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Sex-Appeal Adjusts With Age

Gail Sheehy Universal Press Synd

The best-kept secret about today’s older woman is that once she has outgrown the proscriptions to be a good girl, she may allow herself a license for lust. Passion not only is possible after waists thicken, but becomes a pursuit of women just as often as men.

The 6,000 New Woman magazine subscribers who responded to my 1993 survey were open about saying that part of their radical change was becoming sexually adventurous as they got older. Half of all the women surveyed who are over 50, both married and single, admit to having taken younger lovers. And almost a quarter of them have made love with men who are at least 20 years younger!

Some of these women mention in interviews that their husbands are no longer as interested in sex as they themselves are. A substantial number - four in 10 - have had extramarital affairs, a considerably higher infidelity rate than seen in most surveys of even younger married women. The reason often given is their husbands’ impotency.

Women with younger lovers generally find that lively lovers keep them youthful in body and spirit. Of course, older men have known this secret for years. For many women, however, the problem about sex over 50 is not their reluctance to follow Masters and Johnson’s mantra - “Use it or lose it” - but rather, “Whom to use it with?”

“The older I get, the less I find the men of my generation appealing,” says Jeanette Fruen, a vibrant divorcee in her 50s. She thought she should date only “age-appropriate men,” meaning around her age. A male friend told her, “Oh, get off it. They’d never keep up with you. An age-appropriate man for you would be 10 years younger.”

Ann Stunden, director of an academic computing center who pulled out of the pits of alcoholism in her late 40s, found that once she was sober, 50, and more honest, direct and charming than before, younger men seemed to get crushes on her.

“Men of 40 are so much more enlightened than the guys my age,” she says, reflecting a common observation by older women. “And men in their 30s are even more so.

The great lure the older woman holds for the younger man seems to be sex and soul-feeding - without obligation. “I’m not looking for them to give up their life as they know it and marry me,” says Ann.

Still, many women in the middle, especially those who have lived with traditional men for most of their adult lives, are starving for intimacy.

A growing issue for such women is opening up to the possibilities of same-sex intimacy. Clinical experience suggests that the number of women who were previously heterosexual and who are choosing or exploring gay life-styles in middle life is growing and may well be above 50 percent.

The psychological literature reports, “They describe finding intimacy with women at levels and depths they have never before imagined or experienced.”

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The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Gail Sheehy Universal Press Syndicate

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