Jun 18 • 22M

Episode 1: Older People and Sex - Feelings of Inadequacy and how to Overcome them

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Appears in this episode

Suzanne Noble
Peter Marriott
Sharing our experience of sex post 60. Suzanne Noble and Peter Marriott discuss their own experiences with sex and - as older people themselves - bring years of experience to reflect on it in a witty, open and enthusiastic way. The series is dedicated to helping older people find their way to a healthy and enjoyable sex life. Whether you are just starting out with a new partner or carrying on with an old one, we hope there will be something new here for you.
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SPEAKERS

Suzanne Noble, Peter Marriott

Suzanne Noble  00:09

Welcome to Sex Advice for Seniors. So I'm Suzanne, and I'm 61.

Peter Marriott  00:18

I'm Peter, and I'm 61 for another three weeks. About four weeks. So 62 very soon.

Suzanne Noble  00:34

And we are here to talk about sex. When you're older.

Peter Marriott  00:49

Yeah. Well, apparently.

Suzanne Noble  00:50

So let's talk about sex. We've got this list that we created a very extensive list, because of course, we are both very, very seriously interested in this topic.

Peter Marriott  00:58

And unqualified, completely...

Suzanne Noble  01:01

unqualified, except that both of us have had quite a bit of experience. Some more than others. Possibly me. And you are just trying to catch up.

Peter Marriott  01:13

Yep.

Suzanne Noble  01:14

And you've got a long way to go. But that's okay. Because you still got time,

Peter Marriott  01:20

It's quality rather than quantity. Well, that's what we'd like to think.

Suzanne Noble  01:25

Sometimes it is quantity. Quantity can be quality.

Peter Marriott  01:31

Yeah. Yeah. Well, let's hope so. 

Suzanne Noble  01:36

Well, for your sake.

So we've got these topics for discussion. And I thought, let's just start with the first one, shall we?

Peter Marriott  01:41

Feelings of inadequacy and how to overcome them.

Suzanne Noble  01:45

God sounds serious, doesn't it? Feelings of inadequacy and how to overcome them? Yeah. And why did we come up with that topic?

Peter Marriott  01:53

Do you know I can't remember? I think probably because we've been talking about how people feel inadequate about their sexual experience and feel as though there's a lot still to be gained in terms of experience, and how do they get that? And if they don't have it, you know, are they adequate lovers? And so you feel bad about yourself and blah, blah, blah? And all those sorts of questions. I think that's where that came from.

Suzanne Noble  02:25

I think it originally came from because we were talking about the fact that sometimes when people talk about older people and sex, just generally, they tend to focus on the negatives, don't they? Yeah, they tend to focus on the fact that men can't get it up anymore. And they tend to focus on the fact that women have dry vaginas, and so it tends to be quite derogatory, actually, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy.  And I certainly know that there are conversations that we've had in the Advantages of Age group about really is it even important anymore. Is sex even important anymore? And I personally think it's okay if you don't want it. But equally, if you do want it, and you're getting messages chucked at you from the media predominantly that make you feel that you shouldn't want it anymore.

Peter Marriott  03:22

Or that somehow it's yucky and inappropriate for people of a certain age to be having sex at all. Certainly, young people think that I mean, I know it's become a bit of a joke, but when young people think about their parents or their grandparents, I'm sure that doesn't even enter into their heads, that they might still be sexual beings, fully autonomous sexual beings who get up to stuff. The messages coming from everywhere outside are fairly negative about sex.

Suzanne Noble  03:59

And I know that I've had partners in the past that have felt uncomfortable about their erections. And when I've suggested that there might be some pharmaceutical products that are available to help, they've been quite dismissive about that, and some people haven't. And frankly, I think, personally, that if you struggle with things, and there's some help available, whether it's lubricants if you're a woman or Viagra, whatever, if you're a guy, then it's okay. Yeah, okay to say, I need a little bit of help.

Peter Marriott  04:41

I think people are generally very bad at recognising they need help and then asking for it.

Suzanne Noble  04:48

I've had conversations with women about lubrication, which has suggested that if you don't get wet enough that there's something wrong with you. Whereas it's just a physiological thing that sometimes happens when you're an older woman.

Peter Marriott  04:49

Well, that's the problem, isn't it? We attach all sorts of moral categories to what are just physical things, you know. And that's really, I think the weakness of a lot of the attitudes towards sex and older people is because as you get older, the moral questions, they kind of take over. And they become attached to all sorts of ethical questions and aesthetic questions about the aesthetic appropriateness of your body as a 62-year-old compared to when you were 22. So yeah, general inadequacy, not being up to the job, and then not being appropriate for the job.

Suzanne Noble  05:49

That's very philosophical, I must say.

Peter Marriott  05:53

I'm here all week.

Suzanne Noble  05:56

I think that's absolutely true. And I think people's challenges with their changing bodies contribute to their feelings of inadequacy. And I know that I have come to understand that male sexuality and female sexuality are quite different. And male sexuality often can be quite driven by the visual. And so it's, whereas women's sexuality is much more in my experience anyway, driven by what goes on in my brain, and may not always be attached to the visual, although I think that we all have to acknowledge that our bodies are ageing, and with ageing comes things, you know, wrinkles, droopiness, and all sorts of other stuff that kind of naturally occurs.

