- Only now is this generation, in its 60s, becoming liberated in the bedroom
- The truth about late life sex is not only that it endures but flourishes
- For many, its languid pleasures are more fulfilling than the sex of youth
Frances Hardy for the Daily Mail
19:10 EDT, 2 November 2016
05:03 EDT, 3 November 2016
The revelation happened in her 50s. It was only then, after Fi Bruce had endured the frustration of two sexually unfulfilled marriages that she finally discovered the pleasures of physical passion.
Twice divorced Fi, 61, who is an organisational consultant from Glasgow, recalls that love-making with both her husbands was mechanical and lacklustre; focused on their satisfaction and not her own.
She had married after the Swinging Sixties had, supposedly, liberated the young from the sexual reticence of previous generations, heralding an age of free love and experimentation.
It was only after Fi Bruce, in her 50s, had endured the frustration of two sexually unfulfilled marriages that she finally discovered the pleasures of physical passion (stock image)
And yet for Fi, as for many women of her age group, this sexual revolution was illusory. Actually she had inherited the mores and inhibitions of the Fifties; the constraints of her parents’ era into which she was born.
‘I had just been handed a book about reproduction and told to read it,’ she remembers. ‘There was no discussion, no talk about pleasure within a relationship. Basically sex was something you had done to you.
‘I married my first husband before my 21st birthday and we had only had sex with each other. Neither of us was experienced. After my divorce, sex with my second husband in the Nineties was still pretty much roll-on, roll-off — and the pleasure was all his.’
By now, Fi says she began feeling envious of other women around her. ‘I had no idea how to please myself in the bedroom and it was beginning to feel frustrating. I would listen to younger women in my office talk about their sex lives with such openness that I knew I must be missing out.
‘It felt very sad. When my menopause started in my late 40s I began to feel more sexual than ever, but my marriage was on its last legs.
‘We lost interest in each other. I was even going out by myself to salsa classes, just to feel sexual again in a “safe” way. The temptation to have an affair was huge.
Ladies, are you ready for the second sexual revolution?
‘When we did eventually separate amicably when I was 50, I embarked on a relationship with a man 13 years younger than me and it awakened me in ways I could never have imagined.
‘For him, sex was about pleasing me, not just himself and we did things together that I would not have even known about in my younger years. He worked away a lot so we would only be able to meet up occasionally but that made it more exciting — like having an affair, but not.
‘Although I was in my 50s and had all the usual hang-ups about my body going south, he reassured me that I was sexy and beautiful. I should have had shares in La Senza underwear because I was wearing it all the time and my confidence rocketed.’
Fi is currently single; her late blossoming relationship ended amicably when her partner moved to work in America.
However, her post-menopausal sexual awakening is mirrored by the experience of many baby boomers who now find themselves at the forefront of a second sexual revolution which is perhaps challenging the ultimate taboo — late life sex. Dr Sharron Hinchliff, a psychologist with expertise in sex and ageing, says: ‘Women who came of age during the 1960s were caught between the old conservative views and the new liberalism.
‘During the Sixties there was a shift in how sex was viewed — from reproductive to pleasurable — but the conflict persisted; mothers expected their daughters to endure sex, while their daughters hoped to enjoy it.’ She added: ‘Women who enjoyed sex outside the confines of a committed relationship could still be denigrated as sluts or loose women.’
Fi’s post-menopausal sexual awakening is mirrored by the experience of many baby boomers who now find themselves at the forefront of a second sexual revolution which is perhaps challenging the ultimate taboo — late life sex
Having reached its 60s, this generation is only now, belatedly, becoming more liberated in the bedroom. And the truth about late life sex, it is emerging, is not only that it endures but flourishes. For many, its languid pleasures are more fulfilling than the urgent, performance-driven sex of youth.
Yet societal pressures have prevented us from admitting this. Joan Price, author of The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50, says: ‘We are bombarded with media messages that older sex is unseemly, embarrassing, pathetic, ludicrous and altogether disgusting.
‘If television and films allude to older people having sex at all (which they usually don’t), the audience is invited to shudder, laugh, or bolt.
