This is #5 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.
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!
It seems pretty obvious that, unless we’re talking about masturbation (which we’re not — that would be even more taboo), you need a partner for sex. And if you have a partner, you automatically have some kind of partnership.
But what kind of partner? What kind of partnership?
Ah, here’s where the going gets thick. Thick with preconditions, preconceptions, and proclamations. Thick, thick, thick.
Just the kind of thing one ought to talk about.
But let me try and pare this down. I’m focussing on some of the reasons that sex gets better with age, and I delineated what I meant by “better” in Sex Gets Better With Age I: Learning to Pack Lighter.
To recap, the kind of sex I am talking about is sex that:
- is more comfortable, satisfying, exciting, and fulfilling, and
- needs no excuses, but does demand a cigarette and a recap.
You have had this kind of sex when you:
- lay on the bed with slitty eyes incapable of saying anything but “Whoa … Babe …” every few minutes while recovering; or
- feel compelled to “high five” your partner afterwards.
And you know that you are having this kind of sex life with your partner when:
- The sex you both want is the sex you (can) have, rather than sex you (can) only imagine; and
- The sex you both have isn’t defined by anyone’s expectations, limitations, or imaginations but your own.
I should say that I’m taking sex in the chemically charged and brain-numbing “falling in love” stage of relationships out of the equation. Even people who have bad sex (in retrospect) think that it sizzles in the middle of this haze, just like they think other things that eventually become grounds for divorce are cute, charming, or invisible.
Now, this kind of “better sex” doesn’t have much to do with cultural or moral presuppositions about what kind of partner one should have in order to have sex. I’m not talking about form, but content. I’m not saying that those other aspects aren’t worth talking about; they’re just not what I’m talking about here, and not as important as we sometimes make them out to be for what I am talking about here either.
I base this claim on the observation that, although it’s certainly true that a partner is necessary for sex, it appears that no specific kind of partner or form of partnership is both necessary and sufficient for a rich and satisfying sex life. Whatever kind of sexual partner or form of sexual partnership we look at (and no, I’m not including abusive partners or non-consentual relationships), some people are happy with and in them, and others are not. What this means, I think, is that we can’t correlate virgins or non-virgins, heterosexuals or homosexuals, or forms of partnerships such as monogamy, polyamory, exclusivity or non-exclusivity directly with a fulfilling sex life. A does not necessarily lead to B.
“But,” you may say, “A fulfilling life is not about sex! It’s about … you, know … other things that are more important, like love and commitment and … jobs and … goals and … stuff.”
Uh … yeah. I really don’t think “it” has to be either/or, but you go with that if that’s how you need it to be and it works for you.
It’s true that some people find this observation and the separation of content from form threatening. I don’t. Think about it: what this means is that all of us, no matter what kind of partner and partnership we have, are NOT automatically disadvantaged. I mean, it’s not like I’m speaking as someone who has had, or aspires, to some Hugh Hephner lifestyle. I’ve had two sexual partners in my life, married them both, and was kinda-technically a virgin when I was first married. But I don’t need, and I don’t want, someone else’s sex life. We don’t have to become someone else to have great sex, because great sex isn’t about other people, their sexuality, and their partners: it’s about ourselves, our own sexuality, and our own partners.
So are there some common elements, as far as the content of sexual partnerships, that make for great sex? I think there are. And while age doesn’t guarantee them (that is, age isn’t sufficient), it does tend to be necessary in order to achieve them because great sexual partners and partnerships are made, not born. Yes, there are a lot of variables in whom we choose, and who chooses us, as partners. Sometimes, like with my first partner, things don’t go so well; sometimes, like for me now, things just get better and better. However, even when it all goes terribly right, it takes a while to shed your own and your partner’s baggage. It takes a while to learn your own and another person’s body. It takes a while to entrust each other not just with your bodies, but with some of your deepest physical and emotional vulnerabilities. But it can be done, and it can be done better and better. Isn’t that essentially good news for us all?
Still, although some good things can only come with age and time, not all of them come automatically. The same time that allows sex to get better with age can make things worse. Time allows us to enrich and broaden our sensuality, but it also erodes our physicality. It can let us develop mutual trust and confidence, or mutual distrust and insecurity. It can deepen our interest, intensity, and passion, or it can dull them. Age can free us from the burdens of guilt and expectations, or bury us beneath them. It can imprison us in ritual and repetition, or liberate us to play and explore. We can learn, with time, to disclose our sexual responses through communication and openness, or to enshroud them in silent discomfort and resentment. It’s really up to us what we do with the time we’ve got together.
Either way, great, good, better, or bad sex is both learned and earned with the partners we have. We should, I think, loose the sexual baggage we don’t need, develop authentic and mutual sexual partnerships, and make “better” use of our time. That way there’s at least something that we all can look forward to.
The bad news is that time flies;
The good news is that you’re the pilot.
— Michael Althsuler