Photograph by Brett Ascarelli
Ageless sexuality: Joan Price is the beautiful face of senior sex.
By Brett Ascarelli
Last fall, ABC Nightline sent a crew to Sebastopol to interview author Joan Price about seniors, sex and dating. Price, a former high school teacher turned fitness author and guru, fell in love a few years ago, drawing media attention when she claimed that she was having the best sex of her life. In 2006, she released Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty (Seal Press; $15.95), already in its second printing. The book features interviews with "sexually seasoned women," experts' advice about keeping the nethers in shape and Price's own musings on the challenges of being a sexy senior. The book's popularity spawned a related blog, in which Price moderates discussions about sex for the mature set (www.betterthanieverexpected.blogspot.com).
ABC aired its Nightline interview with Price in December, and she was happy with the segment. But she was not happy about the backlash. After the show ran, two shock jocks on XM Satellite Radio started a minor crusade against her project to promote sexual well-being among 60-pluses.
One recent afternoon at her Sebastopol house, the 4'11" Price is wearing a rhinestone-covered blouse and Mary Janes. No wonder she's getting some; at 63, she's super-fit, thanks to a frequent work-out regimen and what must still be damn good metabolism, given the chocolate cookies she's munching.
Perched on a director's chair in her den, Price laments how the radio ne'er-do-wells lampooned her "old lady sex blog," to which seniors had written with hardly laughable concerns--sex after prostate cancer, for one. Sickly titillated and perhaps insecure about their own success between the sheets, the station's listeners posted their own sophomoric thoughts to the blog.
"I had to delete 40 comments that were unbelievably obscene and nasty," says Price, "and it made me see that society still not only sees this one little area--age and sexuality--as ludicrous and horrible and worthy of denigrating to that extent, but that they see older people as 'the Other.'"
But the insults only rallied her supporters. One Bonnie posted to her blog: "We're all seeing you as the beautiful face of senior sex, who turns up whenever the age group is ridiculed."
In many respects, Bonnie is right. Price is a poster-adult for the cause and now fields sex-related questions from mature adults at workshops across the country.
"I call myself an advocate for ageless sexuality," Price laughs, "but maybe I'm trying to do more than that: I'm trying to change society one mind at a time, I guess."
Decrying what she calls "the ick factor"--the way society boos seniors' sexuality--Price wonders why our culture equates youth with beauty. "We're seen as sort of a throwaway generation," she puzzles.
What will it take for society to change its ageist attitude toward sex?
"I think it will take men who go after younger women really looking at what that's about for them," Price says. "Is it that they are looking for their eternal youth? Is it that even though they have wrinkles, they think wrinkles aren't sexy? Well, then what do they see in the mirror?"
Doctors should take initiative to ask their older patients about sexual challenges they may be encountering, Price also counsels, rather than waiting for patients to ask.
On a lighter note, "Why not have Boomer Idol," she suggests, "and have people in their 60s belting out songs. I would love to see that!"
That may sound silly, but if the media featured more older women in love, then everyone--not just the intolerant jocks from XM and their ninny followers, but also you and me--could get used to it and get over it. Thanks to Cole Porter, we know that birds do it, bees do it, even overeducated fleas do it. Well, apparently oldsters do it, too.
And, so what?
"I think it will be easier [for women in the future] and," Price warns, "especially if younger people pay attention to what we're going through now and don't see us as the Other, but just as themselves in a few decades."
Joan Price reads from and discusses her 'Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty' on Saturday, Feb. 17, at Pleasures of the Heart, 1310 Fourth St. (at C Street), San Rafael. 2pm. Free. 415.482.9899.
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