Essential Sex Advice. From Old People.
We've come a long way since the 1950s, when masturbation could make you go insane and gay people didn't exist. But in spite of our strides, sex remains baffling even a half-century later. Will I be having it? How should I be having it? And with whom?
In short, how can I have a more enjoyable sex life?
To get some insight, I needed experts. So I reached out to those who have been having sex the longest: old people. Oldness is subjective, of course, so for the purposes of this article, I have arbitrarily defined it as beginning around 70 and ending with death.
Here's what they had to say.
Being respectful will get you laid
First of all, you need to respect each other... [If] you're kind of horny and they're feeling, you know, tired, or whatever, just respect that. I think that goes a long way toward having a willing partner when the time is right... Also, it has to be fun. You can't take yourself too seriously. If you take yourself too seriously, and if it's about performance rather than the actual enhancing of the other person, then I think it loses the enjoyment. We still enjoy an active sex life. We're really comfortable. Every two weeks. You learn together. It starts way before you hit the sheets. You can't just, you know, give me hell for something and then expect me to jump into bed and be all lovey dovey. It doesn't work that way. But sometimes you have arguments. You make up, too. -- Anne*, 70, retired Canadian nurse in a 46-year relationship
Cheating doesn't come without regrets
Sex is just probably more special than I gave it credit for a lot of the time. And I, through my early years, was way too interested in the next sex activity as opposed to being appreciative. I was married 16 years to my high school sweetheart, whom I ran around on most of those years. Sex, to me, was more important than being a good partner. Sex with a partner that you have a personal relationship with is better than sex with a stranger. Much more fun and memorable. -- Jerry, 72, a "retired corporate guy" who has traveled the world and is now settled in a part-time job in the school system in Keller, TX
You can't just, you know, give me hell for something and then expect me to jump into bed and be all lovey dovey.
Hold back early, finish big
From a lifetime of observation, I’ve concluded that early abstinence allows development of a mature emotional foundation. That leads to a reasonably satisfying adult sexual experience. Too much sex at an early age burns people out. Maintaining good health also matters a great deal. Educated eating and consistent exercise can sustain sexual interest into the eighth decade without chemical or mechanical aid. That’s with the understanding, of course, that frequency gradually decreases. -- Fred, 84, sports coach in Stamford, CT
To me, the important part is, men think you should just be turned on if they say the word. Women aren't like that... if they're like me, I don't want someone to be sweet in order to be trying to get me psyched up. Because if they're sweet and then mean, that turns it all off as far as I'm concerned. That just makes me mad... I used to tell my sister, when her husband was mean to her, "I don't know how you can get excited when anyone is mean to you or acts yucky. I don't want any part of that. They just may as well forget that." And I don't mean that to sound ugly. I know that everybody's not excitable all the time. You wonder, is something wrong with you, or whatever. I'm just not like that. They don't need to be sweet and then think that's OK and I'll fall all over myself. I won't. -- Judy, 85, retired secretary and receptionist in Tulsa, OK
Your partner's body is a wonderland
To get pleasure, you must give pleasure. Foreplay is as important as the climax. There are many sexy, erotic parts of our bodies. Sexual satisfaction comes in many ways. -- Charles, 70, retired Wall St banker-turned-NYC tour guide and math teacher
Sex is no emergency
If I could do it all again, I would communicate my every need. I wouldn't second-guess myself and convince myself that I am just "difficult to please" and that there must be something wrong with me that I need to hide. I would take my time and realize sex is not an emergency! If my partner wouldn't be OK with that, I would realize that would be a surefire sign that they did not care about me and getting involved with them would be dissatisfying. I would make friends with someone before letting the relationship turn intimate. I would also play up my sensuality and dress up more. Be honest and overt about my sexuality. -- Darlene*, 65, health worker in NYC
Foreplay is as important as the climax.
