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Eros and Aging - Page 10

Bill and Cynthia After 70

Let's imagine Bill at 74 and Cynthia at 71. Two of three couples have stopped being sexual at this age. The decision is almost always made unilaterally and nonverbally by the man, because he's lost confidence in erections, intercourse, and orgasm. But not Bill and Cynthia, who take great pride in beating the odds and maintaining a satisfying sexual relationship.

Cynthia says "I enjoy sex more now than I did 20 years ago, because I know Bill needs me sexually, and our sexual relationship feels more human and genuine." Bill agrees with his wife that sex is more intimate and interactive, but he also emphasizes how flexible their erotic scenarios are. He still prefers being orgasmic during intercourse, but he's become open to erotic, nonintercourse scenarios, particularly enjoying mutual manual stimulation to orgasm and having Cynthia orally stimulate him to orgasm.

Partner interaction—being turned on by the give-and-take of partner stimulation— is still Bill's preference, but he enjoys self-entrancement arousal, which allows them to take turns sexually rather than having all encounters be mutual. He's found to his surprise that his erections are more reliable when he practices relaxing self-entrancement arousal.

Healthy sexuality develops over a lifetime. A challenge to males (and couples) is to stop clinging to the "perfect-intercourse" model and replace this with positive, realistic physiological, psychological, and relational expectations of oneself, one's partner, and one's relationship.

A particularly reliable indicator of Good Enough Sex is valuing sexual playfulness. For sex to be occasionally and genuinely playful, other aspects of intimacy must be functioning well, including trust, mutual acceptance, sharing pleasure, freedom to be yourself, and deep valuing of your intimate relationship. Intimate sexuality respects and accepts the complexity and ambiguity of human relationship, the multiple levels of reality, the spiritual dimension of life, and the importance of sex as a bonding agent.

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