3.1.2 THE SEXUAL RESPONSE IN OLDER MEN
There are many people in our society who consider sexual activity a privilege of the young. Indeed, some of them cannot even conceive of older persons as sexual beings. However, such narrow-minded attitudes are in conflict with the biological facts.
Neither men nor women have to forego satisfying sexual relationships because of advancing age. The sexual reponse described above remains essentially the same. Obviously, older people lose some of their former physical strength, and many of their reactions become slower. For example, a man of sixty cannot run as far and as fast as he could in his twenties. This does not mean, however, that he cannot run at all. Indeed, if he has been practicing regularly he may very well be able to jog along better than certain younger men who lack such practice. The same is true for sexual activity. Men who have been sexually active all their lives can expect to continue sexual intercourse well into old age. Still, they as well as their partners should remember that, within the framework of the basic sexual response, certain minor changes have to be expected.
The most noticeable change concerns the excitement phase. Older men usually need a longer time to achieve an erection. Furthermore, the erection may no longer be as complete as before. However, there is no reason why this should, in any way, diminish the enjoyment of sexual intercourse. In fact, during the ensuing plateau phase an older man has a definite advantage over a younger man because he now can maintain his erection much longer. In later years, the urge to ejaculate becomes less pressing. As a result, older men may not reach orgasm as often as before or, in any case, gain greater control over the timing of their orgasms, and thus have a better chance of truly satisfying their partners.
Further differences in the sexual responses of older and younger men are the natural result of declining physical vigor. They do not have to affect the degree of sexual satisfaction. For example, just as the physiological responses during the other phases are no longer as pronounced as before, orgasm becomes less explosive and forceful. Ejaculations are somewhat weaker, and the subsequent loss of erection is immediate. In addition, the refractory period becomes rather extended, i.e., an older man needs a much longer time before he can again respond to sexual stimulation.
REFERENCE AND RECOMMENDED READING
Brecher, Ruth and Edward, eds. Analysis of Human Sexual Response. New York: New American Library, 1974.
The Diagram Group. Man's Body: An Owner's Manual, New York; Paddington Press
—Two Continents Publishing Group, 1976.
Lehrrnan, Nat. Masters and Johnson Explained. Chicago: Playboy Press, 1971 (cloth); 1976 (paper).