At first the humping pandas made it hard to concentrate on what I was doing. But only at first. After awhile it all seemed quite natural.
I’d been invited by NBC Today to interview several over-50 couples about midlife sex, and the network had decided to film at the Museum of Sex in Manhattan. By some quirk of fate I’d been seated across from the video panda loop.
Several mid-life couples from across the country had accepted invitations from NBC to talk about how sex had changed after 50, and my colleague Chicago gynecologist Dr. Lauren Streicher (pictured above) and I were spending the morning chatting with them on camera.
Now of course your typical 50+ couple wouldn’t volunteer to discuss their sex life on national TV for their children and grandchildren to see. So the couples that had gathered that day were for the most part a bit more exhibitionistic than the norm.
They seemed more devoted to sexual pleasure as well. Most claimed to be having sex 3 or more times a week. Earlier in the morning, NBC Today host Hoda Kotb had stopped by the Museum of Sex to chat with the couples, and had expressed surprise at how eager most of them were to have so much sex.
“C’mon, isn’t it sort of the same old song sometimes?” she asked.
Evidently not. From occasional hotel sex to modeling new underwear fashions for each other, these couples all reported keeping it fresh and exciting.
I was reminded of an email conversation I once had with my colleague Dr. Charles Moser from San Francisco. “Think of chocolate,” he said. “Most people like chocolate, and they’ll eat it if it’s offered. But there are some people whose life is devoted to chocolate. They travel the world in search of great chocolates. It’s what they love best.”
Most couples over 50 consider sex to be a couple of notches below good sleep and stable property values in their hierarchy of needs. But there’s always a lot of variety in human life, and there are some couples for whom sex ranks higher than usual.
Research studies have revealed some consistencies about such couples. They do it more regularly, even if they’re not particularly in the mood, and they value it more highly. Obviously there’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing there. In the end, we don’t know what makes some people over 50 into sex connoisseurs, any more than why some people become devotees of fine chocolate.
“Did you know?” Dr. Streicher asked me during a break in the filming, “There are only two mammals that live past menopause? Humans are one. What’s the other?” It was clear she wanted me to guess.
This information didn’t seem immediately useful. But it did make me reflect on what 25 years of being a sex therapist have taught me about lovemaking in the second half of life:
1. Make sex important, and do it often enough. At least once a week usually for a couple in their fifties. And “simmer” together for a minute or two whenever you can. Like prayer, sex becomes more meaningful the more time and attention you devote to it.
2. Be good at it. People tend to want to do what they’re good at. For most people, that means knowing what’s meaningful to you and making sure you get it. Sounds selfish? I know. But that’s what makes for good sex.
3. Have realistic expectations. Sex after 50 isn’t always going to be particularly inspiring. But like regular church attendance, regular lovemaking prepares you for those moments of true inspiration.
Prepare yourself for passion, and it may well come find you when you least expect it.