Close Connections: What about sex now?
By Nancy Norman
I don’t mean RIGHT now. I mean sex with more wrinkles and fat than you used to have. Or sex when you’ve never been less interested in the idea. Or sex when physical touch is uncomfortable. Or sex with a partner who has trouble enjoying sex because of medical or emotional conditions.
To answer this question, here is some information that might be helpful:
Our mind is the most important sex organ. Sex isn’t just genital—it’s general. Our attitudes, memories, fantasies and degree of vulnerability really control our enjoyment of sex or lack of it. How we think we look–which is often inaccurate–plays a vital role in pleasure. If we can’t accept the way our bodies look now or as we age, our attitude will likely make us less willing to get naked. Men responding to an internet survey sang the praises of their partners—aging bodies and all. Why, they asked, are women so critical of how they look?
Skin is the biggest sex organ. Size does not matter (really!) because any size skin allows us to receive pleasure to the end of our lives. Whether hugging and kissing, erotic massage or orgasm–or something else–is what’s wanted, our skin is available to help those pleasures happen. Finding out what we and our partner (if we have one) like in the way of touch can make a big difference in our interest in sex.
Sex is more than skin deep. Sex and aging are both about living more authentically. If we want sex without a partner, we can have it. And with another person, it’s about being brave enough to state your preferences. “If you like sex, fantastic,” wrote one respondent to an internet survey, “and if you’ve had enough to last a lifetime and would rather have a foot rub–there’s nothing wrong with you.”
Sex isn’t just for the youthful and beautiful. Too often our reactions are either joking or derogatory about the idea of older folks having sex. Cartoons show the sags and shrinkages. Giggles happen when older people kiss. Comments like, “Isn’t that cute?” can really mean, “Hope they don’t do anything else.” Some people say, “Yuck!” to the notion of sex in older years. I add that my oldest couple for sex therapy were 84 and 86 years old.
Sex isn’t just for healthy bodies. Handicapped people who’ve been willing to talk about their sex lives have taught us how creative sex can be. Body parts that don’t cooperate don’t have to limit us. Remember, the mind is the controlling factor. A man with paraplegia knows where his partner’s hands are, even without feeling.
It’s really important to know how flexible sex can be. It so easily gets categorized as the Big “O” experience when there are many other ways to partake. We can be honest about our preferences. From the babies we were to the elders we will become, we can embrace sex in our own way now.
Nancy Norman is a licensed clinical social worker, musician with The Storys duo and former “Intimacy” columnist with “The Wichita Eagle.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.