No glove, no love
I would strongly suggest using birth control and not being intimidated to ask a man to use protection. In retrospect, I would have had more fun with my sexuality by playing up my femininity. I wish I had used self-control to get to know someone before becoming intimate. I wish I had played the game of not being so available even though I felt the attraction. Thinking about stability and the future, husband and family would have been the way to secure the lifestyle I had always wanted. -- Josie, 70, retired massage therapist and audio engineer in NYC
Teach your children well (or at least how to do dishes)
I guess everybody has a different situation. I'm in my 70s and my wife is about 18 years younger... When I was a kid, I was raised by a guy back in that generation, who -- you know, men really didn't give a whole lot of care about the needs of the woman. They satisfied themselves, and goodbye and thank you and goodnight. My father was one of those guys, and my mother used to complain to me about it as a kid, which was really unusual... She taught me more about how to treat a woman than anybody. Most mothers of that generation did not. We got our advice from our friends, who knew absolutely nothing as well. Then when you got married -- and a lot of us never had sex prior to that, because it wasn't considered -- actually, you didn't want to marry anybody you could have sex with, because you figured she was kind of a loose woman, and you didn't want that, right?... I think, frankly, just to really be concerned about the needs of your partner, is obviously the number-one goal with anybody -- it should be. If you're thinking only about yourself, you're in big trouble, and that's going to breed problems for sure.
Number two: the little things. My wife gets turned on when I do things around the house, when I help with the dishes, when I prepare a meal, when I do something that most guys normally don't do. She says that turns her on more than anything, which I find interesting. And like, when I played football I used to go into that training room and the trainer would work you over if you were banged up, and you always came out of that room feeling so good, because they knew what they were doing. They made it a point to learn how to do that -- massage, things along those lines. And I do that all the time to my wife, and she just loves it. Again, it goes into being aware or caring about that other person, not just you. That's number one. And if you've got that one down, I think you're in good shape, no matter what.
If you're thinking only about yourself, you're in big trouble.
The other thing -- I'm kind of a stubborn guy, I'm the talk-show host, so naturally I have all the answers, right? And I may not always be right, but I'm never wrong. And my wife is very stubborn about her opinions as well. So you can get into a situation like that when somebody says something to the other one. "No that's not true!" "Oh yes it is." And then it just progresses to something that it shouldn't lead to. I find, whether you think you're right or you think you're wrong, if your partner really is just adamant about her opinion, OK, that's cool, that's good, we're good. It's not going to go any further, you know? Some people let those little things become real bad arguments. Somebody once told me when I was a kid, "Never go to bed angry." So, always make sure you kiss her goodnight, tell her how much you love her. No matter what. If you do! [Laughs] --Steve, 78, former disc jockey/rock musician/businessman-turned-talk-show host inducted into the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame in Providence, RI
Remember to warm up and cool down
It's not what's during sex that matters, it's what's before and what's after. -- Irene, 71, retired librarian in Tel Aviv, Israel
Have fun... and avoid blackout sex
Speaking for myself -- and I'm not 70 yet! -- I think something I wish an older person had told me when I was younger would be, "Never lose your sense of humor about sex." Too many people take it too seriously. Another thing would be, "Sex is communication; not competition." Aren't we at times trying to compete with images of sex we read about or see in films or in advertising? Or even hear about from friends who like to run their mouths. I think that's advice I wouldn't mind passing along to anybody, really. Pretty old school compared to "blackout sex," but it's what I got. -- Wayne, 68, poet and professor in a small town near Columbia, MO
Be tactile, sexually generous, and monogamous
The greatest sexual organ of the body is the skin. Caressing and fondling is important... The most important thing to enjoy a happy sex life is to be considerate of your partner. Make sure it's not just complete selfish gratification, and that your partner enjoys it, and if she doesn't, ask her what she does like. The Swedish idea of trial marriage and then open marriage, and the primarily American idea of wife swapping: these things are usually tricky and have tragic consequences. I would advise young people to think very carefully before doing these kinds of things... It's a bit like dancing, and finding a good dancer and saying you liked dancing with her. It wasn't like that in my day. I don't know if I'd be pleased to be a young person these days or not. -- Kyrle, 91, retired pathologist and doctor in Sydney, Australia
If it feels good, do it
It all depends on how you feel physically. It's not like you're a prostitute; only do it if you really want to, for pleasure. ... [My husband] was like an octopus before [our daughter] was born, he couldn't keep his hands off me. -- Pamela, 87, retired nurse and cook (and Kyrle's wife) in Sydney, Australia
*These people chose to use pseudonyms
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.
Anna Cherry's favorite piece of advice came from one of her grandmas, who ignored the question entirely and instead wished her a happy New Year. Follow her on Twitter: @unacereza.