Sex education in the United States until about forty
years ago was non-existent. Young women and men
learned about sex in the locker rooms. Women were
subjected to a constant tirade or warnings about
getting pregnant, picking up a venereal disease or
"being wronged" by men. Everyone knew that "Holding
hands was the firs step to getting pregnant." Women
could not even think about the pathways to abortions
without terrible anxiety. Then, of course, an
abortion was not easy to come by. Frequently, it
involved traveling to another country where abortion
laws were less strict.
we start at the beginning. The adolescent notion of
erections is that any real man should be able to get
an erection any time of the day or night without
much provocation. This myth persists, in spite of
considerable evidence to the contrary, and it lurks
in the mind of most seniors. With age, however,
erections generally occur only at the right time and
place, and with the right partner.
When counseling couples with sexual dysfunction it
is easy to determine that sex is the first element
of the relationship that suffers when there is a
breakdown in communication. When couples start to
repair things, sex is the last element to return to
the relationship. When one or both members of a pair
are troubled with depression or stress then sex
becomes almost impossible.
second generalization is that men are quite willing
to accept all of the responsibility for failure to
get an erection. A more useful answer can be found
by tracking the interaction between a man and woman.
We look for behaviors that facilitate or impede the
growth of intimacy.
Women learn early in life how to turn men off. If
they are tired, stressed or just plain uninterested
in sex, most women know how to put a quick end to
sexual overtures. Men also know how to do this with
a partner who is more sexually active than they are.
So, once these problems are out of the way, where is
the pathway to sexual activity? The world is full of
men and woman who feel inadequate about their sexual
ability. More often than not it is the partner who
is turning them off in some subtle way.
always, the first step is open, intimate discussion.
Both people have to show some interest in improving
their sex life. These discussions must focus on such
subjects as "what can I do to please you more?" and
vice-versa. Some couples have never had such
conversations. One partner gets sexually active and
the other just goes along to get it over with. It is
easy to see that sexual dysfunction is quite common
when things go on this way. Women who just go along
also have great difficulty in reaching a satisfying
a couple can't work their way through all of this
because of embarrassment, lack of knowledge,
discomfort, or preoccupation with illness, then they
should think about getting good-quality professional
help. This step will at least open the way to
Most sex manuals will advise couples not to make an
effort to strive for satisfying sex too quickly.
They suggest that the partners start learning to
enjoy physical and emotional intimacy and sensual
pleasure without necessarily proceeding to full
intercourse, and see what develops. This is
generally good advice. However, the climate of the
relationship must allow for each partner to be able
to say "I like it when you do this", or "I don't
like you doing that", or "give me a massage all
over", or "What would you like me to do?" In a
surprising number of cases making the effort to
develop the relationship, improve communication, and
explore ways of pleasing each other leads to
Striving for sensual satisfaction is a good place to
start. The right music, the right perfume, the right
lighting and all of the other pleasurable smells,
touches and visual sensation helps a lot. If
sometimes this whole thing sounds like a big
production, well it is. Unfortunately, if sexual
interest has declined over a period of time then it
takes as lot of effort and time to get things back
is easy to forget the rituals of courtship. One or
both members of pair can start with little presents
from time to time and remembering what the partner
likes for entertainment and enjoyment. Find the
right foods to prepare or the right restaurant to
make a reservation. All of these little things
help to create a climate for intimacy.
Many couples report that living out fantasies is
very sexually exciting. For example, a man goes to a
bar and soon a woman comes in. He goes through all
of the motions of "picking up" an unattached woman,
who is in fact his wife. Both people can really
enjoy this. It takes a little work to recall sexual
Or invent new ones that are sexually stimulating and
then figure out how to put them in action.
Unfortunately, if a relationship has deteriorated to
the point where there is very little affection or
caring between the partners, there is need for some
more general discussion. The conversation can build
around "What can I do to be a better person for
you?" If nothing of value comes out of such a
discussion both people have to question why they
stay in the relationship.
partners in relationships are quite comfortable
without sex. The couple know each other well, enjoy
being together, and one or both of them know that
they don't want to live alone, or face the family,
children and community after a separation. Also,
there is always someone there to call on in time of
trouble or illness. Also, neither of them wants to
be on the open market and go through the process of
learning again how to act as a single person with
other seniors. Separation would lead, to religious,
financial, and estate problems, and so on.
Relationships like this can continue indefinitely,
until something happens that causes a reevaluation.
couples arrive at the notion that each partner
should be free to pursue sexual activity outside of
the relationship. This kind of decision relieves a
lot of pressure. Both men and women seek out younger
partners and often same-sex partners. Actually,
second marriages tend to be better than first
marriages except they are shorter.
There are a host of other issues that contribute to
sexual dysfunction. Age differences between partners
become more important as a couple ages. Religious
and long established ethical constraints prevent
people from speaking easily, or considering options
in their relationship.