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Sexuality and aging

When I was 20 or so, I spent a very sexy afternoon with another guy my age; let’s call him Rick.  At the end he asked if he could take my photo.  He did, and then he filed it away in a little box with other photos of guys he had hooked up with.  Curious, I asked about the box.  Well, Rick said, he figured that in a few hears (“You know, like 30” he told me) he wouldn’t have sex anymore because he would be old.  At least the Polaroids would provide memories of his sexy youth.

How many of us secretly feel something similar?  Many of us have a hard time imagining ourselves as sexy 70 year olds…or even 50 year olds.

Men are supposed to hit their sexual peak sometime in their late teens or early 20’s.  That’s because scientists – and many of us – confuse sexual peak with hormonal peak.  If you’re 30 or older ask yourself:  is sex better now, or was it better when you were 17?  I’ll bet there’s no question that you enjoy sex more now.

That’s because sex is about much more than having a tight, youthful body.

It’s true that sexuality changes as we age.  Most men older than 25 or 30 have had the experience of not having an erection when they really wanted one; that typically happens more often as we get older.  If sex is all about performance, then these changes can be disconcerting.  But sex as performance is a problem in itself after a while.  If someone’s sense of himself as a man depends on being a failure-proof stud, he’s probably got more problems than an occasional lost erection.

Most of us learn things as we get older.  We understand the importance of attentiveness and intimacy, as well as becoming more proficient in the technical aspects of making love.  If the focus is more on mutuality, pleasure and relationship, the older guy is in no way at a disadvantage to the younger man.  And if the older man has used the intervening years to practice the art of self-acceptance and has learned something about making a partner feel special, he’ll be just fine.  (If he hasn’t, of course, he’s in something of a pickle.)  Self- acceptance is sexy in a man.  There are many ways of being sexy that don’t require flawless skin and a tight young body.

What a guy believes about his own body and those of others is going to affect his sexuality in powerful ways.  Men who are perfectionists, holding themselves to impossible standards, are going to have trouble as they get older.  (Of course, perfectionism probably creates plenty of problems for them as younger men, too!)  Life ought to teach us some things about what’s important and what’s peripheral.

It’s been my good fortune to know several sexy 70 year olds.  These guys have some things in common.  Sure, they take good care of their physical selves – but they also don’t obsess about things they can’t change.  No hair dye or cosmetic surgery for them.  They’ve learned to be attentive to others and comfortable with themselves.  Spending time around them doesn’t feel anything like being stuck with a dowdy old uncle.  Rather you feel fortunate to have the attention of someone who is lively, engaged, sophisticated.

I never ran into 20-year-old Rick again after my afternoon with him.  I occasionally wonder what happened to him.  I hope life surprised him and he’s now well into midlife and sexier than ever.  And I wonder what he did with that box of Polaroids….!

About John

I have been  licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years.  My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression.  My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships. 

I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems.  My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate.  If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.

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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions.  It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist.  I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.