Every month in Sex at Our Age, award-winning senior sexpert Joan Price answers your questions about everything from loss of desire to solo sex and partner issues. Nothing is out of bounds! To send your questions directly to Joan, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A member writes:
I’m a 72-year-old man, married 48 years. My wife and I used to have sex about once a week, but over the last 3 years, that frequency has dropped to every month or two. I still prefer intimacy with my wife over masturbation, but I find myself going solo several times a week. I have trouble reaching an orgasm when we have sex together, but I have no problem when viewing porn.
My wife goes through the roof when she finds evidence of my watching porn. She destroys my DVDs and magazines and goes silent for days. She says that porn is demeaning to women and an indication that I would rather be with someone young, hot and sexy. Not true! She is still hot, sexy, and positively beautiful!
My wife never had a strong sex drive, and after many years it just waned. I am guilty of allowing her to give me my satisfaction in bed though intercourse, rather than focus on her needs. Believe me, if she had ever indicated that she wanted more fulfillment for herself, I would have obliged. After reading a book on women’s sexual pleasure recently, I can’t believe how selfish and ignorant I have been.
Often I feel that we have no common ground — but we need to find middle ground. Nothing is more important than getting us on the same page. I’ve asked her to see a marriage counselor or a sex therapist, and she has declined both. It is having a serious impact on our marriage. Lately, she just responds to my overtures by saying that by now, I should be winding down and not need her intimacy. Yikes! Sex is still such a force at my age and sexual satisfaction is important to me. This is killing me!
- Frustrated and Not Winding Down
Disagreement about porn and lack of sex together are tough issues between you and your wife. She is angry about your use of porn and destroys it when she finds it. However, masturbation to porn serves as an easy, safe outlet for your strong sex drive, especially during the long dry spells. That’s understandable and common, and no cause for blame or shame.
“It’s possible to be an ethical, responsible person and treat oneself and others with dignity and integrity, AND to watch hot, no-holds-barred sex on screen,” writes clinical psychologist David Ley, Ph.D., in his book, Ethical Porn for Dicks, A Man’s Guide to Responsible Viewing Pleasure. “Porn can affect people (by turning them on), but it does not take them over or override their values.” I heartily recommend this book for you both.
I shared your story with Dr. Ley, and he told me “Many men commonly use masturbation to porn to compensate when their sexual needs are not being met or accepted within their relationship. Wives who feel threatened by their husband’s masturbation or interest in porn worry that it is a judgement of their beauty or sexuality. I encourage you to empathize with your wife, explore and discuss her concerns about porn and your sexuality. But ultimately, I tell hundreds of other wives and husbands that our orgasms don’t become communal property when we get married. Each of us is entitled to own our own sexuality, so long as we handle it with responsibility, authenticity and integrity.”
I understand why you’re frustrated by the lack of sex with your wife. Have you asked her in a nonjudgmental and loving way to talk to you about how she feels about sex now? You say she never had much of a sex drive, and your sex has always been intercourse. Most women do not reach orgasm through intercourse alone. I wonder if she never had much interest because you were not doing the things that might sexually arouse and pleasure her. You’re beginning to realize that now. It makes sense that she feels “done” with sex if she never got pleasure from it anyway. It’s also likely that her anger about your porn use is keeping her distanced from intimacy with you.
You say that orgasms are much easier for you watching porn than having intercourse with your wife, and that’s understandable. Porn gives you stimulation and fantasy – very sexy. Sex with your wife is fraught with anxiety and maybe resentment – very unsexy.
I think you need a professional to help you talk productively about all this. I strongly urge you both to see a sex therapist, who will guide you in talking honestly and making changes. Without a professional helping you navigate your issues, I fear that both of you will remain unhappy in your marriage. Neither of you wants that.
Some tips for you and others in your situation:
- Tell your wife you’d like to explain what porn means to you: e.g. visual stimulation for masturbation, an easy release, a quick trip into fantasy.
- Explain that watching porn does not mean you want her less or love her less. It’s not about your feelings for her.
- Describe how it makes you feel when she gets angry and destroys your porn.
- Read and discuss together my advice to another woman who was bothered by her husband’s porn viewing: “I Caught My Husband Watching Porn. Do We Have a Problem?”
- Tell her, “I realize that I don’t know your reasons for not wanting to be sexual with me. I’d like to understand how you feel.”
- Ask her to tell you honestly what she wishes was different about the way the two of you have sex. Really listen.
- Tell her you’d like to pleasure her without reciprocation and without intercourse. Ask her to guide you if she’s willing.
- Use some of the suggestions in “A Senior’s Guide to Sex Without Intercourse” and/or watch my “Great Sex without Penetration” webinar.
- See a sex therapist (find one in your location) for guidance. Explain that you are unhappy and your marriage may depend on it.
Send Joan your questions by emailing email@example.com. All information is confidential. Joan can only answer questions that are chosen for publication.
Joan Price is the author of several books including “The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50” and the award-winning self-help book “Naked at Our Age.” Visit Joan’s blog, “Naked at Our Age” and her Facebook page. For senior sex news, tips, event and webinar announcements, and special offers, join Joan’s mailing list. View Joan’s new free webinar, “Safer Sex for Seniors.”