And I am quite aware of the fact that as an ageing woman, keeping my body in shape is closely aligned to feeling sexy. And the more I feel better about the way I look, the more I feel that I'm more attractive to, in my case, because I'm mainly heterosexual, men, who do often value, that sort of thing. So I think also, that can be really, really difficult because women do naturally age, and well, we all do. But when you know that the opposite sex is strongly driven by the visual, it can be quite difficult as an older woman to feel that you're still attractive to them in that heteronormative kind of way. Which is the only thing that I can really talk about.

Peter Marriott  07:38

I think that's right. Whereas men, it doesn't matter how old they are, they still think they are devastatingly attractive to young girls, you know, I mean, there are so many examples of it. I mean, from Harvey Weinstein, who we were talking about earlier. I'm sure he seriously thought that you know, the young women would be attracted to him. And because power is associated so often with men of a certain status and age and, and wealth. And traditionally, it would have gone alongside that, you know, the older men who have younger women, because just that's just the way it is.

Whereas men are obviously concerned very, very deeply about their own physical inadequacies as well. But you know, from weight and beer bellies, and I mean, the biggest adverts on the internet are for penis size, basically, yeah, you know, getting penis enlargements and extensions and creams and god knows what else to make your, you know, make your penis bigger.

We have our inadequacies, as well, but they're very compartmentalised. It's about how big your dick is or how big your stomach is. And we don't think of ourselves as therefore not… I don't know, maybe we do - Not being attractive overall as a package because people with small dicks and big tummies still think of themselves as devastatingly attractive.

Suzanne Noble  09:16

I think the menopause and just the changes that women naturally go through in their life contribute so much in terms of how they see themselves and often when they get to the menopause, and sometimes, and certainly, in my case, my libido was nowhere near what it was earlier in my life. You can feel a sense of grief about losing something that you know, you're never gonna get back, you know?

And men, whereas men, okay, you can look down at your belly, and you can do something about it. Yeah, you know, you can actually just go and just exercise and change that but for women and hormonal changes that go on in our body are forever. And so there is a process that I think we go through. And we make choices about how important sex is in a relationship in relation to lots of other things in our lives. And some people choose that is actually not that important anymore. Or I spoke to somebody today, it was like, just oh, I just don't know if I'm up for it in the same way that I was before. And I get that I completely get that. And I think that there's a lack of awareness about the fact that actually, yeah, it does change.

But if you want to keep doing it, because you enjoyed it, and it was important in your life, it can just change with you. But it doesn't have to stop completely. And I think with the message that we get, and you harked back when you were talking about kids talking about their parents and thinking about the yuckiness and all of that, is that people kind of assume that it just ends. You know, like, oh, they shouldn't be doing that anymore.

And if they are doing it, it's kind of, oh, it's bit gross, really, I don't even want to think about it. It's kind of quite disgusting. To think about it. But actually, it's just different. And that's how I think about it now is, it's not that same craziness that was in my 40s. But it's still there, it's just a little different. And I also suspect that men have similar challenges around the lack of testosterone and things, which don't, in my view, get nearly enough airtime. Because there's no place for men to talk about that shit, though.

Peter Marriott  11:44

That's true, and probably the result of that is, that we don't really know anything about that. I have no idea about testosterone, and you know how mine is, I think I'm okay. And, you know, I check my finger lengths now and again, to make sure that I've still, you know, my third finger is the ring finger is still longer than my index finger. In fact, it's getting longer. And that sort of thing. And, I think, to get philosophical, again, the problem is change. In general, I mean, not just sexual change, or bodily changes, just that nothing stays the same, you know, as Heraclites said, Panta Rhei, that everything changes all the time. It’s probably pronounced Heraclitus but it’s pronounced in different ways. That everything changes, or changes all the time.

And as we get older, we kind of expect it to just stay the same and it doesn't, it just doesn't, nothing does. And therefore you have to adapt to that. And you have to find a new way of being. And that's probably where, you know, probably one of the major problems in the relationship is that people change at different rates. And that's to do with childbirth. It's to do with childbirth and childbirth and has to do with just the different rates at which men and women change. And, and of course, you have, you know, women have menopause. Men don't so we don't get it. Don't really know anything about it.

Suzanne Noble  13:34

They just hope it's over quick.

Peter Marriott  13:37

Yeah, it's ignorance and fear of change both within a relationship and within oneself as well about, you know, how things are changing and what's different, I don't feel as though much has changed for me. I still feel the same now as I did when I was, you know, 19 or 20, or whenever, but, but obviously… I was somewhere yesterday, and I saw my caught sight of myself in a big shop window and I really did think for a second, who's that standing there? And it was me as a 62-year-old man - in four weeks’ time. And that that disparity between how you feel in your head, and how you look to the rest of the world, is it's a big thing to overcome in terms of sexuality as well because I think of myself as a very vigorous young 20-year-old man, you know, always up for it and all the rest of it, but I know I'm not, you know,

Suzanne Noble  14:41

Now, come once and then you have to wait about 48 hours really.

