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Eros and Aging - Page 6

Seeking Good Enough Sex

As it turned out, the biggest challenge for Bill, as with most men, was to accept the GES approach and to understand that it's normal in men his age for 85 percent of sexual encounters to follow a somewhat slower trajectory. Instead of a fast, urgent format common among younger people, sex among experienced and older men is more successful and enjoyable when it proceeds from anticipation (thinking about and looking forward to a later encounter, maybe hours away), to comfort (approaching sex without anxiety or tension, and feeling open to whatever happens), pleasure (enjoying physical touch and emotional stimulation), arousal (increased blood flow, heart rate, and erection and feeling turned on and fully engaged emotionally), erotic flow (high levels of subjective and objective arousal and willingness to let go physically and emotionally), and intercourse as a natural extension of the pleasuring/eroticism process. He had to learn that life wasn't over when sex didn't end with intercourse: he could be happy and comfortable with an erotic, nonintercourse scenario, sensual cuddling that ended in sleep, or a request for a "rain check."

Bill found that once he learned he didn't have to prove himself, he could enjoy a range of sensual and erotic encounters and be comfortable taking a "rain check" for intercourse. Then over the next couple of days, when he felt rested, awake, and fully alert, he could enjoy sex the "old" way—erection leading to intercourse with orgasm. Having on hand at least one, and preferably all three, alternative scenarios (erotic, sensual, or "rain-check") establishes a sense of sexual and emotional resiliency in a couple and "good enough" sex becomes more than good enough.

The focus in the GES approach is on changing and blending attitudes, feelings, and behaviors of the partners. Although in treating erectile dysfunction, the focus is more on changing the man's thoughts, behaviors, and feelings, the woman's role is integral to the model. Most women we've seen not only accept this approach, but welcome it because it's congruent with female sexual socialization and experiences. The model is congruent with mature male sexuality, too (unlike our culture at large, and particularly pop culture, which essentially exalts uncontrollable adolescent male sexuality as the only kind worth having). It honors sex as a means for the couple to use their bodies for pleasure, mature playfulness, closeness, and affirmation, while promoting feelings of desire and desirability and energizing their intimate bond.

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