Get Sensual, And Get It On!

sensual“None of my friends over 50 feel any less sexual than they used to,” says Elvira Pearson, a 59-year-old writer and researcher for the Shooting Stars Foundation.  “We’re not sitting around complaining about loss of interest.”

Whoa! Hold on to your lingerie! Doesn’t sex go downhill after 17? Doesn’t passion start sputtering around the 40th birthday? The evidence shows that nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, experts say that with the right attitude sex just gets better and better. If the body slows down with age, other aspects of a person’s sexuality take off — self-confidence, the ability to communicate, appreciation of the erotic. And it’s these elements that put the real sizzle in any human chemistry.

“The older years,” says Saul Rosenthal, MD, author of Sex Over 40 (J.P. Tarcher) and founder of the Sexual Therapy Clinic of San Antonio, Texas, “should bring about the most satisfying sexual experiences of a person’s life.”


Granted, there are many roadblocks — not only to the attainment of a nurturing and satisfactory sexual life, but also to the appreciation of such a reltionship when it occurs. One problem is that older people compare themselves to memories of their youthful selves. This is especially true for males.

“Younger men often mistakenly evaluate themselves based totally on how sexually active they are,” says Sheila Jackman, PhD, director of the Division of Human Sexuality at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “So when they don’t get aroused as instantly, as often, or as firmly due to the natural aging process, they may erroneously decide, “There’s something wrong with me — or her, or the relationship.’ All of that is mythology. The truth is, the body just needs more input–tactile, visual, and auditory stimulation.”

As it turns out, those who do settle into the sexual saddle and ride with the changing gaits often gain a stronger foothold on masculinity.

“I don’t have the power and raw desire I used to,” says John Hubacher, a 39-year-old electronics engineer, “But sex has become much more spontaneous and enjoyable for me. When I eas younger I only wanted the physical. Now I know that a woman and I can have an intimate discussion which involves feelings and vulnerability–and somehow it seems very sexy because of the closeness. In a way I think that’s what I’ve always really been looking for.”

The scenario is different for women. Menopause used to signal the sexual finish line but that myth has been medically debunked. (A few women do experience a loss of desire when they stop menstruating, according to Dr. Rosenthal, but most feel just as sexual afterward as they did before.) Of much greater concern today is looking “old”–the fear that losing one’s youthful figure means losing every ounce of sex appeal as well.

Some women find that sharing their worries in a support group is very helpful. Others, like Davey Davidson, a divorced 46-year-old actress, learn on their own to ignore the media hype and look beyond appearance for a truer femininity. “It doesn’t matter whether I’m ten pounds overweight or have lines on my face,” says Davey, “because a slim figure and smooth skin are not what a man falls in low with. Anyone I really care about can see that whatever kind of beauty I may have is expressed from the inside.”

In fact, most who have graduated from the thirtysomething camp will tell you they’ve never felt more womanly or erotically free. “Sex is so much more fun now,” says Betty Chase, 45, from Stoughton, Wisconsin. “There are all sorts of options and it’s not so pressured as it was growing up. Then you had to be a performer or you had to do it right. And nobody knew what right was. Nobody talked about it.”


When you put men and women together, even the most secually inspired couples are prone to bedroom boredom. Berkeley writer and cartoonist Rose Solomon, 48, admits that her marriage of 23 years has lost some of its sexual sparkle. What worked in the past, she says, was writing erotica.

As a member of the Kensington Ladies’ Erotica Society nsee sidebar), Rose joined nine other women once a month over a period of ten years to write sensual and sexual fiction. “One wonderful thing about meeting every month for erotica,” she says, “was that we made the time for it. My husband and I should do the same thing. We should plan a special erotic weekend where we let ourselves unwind. It’s amazing how we never seem to get around to that.”

She’s right. It’s not only important to make the time but also, perhaps, to think about sexuality in a new way–a way that includes the erotic, the sensual, the emotionally intimate. “There is a wide rante of sensual experiences that can take place between people–just touching, or looking, or hugging or walking hand in hand,” says Ruth Weg, PhD, professor of gerontology at USC. “The emphasis on the mechanics of orgasm have really been a disservice to all of us because it minimizes the person and maximizes the genitalia.”



No one can deny it’s tough being single and female. Mere demographics can hurl you into a veritable shark pool of younger, more aggressive women all vying for the attention of a lone bachelor. In such cases it’s hard not to suffer a slow leak in sexual self-confidence. “I want the same Mr. Right I wanted when I was 16,” says Elvira, the researcher from Mill Valley who’s been divorced for 20 years. “I know my body functions, but that’s an academic question. There are simply no available men around.”

Elvira, however, is a good example of one who bucks the frustrations. Totally self-sufficient (“I don’t need a man to feel whole,” she says), yet adventurous in trying to meet Mr. Right, she’s even taken her chances playing the personal ads. “I havenht had any success,” she admits, explaining that the men she meets are either dull or on the make. “I went out with one guy,” she laughs, “who in the first 15 minutes goes, ‘How important is sex to you?’ I should have said, ‘What took you so long to ask?’ It’s obvious if I donht do something I wonht meet anybody.”


“I’m not going to be like Katherine Hepburn and say, “Who needs that anyway?'” continues Elvira. “I am not closing anything down, because life can turn around in a minute and that’s what makes it all so exciting.”

Why press the issue, you might ask? Why not just allow the piquant lusts and desires to happily evaporate from cell memory like the bouquet of a fine Beaujolais?

Because secuality is vital. It makes people tick. “The loving encounter, whether it ends in orgasm or not,” says Weg, “gives you a connection with the joy and the vibrancy in living.”

What’s more, it’s never too late to start. Sheila Jackman claims that her most exciting clients are those who walk in and say, “I’m 50 and I’ve never had an orgasm.”

Can they still learn to enjoy sex?

“You bet,” says Jackman.

  • Terri-Ann:

    My husband and I were having a problem. We felt like we were no longer as close as we were before. Someone at work advised me to be more sensual and to spend more time with my husband. I did and it magically resolved the issues between us.

  • HannahLive:

    My husband and I are getting more and more sensual but it’s not like everything is merely about sex. There are times we just cuddle and we are happy being near each other.

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