A team led by Dr Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, has been looking at data on 12,785 Americans over a 14 year period, relating body mass index (BMI) and waist to hip ratio (WHR) to mortality. To general astonishment they found the highest mortality among those with normal BMI but with a belly almost as wide as, or wider than, their hips. The mortality rate for this group of people with ‘love handles’ was higher even than for those who were actually obese.
I’ve been warning about ‘love handles’ for some time. I call them ‘anti-love handles’ because, as I explained in my book Have Great Sex, they convert a man’s testosterone to oestrogen. If you’re a man and find your sexual performance is waning then take a look at your waistline.
The healthy WHR for women was said to be 0.85 or less, and for men 0.90 or less. I took out a tape measure and was astonished to discover my WHR was 0.94, although I weigh 72kg and stand about 1.8 metres. So I’m exactly the kind of man they’re talking about. I need to get some more muscle onto my buttocks (and the rest of me), and less fat on my waist.
Regular readers will know I abandoned my high intensity training (HIT) for the summer when temperatures were regularly in the thirties out here in Spain. But I continued swimming and took up windsurfing. Not enough. (There’s an awful lot of just standing when you’re windsurfing.)
I’m setting a target of getting that ratio down to below 0.9 by the end of October. I’ll let you know how I get on. If you’d like to join me, click on ‘comments’ at the top of this blog.
I’ve just been reading through some reports about sex and older couples. According to one study in America, more than half of those aged 75 to 85 have sex at least twice a month, while nearly a quarter have sex at least once a week. But what’s really interesting is the link with happiness. Only 40 per cent of those who had not had sex in the previous year claimed to be very happy with life, compared with 60 per cent of those who had sex at least once a month. Similarly, while 59 per cent of over 65s said they were happy in what had become sexless marriages, the figure for those who had regular sex was 80 per cent. What the reports don’t tell us is whether it’s the sex that causes the happiness, or the happiness that causes the sex. My guess is that it’s a bit of both.That’s pretty encouraging for those boomers who fear old age as sexless.
Sex is better when you exercise regularly. There are plenty of studies to back that up, but I can now confirm it from personal experience. I’m sending you greetings from Serre Chevalier in the French Alps, where I’ve been snowboarding and snowshoeing every day for the past week! (One of the great things about being a writer is that you can work anywhere, provided you have electricity, an internet connection and a laptop.)
I try to get some exercise most days, even if it’s only a walk. But since getting here the level has been really intense. Hours every day. And I’ve noticed it in bed. Yes, I’ve also noticed a few aches and pains and by the end of the day I’m exhausted. But in the morning…
And this goes for women as well as men. If your libido, performance and responsiveness aren’t what you’d like them to be, embark on a really serious exercise programme.
A word of caution. If you’re not used to exercise or you know you have health problems, consult your doctor first. Maybe even get a professional to design an exercise programme for you. Build up slowly, if necessary. But aim eventually to achieve something like an hour every other day and you’ll definitely notice a difference.
Everything tends to deteriorate with age. You can’t run as fast as you used to, and you start to forget names. But you can slow the deterioration, and even reverse it for a time, through the right kind of physical and mental exercise. And sex is no different.
If you don’t want to lose your sexual capability as an older man then one of the things you need to exercise is your ‘testosterone factory’. And it’s quite easy to do because testosterone production responds very easily to all kinds of influences. It fluctuates significantly during the course of a day, as well as during the course of a year, and a lifetime. One of the things it responds to is the sight of a naked woman, especially a woman ready and willing to engage in sexual intercourse. But here’s the funny thing (and it’s known as the ‘Coolidge Effect’). A woman you’ve never had sex with before is far more stimulating than a woman you have had sex with. There’s a simple biological mechanism at work. From the point of view of spreading your genes, it makes sense to move on to a new woman as soon as you’ve had sex. That’s why a new woman is more exciting. And pornography supplies a constant stream of new women.
But pornography also has its dangers for the older man. Even if you don’t ejaculate or masturbate at all while watching pornography, it nevertheless takes its toll on your body. A little is stimulating, a lot is exhausting. The chemicals you need to sensitise your skin and erect your penis become depleted, just as if you had actually had sex. Apart from which, looking at dozens of vulvas a day, day after day, must eventually diminish their power to arouse.
It’s like the story of Goldlilocks. You have to find what’s just right for you.
And what about the idea that women don’t respond to pornography? Well, it’s just not true. They do. But not as strongly as men. And they certainly don’t seek it out in the way that men do. Women just aren’t turned on so much by the visual. But scientific measurements show that women do lubricate when they see pornography. So now and then it might be a nice idea to watch a few minutes together.
