Newlyweds suffering from post-honeymoon blahs and new mamas hit by post-partum blues often tell me that they would rather drink or sleep than have sex. Any woman married for longer than six months, if she is honest, knows the fine line between loving and loathing, and what it is like to sit on the front steps in your bathrobe, sobbing, in a stubborn stand-off from sex.
There is hope for what lies ahead. My new book Sex After...Women Share How Intimacy Changes As Life Changes, a compilation of 150 interviews with women ages 20 through 90, reveals uncensored secrets and strategies from women of all ages. Surprisingly, the sexiest advice comes from seniors over 70 who swear they are having the best sex of their lives .
Hardy and horny, these rocking grannies I uncovered from California to Maine are not knitting in their rockers. "We are free, no kids around, we are retired. We can have sex whenever and wherever we want," said Lorraine, 72. "I had to wait until I was 68 to experience the joy of kitchen sex!"
The bodacious older babes in Sex After... come from a variety of relationships, some in long marriages, some widowed, some divorced. Yet their ability to sustain desire and romance revolved around two common and central themes: Be adventurous. And make sure you have some kind of sex -- does not have to be full-blown intercourse -- at least twice a week.
This is excellent advice for young, cranky wives eager to get their mojo back, after reality shatters honeymoon bliss. New marriage means fights over money, meddling in-laws, finding his icky black hairs from shaving in the bathroom sink, squealing babies that came way earlier than planned.
If 85-year-old Betty, the mother of 11 children, can keep up a sexy marriage throughout all the crap that comes with raising nearly a dozen kids and living with someone day to day, so can you.
"Here's what I tell my own daughters," said Betty, who still has a "really cozy time" with her mate of 63-years. "Whenever my husband was in the mood for sex, no matter how tired I was, no matter if I wasn't in the mood, I just decided I would lay back and enjoy it. And I always end up enjoying it very much."
Shirley, 73, a California grandmother radiant in an orange pantsuit and lipstick to match crowed to me about vibrators and Tantric sex. After our two days together I felt like taking an ice bath. Here is a portion of our interview:
We actually start our lovemaking with Thomas giving me an hour massage as a warm-up, which definitely puts me in the mood. We then use some inventive toys, I recommend the Celebrator vibrator. It looks like a toothbrush that has a little bulb on the top. It's so strong it's better to let the batteries run down a little.
One of my secrets is that we are so comfortable with each other that we will try anything to keep things hot. We even went to a Tantric sex-training seminar. This was a big turnaround for us: Now we are really making love and not just having sex. We also find that a little bit of marijuana is a nice addition to our sex lives. I am having some of the hottest sex now, better than I had in my twenties or thirties or forties. After seventy, there comes a sweetness about making love. We go slowly, there is no rush anymore. When you're younger, it's all about the orgasm, then it's over. I don't miss those days. Honestly I've never felt anything like this in my life. I'm seventy-three and we still make love three times a week.
Hearing Shirley's breathy descriptions of sex after seventy, I am recalling those younger years she does not miss. In our first four years of marriage, we became parents to four sons under the age of four -- twins made that happen. Three of them were breast-feeding and it was wild and snarly for a while, and decidedly unromantic.
I heard lots of complaints from new mothers on how sexual desire was doused from exhaustion and as their once erogenous breasts became over-worked feeding zones. Ob-gyns impose a no-intercourse rule until six weeks have passed from delivery. Some new moms told me they are not ready for sex until six months or a year had passed, as breastfeeding also causes vaginal dryness.
"The first time I tried to have sex after having my baby and breastfeeding constantly, it was so painful that I ran to my doctor in a panic, convinced that some medical error had ruined me forever," said Georgia, 32, who had her first child eight months ago. "Her response was empathetic and succinct: 'Astroglide'. It saved the day."
Dr. Marilyn Charwat is a 79-year-old sex therapist who practices in Boca Raton, and who touts the merits of experimenting with alternative sexual techniques when intercourse is painful for the woman or impossible for the man. Charwat, with her long black Cher hair and toned yoga body, could pass for 55, and when she dishes about sex she could pass for 25. Here is a snippet of our longer interview from the book:
I always encourage the use of vibrators with my clients of all ages. I am a big believer in women having orgasms once a day, or at least three times a week. Because an orgasm, like a Kegel, lifts and tightens the pelvis. An orgasm provides tremendous relaxation and it also helps keep the vagina healthy and lubricated. If you get used to having regular orgasms that whole part of your body is being revitalized, your whole life is revitalized. Also, if you learn to bring yourself to orgasm, you can have more fulfilling sex with a partner because you know what you need.
I also turn all women on to the joy of oral sex as a completely reliable alternative to intercourse, which might be difficult for older men and many younger men with Erectile Dysfunction. When women describe the experience who have never had it before, they are berserk with joy! Sex at every age can be gratifying if you have an open and loving partner and you are open and loving about yourself. Happily, I can report there is a lot of sex going on with people my age and older. Because most people in their seventies and eighties feel internally like they did when they were thirty-five. When it comes to enjoying a long and healthy sex life, attitude is everything.
Iris Krasnow's new book Sex After...Women Share How Intimacy Changes As Life Changes is recently released by Gotham Books. Connect with her at iriskrasnow.com