...but thinking makes it so

One edge of the touchscreen on my smartphone is non-responsive. The phone is about a year and a half old.

These things happen, I suppose.*

(*This is BULLSHIT! A year and a half and it just stops WORKING? Fuck that!)

Which made me think about sex and aging.

Bodies change over time, folks. In some ways they get unambiguously better and in some ways they kind of deteriorate and in some ways they change in ways that are good or not-so-good, depending on how we think about them. (Hamlet said something similar, I believe, only in iambic pentameter.)

Some things everyone can expect, to varying degrees, as they age:

A decrease in the concordance between physiology and experience. What you feel may not match what you body does; erections, lubrication, and orgasm will probably become less reliable and a bit more effortful. This is due largely to hormonal changes.

A change in the color of your desire. Globally, people tend to report lower frequency of desire for sex (or possibly for orgasm), but that doesn’t take into account variability in sexual life arc – some people experience a liberation from sexual expectations as they age – nor changes in what you want when you want sex.

Sundry changes to your body. In women, fat moves north from the hips and thighs to the abdomen; gravity has its wicked way with your breasts; the skin of your face, chest, and neck in particular lose elasticity, and tissue of the vagina becomes fragile as estrogen levels change. In men, muscles shrink; hair moves south from your head to your ears and back; erections fly at half mast; your post-ejaculatory refractory period lengthens.

Now. What do you do about these things. Do you:

Accept the changes as the inevitable, progressive failure of the organism? (“These things happen,” as above.)

Rage against the dying of the light? Do everything you can to keep your sex as “the same” as you can? (“This is BULLSHIT!” as above.)

I’m inclined to say neither.

Either option seems to assume that younger sex – younger desire, younger arousal, younger orgasm – is somehow the standard, normal sex against which all other sex should be measured.

The attitude I recommend is curiosity. Bodies are these life-long science experiments that we can observe with affectionate but detached curiosity. “Oh, that’s new!” is all you need to think when things change.

I know we’ve been trained by mainstream culture to view the changes that time commits as degradations, and christ knows we’ve been trained to worry that our sexuality is somehow broken; I know that we’ve all been taught that there’s a kind of sexual pinnacle that we achieve and then pass, never to regain.

But will you believe me if I tell you that that’s all just a lie?

We like it when it’s easy. We like it when things meet our expectations. But that doesn’t mean that it’s SUPPOSED to be easy or that our expectations are anything other than socially constructed, unreflective myths we’ve swallowed and integrated, undigested, into our psychologies.

It’s not supposed to be easy all the time – easy isn’t a measure of anything in particular. And isn’t supposed to meet our expectations – the things that violate our expectations, that surprise us, are often the most fun, as long as we can view the surprise with affectionate curiosity.