I’ve just been looking through some figures from a survey carried out for the Channel 4 Sex Education Show and I have to say I’m embarrassed on behalf of my fellow Boomers. Here are some of the findings for the 55+ age group :
- 33% haven’t had sex at all in the past year
- Only 29% have sex once a week or more
- None have sex daily
- Only 25% masturbate once a week or more
- Only 55% have ever even tried oral sex and only19% had oral sex in the preceding month
- Only 19% have ever even tried anal sex and only 1.5% had anal sex in the preceding month
- Only 35% have ever even tried a vibrator.
The catalogue of shame goes on and on. The products of the Swinging Sixties have, it seems, turned into the Boring Boomers.
On the personal front I’m doing my best to up these averages but there’s only so much one man can do. So I’m asking for volunteer couples who will pledge to redress this humiliation by at least trying to have sex every day and to use as many different techniques as possible.
Here’s the Mission Statement. If, as a couple, you agree with it please leave your names, and anything you wish to say, in the Comment box:
Yes, we agree that Boomers generally are not having enough sex and pledge to do our utmost to increase the averages for the 55+ age group.
I’m joking about it but actually I found the survey rather sad. So I’ll be blogging regularly on ways Boomers can improve their sex lives and an ebook is in preparation.
Today’s tip is this. Study the illustration and then copy it. Oral sex is a great way to get an older woman’s lubrication going, and to stiffen an older man’s erection.
The actress Jane Fonda has a new book out called Prime Time and a big chunk of it is devoted to sex for older people. She writes about masturbation, sex toys, Viagra, porn films, hormone replacement and especially testosterone for women who have lost their libido. At 73 Jane is still bonking away. Good for her.
Contrast Jane’s attitude with that of another icon Germaine Greer who, in her book The Change, astonishingly wrote: ‘Some women, the lucky ones, I shall argue, lose interest in sex after the menopause.’ She went on to suggest that many older women might wish to ‘opt out’ if their partners are no longer very virile and take ‘a good deal longer about it’ than they used to. I suspect the difference between Jane and Germaine has to do with love. Germaine had a lot of sex with men she barely knew. When you love someone you think in a different way.
My top advice to older couples is this. Buy an artificial lubricant and use it as a matter of course. If you’ve never used one before, I suggest you buy two or three different kinds and see which you prefer. The advantage of silicone lubricants is that they remain very slippery for a long time. The disadvantage is that they don’t actually feel wet. For that reason I recommend water-based lubricants, which are more natural.
A good, fun tip is to fill an indoor plant sprayer with warm water and keep it by the bed. When the water-based lubricant dries out, refresh it by squirting a little warm water over your genitals.
While I was working hard on Be Your Own Personality Coach, various research papers were piling up in my ‘in tray’. I’ve just been reading one which makes a link between gum disease and erectile dysfunction.
The research, by Pradeep, Sharma and Arjun and published in the Journal of Periodontology, found that four out of five men with severe erectile dysfunction had gum disease, while two out of five men with mild erectile dysfunction did.
I don’t see these findings on their own as conclusive but they certainly fit in with what we know about bacteria from the mouth getting into the bloodstream.
I would make one criticism. This kind of research almost always focuses on men, ignoring the fact that women, too, have erections. Obviously, the erection of the labia and the visible part of the clitoral system isn’t as spectacular as the erection of a penis. But women can have a tremendous erection internally. The female equivalent to the penis is the internal clitoral system which engorges with blood along the vagina, increasing sensitivity and excitement for the woman, and increasing sensation for men.
So the message is, if you want to have a good time in bed, both of you should get busy with the electric tooth brush.
So the Royal College of Psychiatrists has said that the over 65’s should limit themselves to 1.5 units of alcohol a day, and on the Today programme Emma Soames, Editor-at-Large for Saga Magazine, became almost apoplectic. Eating and drinking were the only pleasures some elderly people had left, she fumed.
I have to take issue with Emma on this. If you let food and alcohol become your only enjoyments then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You won’t be capable of doing anything else.
My friend J is 85 and still sailing, hiking, painting, writing and bonking. He remains muscular and not at all fat. If you’ve got age-related health problems eating and drinking too much can only make things worse. A paunch on a man is the enemy of sex. It causes excess production of the aromatase enzyme which converts testosterone (the ‘male hormone’) to oestrogen (the ‘female hormone’). Alcohol is high in calories, diminishes sexual response and, following years of abuse, can lead to erectile dysfunction in both men and women.
Make sex your number one pleasure. Alcohol hardly compares.
As I was blogging in the Writer’s Life section, I once had to drive 90 minutes to get to work in the morning and 90 minutes to get home again. That was pretty extreme but a lot of people accept two hours of commuting per day as normal. Boomers have mostly given that up, either by downsizing or retiring. If you and your partner are Boomers who no longer have to rush out of the house every weekday morning I suggest you use the time to have sex.
