Therefore, I was pleased one morning to find an invitation in my mail to submit a story for consideration for an anthology on Senior Sex.
"Wet is a State of Mind"
Now, I write what I like to think of as "rock your socks" stories about sex and love. I try somehow to always make that very important connection between sex and love.
I consider all sexuality, even what might be thought of as sexuality in its most abhorrent forms, as a manifestation of eros— the need to love, the need to connect with another being.
I believe what Schopenhauer said, that sex is the will to live. Therein lies its enormous incredible power. In writing my naughty stories, I take what I do seriously and am always thrilled when they are appreciated and published.
The editor of the Senior Sex anthology who wrote me, I will call Cora Chemise, for the purposes of this essay.
Cora wrote that I was highly recommended by a prominent erotica editor whom I had worked with on several occasions. She went on to say she had checked my out my website and was impressed. She included her "Call for Submissions."
I read the call for submissions and was not impressed. In fact, I was turned off.
I wrote Cora a brief note telling her the reasons why. To my surprise and delight, she wrote back, saying she wasn’t offended!
She invited me to write an essay expressing my views that could possibly be published as an alternative to her point of view. I set to work and the essay I sent her is reproduced below.
Dear Miss Chemise.
In your call for submissions, you posed a question:
“Will this be the usual erotica anthology except that the lovers all have white hair?
"No, the truth is that we seniors don’t get excited by the wet, juicy vaginas or the big pulsing pricks that are the backbone of the usual young-person-oriented erotica. Instead, we want erotica that we can relate to, that talks about the alterations that are part of the aging process, that credits how we like to be stimulated. Aging is regarded as a state to be celebrated and enjoyed.
Ms. Chemise, I have to tell you that I am a senior, a proud sixty-eight-year-old senior who still responds to and is excited by big pulsing pricks; be they real, virtual or imagined.
I don’t consider my golden years a time to abandon faithful and fulfilling fantasies but rather a time to cherish them and acquire new ones. While it is true my "violet" rarely gets wet enough to be considered “juicy” or even damp, my mind is as wet and wild and ever, maybe even more so.
As editor Rachel Kramer Bussel says on the back cover of Best Sex Writing 2011, the brain is the largest sex organ. Whatever physical challenges my increasing years may present to my body, the full enjoyment of my sexuality has only inspired me to exercise and strengthen my mind further.
I read voraciously and particularly enjoy books that trumpet the cause of sexual liberation such as Nicholson Baker’s recent House of Holes and Nedjma’s The Almond.I subscribe to Penthouse, Playgirl as well as the New York Review of Books.
No matter the disappointments the temporal world may present to my sex life, in my mind I can have any kind of sex I want any time I want with out fear of rejection or failure.
According to the most recent U.S. census bureau estimates there are now fifty million American senior citizens. The U.S. Census only starts considering citizen “seniors” after they pass the age of sixty-five. We are now the largest age group in America.
I am sure among these legions I am not the only one who enjoys XXX-cinema and who will never part with their collection of naughty postcards. My collection is of smiling cowboys who besides their happy erections are wearing only their cowboy boots and cowboy hats.
Nor do I believe I am the only nice and naughty senior one who gets great pleasure out of reading erotica on any of the subtexts within the genre.
Many of us are boomers who received very liberal sex educations in the sixties. In taking the injunction, “make love, not war,” we learned (and sometimes the hard way) much about our bodies, ourselves and our hearts and minds.
Mine was the first generation of women, (I was born in 1943) that due to the availability of the pill in the early sixties was able to change the biological curve. In the wake of the Stonewall riots of in 1969, “alternative” sexuality came out of the closet. Nowadays, many gay seniors live openly and happily with their partners and are accepted as valued members of their communities.
To suggest to such a wide and variegated audience that there is some kind of “age appropriate erotica” that we seniors “want,” to limit us in this way, (indeed, to limit us in any way at all) is an insidious kind of ageism, and a position I must challenge. I find it insulting.
I would never attempt to generalize for the multitudes of today’s seniors. Speaking only for myself and those among my friends who are seniors I can suggest, however, that what turns us on is whatever works. We “like to be stimulated” in any and every way that will help us, that will help to get us through the night.
My friend Dounia, a former opera singer turned voice coach, is excited by bearded, hairy men, ample of paunch and haunch. She doesn’t care how young or old they are, as long as they are witty, kind and share her taste for opera.
My friends Eileen and Roberta, owners of a successful flower shop have been together for thirty-five years. They recently started to watch girly-girl Adult films to put more spark in their sex life.
At this point, you may be wondering who I am. Who is this person, encouraging wet, wild sexual liberation for seniors? What are my credentials? Am I just another sex crazy nut or a sex researcher inspired by Kinsey or a learned psychologist with a doctorate in human sexuality from Harvard?