‘As Goldie Hawn’s character in The First Wives Club said: “There are only three ages of women in Hollywood: babe, district attorney, and Driving Miss Daisy.” We seldom see older people celebrating their sexuality. I used to try to ignore this attitude but now I am taking a more defiant stand.’ Her own late-life sexual awakening inspired 73-year-old Joan’s decision to break the silence; to celebrate the fact that the physical relationship she enjoyed with her second husband Robert was the best she had experienced. She met him when he was 64 and she was 57 and they enjoyed seven blissful years together before his death from cancer in 2008.
Joan asks: ‘What makes sex after 60 the best sex of our lives? Our bodies might be ageing but great sex isn’t just about body parts.
Having reached its 60s, this generation is only now, belatedly, becoming more liberated in the bedroom. And the truth about late life sex, it is emerging, is not only that it endures but flourishes
‘When we have got wisdom, connection, time, intimacy, a sense of humour, ease of communication, resilience of body and spirit, no kids barging in, who needs youth?
‘Sexual response is in our brains more than our genitals. We can have the best sex of our lives at our age, largely because we know ourselves and we have learned to communicate.
‘We are also sharply conscious of our own mortality and that impels us to examine exactly what we need in our lives to be fulfilled.’
Here, perhaps, is the most pressing reason why women, in particular, are leaving unfulfilling marriages in their 60s. They realise they have one last shot at happiness; one final chance to achieve the physical fulfilment that has eluded them during years of domestic drudgery, dutiful sex and child-raising.
Statistics bear out the rise in ‘silver’ divorces: the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows a 73 per cent rise in divorces during the past two decades where the man was over 60, and an 80 per cent rise among women over 60.
Pertinently, while the rate of divorce is falling among younger couples, the only age group that records a rise is the baby boomers. Why is this happening? Relationship coach Francine Kaye says that neuroscience plays an important part.
Women are realising they have one last shot at happiness; one final chance to achieve the physical fulfilment that has eluded them during years of domestic drudgery, dutiful sex and child-raising
‘Men’s brains are geared up to achieving and expending a lot of energy and strength on building careers and businesses between the ages of 20 and 50,’ she says.
‘Then as they ease towards retirement they slow down and seek the reassuring stability of home — wife, sex, sleep, grandchildren, a round of golf. They often become complacent in their comfortable, predictable lives.
‘When they reach their 60s they don’t want drama, and the danger is that they stagnate and become boring. Meanwhile their wives are suffocating.
‘Just as our husbands are winding down, we women are gearing up.
‘Our children have grown and flown the nest; our nurturing hormones are tuned down, we are vibrant, we go to the gym, we are looking younger and we have energy and time to expend on ourselves.
‘Many women embark on new careers in their 50s and are still vital in their 60s — they view it as their time to flourish and to develop. Women are older and growing, while men are just growing older. No woman has abandoned loving, warm sex within a long and happy marriage for a fling. They leave because the marriage isn’t good.’ She adds: ‘Sex is predictable or nonexistent, and suddenly they have a grumpy husband with a prostate problem loitering round the house all day.
‘So they walk, and the men don’t see it coming. They bought one kind of wife off the shelf — the shorthand typist and the home-maker — and the deal was that she wasn’t supposed to change.
‘But the twentysomething bride they married 40 years earlier has changed; she wants a new identity separate from her old one as wife and mum.
‘This is when she goes out and seeks the sexual and self-fulfilment that has eluded her.’
Men don’t abandon physical desire in old age either: a surprising number of octogenarians still enjoy intimacy. Last year, a Manchester University survey of 7,000 people into the sexual health of the elderly, found more than half of the men over 70, and a third of the women, were sexually active.
While 39 per cent of the men reported erectile problems almost a third of those questioned in the 70-80 age bracket, still enjoyed kissing and intimacy with their partners.
Statistics bear out the rise in ‘silver’ divorces: the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows a 73 per cent rise in divorces during the past two decades where the man was over 60, and an 80 per cent rise among women over 60
American research has found that late-life sex can have an adverse effect on men’s hearts: 57 to 85-year-olds who said they had sex once a week were twice as likely to have cardiovascular problems as those who didn’t, while women’s heart health improved.
Further, for older men, second marriages or affairs in later life can also have an adverse effect on their wallets. Francine Kaye says: ‘I have had a spate of male clients in their 60s who have left long marriages for women in their 30s and it is stupid.
‘They become dads again at a time when they are financially vulnerable because they have just divided half their assets with their first wives.
‘One man of 64 had a beautiful 62-year-old wife, a lovely home, established friendships and children and grandchildren that he adored.
