In her new book Sex After..., author Iris Krasnow explores the ways in which intimacy, sexuality, and relationships change for women as their lives change.
Krasnow traveled the U.S. to interview over 150 women ages 20 to 88, allowing them the space to share their most personal secrets about sex and life after pregnancy, divorce, infidelity, breast cancer, coming out, and menopause. The chapter on sex in the golden years offers some of the most enlightening (and optimistic) revelations of all.
I had such a wonderful love affair for almost fifty-five years, I never thought I would ever want to get involved with another man. When my husband developed leukemia, it made him very weak. They gave him three weeks to live, but he lasted sixteen months because of my encouragement and love. We had known Steven for years because he lives in the same community. He had lost his wife, too, but had many paramours after. He was very patient with me. He would ask me out, but I would say, "I'm not ready." He was very persistent and romantic, though, and he would send me long-stemmed white roses every two weeks. When I finally went on a date with him, it was New Year's Eve, and he told me he had a temporary front tooth. I am thinking, "My luck if I kiss him at midnight, I'm going to choke on his tooth." Whether it was my fear or I was still afraid to touch another man, at midnight I wouldn't go near him. He kept pursuing me though, calling and saying, "Whenever you're ready." Then about a year after my husband died, Steven asked me to go to Paris with him. I said, "Okay, I guess it's time to try you out." My husband was the only man I've ever been with, so being intimate with another man was very scary, but he was very kind and respectful. It's not teenage sex, but it's very satisfying. We love to experiment. We love to dance. There is a lot of cuddling and snuggling. This man, my God, is a gem in every way, whether it's sexual or spiritual or cultural. It's so romantic it's almost electrifying. The closeness, the love, the making love—this is sexual and intimate and exciting beyond exciting to discover another person after all these years. After he got that tooth fixed, a kiss led to more things, and our life just keeps getting better and better and better. After taking care of someone so ill for so many years, this is so fantastic. We are writing our final chapter together, and we are loving every minute of it. Finding love in my eighties is like opening another world I never knew could exist. I would never think at this stage of my life I could have this. Not only do I have a golf partner and a life partner, but the sex part is very, very good. It is not Fifty Shades of Grey but it is definitely erotic and warm and beautiful.
I have not gone on any dates since Roger died and I'm not the least bit interested. It was such a good and sexy marriage for over fifty-six years, what's going to top that? I have gotten over the sadness and I just adore the independence. I don't have to cook and I can go out to eat every night — I never turn down invitations and I get many of them. Let me tell you something: I do a lot of masturbation; that's my secret. I had sex for so long with my husband, I found I really do need that delightful feeling. So whammo, I give myself orgasms two to three times a week. It's one of those things I never talk about to my friends, but maybe I should just tell everyone that, at every age, as long as you are alive, you can psychologically and physically and magically have an orgasm — all by yourself! An orgasm in your eighties feels like my orgasm of my sixties for sure. I don't really remember my twenties, but I'm sure it was good then, too. I really like the pleasure of taking my time and playing around for a while. I don't just slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am myself — I do it nice and slow, like my husband did. He was very good at foreplay and I guess I learned from him. I love the whole sexual act, the buildup, the orgasm, and the afterglow. [...] I am so pleased that I am able to pleasure myself in this way. I have often thought to myself that maybe I should sit down with other older women and tell them, "Here are some of the tricks you can try. You don't have to dry up." I come from a family of women who live to be one hundred or more, so it's good that I know this, I could be around for a while. My great-grandmother died at one hundred and five!