This is #4 in a series on sex and aging. If you have already read this preliminary disclosure, you may skip to the new material below the “more” button.
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:
- under age (18),
- prefer not to read about this kind of thing, or
- 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 other post(s) on sex or other adult topics!
You can’t have sex without your body. But do you need a great body to have great sex?
Do better bodies have better sex? To an extent, this seems like it would be true — even Cialis commercials caution men to check with their doctor to “see if you’re healthy enough for sexual activity.” Sex is definitely physical, and it can be physically demanding. And so it makes sense that if you have more strength, flexibility, and stamina, you’re going to be able to transfer these advantages to your sex life.
So why don’t we have better sex when we’re younger?
Well, one reason is that we don’t have the experience to make use of our physical advantages, and in some case, our physical abilities actually seem to get in the way.
We lack, shall we say, the finesse.
If one were to make a survey of truly homemade amateur porn on the internet — for purely intellectual and scientific reasons, of course — I think it would confirm what many people experience on their own: younger sex is all about physicality. Aerobic pounding, endlessly changing positions, contortions and stretches, standing up, sitting down, rolling over … it’s all speed, size, and endurance with plenty of thigh burn, rug burn, and sweat.
If we were to put this in terms of the Winter Olympics, younger sex is like pairs ice skating. Physicality is what counts: completing mandatory moves in the short program and hurling each other about in an attempt to achieve as many athletic moves as possible in the long program in order to be judged good. Older sex is like ice dancing, where grace, fluidity, partnership, and the expression of passion come to the fore. I, for one, am glad to have moved into the ice dancing arena. And I’m so thankful to have done so with an incredible partner. But the topic of partners is for a later entry. This is to say that younger sex is mostly about fulfilling mandatory expectations, showing off, and checking items off lists to see if you’re doing okay. But that’s part of the post Sex Gets Better with Age: The Unrated Version.
Despite our physical abilities, there’s that nagging script that many people carry into their sexual relationships, even into marriage, that categorizes the body as, if not downright sinful, then certainly not something to be enjoyed too freely. That’s part of the post Sex Gets Better with Age: O … God. But, younger lovers often also bring, or develop, a variety of negative attitudes about the body and its intimate, shall we say, connection with sex.
There are, for example, negative visceral reactions some people have about the body (at least when it comes to sex) being cringingly “icky.” Some people can’t stand to see it. Susan and I have known people who dress and undress apart, come to bed in pajamas, and if they have sex it is under the cover of something: clothing, covers, or darkness. We have known people who have oral sex with each other and yet have never seen — never even taken a look at — what they facing and who are appalled by the thought. (Now, it seems to me that if you’re having sex with someone who has different sexual parts than you do, that you might want to take a look to see what you’re working on, at least out of curiosity if not out of a desire to be in the right place. But that’s me.) Some people are completely disgusted by the smell, taste, or “messiness” of bodies and sex. Why it takes time for some people to learn one of the basic mottos for great sex, which is “Get up and get clean before you get down and get dirty,” I’ll never know. And finally, some people can do sex but just can’t talk about it, even to the person they’re doing it with. I still can’t wrap my head around these kinds of gut-level reactions enough to write about them yet. Maybe I’ll take them on later.
And even if you’ve shed, or never carried, some of this baggage, and even if you don’t find the idea of sex icky at all, it’s pretty difficult in this age of obsession with physical perfection, prime fitness, perfect health, and photoshopped underwear models to feel comfortable with one’s body. In fact, aging is consistently presented as a disease, an enemy to combat, and a condition for losers. My own kids, when they were younger, were abhorred to see signs of age or imperfection on me: a blemish, a bald spot, a wrinkle, a skin tag, a hair, or a fat roll made them visibly disturbed. They’re a bit better at hiding it now, which is good, because these things seem to accelerate with age.
I try to maintain composure at their reactions, but I always want to scream, “YOU’RE disturbed? Try finding then when YOU look in the mirror!” There are times when I look in the mirror and think, “Not too bad,” but most of the times I find myself wondering, “Who is that guy?” and “What the hell happened?” Then, after briefly considering amputating my legs as a (perhaps the only) viable option for losing what I’ve gained over the last ten years, I grumble my way to the closet to find something that still fits.
Age in these times is’t something to taken lying down. No, it must be fought with chemicals, scalpels, injections, lasers, and frenetic physical therapy. Running, riding, or swimming in circles. Jumping around in padded rooms. Contorting into pretzel poses. Balancing on large rubber balls. Picking things up for no reason other than to lift them. Riding bikes or climbing stairs that go nowhere.Therapy (not just physical) tends to work with individuals’ own natural abilities to strengthen and heal injuries by isolating and mimicking what caused them them until people can strengthen enough to face similar challenges in real life. But modern life has become all about therapy to the point that therapy is life for some people. We seem at times to live for therapy, instead of having therapy so that we can live. When I start to wrap my mind around that I’m going to write about it to try and understand this phenomenon better too.
I’m growing older but not up.
My metabolic rate is pleasantly stuck.
Let those winds of time blow over my head:
I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.
Jimmy Buffet – Growing Older But Not Up
Anyway, if you’re ashamed, disgusted, or frightened of imperfect (that is, real) and aging bodies, you would think that sex would get worse and worse with age. But after a time, it doesn’t. It takes time to live authentically and well in the body we have, not the body we want. Age has a way of bringing us to terms with the bodies we have. They are, after all, all we have.
When we can no longer take them for granted, we learn to appreciate, savor, and explore the pleasures they give to us. When we have to be careful with them, we learn to work them carefully and mindfully. All of this, with sex, pays immense dividends. And after we have had them exposed, cut open, invaded and photographed by complete strangers, and we go through sickness and health with both these strangers and our lovers, we lose some of our inhibitions. The body isn’t an icky mystery, but a mysterious gift, and one that we come to treasure sexually even as we try to hold our own against the tide of age.
I like the bed I’m sleeping in.
It’s just like me, it’s broken in.
It’s not old — just older.
Like a favorite pair of torn blue jeans,
This skin I’m in it’s alright with me.
It’s not old — just older.
Bon Jovi, Not Old, Just Older