Peter Marriott  14:48

I'm not an athlete.

Suzanne Noble  14:52

Anyway, we talked about feelings of inadequacy, but we haven't talked too much about how to overcome them. Because I think that's the thing is, you can feel quite overwhelmed by all the messaging and the changes as we’ve spoken about that are going on in your body and everything that's happening. There are not really a great many places where you can actually discuss any of this stuff. I think for men, even fewer places, and there are probably for women who might be able to share some of the challenges that they're having with their girlfriends and be able to get, you know, feedback around that, and men kind of suffer in silence, I always think generally, about this kind of stuff.

Peter Marriott  15:37

Yeah, we just read what women have to say about sex, and then get off on it.

Suzanne Noble  15:44

But I think, you know, one of the things is that is around overcoming some of the shame that's attached to sex, which as we know, especially at our age can go back generations, it can go back to childhood, so much of sex for me is around how your parents dealt with it or didn't deal with it, and how that impacted upon how you feel about it in later life. So, so some of that is about recognising where your idea of sex came from, and how you generally see it, whether it’s something that's attached to shame, or whether it's something that's really positive and joyful, and something that is a healthy part of every adult life.

Peter Marriott  16:33

I think that's really important.

Suzanne Noble  16:34

But I also think what's really important is to recognise that there in the same way that there's Viagra for men, and all that, is that we now live in a world in which there are really easy ways to overcome some of the basic physical problems that we have. Right. So you know, lubricants, whether you decide you're just going to use olive oil, almond oil, you're gonna go to the shop and buy water, based lubricants, whatever you happen to need.

There's no shame in using lube. I don't think that any man, any man that I've ever met in my life if I just like spread some lube into my hand and do something with it gets turned off by that. I've never had a single occasion where anyone ever went, Oh, what's that? And I went, Oh, it's a bit of lube. And they went, Oh, gross. You're not wet enough. I'm not gonna have sex with you. I don't think that's ever happened, but I'm sure that lots of women feel some sense of inadequacy, but I've never had a single occasion, or any man…

Peter Marriott  17:43

You make it sound like you've had sex with lots of people.

Suzanne Noble  17:45

I don't know why that is. You know, and equally. I personally have never said if somebody said to me, Oh, I'm just going to drop some Viagra now. I've never gone Oh, gross. Don't do that. I've always gone like, oh, playtime. It's gonna be fun.

Peter Marriott  18:06

Yeah. I agree is a very strange thing. Because my experience is that when women are very divided about it, yeah, some women think that's great, you know, cuz he's gonna have a hard-on for hours and hours. Fantastic. And there are some women who think well, what's wrong with me? Because he needs Viagra to get it up, you know, and to have sex with me and I’m so unattractive that, you know, he needs the chemical stimulant to do it. And, you know, that's quite tricky, I think to deal with. But the same goes, it's the same as the lube question, but the other way round, you know, what's wrong with me as a man if she's not getting wet enough? Yeah, I'm obviously doing something wrong. And or she doesn't fancy me or whatever. And I think that's the first place that people's thoughts go to, rather than to the place of there have been physiological changes which require them to use them or to, you know, to use Viagra or whatever.

Suzanne Noble  19:09

Yeah. I think that's a really good point. And I can imagine that there are some women, and I know that I've certainly been in this situation myself, with men where the lack of lubricant was a kind of thing. For sure. Right? Yeah, for sure. So I do get that. The bottom line is always and I probably would say that you know, we're going to end this conversation. Always. It's around communication. Always, always, like, it doesn't matter what's going on. It's just about being really clear about, look, it's not that I don't think you're super hot. It’s just I need a bit of extra help. And also, the, you know, what a lot of people don't understand about Viagra is that if you don't actually fancy somebody And you take Viagra it doesn’t make a difference. And so it's not like this automatic thing that you take it and Ping! and everybody it’s happy days, you have to actually want to have sex, you actually have to want it. So there is also, that knowledge that the pill itself is not the solution. There are a bunch of other factors that have to go on. Understanding that, as well as being able to communicate with your partner. What's going on, is really important, because that's going to create the intimacy and relax you and make you feel sexy and just kind of want to do it.

Peter Marriott  20:50

I think so too. And I think talking about is is is I have a turn on. I'm just thinking now maybe we should sneak off

Suzanne Noble  21:05

I knew you were thinking that, so obvious now. Anyway, this is our first episode of Sex Advice for Seniors.

Peter Marriott  21:18

Who dares comes.

Suzanne Noble  21:23

And if you have any questions, any questions of any nature that you would like to share with us, then you can send them to where should we send them to?

Peter Marriott  21:35

That's a really good question.

Suzanne Noble  21:39

You could just send them to Suzanne Noble on Facebook or

Peter Marriott  21:45

Peter Marriott Thompson on Facebook.

Suzanne Noble  21:50

We've got a page on Facebook called Sex Advice for Seniors

and you could send them there as well. So there we go. So professional.

Peter Marriott  22:02

Brilliant. Goodbye.

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