Youth, Age, and Sex
I’m about to say some things that will likely offend some people –namely, those who are youth obsessed.
This summer, I had an interesting experience at Harbin Hot Springs (a beautiful, peaceful, clothing optional retreat North of San Francisco). I tried to see my environment through a completely different lens. The inspiration? My boyfriend was reading the book by Baskin Robbins heir John Robbins “Healthy at 100”. In it the author gives his opinion on how we view aging in American culture completely the wrong way. Our youth obsessed culture here in America reveres youth as something that should always be praised, desired, or idolized. But if you look at aging in a way that respects what comes with age, then it would be very easy to revere and respect – indeed to look forward to – attaining wisdom, knowledge, and experience as a good thing. The same thing goes for sex as we age.
Harbin is a very interesting place and I’ve written about it in the past. Most of the time when I go there it is blazing hot. Because of the heat, I picture it like a savanna in Africa where different yet compatible groups of animals gather near a watering hole (stay with me for a minute). I saw a group of four twenty-something girls. With this new lens, they seemed to bound and prance like gangly young deer on wobbly legs. They were all flailing their arms about and acting loud, giddy and silly. They looked very out of place. Through this new lens I saw them as not something to wish to be, but rather, oh so glad I’m not there anymore. Everyone else with a few more years on the clock was relaxed and confident and not the least bit interested in what these young women did.
It’s so wonderful to see the demographic at Harbin. Everyone is so comfortable and confident. But, At least in the times that I have gone, the majority of the visitors seem to be over the age of 35 – is there an age threshold where this comfort begins? Or is it as a result of being naked that an unspoken accept-me-for-who-I-am confidence comes out? Compare Harbin to other, more traditional (read: clothing required) pool clubs where people parade about as if they’re on display. What if we were to strip these people down to naked; what would happen when a person cannot hide behind the “protection” of that suit or coverup? Does the comfort or confidence go away? Why? Is it the clothes or the age that determines that level of comfort and confidence? Are these mutually exclusive? How does this translate into their sex lives I wonder…
I’ve heard many times from my sexologist colleagues that sex only gets better as people age. Anecdotally, as a 40-something myself, I can offer my own support of that view but don’t just take my word for it; There are plenty of sex positive resources to support this – many of whom are graduates from IASHS like me, Anita Hoffer, Gina Ogden, & Betty Dodson to name a few. If you would like a more mainstream example, Jane Fonda, age 74, recently did an interview where she shared happiness, sexual satisfaction, and having found “true intimacy” with her current partner. Can I just say, that’s f’ing beautiful? The current culture that thinks sex should be limited to reproductive purposes fails to acknowledge that sex is also healthy after 40, 50, 60, and on and on. Add the additional depth of Jane’s experience where I presume there is communication, consent, respect, pleasure, and I’d bet there’s a healthy dose of fantasy present as well and WOW. All those wonderful years of figuring out who we are? It sounds like sex only gets richer as one gets older as well when one finds a partner who meets them in that journey.
Which brings me to a question: why do so many people have a hard time accepting others who are older than ourselves being sexual – while at the same time asserting that we plan to be sexual when we reach that ripe old age? There’s judgment about older adults being sexual – is this because they aren’t making babies? There’s also an attitude of “that’s not going to happen to me” – Did we learn nothing when we were adolescents thinking the same thing? Sex is a very healthy aspect of our adult life and such a tremendous part of who we are in general – why would we think that would change as others get older?
I’ve posed lots of questions that I hope you think about as well. Let’s move away from celebrating youth as the only true source of “beauty and perfection”. Let’s be kinder to ourselves and embrace the aging process especially as it relates to sex. Love the wrinkles. Embrace the grey hair (ok, admittedly I’m working on this one…). While you are having sex, think of the Journey (pleasure and enjoyment for both) and not about the Destination (ejaculation station). Respect our elders and accept that they too are sexual beings. And if you have children, help them understand that sex between two lovers can be a beautiful thing… and just like the animals they see having sex in the zoo, grandmas and grandpas do it too.