Friday, August 24, 2012

No sex, some sex, and great sex

Readers often write to debate with me the sexual background of my characters. I think this is because the average age of my readers is 40+ in a group with ages ranging 20-86. So I hear a lot from 40 year olds wanting to know how true my situations are. I don't blame them for being concerned. I woke up and became a real person in my 40's too.

Are you sure there are women who go long periods of time without having sex, they ask? Yes, I sadly answer. Sometimes exchanges get a little heated when we get to arguing about men being in the same category too. Both in research and in real life, I have determined that being in a sexless relationship or having no one in your life to be sexual with is not gender specific. I have a friend who's new fiancee had gone almost a decade without being sexual until he'd met her. They are both in their early 60's. I have another with an attitude similar to Lydia's about liking her life like it is, so why should she change? Maybe she shouldn't. I certainly don't profess to be an expert on such matters, but given the nature of my work, I lean to thinking no one should be without love and connection.

I suppose it just isn't talked about often, or the information doesn't make it into the market for mass consumption. Sexuality is not really what you read about at AARP which I have officially given up hoping to offer readers something other than the dreary stories of how it sucks to grow older. I've moved on and now get my more positive information elsewhere.

A recent HuffPost50 article called "Married And Sex: Scheduling Intimacy Can Improve Both contained the following statistic:  "According to a 2010 Kinsey Institute report, 22 percent of married women between the ages of 50 and 59 had not had sex at all in the previous year and 20.6 percent of married men in the same age group reported being in a sexless marriage."

I have to say that after all the reading I did for Dating A Silver Fox's 60+ yr olds, nothing said in that article surprised me.

When I was researching to create the characters of Lydia and Morrie, I read a lot of books about sexuality in the 50's, 60's, and beyond. I read a biography about a 64 year old who advertised (in a somewhat sane way) for men to date and sleep with because she said she didn't want to die having gone without sex for 30 years. While you and I might never do something so drastic, you have to admit that was a pretty brave thing to do at her age. Her reason? She was following that voice inside her, the same one many of us have, that there was supposed to be "more" to life.

Recently, I saw the movie Hope Springs (Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones). It was about the loss of intimacy in a relationship over time and about how hard it is to get it back. So if you want to see what the reality looks like, the movie captures it well. I don't want to add any spoilers here, but I will say I found it way more poignant than funny.

Janice Epp, Ph.D., and Dean of the Institute for Advanced Studies of Human Sexuality in San Francisco says "couples in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are not used to looking at sex as valuable. They've had all these years of putting sex behind everything else." That statement really resonates with me as being true. I've done it. I've seen friends do it. Intimacy requires a desire to turn the love you feel for a person into actions that will please both of you.

The article recommends scheduling time to connect, be intimate, and hopefully have sex if it gets that far. The advice reminded me of dating. You arrange time, put on your best of everything (clothes and personality), and spend connecting time with the person hoping it moves to hugging, kissing, and yes--sex. Great sex.

Some readers see my books as idealistic fantasy and that is fair. But I also think my stories are examples of passionate possibilities regardless of age. A few readers have even written to say I've inspired them. I hope this is true.

But I also recommend checking out the article in HuffPost50 for some practical advice.


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