Sex Gets Better with Age I: Learning to Pack Lighter

I’ve always been interested in and fascinated by sex and sexuality. Now, you might not necessarily associate an intellectual interest in sex with a Classics professor, but I can assure you that there is plenty of room for professionalism. Classical literature, art, mythology, and culture is replete with sex and sexuality of all kinds. You can’t deal with Greek and Roman culture, not to mention the birth and development of Christianity, without delving into issues of sex, sexuality, sexual practice, and gender that are still with us. Throw in my interest in medical and social history, and sex as a matter of morality and health adds a new layer to my fascination. Besides, I like sex. A lot.

I know. The words "Sex" and "Age" -- in the same sentence: "Ewwwww."

I know that this seems to come as somewhat of a shock and elicits an “Ewwwww” from some people younger than me (I’m 51). But much to my delight (and I think it should be to theirs as well) sex actually gets better with age. And amazing as it sounds to a culture obsessed with youth and terrified of aging, the good news is there in the research and in the experience: sex not only gets physically more satisfying, but more emotionally satisfying clear past your 70s. Your 70s? Ewwwwwww.

But why is this? Part of it is experience, but I think that another big reason is that most, if not all, people experience a great deal of ambivalence about and with sex at the beginning of their adult lives. They spend the first half of their lives building up, and then dragging along, a great deal of psychological, emotional, and cultural baggage. Most of these expectations and parameters are imposed on them by others and by themselves, and few really have much to do with sex. And like traveling, it takes a while to learn to unpack the baggage and pack only what you really need and want, and to leave what you really don’t.

These posts are about why sex gets better when we become capable of leaving some things behind, and why this generally only happens as we age.

Now be advised: I’m going to write about sex and these topics openly, so if you are:

  1. under age (18),
  2. prefer not to read about this kind of thing, or
  3. want to read about it only as long as certain kind of words are (not) used or descriptions remain allusive and euphemistic,

please do not read this or the other post(s) on this or other adult topics!


Better is better.

I suppose that I had should say something about what I mean by “better” in terms of sex getting better. By “better” I mean sex that is more comfortable, more satisfying, more exciting, and more fulfilling. I mean the “laying-on-the-bed-with-slitty-eyes-incapable-of-saying-anything-but, ‘Whoa … Babe …’ every-few-minutes-while-recovering” kind of sex, sex so good that you feel like you should high five after it, sex that needs no excuses but demands a recap and a cigarette, sex where the sex you crave is the sex you have rather than the sex you only imagine. That kind of thing.

However, just limiting sex to, well, sex can get you a lot of grief. What about love? What about marriage? What about heterosexuality? What about God? What about relationships?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll get to some of that. But if we’re talking about sex,  I think we have to recognize that these things aren’t sex. And even if they are conditions of our sex lives, we have to recognize the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Now, to a degree, good sex is defined by the person who has it, but I think we can say, just from a perusal of the literature around us (from internet to libraries to the checkout counter at Fred Meyer), that many kinds of people have good or bad sex no matter who or what they are. Some people who really love each other have terrible sex. Others who can’t stand each other have great sex. Single, married, monogamous, polygamous, and polyamorous people have both great and also gruesome sex. Heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, trans-gendered, cross-gendered, and whatever else there is gendered have both terrific and terrible sex. Athiests, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and Scientologists have hot and cold, sacred and sacrilegious sex. People ranging from complete strangers to fuckbuddies to long-time lovers have sex which they are both amazed with and ashamed of.
What I’m saying is that a lot of the attendant conditions that people attach to sex can’t be shown to have a direct correlation to having great sex. But age can. And I think the reason why it can is because in growing older we grow both more secure, and also more open and confident, in knowing which attendant conditions are truly right for us as sexual beings.

It takes time to sort sex out for ourselves. And understandably so. Sex involves us at every level, from chemical compound to quantum collection. It takes sensations that range from deep inside our body to beyond its outer surfaces, and connects them to emotions and perceptions that engage the brain from stem to higher cortex. It activates our our most animalistic and transcendent instincts, and engages our most basic, and our most complex, needs and desires.

Because of this, sex has tremendous potential for self-revelation and discovery, as well as self-exposure and vulnerability. It’s no wonder that some people opt not to delve to deep, and that, in any case, it takes time to sort out the best balance for ourselves. And because sex is so entwined in social, cultural, and religious expectations, taboos, and strictures, our private and public personas are always in some tension. And so it’s no wonder that in trying to explore sexuality we often become tangled in other things that are wound up in, around, and through sex until we feel like animals caught in some net. But age and experience has a way of loosening and liberating us from some of those bonds. When that happens, we can begin to unpack our sexual baggage, and repack only what really is honest, authentic, and necessary for us.  That’s when we begin to really experience, and really enjoy, better sex.

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