Bra on a clothesline | ELLE UK

What Sex Is Really Like When You Reach Your Sixties

With scant representations in the media and the arts, it seems no-one wants to talk about the sex lives of older women. As the latest edition of a taboo-busting play - All The Sex I've Ever Had - opens this month, ELLE spoke to women (all above the age of 65) to find out.

What happens to your sex life when you get to sixty? With very little representation of senior sex on our screens big and small, it seems no-one wants to talk about it.

Yet one 71-year-old begs to differ.

'Grandmas enjoy having sex,' laughs Jackie Anderson, 'but - and I say this with humour - absolutely no one wants to visualise that.'

Sex certainly doesn't stop when you hit your sixties, and while it might change as things like menopause enter the picture, it doesn't have to get less adventurous.

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Take 67-year-old Rochelle Lewis, for example. She lives in Philadelphia and recently ended a four-year relationship with a 76-year-old man. 'While he was unable to have intercourse due to prostate problems, he gave me the best oral sex I ever had. He frequently watched lesbian porn videos to get a better idea of what women found pleasurable and to enhance his techniques. I was thrilled! During that time, with the use of a dildo, I began experiencing my first vaginal orgasms. Phenomenal.'

She continues: 'We saw each other on alternate weekends and generally had sex two to three times over the course of two days. When we travelled together there was rarely a night when we did not have sex.'

Sex in her twenties, Rochelle says, was far less exciting than it is now, and her libido hasn't slowed down either. 'I would love to be having sex all the time, even if actual intercourse isn't possible, because there are toys, lots of toys!'

I began experiencing my first vaginal orgasms in my sixties

Since her most recent break-up, she has been trying out the hit-and-miss world of dating online.

'One fantasy that I attempted to turn into reality is to have a relationship with a woman. I wouldn't label myself as gay, more like fluid, and have always been attracted to a woman's body.'

She hasn't found the right woman yet but hasn't given up trying.

Judith Daley, 73, a retired public servant from Sydney, has chosen celibacy since she was widowed a decade ago but that doesn't mean she's shut herself off from pleasure nor from fantasy.

'I sometimes have what I call a "wet dream". I understand these are comparatively rare in women but I wake from a dream having an orgasm.'

We all probably associate the term 'wet dream' (nocturnal emission) with horny teenage boys, but Jackie shares a similar experience: 'In my older years, I have definitely developed a relationship with myself. I can fulfil my sexual desires. And, surprisingly, in the last five years my body has created orgasms during my sleep. No dreams – just waking up during the orgasm; obviously, there was no penetration, but the pleasure was just as powerful.'

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Jackie's last sexual experience was with a younger man six years ago, when she was sixty-five. Although the sex wasn't satisfying, it was surprisingly empowering. 'I didn't feel embarrassed about my older body and loved myself more for the acceptance of it,' she told ELLE.

'The changes in the physical body are not wanted, but acceptance of these changes is an important part of staying "sexy" and positive,' Jackie reflects. 'It is evident in my life that though my body is showing natural ageing, the sexual desires have remained. Also I'm not looking for a man to satisfy me!'

She was recently pursued by a man 30 years her junior, and although they shared a kiss, she says she didn't feel any attraction and decided not to take it any further.

Jackie, Judith and Rochelle are just three of many women who have taken part in All The Sex I've Ever Had, the most explosive, taboo-busting theatre about sex since The Vagina Monologues. Started in 2012 by directors Eva Verity and Darren O'Donnell, the show puts senior citizens on stage to talk candidly about sexuality.

From losing their virginity, to orgasms, STIs, body image and libido, no topic is left uncovered.

O'Donnell came up with the idea while watching older people riding bikes in Germany, something he hadn't seen in his hometown back in Canada. The aim of the play is to confront common misconceptions and the disgust around older bodies, and to have more exuberant and open conversations about a subject that is rarely talked about. Since 2012, the show has traveled to 13 cities around the world, from Singapore to Glasgow, with the latest edition opening this month.

Grandmas enjoy having sex but - and I say this with humour - absolutely no one wants to visualise that

Taking part in the show has opened up the discussion about sex for older people, inviting audiences to share their own sexual experiences good and bad.

'During the All the Sex I've Ever Had at the Opera House I mentioned my first orgasm at every performance. I didn't go into intimate detail, but I did let it be known it happened long after I became sexually active,' explains Judith.

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'Since that show, I have been approached by various women who want to talk to me about their first orgasm. It seems I have given them permission and as they have recognised me they have grabbed the opportunity.'

Judith recalls one woman in the audience she met, who only experienced sexual satisfaction later in life. 'She had been married for 20 odd years and thought everything was fine. Then she found out her husband was playing away so she went onto Tinder (or similar). She hooked up with a bloke, they went for dinner and drinks and then to his place - and she had her first orgasm. She was astonished and was utterly unprepared.'

Asked why she thinks there is still such a stigma around senior sex, Judith has a theory: 'I think women 65+ are expected to have their sexual lives behind them.'

But, as we've read, this certainly isn't the case. Judith herself says she's stayed celibate by choice since her husband of 33 years passed away 10 years ago, but is vocal about attitudes towards senior sex.

'I think there are very subtle changes occurring. I don't have any statistical evidence but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that STDs are exploding in retirement villages. Condoms don't need to be used because there is no risk of pregnancy.'

And forget the idea that women over 65 aren't experimental. As Rochelle explains: 'One of the questions we asked the audience during a break in the performance was whether they engaged in and enjoyed "rimming". I was the cast member who not only asked the question but proceeded to explain exactly what "rimming" is!'

Yet she too is aware of the stigma. 'I think one reason sex over 65 is not portrayed has to do with the lack of acceptance of older body images. Perhaps another reason is that, interest in sex for some people is (emotionally) diminished and for others is impaired due to hormonal changes, vaginal, prostate, and heart problems, as well as physical "malfunctions" e.g. shoulders, hips, and knees.'

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Although physical issues might limit certain sexual activities, it doesn't prevent women from enjoying sex at this stage of life more than ever. When it came to the talking about the sex she's having now, however, Jackie found she had to confront this stereotype, too. 'I think that even if a 65+ woman is attractive, the "sexy" plays a disappearing act by then, and Mother Nature takes over creating the "Grandma" image and the temperament to go with it. The truth is, Grandmas are not sexy, and sexy sells products.'

I think women 65+ are expected to have their sexual lives behind them

She sees this difference play out differently in the media and the arts when it comes to men and women.

'The image of older women are used in the media to sell medications for senior citizens and diaper panties for older women. On the other hand, there are numerous commercials that use older men to sell products. Their wealth and grey hair are attributes that are portrayed as "sexy", but even a wealthy grey-haired woman simply is not seen as "sexy" in our culture.'

So will the non-sexual image of older women ever change?

'In my opinion, the 65+ woman will keep her place in the media and the arts as she always has, i.e., not being represented nearly as often as her youthful sisters; I don't think that will change,' Jackie concedes. 'But the change that I have confidence in and recognise as a strong, current movement is one that is making "Grandma's image" more powerful, as well as influential. I believe that movement will continue to gain momentum.'

And as women like Jackie, Judith and Rochelle prove, your sixties and seventies can be the sexiest time of your life.

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