A typical web discussion of sex in old age these days either trumpets how great it is, and how there need be no fall off from sex earlier in life, or speaks realistically of declining sexual powers, though with a recognition of the continuation of a satisfactory sexual life. I think there is some truth in both perspectives, but I do think some things are missing.
I’m writing from a somewhat unusual position: I’ve only had sex with one woman — my wife of many years — and so I don’t claim my experience is in any way representative of most men. There must be some significant differences between someone who has had a good deal of sex before and during marriage in younger years, with relatively few constraints, e.g., extensive habits of masturbation (both solitary and mutual), the customary use of contraception and a small number of children, and someone else who hasn’t masturbated or used contraception and has tried, as a matter of principle, to avoid ejaculating outside his wife’s vagina.
So , unrepresentative of men as I am, I want to comment on sex in old age for someone like myself. What I want to say is: despite its challenges, it can be really wonderful!
Like most men (as far as I can tell), only perhaps more so, when I was younger I had a fairly short fuse for sexual intercourse itself and for manual (much less oral) stimulation of my penis. I got aroused very quickly and, if stimulation was continuous, and after entering my wife, I could only “last” before ejaculating for a few minutes, at most. [This is, I think, what much of the constant worry about “premature ejaculation” is today — just the natural sensitivity and steep and quick arousal curve of someone with limited sexual experience (though, of course, there are other cases that are much worse and may require some kind of clinical intervention).]
Over the course of many years of marriage, this meant extending foreplay for her, and limiting it for me, so as to prolong the delight of marital intercourse. That might strike some people as regrettable, but I think it wasn’t at all. As I point out in numerous places on this website (see here, for example, especially “Male Sexual Pleasure), I am convinced that the greatest pleasure a man receives in sexual intercourse comes from his capacity to send his wife into ecstasy.
Moreover, over time there is a natural education in marriage regarding edging — the practice of coming to the edge of orgasm and then backing off. The spouses get to know each other, and, either through verbal communication or through other signs, the wife learns to back off stimulating her husband if he is getting too close to orgasm early in the lovemaking.
Old age brings a natural slowing of arousal. Some men might, in fact, worry about the fact that they don’t get immediate and hard erections, as they did when younger. But, in fact, there is a wonderful silver lining to this natural aging process. Yes, arousal takes longer and erections take longer to get hard. But that turns out to be really great! I am only too delighted to have to take much longer to get erect and hard. When young, simple thoughts led to quick and hard erections. In old age, aggressive manual or oral stimulation is necessary and takes much longer. What is wrong with that?! It means that I have a much longer, and less steep arousal curve, but the curve is still heading upward and the fact that it takes longer is great — I’ve always wanted “longer.”
It also means I can spend more time in my wife after entering her. Again, that’s great — at least she and I think it is. (Though I confess that holding myself up with my arms straight, in the missionary position, gets tiring.) That sexual union (again, as I point out elsewhere on this website, here and here, especially regarding the work of Dr. Stuart Brody) is really a central part of a woman’s sexual pleasure (often lost sight of in the exclusive focus on orgasms).
What I have found most surprising is this. Many discussions of sex in old age emphasize the declining power of a man’s orgasm. I am sure this is true, and that I will reach a point where I feel that diminishing of the power of my orgasm. But, to my surprise, my orgasms now (in my 70s) are the most powerful they have ever been.
Why? I think the explanation is this. As I am in my wife, I don’t hurry my orgasm (e.g., by rapid and continual thrusting). I thrust for a bit, then back off a little, and do that for a while (thrusting in different ways, as I discuss here, especially in the section on The Action in Union, and resting briefly in between). Eventually (again, it takes longer in old age, and I find that delightful), I begin to feel that I am approaching the “point of no return,” when I will move inevitably into orgasm. But, again, I try not to hurry it. I try to let the orgasm “come to me,” so to speak. And, because I am older, it comes more slowly. And I find that the result is sometimes a significantly longer orgasm, and (occasionally) very powerful orgasms.
Of course, there is also the usual variation in sexual activity — every act of marital union is different, and some are better and some less so. There are other aspects of sex in old age that aren’t quite as enjoyable. For example, for the first time in a man’s life, he may find himself unable to finish. (This would have struck him as unthinkable in his youth!) Whatever the stimulation, he just can’t ejaculate, especially if there has been any interruption or distraction (like a cramp!), or if he has had to fight not to ejaculate earlier (and may have ejaculated slightly in the effort not to). (Difficulty finishing is also more likely if you have had marital relations very recently.)
So, old age has it ups and downs (pun intended). As we age further, it’s pretty common that it’s harder to achieve orgasm at all, and the orgasms may be less powerful. But, at the same time, it is also possible truly to delight in sex in old age. The bottom line is that a man should recognize the joys and the frustrations of sex as a common aspect of aging, and accept it with grace.