It’s not how women in their sixties are expected to behave. George, 68, was a good catch, a retired Sydney lawyer, chatty, charming and well-read. When he first tentatively entered the online dating world three years ago, he was stunned by provocative sexual behaviour from women in his own age group.
From the first meeting some women made their intentions clear. Massaging his crotch whilst standing at the bar ordering their first drink. Rubbing his thigh under the coffee table. Tongue kissing to say a first ‘hello.’ Brushing a braless breast repeatedly up against him. Finding an excuse to ask him home and then undressing before the front door had even closed.
“I certainly didn’t expect women to come on so strong,” says George, explaining that after some indulging in the bounties on offer, the novelty wore off. He’s now in a happy relationship with a somewhat more reticent woman he met online.
His experience isn’t unusual. The current generation of seniors is no blushing bunch of old fogies ready to hang up their spurs. This is the baby boomer generation which came of age during the sexual revolution so it’s hardly surprising that when large numbers found themselves over fifty and unattached, many revelled in new opportunities provided by online dating to leap back into the saddle.
I’ve been working as an online dating coach for the past four years and amongst my clients are some very lusty women happy to acknowledge that whilst they are ultimately looking for a relationship they aren’t adverse to just a roll in the cot.
“If I meet someone I find attractive, I’d rather just jump into bed quickly and get the preliminaries over and done with. Chatting in bed has always been much easier than stiffly conversing over a cup of coffee,” says Andrea, a 66 year-old Melbourne woman who is revelling in such pleasures after a long sexual hibernation after becoming a widow.
“It is all a big adventure. As long as I am up front with myself and my partners, I reckon I can do what feels good and have a ball. No more fears of pregnancy, no more of those crazy messages like ‘He’ll think you’re a slut’ or “He’ll think you are too easy”. What a load of rubbish all that was.”
Whilst these women usually find plenty of prospective partners keen to indulge with them, the ageing male body isn’t always up to it.
When one of my older female clients contacts me with glad tidings – she’s met a lovely man and giving up dating to enjoy their new relationship – often she gets back in touch some months later to say they are struggling with an erection problem. That’s hardly surprising – with men in their fifties one man in two has some erectile dysfunction. By the 60s the numbers hit 60 percent, 70 per cent for 70-year-olds. These are big numbers which means that lovemaking in this age group can often be a very bumpy road.
Making matters worse is men often don’t want to talk about the problem. I’ve had a number of clients who have gone out for long periods with men who never touched them. A man may have good reason to take things slowly – an older father who still has youngish children may be just taking care not to get too quickly involved, given the high stakes for his family.
There are also older men who just aren’t very interested in sex or who believe in waiting until the right person comes along –all sort of possible reasons why a man might not want to rush into a sexual relationship. But the erection issue looms large for many who prefer to avoid sex altogether than risk having sex and failing. The good thing is there are now very effective treatments available to help a man in this situation but it isn’t so easy for a woman to negotiate this with her new lover.
“It was all so hard, not wanting to pressure him into thinking I needed him to have a stiff dick. That was never the issue. He was the most generous and skilled lover and you don’t need an erection for giving pleasure. But I hated the fact he was feeling a failure and wanted to help him find a solution so he didn’t beat himself up over the issue,” commented one woman I helped through this difficult phase in their new relationship.
So while some older online daters are enjoying all sorts of erotic adventures, many prefer to take it slow. The RSVP 2014 Nielsen research shows online dating is doing a good job helping these over fifties singles connect – 53 per cent report it’s led to a short-term relationship or new friendship whilst 12 per cent end up married or in long term relationships.
The research showed roughly a third of singles over 50 have slept with someone they met online. A similar proportion typically have sex on the third date but another third wait for five to ten dates or longer. Eleven per cent has sex on the first date.
When couples take it slowly, often it is the women putting on the breaks.
George mentions a number of dates who refused a goodnight kiss even after the fourth or fifth date. “I didn’t want a refrigerator”, he said scathingly.
Another man reports he’s had women pronounce that sex was never to be on the agenda.
“‘I’ve grown out of that,” said one woman firmly. It’s baffling for men meeting so many women who want to just be friends. “If you find the person physically attractive I guess you always expect others to feel as you do,” explains a Sydney widower (65). With research showing large numbers of older women with low sex drive it’s hardly surprising that men encountered many women who are only seeking companionship. But divorced men emerging from often sexless marriages are rightly wary.
Women can be equally confused, as this Sydney woman, 59, explains: “I want sex in a relationship that will last. I can’t do one night stands because I’m only interested in sex if there is chemistry and if there’s that spark it means I will want to see them again. Sometimes men seem to want you to be prim and proper and so if you have flirted they think that all you want is sex. And then there are men who are all over you like a rash, sucking your tonsils on your very first kiss. It’s just not that easy. “
It’s true these early sexual negotiations can be tricky territory but for women still open to a sexual relationship it pays to make that clear. I’ve found it works wonders to hint in an older woman’s profile that she hasn’t shut up shop. There’s nothing like a subtle, sexy touch to stand out from the crowd.
For the last year Melbourne physiotherapist Patricia, 62, has been doing very well online with her lively, entertaining profile which amongst details of her interesting life mentions the fact she enjoys being ”ravished.” Yes, she finds it attracts some inappropriate male attention but also the intelligent, respectful, professional men she chooses to date.
“Sometimes I have sex but that is my choice and I’ve learnt to accept the consequences if it doesn’t work out,” she explains. She finds that going to bed with someone she doesn’t see as a prospective partner is a “hollow experience” so she avoids that. But overall her experience is very positive. “I have never felt pressured – just gently seduced,” she says.
It’s the age old problem for women – wanting sex to be the start of something wonderful and being bitterly disappointed if it turns out he just wanted sex. But there are many lively boomers handling negotiations over sex with confidence and self-knowledge. Andrea mentions the old Kris Krisofferson lyric – “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
Given their history, it is natural for this boomer generation to still take risks, enjoy sexual freedom and live with the consequences.