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.
Is casual sex a “thing” for our age group? I’m 70 and lost my husband two years ago. I’m not ready for a steady dating relationship—and I’m certainly not looking for a husband—but I’m lonely for sex. I enjoy my vibrator, but I miss the feeling of skin on skin and the embrace of another body. I want to feel exciting and excited. Sometimes I wish I could just have a man in bed for an afternoon when I want him, then have him go away. Is that sexist, treating a grown man like a boy toy?
One of my friends goes on dating sites looking for “casual encounters.” She has sex with a variety of men and says she likes it, and so do her dates. I don’t judge her, but I don’t know if I could be comfortable with just sex, no relationship at all. I was brought up to see sex and love as part of the same package, preferably pointing to marriage. I’m not interested in that any more. My life is full of activities on my own and with my friends, and I don’t want to do anyone’s laundry or be expected to put dinner on the table every night. But my friend’s solution seems too outrageous for me. I don’t know if I can ever separate sex from emotions. Is that even possible for women? Do men see women as trashy if they’re interested in sex without a commitment?
How do I bring sex back into my life? If I don’t want a husband or a steady date, is “casual encounters” my only option? How would I even do that? —Conflicted
Joan Price Responds
You ask some great questions. It’s good that you’re thinking this through before you act on it. Our generation was raised with a clear distinction between “good” girls and “loose” girls, and what it meant if you were the latter. But we’ve changed, our culture has changed and our sexual choices have expanded. Whatever works for two people mutually is much more important than any either-or rule. And so, while you might not be comfortable with your friend’s sexual behavior, that is not the only option outside of love and marriage.
Here are some options for you to think about.
- A “friend with benefits” or sex buddy is a friend first and a sex partner on occasion, when you both feel like it. Usually it happens that a friend (maybe a longtime friend) becomes a sex partner, keeping the friendship and adding on the “benefits.” Or sometimes a former lover comes back into your life and although the long-ago emotions aren’t what they were, you feel close and sharing sex feels comfortable. Many unpartnered seniors enjoy these kinds of relationships. A friend with benefits, or FWB, is a real friendship – you care about each other, enjoy talking and share interests – with that added gift of naked cuddling and orgasms. When you’re apart, you’re independent with no expectation of commitment or exclusivity.
- “No strings attached” or “hookup” is casual sex with one or more partners. You come together for sex when you both want to, and otherwise your worlds might not overlap. This can be a one-night stand or an ongoing every-so-often “booty call.” Many people use the dating sites to find partners. Looking for “casual encounters” or “short-term dating” will draw people interested in no strings attached, or NSA sex.
- A therapeutic massage: If the options above don’t feel right, a massage can help with that longing to be touched. It’s not sexual touch, but it can feel deliciously sensual to have a trained pair of hands kneading your muscles and relaxing your body. There are also erotic massage practitioners who offer sensual massage—you can explore whether this is available in your area. I write about this in my book, Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex.
Of course, whether you’re considering FWB or NSA (or any new sexual relationship, in fact), both of you should be recently and regularly tested for STIs, including HIV, and safer sex should always be a non-negotiable item in your agreement.
From what you’ve told me about you, I think you’d be comfortable with a FWB, someone you feel close to emotionally as a friend but whose benefits come with no commitment—and who goes away after that afternoon together, as you specified!
The right FWB might be closer than you think. Many people our age are widowed or divorced and, like you, don’t want another committed relationship right now. Some are in nonsexual relationships—maybe they’ve become the caregiver to a spouse and their marriage is no longer sexual. Maybe they’re with a spouse who no longer desires sex and has given permission to go outside the marriage. Or they may be in a relationship founded on ethical non-monogamy. There are many reasons that people of our age want a sexual partner without a committed relationship. It’s normal and more common than you’d think. Maybe you already have the right friend, and just need to add the benefits!
You ask whether this kind of relationship is possible for women. Yes, for many women. No, for others. You’ll have to look inside yourself to decide whether it’s right for you. Are you likely to get too emotionally involved, or is he? Maybe. Emotions are tricky, and the best way to deal with whatever comes up is to communicate clearly before you get involved, during the involvement and afterwards if either of you needs to end it.
Here’s how it worked for a friend of mine who grieved deeply after the death of her husband before feeling she was ready for sex and warmth, but not a committed relationship. She had a close friend who was also open to a sexual friendship without commitment, and some exploratory kissing showed them that they really were sexually attracted to each other. They talked about their needs, desires, expectations and boundaries, being careful to speak honestly and non-judgmentally, and to really listen to each other. Both were worried at first that if the sex didn’t work out, their friendship could be damaged, but they agreed that as long as they kept communicating honestly, they’d be able to preserve it. Their FWB relationship lasted two years. During that time they were friends first and foremost, and sexual partners as an added bonus. The “benefits” part of their relationship ended when they both felt it had played itself out and they were ready to move on, but they remain friends.
You’re asking all the right questions. Be clear with yourself and with any potential sex partners about what you’re signing on for. Make sure that you and your new sex partner agree on what needs you’re filling for each other and where the boundaries are. And show your partner that you value your health and his by always practicing safer sex. See more about safer sex here.
Would you like to see more questions and answers? See all of Joan’s advice in Sex @ Our Age.
Send Joan your questions by emailing email@example.com. All information is confidential.
Joan Price is the author of “The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50: How to Maintain – or Regain! – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life”; the award-winning self-help book “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex”; and the sexy memoir, “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty.” Visit Joan’s blog, “Naked at Our Age,” and her Facebook page. For interesting senior sex news, views, practical tips, announcements about events and webinars, and special offers, join Joan’s mailing list.