“There is no question of the fact,” wrote William H. Masters, M.D., and Virginia E. Johnson, of the former Masters and Johnson Institute in St. Louis, back in 1966, “that the human male’s sexual responsiveness wanes as he ages.” Whereas a young stud can get a full erection in three to five seconds, a man in his fifties takes at least twice as long, and a man in his seventies will take three times as long to become erect. And for the first time in his life, he’ll need physical stimulation to get erect. No longer will the mere sight of a woman, the whiff of her perfume or the daydream of unzipping her dress be enough to generate a salute as it did when he was young.
For some men erections will be fewer, softer and more fleeting; they may not achieve full erections until just prior to orgasm. And when orgasm comes at last, it’s less intense. There’s no involuntary toe curl, no anal contractions and fewer ejaculatory contractions. One or two at most.
Masters and Johnson, who measured just about everything, actually took a tape measure to the question of how far a man squirts his stuff. They found that young men’s semen can travel one or two feet, while the graying guys are down to 6 to 12 inches. No longer do you feel like you’re firing a howitzer: Masters and Johnson use the word “seepage” to describe the usual sensation of orgasm in older men.
And then it’ll be a day or two before they can even consider trying to get it back up.
These changes occur slowly across the years, although after age 60 the downhill slope is a little steeper. It occurs in tandem with other indignities-decline in muscle power, dimmed senses, lengthened response times, diminished sex drive, bigger breasts and-merciful heavens!-ear hair.
All that would be enough to make a young man crawl into a monastery. Yet older men aren’t complaining. Though their sexual performances may have slackened, their interest has not. Neither has their satisfaction with their sex lives, which quite possibly are as exciting as their sons’ or grandsons’, although you won’t see them bragging all over town about it. (One study found that 37 percent of married couples over age 60 have sex at least once a week. One in five do it in the great outdoors.)
What’s their secret? They’ve adjusted their attitudes. They’re able to slow down, lower their expectations and engage in less urgent lovemaking. If it’s a little harder to achieve orgasm each and every time, well, at least premature ejaculation is a thing of the past. They can set a mood, they can introduce novelty, and they can enjoy foreplay for its own sake.
A 54-year-old hospital worker who answered our survey says the best sex he ever had started happening all the time once he reached age 40. “I was able to have intercourse for 15 minutes before climax. Age makes sex better,” he claims, “because it takes longer and I have more control.”
The most in-depth study of sex and aging remains the Consumer Reports survey of 4,246 men and women over age 50. The responses paint a detailed picture of a rich and varied sex life: Half the men were receiving oral sex, for instance, and 56 percent were performing cunnilingus on their partners. (In fact, the men were enjoying cunnilingus more than the women, who said they’d enjoy it more if the men were slower, gentler and didn’t give them beard burns with their stubbly faces.) Among those men who had passed the milestone of age 70, 43 percent were still masturbating, 17 percent were having orgasms in their sleep and 70 percent were consistently reaching orgasm during coitus. This despite the fact that 44 percent of all the men surveyed said their erections were less stiff and 32 percent said that they frequently lost an erection during sex.
All in all, these men who were born before the Hoover administration were enjoying a gamut of sexual practices including nipple and anus stimulation, sex fantasies and what sex therapists call stuffing, that is, literally stuffing the unerect penis inside the vagina with the aid of lubricants, which sometimes is enough to trigger a full-blown erection.
In our own surveys we noticed that aging is a gradual process-at least in terms of attitudes. Guys start out wanting to know all about multiple orgasms-his ‘n’ hers. As the years go by, men become less focused on how to get greater personal pleasure, less concerned about catching a disease and more worried about staying sexually active. Among men age 55 and beyond over half say their greatest sexual fear is impotence.
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