Little is more sexually humbling than advancing age. That creeping feeling of mounting sexual inconsequence, being invisible like a worn-out shoe strewn in the back of a crowded closet, the loss of being admired and desired in everyday flirtations, oh, yay. Bring it on.
If you ever wonder how pervasive sex appeal is in everyday life, even when sexual activity is not part of the agenda, try getting old. There’s much truth to the saying getting old is not for wimps.
Some people welcome this stage of sexual anonymity as a relief. They are happy to get beyond the era of sexual performance pressures. I am not one of those people.
But since I have reached the Medicare years, it is what it is, and it is actually not as bad as my fantasy previews told me it would be. Even when I endured the height of sexual loneliness with no lover on the radar, I found some interesting new awareness.
Much of my life over the last few years has been about unhooking. During that period I said good-bye to both my parents who were off to explore a heaven they weren’t sure existed. In large measure I also unplugged myself from TV, focusing my viewing instead on Netflix, YouTube, and HBO streaming. The course of life events also unplugged several important friendships due to death, estrangement, distance. In some ways it has been like a big time out, and suddenly I am five years older, five years closer to the end of the game.
In a strange way, having next to no physical sex (and I should add a minimum of hugs as well) in five years put most of my input in a virtual reality realm. I would talk or write about sexual relationships. I would sometimes have great experiences in my dreams. I would see sex in movies. Yet it was like being in some laboratory in a comfy form of solitary confinement.
While removed from sex by habit or as a relationship routine, I would look at what passes for sex in this culture and I would wonder how various foreplay activities even came into existence. For example, suckling nipples. I had gone so long without licking anyone’s body parts that the idea of doing it actually seemed strange. You do what? I found this fascinating, oral gourmet that I have been. Over the years, women friends have asked me what’s so compelling about female breasts, and now I was asking myself much the same question! There were days when that once-cherished and deeply familiar activity seemed like visiting a distant foreign country.
What’s so compelling? The answer sounds dull to explain it. Consciousness. The suckling activity opens an inner doorway to what for me is a spiritual connection. It’s like a walking meditation or some other sensual activity that begets an energy connection on a primal, intimate level with another person or with nature in general.
When consciousness is the reward, so much of the taken-for-granted old school standards of beauty seem to vanish. Looks pale in comparison to personality. I clearly feel my own disappointments of the changes that aging makes on my own body, so I get it when women express dismay over what they see as loss of (physical) beauty in them. Yet the sags and wrinkles and other lamentable changes do not matter to me, and sometimes are more attractive to me than the woman realizes or that the beauty culture assumes.
How? Why? It’s because I see both objectively and symbolically. I believe we all do. We see through the filters of our personal histories, our aspirations and desires, our fears and hopes. An aging woman’s body reflects back to me my own history, and I treat her as I wish to be treated. I love her for who she is in the here and now, and I hope for the same in return.
I’ve discovered that what most draws my attention to a potential lover (real or in fantasy) is mental and emotional. It’s consciousness. It’s the energy zap that we build together. Making bedtime deeply satisfying goes way beyond physical looks.
SEX IS CONSCIOUSNESS
In the dominant youth and beauty paradigm, the young and the beautiful have all the advantages. Unfortunately, even when they have all the genetic advantages, their culture has not provided them with instructions about the soul of sex. The user manual comes primarily in the form of mass media indoctrination about all things physical, all the helpful products and services they should buy—marketing, marketing, marketing. Very little about consciousness.
When I think of my most satisfying sexual memories, rarely has it to do with someone’s youth or beauty, how a body looked, etc. It was so much more about mental chemistry, what the encounter meant, the feelings that were stirred up, the fun we made for each other.
The deep satisfaction mostly came from the message “I care about you” expressed in a multitude of ways. Kissing that cares about me. Hugging and stroking that cares about me. Words and tone of voice that show caring about me. Facial expressions and glances that show caring about me. Caring about who I am and what I think and how we fit together. Even sexual hunger that shows caring about me like how a light bulb cares about its power source.
Society, as I probably do not need to tell you, is often cruel. As an example, Hollywood has ridiculous standards of beauty, rarely showing women my age in full sexual readiness, charmed and eager, unless it’s done for laughs. Well, guess what impact this has on old men, let alone old women? We become ashamed of our passions because society has put it off limits and made it a subject of ridicule. One reason it does this is society pushes sex as a physical pleasure, and omits the part about sex as consciousness.
Sometimes mean-spirited people or entertainment will insult someone’s looks by saying, “S/he has a great personality.” For me, personality really does matter more! Intimate sharing of personal stories, empathy, the willingness to be vulnerable, intelligence, and a fertile erotic imagination make for a more interesting bed partner than someone who looks delicious but whose brain is on perpetual stand-by.
THE BEST OF SEX
Over the years, my most satisfying sexual experiences were ultimately not linked to my idea of physical perfection. Here are a few of my favorite sexual traits and you will notice that they do not require youth and beauty.
Mind play. When a lover plays well with my mind, anything physical enjoys the consequences. Communication during erotic play accentuates the joy. Mind play happens in different ways—surprises, revealing secrets, sharing juicy fantasies, stoking the fires of passion with a well-chosen vocabulary.
Attitude. Intimate times are markedly influenced by a person’s general attitude in life. Someone pessimistic and deep in victimhood will be different from someone optimistic and filled with happiness. One’s attitude about sex also plays a big part in how a meeting of minds and bodies goes. Harmony of attitude works so much better than disharmony.
Sensuality. While sensuality is primarily experienced as physical, the driver of sensuality is the mind. The mind chooses what to do and how to do it. A person with sensitivity and empathy will perform differently than a narcissist or someone just going through the motions. Similarly, the recipient’s mind controls how the input is interpreted, with eager delight or with defenses up.
Energy channeling. The practice of energy exchange during lovemaking is not well-known in our porn-saturated culture, but once you are familiar with it, nurturing it becomes a priority. Some people give energy and some people steal it. Building energy together is tremendously satisfying and paradigm-shattering, especially once you experience full-bodied energy orgasms. It re-set what I look for in a mate and re-defined my personal definition of beautiful.
Fun in bed. Are those times in bed enjoyable? True fun? Was there laughter? Did time fly by? What happens sexually is secondary to the fun quotient.
This is not to imply that it’s wrong to enjoy physicality or that physical beauty is not worth appreciating. Rather, it’s noting that beauty manifests in different ways and it’s short-sighted how our culture largely ignores that. The over-emphasis on youth and beauty is a recipe for inevitable unhappiness in later life unless and until we liberate ourselves from that prison.
It both breaks my heart and infuriates me when I see snide remarks about how someone is aging poorly. I hate that so much of our media culture promotes this kind of mentality. It’s almost as if hurting people has become a new national pastime.
Yet I also know that there are people like me who see a different vision of aging. Sexual experiences can be beautiful and profound at any age. For me they become more delicious when it’s understood and appreciated how much of a role consciousness plays in creating deep fulfillment.