In a campaign to promote later-life sex, one sixtysomething woman explains why her active love life is a taboo topic
Does the thought of sex among the over-60s put you off your breakfast? Maybe you are not so squeamish and think all is fair in love, spread the love, let it all hang out. Yet there are a great many for whom the very idea is just yuck.
So much so, indeed, that the relationship charity Relate has felt the need to team up with the renowned British photographer Rankin to shine the spotlight on the unseen — sex and intimacy in the later years. The campaign, “Let’s talk the joy of later life sex”, features a series of five couples photographed by him, the aim being to tackle the stigma around this taboo subject and enable anyone who wants to talk about it — and do it — to do so freely, openly and without shame.
Research has revealed that only a fifth of people in the UK think society is OK with talking about it and fewer than 10 percent of people aged over 65 think society is comfortable with it.
Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton in the later-life rom-com Something’s Gotta Give ALAMY
I am 61. I have been married and divorced twice and in my present relationship for seven years. My partner and I live together in London. He is 66 and — hold your noses, block your ears, blindfold your eyes and shoot me now — we have a terrific sex life. Sometimes we have sex several times in 24 hours. Still. Yes, at our advanced age and five years after moving in together. But I don’t tell my friends because I don’t want to irritate or embarrass them or appear to be boasting. And I am afraid that they may feel that this is too much information.
As for telling my son and daughter: no way. They are not teenagers. They are in their thirties and one is married, but, even though we get along famously and talk about almost everything, I think their mother’s sex life might just have them passing each other the sick bucket.
We all know that children don’t want to think about their parents having sex with each other or, frankly, with anyone; having sex, full stop. Most of us oldies are tactful enough not to discuss it with them, and rightly so in my view.
Yet my generation has always been open about sex with each other, or at least my circle has. Before my first husband and I got married, I talked about it a lot with my girlfriends, as did they with me. In some detail. We learned from each other and had a laugh. When we married, the subject suddenly became verboten. By tacit agreement, we all just shut it down. I think this was out of respect for our husbands’ privacy and out of loyalty to them. For 20 years or so sex was off the conversational menu and the main topics were work and children.
Then in our fifties, one or two friends discreetly began to out themselves about not having had any activity in the marital — or any other — bed for, variously, two, five, eleven or whatever number of years, it was they had been suffering in silence. Their husband or wife hadn’t touched them.
Most couples, it transpired, had made no reference to it whatsoever between themselves; the one withholding sex not wishing to discuss it for fear that the other would ask for it; the one silently yearning for it and feeling rejected, too mortified to say so for fear of more rejection and the appearance of desperation or neediness.