Interview on lifelong sexuality

I asked Joan Price to speak with me briefly about lifelong sexuality. Joan is the author of the book Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty and hosts a blog on the same topic. Here is our conversation:

Me: Why do you think senior sexuality is important?
Joan: It’s important because we’ve been seen by society and by the media (and sometimes by ourselves!) as asexual, unsexy, and altogether icky if we are sexually active and enthusiastic about it. We need to change that, not just for those of us who are already in our golden years, but for all ages. I offer this plea to young people: Help us change our society’s view of older people as either sexless or ludicrous and disgusting for wanting sex. Realize that our bodies change, but we’re still the same lusty and loving people that we were when we were your age.

Me: What do you see as the life-long path that can lead to healthy senior sexuality?
Joan: Acceptance of our own sexuality and open-mindedness about any consensual sex taking place between people of age to give consent — and by that I mean emotional age, not legal age of consent necessarily. I know that at age 17, I was fully ready to engage in sex with my 19-year-old boyfriend. We had been dating for two years, and only waited that long because we were scared to death that either my parents would find out or I’d get pregnant. (The first happened; the second didn’t.) I fear for girls who become sexually active before they’re emotionally ready, though — to please a boyfriend, or because “everyone’s doing it.” I encourage teens to talk to older, trusted adults before becoming sexually active, and definitely to use barrier protection (condoms) every time.

Me: How can parents and teachers best help children and teenagers start down that road?
Joan: I was a high school English teacher for 22 years before I switched to a writing career, and I still have a great love for and enjoyment of teenagers. When I was teaching, many students talked to me or wrote in their journals about their relationships. Sometimes they confided intimate details that they didn’t feel they could tell their parents. I encourage teachers to make themselves accessible and safe, letting their students know they’re available, opening up topics in class that let the teenagers know that the teachers understand and have useful perspectives to share. I encourage parents to do the same thing, but realize — and please accept this — that as open-minded, accessible, and loving as they are, their teenaged sons and daughters might feel more comfortable talking to a different adult. (I’d love to hear from teenagers about how they feel about this topic.)

Also, see your body as a lifelong source of sexual pleasure, and see the beauty in older people. I know it’s difficult, when our society and especially the media stresses that beauty and sexuality are the domain of the young. For your own sake, please reject this notion. As you age, welcome the new image of sexuality that you’ll see in yourself and in your peers.

Thanks for asking — and please visit my blog where we’re talking about sex and aging: As young people (and I’m talking to both teens and parents!), you may resist reading about people who are 60 or 70 or older talking so openly about their sexual attitudes and experiences, but I think it’s very important that we talk and you hear us, just as you want us to hear you. I look forward to reading your comments.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.

1 Comment

  1. When I was a DRE, I wanted to make a collage of magazine pictures of people of all different walks of life to put on the wall for the kids to see.

    I found everything else easily, but I couldn’t find any pictures of old people. Not old people showing their sexuality. I couldn’t find any pictures of old people.

    I remember wondering then what it must be like to be invisible.

    As far as her comments, I can easily see where some young people can be ready for sex at 17 while others aren’t ready at 20. And I absolutely think that teachers and other trusted non-parent adults can be great sources of support for young people. But I think you’re doing a great job of helping parents be that!

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