Longtime activist Perry Brass has written both fiction and nonfiction books about a wide range of gay topics. | NICK BLUMENTHAL/ COURTESY OF CALLEN-LORDE COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER
Although this article’s title focuses on sex after 50, the truth is many men start to think of aging earlier, in their 40s or younger, and by 50 realize it’s going to happen, although this period of middle age has recently come out as a remarkably sexual period itself. In other words, the old gay saw “Everything stops after 40” now seems like a really bad movie dinosaur without the leftover Six Flags thrill ride attached to it.
When thinking about sexuality and aging, it’s important to bear several important things in mind:
Sex is a physical activity — and like all physical activities, being in shape is important. If you are one of those men who, as I wrote earlier in this series, has “abdicated” your body, then a lot of your sexuality may have closed down. Exercise itself, especially aerobic exercise, can be a real turn-on — your body is rediscovering itself, and with that rediscovery comes sex. One of the problems about exercise and fitness is that too often they have become as alienating as so much of our consumerist culture. Going to a gym has become, for too many guys, an embarrassing, deflating experience.
But don’t give up on exercise. You can exercise at home with great results, with or without an outside trainer. First, buy a decent exercise mat and also, if you have room, an inflatable balance ball. You won’t need a whole range of weights — in fact, you don’t need any weights over 25 pounds. There are tons of exercise videos on YouTube, and many of them are directed at men “Over 40.” The truth is, “Over 40” here means over 50 and 60, as well.
Unfortunately, what most videos don’t stress is the importance of stretching before and after any kind of exercise. So watch some stretching videos, too.
Give yourself an easy goal — one that does not defeat you. If you want to start doing push-ups, try to do three to five of them your first time, and don’t worry so much about your form. Then work up from there, and your form will improve, too. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re failing. Your only failure is to give up.
Also, exercise, like diet, needs variety: you can get bored fast, so don’t be afraid of learning new routines or adding new activities to your repertoire. You can do yoga, Pilates, full body (basically variations on push-ups), aerobics, core or abs-centered, some martial arts, shadow boxing, weights. The important thing is to challenge your body, and keep it happy. Once it is in that “happy state,” you’ll find sex itself peeking around the corner.
By all means, though, for the exercise — at least! — make sure you wear a good solid athletic supporter: Flarico makes excellent jocks with a three-inch or six-inch band, very good for older men who are especially prone to groin strains and hernias.
Grooming: Don’t be a “dirty old man.” It’s easy to become slack about grooming as you age, and also to feel self-conscious walking into Kiehl’s or any place that sells grooming aids. Often basic drugstore products work as well as the fancier, more expensive ones. Start to luxuriate in the pampering that good grooming gives you. And don’t forget your teeth and mouth — they are very important. Good dental and oral care should be a constant part of your grooming routine.
Chemical assistance: If you are not using one of the drugs aimed at heightening erections and sexual response, such as Viagra, Levitra, Cialis, or the generics for them — and you are over 50 or 60 — then test them out. Ask your doctor either for a sample or a prescription for a few tablets. In the US, many insurance companies will now pay for these drugs, although Medicare, ever the government scold, will not. If you decide to use one regularly and it is not covered, investigate having them sent from Canada where they are much cheaper. There are numerous pharmacies that do that online. There are even sites that evaluate the quality of them — just google “rating Canadian pharmacies.”
External versus internal orgasms: A lot of men over 50 can no longer have an external orgasm. When they cum, no ejaculate comes out. This is called a “retro orgasm.” This may be due to certain drugs prescribed for prostate and bladder problems or to prostate cancer surgery. I have not been able to have an external orgasm for almost a decade. What happens is that your ejaculate shoots back into your bladder and you pee it out.
What I’ve found is that the intensity of my orgasms is now higher than before: they are wild. So if you cannot have an external orgasm, don’t get dismayed and feel automatically rejected because of it. You may have to explain to your partner that you are experiencing orgasm and it’s wonderful, but there won’t be anything to clean up.
Solo sex: Never give up on it. A lot of guys feel that they are “too old” to masturbate. This cuts them off even further from sexuality. In my book “The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love,” I talked about jerk off clubs, like the New York Jacks, and how they often are very democratic, in that they have no age limits or other barriers to joining in.
Non-orgasmic sex: If you are experiencing, for whatever reason, an inability to orgasm, realize that the goal of all sex is not orgasm: it is closeness and the pleasures of touching, kissing, holding, caressing, hugging, and fondling. In “The Manly Art of Seduction,” I wrote about erectile dysfunction and how to deal with it. ED is certainly not always a component of age — it can start at any age for a large number of reasons — but many men as they age feel that it is a painful source of shame to them. All of us need to change that attitude.
Experimentation: Now is a great time to get into things you might not have even thought you would, like S&M, bondage play, leather, shaving and hair fetishes, and other sexual formats that are often not orgasm-directed, but deal in fantasies, role play, and other forms of sexual pleasure. Always remember: the brain is the sexiest part of your body, so start playing with it.
Threesomes and group sex: As you get older, these can become a lot more interesting in that some of the immediate pressure of one-on-one sex — and the fear of that evil, flashing “Reject” button — is relieved. Going after these experiences — or inviting them — can be fun, and sometimes even turn into romantic and emotionally fulfilling situations.
Safe sex: Now is not the time to ignore safe sex guidelines. Even if you can’t have an external orgasm or you have ED problems, STDs are still out there and you can catch one. So practice safe sex, and if you are with multiple sex partners, have yourself tested for STDs often.
This is the third in a series of articles by Perry Brass on gay aging. Previous articles have dealt with attitudes toward aging among young people and older people, and also how gay men, through the effect of gay Baby Boomers, have changed some of their attitudes toward aging. His 19 books include the novels“The Substance of God,” “Carnal Sacraments,” and “King of Angels,” and the classic gay self-help book “How to Survive Your Own Gay Life,” as well as “The Manly Art of Seduction,” and “The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love.” You can learn more about these books at his new blog at Perry Brass: Gay Self Help Books or at perrybrass.com. A member of New York’s radical Gay Liberation Front, in 1972, with two friends, he co-founded the Gay Men’s Health Project Clinic, the first clinic specifically for gay men on the East Coast, still operating as the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center.