Thinking of the Summer of Love... obviously thoughts about sexuality rise to the surface. Images of long hair flung in ecstatic arcs, gleeful, salacious grins, undulating guitar riffs, and the conviction that bodies were cosmically designed for infinite lovemaking. But then another poignant recollection arises - of how clueless we were, really. Free love - what did it mean, ultimately.
Now, some 40, 50 years hence... How do we define sexual love? We must have had more experience than any other previous generation at this point; we must have learned something, right?
And I would guess, if we have, that it actually derives from that phrase that circulated even then - It’s about the journey, not the destination - which through the years has now most likely been drummed into our awareness. But this is one of the sweet rewards of real adulthood, the awareness that in the long run, it’s the tenderness, the playfulness, the imagination and the willingness, that brings the most satisfaction. It’s not about the performance, or achieving some pre-ordained goal.
So then - a little appraisal may be in order. Are we all getting our rocks off? Are we now finally really liberated? For a lot of older women, the answer is becoming yes. After years of acquiescing to the antique notion that sex didn’t count unless our mates ejaculated, and too often finding that our own orgasms never materialized, apparently boomer chicks are coming to grips with a real sense of the source and the importance of their own pleasure. And for men too, this is a very good thing. Because slowing up, getting more exploratory, opening up to the myriad stripes of sexual satisfaction, turns out to be great for them as well. The idee fixe of the primacy of Ye Olde Phallus has given way, thus liberating men to be less performance driven, if they so choose.
Look, try though we will to see ourselves as super seniors in the making, there are inevitable shifts in our bodies, and when it comes to genitalia, they’re obvious. But that’s merely the physical plane. Just as the hard terrain of Earth amounts to only 30% of its surface and the rest is water, the earthly component of sexuality comprises maybe 20% of the situation, and the rest is created by that marvelously fluid entity - the mind.
Now, I don’t mean to get off the track here. There are some real mechanics that must be addressed, and there are umpteen websites addressing them, but where I’m going is into the zone of the imagination, where we ultimately make or break our own orgasms.
If you find yourself reading this and feeling there’s a party somewhere that you weren’t invited to - you must remember: good sex doesn’t just happen. Eros retired centuries ago and left nobody in charge; we’re on our own. But that’s the beauty of it - it’s up to us. ‘You can get it if you really want it... But you must try, try and try.’ Jimmy Cliff got it, I’m sure. Experiment, baby. Who’s watching? (Well, that may not be the right question for some...)
So if your current status as a sexual citizen is in question, perhaps it’s time to wonder why, or rather, perhaps it’s not time to wonder, it’s time to do something about it.
First - there are some myths that are tumbling, especially when it comes to the likelihood and necessity of full erections. Countless men, from their 60’s upward, speak about their ongoing interest in and ability to derive pleasure from sex, even if the old icon of male arousal has faded. It’s not about how much blood is pumping up, but how much love and lust is pumping through the veins. However, I’d wager many men never even get to enjoy their post-studly joys since the media is awash with the notion that love can’t happen without stiff dicks. The startling news (which is in fact over 4 decades old) is that men can orgasm and ejaculate without an erection. According to PHD June Machover Reinisch (for years director of the Kinsey Institute at the University of Indiana as well as a Professor of Psychiatry there, and currently head of future exhibitions and acquisitions at New York's Museum of Sex) there are three distinct stages that appear to occur more or less simultaneously in male orgasms, and yet they are not contingent upon one another. The erection is in fact not a necessary precursor to ejaculation. Whoopee, right?
See women have a deeper awareness of the participation of the entire body in the sex act. We know how our skin responds to stroking almost anywhere on our bodies; we’re like kitty cats that way. Our senses have never been confined to one ostentatious six or seven or eight inches of flesh! The number of square inches that comprise our erogenous zone could prove us the luckier sex if, in fact, it weren’t also true of male bodies. How lovely that the onus is lifted from that often strutting, often dejected male member. Guys - welcome to your new playground.
And here’s another cool thing - up to 70% of women report that their orgasms come not from penetration, but from dutiful attention spent on that cute little nubbin known as the clitoris. And guess what - a lot of women aren’t that focused on getting a big O every time either. Really good fondling, really adept tongues...
But there is the other side of the equation - the loss of female libido. Again - a much touted ‘reality’ by the media. But let’s deconstruct it a bit. I mean, are you kidding? Sure, if your nether regions are left fallow for too many seasons, they may appear dead, but what richness is concealed in that earth! (References to plowing will not be attempted...) And who the heck decided not to plant? I can bet you it wasn’t the male participant. Ladies - have you simply checked out?
Of course, there are myriad reasons why we do. One of the most obvious is that we’re harboring resentment and taking it out sexually. Ahhh, what a great waste, both of time and potential kicks. If this is the case, I recommend you pick up a little whip and give him hell with it. Whether or not he really deserves it (I’m sure he does:) he will probably dig it. And I’d be surprised if you don’t as well. Just that little bit of role playing could launch a whole new dramatic career...
At any rate, whatever the cause, when sex becomes a perfunctory act, we disengage. But this whole notion that the libido has simply vanished vexes me no end. Yes, those libidinous neuronal pathways will get overgrown with disuse. But is it inevitable that we become hapless victims of female drought? I assert not. Naturally, we’ll go dry if nobody takes the time to look for our subterranean springs, but they are there and flowing silently. In fact it is now commonly reported by older women that although their libido has gone a bit quiescent, if they are aroused, they find they are still quite happily possessed of the ability to achieve orgasm.
For those women who feel that their libido has staged a permanent vanishing act, I beg you to rent and watch “I Am Love” - Tilda Swinton as the matron of a wealthy Italian family who falls for a much younger man (yes Italian, and yes, a chef.) If you can watch their love-making (let alone her eating his cuisine) and not feel a trace of sweat run down your (substitute body parts here), then maybe you're not missing what you don't have and should just relax with that. But if this pains you, then get on down to your local Pleasure Chest, buy a sex toy and take a walk on the wild side.
So really, it's not just women that need to learn to demand what is rightfully theirs, it's men as well. We've all been misguided when it comes to sex. And, unless you are committed to a holy order, life without sex is really not life.
And here's another installment on sex ~ a Sex Survey for Men Over 50!