suffer in silence because we don't know what else to do."

Thank you for writing this William Quincy Belle. Finding your blog made my day. I am so grateful that I finally decided to talk, to start writing about what I really feel, because it has led me to discover people like you.

~Jackie Devine @

Zanelle said...

I think most people are not having great sex if any at all. I see them giving up because it is complicated and messy. I'm glad I haven't given up but it sure can get complicated.