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Sex Talk by Simon Shepard
Getting older
by Simon Sheppard - SGN Contributing Writer

Time passes, winkles appear, black bushes turn gray. But sexuality marches on.

"I wish I could say that my libido has calmed down," says one man who recently hit the big 5-0. "But I'm afraid I'm as horny as ever." Perhaps he should count his blessings: Erection problems become progressively more common after 50, and many older men would envy his priapic persistence. However, growing older can be prickly for plenty of reasons besides a limp prick.

One man who describes himself as "formerly gorgeous" says, "Many Gay men stake a lot of their self-worth on being sexually attractive, so it can be tough when the mirror tells you you're no longer a hot young - or even middle-aged - number."

Then, too, sex can be used as a substitute for affection, and lessened beddability can make older men feel unloved. "I'm lucky to have been with my partner for decades," says a man in his 60s. "There's a lot to be said for growing old together. And we still have good sex." But not everyone is so fortunate, especially since many older men have lost partners to AIDS.

Complicating things further, many guys who hit midlife find themselves attracted to younger men, most - though far from all - of whom are interested in their contemporaries, not someone old enough to be their dad. It's the kind of situation that calls for an ego of steel (or enough cash to pay your friendly neighborhood sex worker).

And many observers have noted an age-based caste system in the Gay community; for every young guy who finds older men hot, there are many who treat them as invisible. "When you're young," says Mr. Formerly Gorgeous, "you don't want to hang out with older men, since it means you're either slumming or seeking a sugar daddy. Then, when you yourself mature, your fragile ego is affected by the same mindset you helped perpetuate."

Of course, there are plenty of strategies for keeping nasty Father Time more or less at bay. Workouts at the gym and a healthy diet can keep a guy not only healthier and happier, but harder, too - high blood sugar and excess cholesterol are enemies of firm erections. And so are tobacco, alcohol, and couch-potato TV viewing; studies have associated all three with age-related dick dysfunction. For those seeking less strenuous solutions, artificial hard-on hardening strategies, from cockrings to Cialis, abound.

Externally speaking, plastic surgery and hair transplants can keep a guy looking younger. But as our formerly gorgeous fellow says, "I know a lot of people who swear that facelifts have improved their lives. But I'll take a pass on looking like Joan Rivers, and just learn to grow old gracefully."

And it's the inner journey that's the toughest one to make - and the most important. Says the man who just hit the half-century mark, "I feel like I know a lot more about myself and am much more content than I was 30 years ago. I think I'm better at sex, too. More technically proficient, more emotionally present, and there are things I once thought I'd never do that are now part of my repertoire. All in all, I'm a better lay. But, unfortunately, a declining number of guys are interested in that. Instead, I often settle for being 'just friends,' and I jack off more."

A sense of community helps - there are now an increasing number of queer retirement homes, for example, and social opportunities for older men. A certain amount of detachment helps, too: No one - not even you - is entitled to get laid whenever he wants it. And so does a strong sense of selfhood, one forged in the rigors of life. But that sense of worthiness can be undercut by an emphasis on the young and cute that isn't restricted to Gay culture, but may be more prevalent there since the universal bond we have with each other is desire, rather than class, race, or belief.

Yes, getting old can be tricky. On the one hand, there's dick-deflating depression, and on the other, unbecoming denial. Concludes the 50-year-old, "Despite what all the self-help books say, growing older is no bed of roses. Things that used to work don't work so well anymore. Staying home with porn starts sounding a lot more appealing than going out dancing. But hey, my life is still pretty damn good, and I intend to enjoy whatever's left. And when you consider the alternative...."

Simon Sheppard is the editor of Homosex: Sixty Years of Gay Erotica, and the author of Sex Parties 101, Kinkorama, and In Deep: Erotic Stories, and can be reached at SexTalk@qsyndicate.com. Visit Simon at www.simonsheppard.com.
Autumn Insert

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