In the first place, the morning is a pretty good time for the older man. It’s when testosterone levels are at their highest. Secondly, in summer in a country like Spain, it’s when the bedroom is at its coolest. Thirdly, it’s a time when you’re unlikely to be disturbed. So you can get into a nice dependable routine. Have cups of tea or coffee in bed, freshen up, and get at it.
Some people object to the idea of sex as a routine. But that doesn’t mean the sex itself has to be routine. It can be as varied as you like. Rather, it just means you both assume you will have daily sex, in the same way that you eat every day. And just as most meals, however enjoyable, follow the standard recipes, and a few are particularly special, with lots of courses and unusual sensations, so it can be with sex.
You used to commute every day, squashed up against people you never even knew. What’s to complain about in being squashed up against someone you love every morning?
The million dollar question for older men is: How can I keep on doing it as often as I used to? One million dollars, it is said, was the price some men were willing to pay Indian gurus in exchange for being taught the acupressure point that could cut off ejaculation. In theory, even an older man could then have sex again and again every day. Well, I’m very happy to teach you that for free. But I’d also suggest you don’t use the ‘million dollar point’ because, in my opinion, it’s risky. It can be painful, it can cause retrograde emission into the bladder and it might cause some damage. It’s also unnecessary. There are better ways of being able to have frequent sex.
But first of all, where is the million dollar point? In acupressure it’s known as Inner Meeting or Conception Vessel 1 or CV1 for short. In both men and women it’s located on the perineum, a little closer to the anus than to the genitals.
A man will know he’s on CV1 because there’s a sort of hollow there. If you press strongly inwards on CV1 with a forefinger at the start of ejaculation you’ll feel the semen pulsing along and if you press hard enough you can actually stop the flow. But, I repeat, it’s not something I recommend. I’ve tried it (that’s my job) but I don’t practise it. In my next blog I’ll tell you what I do do.
My little erection problem the other day (see Women On Top in the Writer’s Life section) has made me reflect on the importance of keeping in good shape for sex. It’s a sad thing, in a way, that how much you enjoy sex depends not on what your partner does to you but on what you’ve been doing to yourself.
If you’ve not looked after yourself then you’re going to find it difficult to reach the outer limits of ecstasy. Just as Daniel Barenboim can’t play a Beethoven sonata on a piano that’s out of tune, so your partner won’t be able to ‘play you’ if you don’t keep your body tuned up.
Fortunately, there are always things you can do to give your body a better chance. Exercise is one of them. In a Gallup survey 45% of respondents said their sex lives improved when they began exercising.
That’s hardly surprising. The tiny blood vessels in your genitals are easily blocked by fatty deposits. Exercise is one way of helping to keep the blood flowing strongly. Another is to keep down the level of saturated fats in your meals. Men should also keep in mind that a paunch is a kind of anti-sex factory, causing a rise in oestrogen, the ‘female’ hormone, and a fall in testosterone, the ‘male’ hormone.
As little as 20-minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week could be all it takes to make the difference between so-so-sex and super-sex.
What can a man do if his erection suddenly fades away during sex? The most important thing is not to get anxious. It’s most likely to happen in a woman-on-top position due to the effect of gravity. So the first thing to do is separate and simply relax. Anxiety is the enemy of erection. Reflect that women, too, often ‘lose erection’ but it just isn’t so noticeable. So your partner will understand.
When you feel calm, try stimulating yourself – you’re the best one to do it. Hopefully you’re perfectly open with one another about masturbation and can do this in front of your partner without feeling guilty – otherwise it just won’t work. If you’re not used to masturbating together then that’s something you need to work on. Saliva is a readily-available lubricant but there are commercial ones that are better – so that’s something else to investigate, if you’re not already using lubricants. Just focus your mind on the underside of the glans (the most sensitive spot) and gently stroke it with your lubricated fingers. You’ll soon know whether or not it’s working.
If you’re not responsive it could be that something about the ‘atmosphere’ is affecting you at the unconscious level. Have there been some disturbing noises from outside? Is the music all right? Sometimes the wrong kind of music can put you off. Is the light too bright? Too dark for you to be visually stimulated?
The scent of a woman’s vagina is an especially powerful aphrodisiac, so giving her a little more oral may help. The effect will be magnified if she recounts your favourite fantasy at the same time.
If your erection returns, resume lovemaking in an ‘easy’ position (in which gravity is a help rather than a hindrance). If not, you can still caress and cuddle one another, and, of course, you can still give your partner orgasms with your fingers and tongue. How to deal with a slightly more intractable erection problem is something I’ll blog about another time.