I am not a sex researcher or psychologist and the only doctorate I have received is from the School of Hard Knocks.
I am a poet and a writer of erotica. I’ve published two major poetry collections, fifteen poetry chapbooks. My erotic writing has appeared in over ninety publications including Best American Erotica, Best New Mammoth Book of Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica 2011, and the New York Times. As a member of the Creative Writing department at New York’s New School, I taught an award winning course, Silk Sheets: Writing Erotica, for eleven years. I also write fiction, creative nonfiction, book reviews, art criticism and plays.
I did not start out as a writer of erotica. I began my writing career at the age of forty-seven reading my poetry at open readings on the Lower East Side. A new life opened for me. My work was published in zines and local papers. This led to a weekly column about my life and loves in the now defunct arts weekly, Downtown.
When I split up with my longtime lover, I wrote a reminiscence straight from the heart about him, myself, and a great big dildo. This piece was too personal even for my personal column. I gave it to a friend who was starting a 'zine called Pink Pages, that would, I thought, be as obscure as his previous efforts.
But in December 1994, just in time for Christmas, I found a letter in my mailbox from Susie Bright saying "Congratulations, your story 'The Sacred and Profane Country of Desire' has been accepted for publication in Best American Erotica" along with a nice check.
Thus my “career” as an erotic writer was born. I was fifty-one at the time. My early stories were based on my own experiences and my heroines were women who, like me, had been around the block.
I found I enjoyed the opportunity fiction offered to process my experiences and to better understand my life. My heroines fell in the gutter, picked themselves up, refreshed their lipstick and went back out again. Sometimes they learned from their mistakes, sometimes not, but they refused to see themselves as victims and took full responsibility for their choices because I do not believe in blaming or regrets. Both men and women liked my stories, and clamored for more.
As I progressed though menopause, I could not deny the changes in my body. I had to find herbal supplements to help get my juices flowing.
I started to keep a box full of lubricants next to the box of condoms on my bedside table. I needed more sleep and no longer had the stamina for long nights of sexcapades. Intercourse, per se, was not always the be-all and end all of lovemaking, but when it occurred, Wow!— it was fabulous.
My wishes, my yearning for the comforts of physical intimacy were/are as great as ever. I want to kiss and touch my lovers everywhere. I want them to do the same for me. Desire still moves me. Hallelujah!
When I passed sixty, I started to notice people looking at me differently once they knew my age. Men who thought me charming when they took me for fifty-seven, found me boring when they learned I was sixty-one. I didn’t get invited to so many parties. It was as if I was expected to stop playing the field and start playing bingo.
My father who was eighty-seven at the time, suggested I lie about my age. “All is fair in love and war,” he said, “women always lie about their ages.”
My life experience thus far had taught me that fairness is not a constant in any pursuit whatsoever and besides why should I lie? I actually felt better about myself at sixty-one then I did at forty-one. I had finally realized my lifelong dream of becoming a writer. I felt I was now a more interesting person.
Whether entering a new relationship— or just hoping to enjoy a casual romp— I didn’t want to play a game of let’s pretend. I wanted and want to be accepted and desired for who I am. Isn’t that what everyone wants no matter their age?
It was as if having become sixty, I was considered to be officially old, and soon to be elderly. After that, at some point, I would cross the line and become an alien.
In the erotic anthologies that published my writing there were hardly any stories about the erotic lives of people over sixty-five, scant descriptions of our hopes and dreams.This only widens the gap between the young and the old.
I started to write stories about the sex lives of people sixty-five and older. I did not write these stories especially for seniors to enjoy although of course I hoped they would enjoy them. Nor did I gloss over or ignore the particular anxieties that may beset a senior venturing out on to the fields of love.
I write these stories for everyone to enjoy, regardless of age, in hopes of showing that we seniors are not alien creatures— that despite physical infirmities that may slow us down, in affairs of the heart we can and do remain forever young.
One of my most popular stories is about Tony Tempo, a septuagenarian trumpet player who finds love in a home for aged and indigent music musicians.
My beef with your Call for Submissions is that it is so off–putting. It is as if you are trying to herd us into a gilded galleon that is already sinking.
You suggest we seniors want to limit our sexual proclivities and in specific ways— a lecture telling us what we respond to, what we want. Rather, I turn to Plutarch, who described old age as a time to always be learning many things.
I suggest seniors mostly want and hope to stay open to and for whatever comes. I believe you will get many, many submissions for your anthology as "senior sex" is a subject that is just coming out of the closet. There may well be a volume two of the senior sex anthology!
When you are writing your next Call for Submissions, I hope you will remember this letter and include the suggestion that keeping an open mind is one of the best ways to accept, sensually enjoy and celebrate old age.
The senior sex anthology turned out to be only collecting fiction, and didn't publish Tsaurah's essay after all... but I invited her to publish it on my blog, as I resonated with all she had to say. -SB