79-year-old Seattle sex therapist wants to normalize and encourage senior sex
Sex scenes on TV or in movies aren’t always like real life, which can create all kinds of problems for real-life couples who might have formed unrealistic expectations based on what they’ve seen on screen.
“The most prevalent one is that sex needs to be spontaneous for it to be good,” said Seattle’s Dr. Diana Wiley, a board-certified sex therapist marriage and family counselor with forty years of experience.
“When two people in the movies, or on TV, run to each other and they’re so passionate, we see them having good sex and the women having no trouble with orgasms,” Wiley said. “Of course, this makes for better drama and excitement, but it is not true. In my experience, couples really need to put sex on the calendar, it’s the most likely way to have it happen.”
One particular genre of media is steering young men in the wrong direction
“Boys start watching pornography as young as nine, I’m horrified by that,” said Wiley. “Pornography needs to be seen as entertainment, it’s not sex education. These young men have these really strange ideas which they’ve seen in porn which they think will work in real life and it just doesn’t.”
One thing Dr. Diana says we don’t see enough of on-screen is the sex lives of older adults. She thinks it needs to be normalized and encouraged.
“Older people really need to be aware of how good sex is for our health. It’s fabulous for your heart and it encourages flexibility. Sex is one of the safest sports older couples can do. It stretches and tones every part of the body and it’s such fun exercise!” Wiley laughed.
“Research suggests that some arthritis sufferers have less pain for up to six hours after sex and sex also strengthens the pelvic floor muscles,” she continued. “That can help with urinary incontinence, which is the main reason many, women especially, have to go into nursing homes. Sex helps you sleep better. The oxytocin that’s released with orgasm, in particular, promotes sleep.”
Dr. Diana should know, she’s 79 years old.
“[My husband and I] just took a trip to Hawaii. We had sex, like, 13 nights in a row, and it was good sex! Yes, I’m bragging,” she laughed. “But it makes you feel so good as an older person because when you’re having sex, you’re feeling so alive and older people want that sense of aliveness.”
But if you’re an older woman and this all sounds impossible…
“So many women, post-menopause, do not have balanced hormones,” Wiley said. “I’ve been on bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, which is different from straight hormone replacement therapy. A study from the National Institute of Health in 2004 put a lot of women off HRT; it was a flawed study. I’m so glad that I went on it and have been on it for 20 years, it has made a difference. So many doctors really dismiss problems that older women have. There are lots of ways to get your hormones back. I think that more women need to know about this.”
Another thing you don’t see on TV: married couples living apart. That is a choice Dr. Diana and her husband made when they got married later in life.
“It’s more and more common for couples, mostly over 50, after their children have been launched,” Wiley said. “We’re about 15 minutes apart. So he’s here on Wednesdays and I’m at his home on the weekends. It works for Bryan and me, we just have the best time. We have time to anticipate sex with each other and even the anticipation can produce more dopamine, and dopamine is the hormone of arousal. Dopamine, baby. Dopamine.”
She says there is one show that’s doing a great job of normalizing senior sex.
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“Grace and Frankie with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin on Netflix,” Wiley said. “It’s really good and it does show sex and older people.”
If you’re having any issues or sexual anxieties, Dr. Diana strongly suggests finding a good sex therapist. It’s never too late, you don’t have to give up.
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