Dr. Laurie: touching, holding, kissing counts as sex

When George and Ira Gershwin crafted their famous tune “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” they poked gentle fun at the ancient Book’s authority. While the song lyrics say: “… the things that you’re liable to read in the bible, it ain’t necessarily so….”, let’s hope that in The Sex Bible for People over 50 by Dr. Laurie Betito, everything is true, for it is great news she brings.

Essentially, it is that “sex does not have an expiration date”, something most of us knew all along, but are delighted to hear affirmed by a respected authority. “One of the reasons I wrote the book is to bust a lot of myths,” says Betito, a clinical psychologist with a specialty in human sexuality, who, as the host of Passion, has been dispensing advice to CJAD listeners for 15 years.

One myth she debunks is that erection problems are inevitable with age. Most men experience difficulties occasionally and require no treatment except maybe a bit more self-acceptance and sexual imagination.

Callers often need reassurance that they are normal, Betito says. Their questions revolve around having an orgasm only with masturbation, having difficulty getting or maintaining an erection or having pain during intercourse. Depending on the cause, solutions can be found to most sexual problems, Betito says.

She says it is a myth that interest and quality of sex decline with age.

This is not to say that there is no difference between youthful and experienced sexuality. “As you get older, sexual intercourse itself becomes less important and other forms of sexuality are explored,” Betito says. “Touching and holding and kissing — these are much more important for couples in later life and the need for orgasm diminishes over time. Even if you can’t have intercourse, it does not mean you give up on your sex life. Sexuality doesn’t die because our brains don’t die. We are still interested; though we may not have the same level of desire. ”

The Sex Bible addresses couples over 50 who need information on changes brought on by age or just want to spice things up. People who experienced the sexual revolution in the 60s have different ways of coping with their changing bodies, she says. “You can have someone at 50 with issues and 70 year olds with no issues at all. There is no predictability when somebody will age sexually.”

Betito says that sex in later life is one of many changes people need to adapt to. “I say, you’re just getting older, don’t make being older a sickness. It is a change. If there are no arterial blockages or other medical reasons, then it is a normal part of aging. You can’t expect to function at 40 like you did at 20.”

The book provides sexual tips and techniques including sex toys, which may surprise some readers, while also covering a range of conditions such as knee, heart, and joint problems. The tone is lighthearted and reassuring, addressing men and women as equal partners.

Essentially, sex is a pleasure that no one needs to renounce, Betito says. Even without a partner, exploring your body is good for you. “Studies have shown that a good third of women over 70 masturbate regularly. There is nothing wrong with self-stimulation. What you’re missing is human contact but what you’re getting is pleasure.”

“It is sad to hear people saying they are too old for sex,” she says. “You shouldn’t give up something so pleasurable and good for you.”

Betito often speaks before groups of seniors, including clubs and residences. “It was not dealt with in the book, but I always bring a bowl of condoms with me. The average age is 82 in some residences and there is an average of one man for every seven women. That man is having sex with multiple women.”

Betito says that condoms, also known as “French letters” or “English overcoats” depending on your background, are seen by some seniors as something they had used with prostitutes during World War II or for birth control with their wives. “Only a quarter of people use condoms,” Betito says. “There is a rise in sexually transmitted diseases in people 65 and over.”

Though we seem to be on the right track, the famous double standard is still with us. “If there is a boy who has 20 sexual partners, it’s ‘way to go dude,’ while the girl with 20 is still ‘a slut.’”

She says her main mission is to teach older women that sex is theirs to enjoy, rather than simply provide for their partner. She notes that both women and men are becoming more comfortable with their aging bodies.

“Things shift in inches, not leaps and bounds. Women are less judged for enjoying their sexuality while men are accepting more experienced women. Equality — maybe we’re getting there but it will take some time.”

The Sex Bible for People over 50 by Laurie Betito, published by Fair Winds Press/Quiver, is available at Bibliophile, Chapters and amazon.com.

Passion, on CJAD with Dr. Laurie Betito, is celebrating its 15th year. It’s on Monday to Friday at 10pm.

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