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February 28, 2000

What Will Your Sex Life Be Like in 5, 10, 20 Years?

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How Good Can Your Sex Life Get?

Isn't there an age at which you've done it all, and sex stops getting better?

Scientists--and real women--say no. Here are the facts:

"LIMITING YOURSELF IS NEVER SEXY." -GOLDA, 68

Right now, I'm feeling incredibly sexy after not having felt that way for a while. It comes down to self-acceptance. For instance, I've always had fat legs. But it's only now that I realize there are a lot of people out there who don't mind that I have fat legs. With people, it's like chicken. You might have a preference for which part of the bird you like. But will you eat another part if it's cooked well? Of course! When you limit yourself, you're missing out, and that's not sexy. Sex has changed for me over the years.

My dad died when I was 12, and I was having sex at 13. Not satisfying sex--I was looking for a father substitute. It wasn't until the loosening of the social girdle in the 1960s that I felt that it was OK to have sex and be freer about it. I didn't have to make apologies for having a healthy sexual appetite.

Today, I'm still learning about my own sexuality every day. I'm more open now than I was two weeks ago. You can be sexy when you're not having sex (although I am having sex regularly now--and getting great satisfaction from it). It's a part of fully living, and having all systems be go! The advent of AIDS also helped me be more articulate about sex and sexuality, because I had to say to men, "I will get an AIDS test, will you?" I knew instantly who wasn't worth my time. If I could carry on an intimate dialogue with someone, I knew they would also "get" the important things about me. My relationships that included intimacy and safe sex made me feel safe in more than one way. And that's sexy.

"PERFECT SEX IS AS IMPOSSIBLE AS 'PERFECT' ANYTHING ELSE." --LYNN, 73

I was raised with the idea that sexuality was not supposed to exist: Femininity could be expressed through being maternal. But being a woman isn't just about being maternal; it's about being sexual. Now is my most fully realized time: I feel very free, and being sexy means being turned on by having the power to achieve my goals. In my 20s, I married a man who turned out to be a bully. I divorced him after 25 years and felt I was saving my life. I finally felt complete as an individual, and that made me feel strong and sexy. After our separation, I felt as if I was back in my teens--kind of scared and intimidated, but curious about other men. I've learned a lot about sex over time: It can be exotic, fun, erotic, beautiful, dirty, colorful, comforting, and satisfying. It can also be ordinary, repetitive, boring, uninteresting, and uncomfortable. Now, I just try to be who I am at the moment. Perfect sex all the time is just as impossible as "perfect" anything else. To keep sex great, one needs to do the necessary work, meaning using imagination, variety, spontaneity, and anything else that might work.

"WOMEN NEED TO LEARN TO SATISFY THEMSELVES." --FRANCESCA, 84

Sex appeal is a mind job. Women now have their bosoms in full swing and their belly buttons out there with rings on them. There's no more intrigue. Mystery was part of the sexiness in my time. Older women can be appealing without all that. Women without partners need to realize they can still have sexuality, and that their sexual desires are normal. I feel fortunate I that learned to enjoy sexual freedom when I was married. My husband made me feel very important, which made me confident. He taught me that masturbation is healthy and helped me understand my body and how I'd respond. The idea of women masturbating has always been considered kind of subversive in our culture. But to be confident, happy, and healthy, women have to really understand their female parts and what arouses them.

A lot of my peers have given up on their sexuality; you can tell by the way they dress. Staying in your sweatpants and not doing anything to lose weight detracts from your self-esteem. I think women can discover that they're sexy later in life, but they have to shoot down the belief that there's no sexuality for the elderly. I'm in my 80s, and I can still look at a man who's well built and think, He can put his shoes under my bed anytime! The bottom line for a lot of older women, I think, is fear of rejection. But an older woman today has a lot more freedom, and there's no physical reason she needs to end her sex life after 60. Really, the only difficulty is finding a man her age who is still attractive and able.


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