Top Questions Boomers Ask About Sex

Sex doesn't seem to get any simpler as we get older. And it's no wonder. As humans we're in somewhat uncharted territory when it comes to making love for fun, not procreation. Only a few hundred years ago people weren't having all that much sex into their 50s and 60s for the simple reason that they didn't usually live much longer than 45 years. With life expectancies now closer to 80, we're redefining what sex is for half our lives. And, say the experts, sometimes that means learning to find satisfaction with the body you have, not the body you wish you still had.

To find out what boomers are asking—or not asking—about sex, we spoke to Carol Ellison, Ph.D., a marriage therapist and sex educator in Loomis, Calif.

I'm embarrassed about being naked now that I'm older. How do I get over this?
"I talk to people who say they don't want their partner to see them unclothed because their bodies are changing. But we're often more concerned with our bodies than our partners are. Of course, there are some people who are very caught up in looks, but the key is to accept these changes and ask yourself, 'How do I create wonderful sexual experiences with the body I have now?'"

It seems to take longer for me to get turned on now. Should I worry?
"Many people come to me and say, 'My body's changing and I can't seem to do sex quite the old way. I don't become aroused so instantly.' This can be true, but the main question to ask yourself is not 'Why is this taking so long?' but 'Am I enjoying it?' 'Is this an intimate pleasurable experience?'"

What if my partner doesn't seem to want sex as much I do?
"Often someone may start avoiding sex because of performance anxiety. A lot of sexual difficulties are based in that idea that successful sex is about manufacturing an orgasm. My definition of successful sex is creating mutual erotic pleasure. There's nothing that says it has to be a particular response."

How do I know when it's time for that little blue pill?
"Worrying about getting an erection can exacerbate the problem. I think [erectile dysfunction medication] is a good idea when performance pressure gets in the way—when a man is paying more attention to his performance than his partner."

What if I've tried ED medication and the sex still hasn't been satisfying?
"A man can come home with [his pills] and be ready to move right to intercourse, but if the transition activities haven't happened, it might not be physically or emotionally comfortable for the woman. Women want to feel close to their partner before and during sex, so I say take the time you need to feel deeply aroused and connected to your partner first. Allow time to deepen the intimacy and the pleasure."

I'm nervous about dating again at my age.
"When people get divorced or become single again they go through a kind of adolescence. They're making the same kinds of sexual decisions they made as teenagers: when, where, with whom, and how far should I go? They're forming a new sexual identity. Some people think that you're supposed to get to sex right away because you're older and more experienced, but take some time to talk. Discuss what you like in sex, your concerns, your histories."

Should I talk about my performance worries with a prospective partner?
"Yes. When you talk about your concerns, it's creating intimacy. If you hold something back, then your attention is on your performance. A man might be very worried about getting an erection, but the woman might be worried about her physical responses too. So they should really try to get to know each other first. If you're both thinking too much about performance, then you haven't spent enough time together to be really connected."