We rarely depict older people as sexual. When we do, it’s usually as a joke. The image of the sexless elder is so widespread that even medical professionals often omit older people in studies on sexuality and neglect to talk about sexual health during check ups. (Is it any wonder why STI rates among older adults are so high?)
In an effort to push back on the desexualization of older people, VICE recently spoke to Bonnie and Joel, who have been having sex with each other on and off since college and became a couple eight years ago, about how they navigate sex and sexuality in their 70s.
Bonnie: I have had fibromyalgia for over 20 years and that hits you. You’re going through life in your 40s and suddenly [you feel like] you’re in your 80s. Everything hurts. If you turn or move too quickly, you’ll strain a joint. It can put me in bed for a day. But then get up the next day like, okay, here we go again.
Joel: She told me about her fibromyalgia and how when [an attack] hits you, you wouldn’t be sure whether you’d want me to touch you for a day—whether you’d want me to hold you or stay away. We talked about that a lot—how that doesn’t mean you’re rejecting me. She warned me when we got back together: “You’re starting a relationship with someone with chronic pain. Are you sure you know what you’re getting into?” As a physician, I’d dealt with people with chronic pain and chronic fatigue, but not personally—not on this level. So it was learning what to do, what works, what doesn’t work, and communicating a lot: “What position are you comfortable in? How are you feeling now compared to the last time we had sex? What are you up for? What are you not up for?”
She said she had something to tell me but that she was afraid. I reached for her trembling hand, telling her sweetly, naïvely, that it would be...