‘Yet he was prepared to throw it all away to take up with a 35-year-old woman because he said that she made him feel young again.
‘He wasn’t feeling very young though by the time he had a baby and a toddler with his new wife and was staring at the prospect of working until he was 85 to provide for them.’
Older women often feel liberated by the fact that they can no longer become pregnant, and the post-menopause era, far from signalling the waning of desire, can actually mark its reawakening
Older women often feel liberated by the fact that they can no longer become pregnant, and the post-menopause era, far from signalling the waning of desire, can actually mark its reawakening.
This was certainly the case for divorcee Jacqui Wright, 58, of Salford who works in retailing.
‘The menopause was horrendous and I had no libido,’ she says. ‘I thought that the sexual part of my life was over.
‘Then I came out of the menopause feeling, if anything, more desire than ever.’
After getting married in her 20s, Jacqui was already divorced from her husband (they had two children together) by the time she hit the change. Today she is single but still yearning for that illusory but fulfilling romantic attachment.
‘I still want to look at someone and think: “I want to rip your clothes off” and I’d hate to think I’m never going to have sex again,’ she says. ‘Although I’ve been on plenty of dates with men, it has been four years since I slept with one. ‘I could have sex if I wanted to, a lot of younger guys in particular contact me wanting their “Mrs Robinson” moment, but I don’t want a one-night stand.’
Age has made her more discerning and demanding: what she wants is sex that is not merely animalistic coupling, but sensual and passionate. ‘I like to think that I would have better sex now than I did when I was younger. Although I may have body hang ups — I need to wear sexy underwear rather than be completely naked — I know my body better. I am not afraid to tell a man what I like and don’t like.’
According to Joan Price, communication is key as well as the ability, not merely to know what pleases you, but to articulate it and this comes more easily with the passing years.
And for Joan, too, the greatest aphrodisiac of all is love. During the sweet, but all too short years she spent with Robert, she divulges that the secret of their better-than-ever sex was ‘mature love’.
‘Mature love, love that is only possible after a lot of life experience and probably a lot of wrong relationships along the way,’ she explains.
‘Robert was the man that I had been waiting for my whole life, and it was my enormous joy to have had the pleasure, so late in life, of loving him and being loved by him.’
Have you experienced the late life sexual revolution? Email us your stories at femailreaders.co.uk
FEAR YOU’VE LOST YOUR SPARK? TAKE OUR QUIZ
Are you part of the second sexual revolution? Give yourself two points if you answer A, one point for B and no points for C — and then read on to find out how you can increase your sexual confidence.
1. A peek in your underwear drawer reveals:
A: Sexy styles that make you feel confident both in the bedroom and out
B: Classic feminine shapes that are comfortable and pretty
C: Practical basics that do the job but little more
2. Which word sums up your sex life?
3. A handsome stranger at a party starts flirting with you. Do you…
A: Think nothing about flirting back — it’s harmless fun
B: Accept his compliments with good grace while keeping your guard up
C: Feel incredibly awkward and slink away as fast as possible
4. What’s your attitude to ageing?
A: Every year allows me to flourish further; I feel liberated in my body and mind
B: It doesn’t bother me too much; I try not to think about it
C: Terrible; I hate every new line and hide away from the world
5. Your partner suggests trying something new in the bedroom. Do you…
A: Feel open-minded about it; you never know unless you try
B: Feel embarrassed about breaking away from what you know but are willing to hear him out
C: Feel mortified and point-blank refuse to take it any further
6. You’re invited to a party with the dress code ‘Dress To Impress’. You wear:
A: A daring style that attracts compliments all night
B: The same old flattering, kneelength dress that you know works on your shape
C: A figure-hiding frock that disguises your shape
7: You wish your sex life could…
A: Keep on providing new experiences and sensations
B: Break out of its routine
C: Give you pleasure
0-5 Your confidence in the bedroom is severely lacking and you may be unduly worried about ageing. Talking to your partner will help and it may be worth trying some confidence-boosting activities. See Femail next week for everything you need to boost your sexual confidence.
6-10 Your sex life may have slipped into something of a rut and doesn’t thrill you any more. Read next week to discover how you can get your sparkle back
11-14 Your twilight years have given you unbridled sexual confidence and you are making the most of it. Next week read our guide to how you can enjoy your lovelife even more.