Sex: Like a fine wine?

A healthy and satisfying sex life doesn’t have to end when the Golden Years begin.

Callie Sacarelos

In an interview with Matt Lauer last month, Miley Cyrus jokingly said that people over 40 “don’t really have sex anymore.”

When Lauer told her he was 55, she replied, “Oh, well then, you’re really, definitely not sexual.”

Joan Price, a senior sex advocate and author, said we get our notions of what’s sexy from mainstream media, which “features young people as sex objects and the people who are both having sexual desire and the object of sexual desire.”

In addition to sex education for seniors, Price works to normalize the idea of senior sex in society, which she says is youth-oriented.

She said she would like to see more positive sex images of older people in mainstream culture and wants to hear them talk openly and confidently about their sex lives.

Michelle Lekas, a cultural studies and comparative literature lecturer at the University of Minnesota, said ageism is an economic, political and cultural problem, stemming from capitalism. But fixing the problem is more complicated than just raising senior sexuality from its subcultural level.

“Being left out of the confessional of sexuality that has embraced our entire consumer culture is not the worst thing in the world. And that’s an important perspective,” she said. “You can’t manage something you don’t hear about.”

People over the age of 40, or 55, may not blast their sex lives all over the media. But hang out in a sex shop for more than 10 minutes, and you’ll see people old enough to be your grandparents are still gettin’ it on.

Hannah Kuhlmann, a sex educator and sales associate at Smitten Kitten, said customers of all ages come in on a regular basis.

“Consistently, people are like, ‘I bet you don’t get folks as old as me in here, usually.’ And my response is, ‘Stick around for 10 minutes.’ And then they’re surprised. If they’re in the store for 10 or 15 minutes, they’re like, ‘You’re right. Everybody comes in here,’” she said.

The shop is welcoming like a cozy bookstore, except the shelves are lined with dildos and vibrators instead of books. Employees aren’t the “cooler- than-thou, Urban Outfitters type,” Kuhlmann said. “We’re just a bunch of friendly nerds who love talking about this stuff.”

Price said that people over the age of 50 tend to think that if sex isn’t the way it used to be, then it’s probably over.

“That’s not true. It just means that we find ways to work around the problem and continue to have lifelong, great sex. It just may look different,” she said.

Price wrote two books on senior sexuality and tours the country with her senior sex workshops. She fields common questions, like what to do about lack of lubrication from menopause or how to have sex without an erection.

“There’s a solution to absolutely everything that people are facing. It doesn’t mean they’re always easy solutions. But if we use creativity, knowledge and a sense of humor, we really can overcome just about any sexual problem,” she said.

Most of her information could apply to anyone who is sexually active. Sex toys, nontraditional relationships and masturbation are just some of the practical topics she covers, except she gears the language toward an older generation.

Kuhlmann said Price’s sex toy reviews and Smitten Kitten staff training helped her to think about sex and the store’s products from a different perspective.

“It didn’t occur to me, ‘Is this toy easy to hold onto if you’re using tons of lube and using it for a couple of hours? Is it going to fly out of your hand, especially if you have fatigue in your hand from sore joints?’” she said.

People often ask Price about sex after cancer, erectile dysfunction or post-menopausal symptoms like dryness and decrease in sexual desire.

Health issues aside, Price said older folks can be wonderful sex partners because they know what they like, know how to communicate and have already made their relationship mistakes in their youth.

“My favorite thing is when people come in and, in spite of my experience, I’m still like, ‘I bet I can guess what they might be interested in,’”Kuhlmann said.

“Then they blow my mind with an awesome question like, ‘I’m trying to hang from the ceiling while I have an orgasm in this crazy way. What can you recommend?’ And I’m like, ‘Teach me what you know.’”

 

What: How the Heck Do I Date at This Age?
When: 7 p.m., Friday
Where: Smitten Kitten, 3010 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
Cost: Free

What: Ask Me, I’ll Tell You: Talking Out Loud about Sex and Aging
When: 2 p.m., Sunday
Where: Smitten Kitten, 3010 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
Cost: Free