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LGBTQ kids are missing out on sex education—and it’s up to schools to change that

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Last year, California officially mandated LGBTQ history lessons in public schools, vowing to teach “the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans” and their impact on both the state’s and the country’s history.

This was a victory for LGBTQ rights, because it’s a rarity; in most states—in all but nine to be exact—schools don’t even cover LGBTQ sexuality, let alone queer history.

When surveyed by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), only 12 percent of millennials said they received sexual education material that covered sex between gay partners—even though 20 percent of millennials consider themselves LGBTQ. American sex ed is “primarily or exclusively focused on heterosexual relationships between cisgender people,” according to a different study conducted by Planned Parenthood and the HRC.

This hetero-specific focus creates a multitude of problems for all young people sorting through their anxieties and questions about sex and sexuality. For one, straight students aren’t being forced to acknowledge other sexualities, which can foster bullying and promote a culture of intolerance. For another, a lack of school discussion means most LGBTQ students are being inadvertently told to stay in the closet. And with that messaging, there is the shame and hiding, and then there are the health risks.

Proper safe-sex education is important for all students, and LGBTQ people are no exception: 22 percent of all transgender women are HIV positive, and queer men face a higher risk of contact with HIV or a sexually transmitted disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While ignoring queer students may not be a new phenomenon, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be remedied. And perhaps school districts can start by listening to the stories of queer people who have gone through the country’s lackluster sexual education systems. Through them, activists can learn how to fix such a massive gap in sex education.

This is what the queer sex ed gap looks like

Larissa Glasser, a librarian and writer living in Massachusetts, grew up in the 1980s, an era whose approach to sex ed was based in fear and simple authoritarian phrases like “Don’t do it.” Glasser, whose transgender, obviously couldn’t rely on schools to teach her about queer life.

“I was in public school until fifth grade and we had no sex education whatsoever,” she told the Daily Dot. “This was during the Reagan presidency, so all we ever heard about sex was AIDS as a scare tactic to be abstinent.”

Very little accurate information existed about transgender women outside of schools. Glasser was only exposed to trans people through filmmakers like John Waters and Ralph Bakshi.

“Finally, during the 1990s, trans issues were addressed somewhat respectfully in about 10 percent of the films I saw,” Glasser said. “Then I discovered writers like Jean Genet, Angela Carter, and Hubert Selby Jr., who were willing to portray queer femme sexuality in a somewhat positive light.”

Glasser’s experiences mirror many other LGBTQ students’ struggles. Sophie Searcy grew up miles away in Kentucky during the ’90s and 2000s, attending Catholic school all the way through high school, and she too had virtually no experience with LGBTQ education. Queer and trans sexuality just wasn’t discussed.

“The Catholic system I belonged to had a program called ‘family life,’ which was a religious health and sex education program,” Searcy told the Daily Dot. “Very basic facts about anatomy and puberty were explained in gender-separated rooms. There was no mention of safer sex methods, navigating consent, or any LGBTQ issues whatsoever.”

Searcy knew early on that her church wasn’t LGBTQ-inclusive. But looking back on those early years, she realized that queer people were treated as if they simply didn’t exist at all.

“The class explained sex as exclusively between a man and a woman, as if only heterosexual orientations existed,” Searcy said. “Similar to how the class erased all non-hetero orientations, the class explained gender, sexual development, and sexual intercourse in a way that didn’t even acknowledge the possibility of trans people. Boys had penises, girls have vaginas, boys develop into men, girls develop into women, etc., etc., etc.”

In particularly conservative areas, sexual education isn’t just biased—what it is lacking can induce violence. LGBTQ activist and writer Sarah Bess grew up in southeast Missouri in the 1990s, and she was repeatedly harassed, bullied, and physically assaulted across school districts.

“I was this awkward, autistic, queer kid from the middle of nowhere, so I got picked on a lot,” Bess explained. “I dropped out in the seventh grade because I was getting beat up so much and my home life sucked and I really didn’t care about school.”

Bess’s classes didn’t provide a respite from the attacks. “Being gay wasn’t really mentioned as a possibility in my sex ed classes. The existence of trans people definitely wasn’t acknowledged. There was a lot of fear-mongering about pregnancy and STIs, and that’s mostly what I remember,” Bess explained. “I don’t remember anyone at school even mentioning trans people. Beyond transphobic Jerry Springer and Maury Povich episodes, I don’t think we were on anyone’s radar.”

In one case, her sex education teacher enabled a physical assault.

“My seventh-grade sex ed class was taught by a gym coach who watched two boys beat the shit out of me after school one day,” Bess said. “He just laughed, got in his car and drove off.”

When anti-LGBTQ sentiments take hold in a school, then queer students live in an ongoing state of fear. This not just impedes their education, it can be debilitating for their growth and self-esteem—and it can separate queer people from one another by forcing them to stay hidden. For someone like Bess, this was extremely alienating.

“I was in my late teens the first time I knowingly talked to another trans woman online,” Bess explained. “I was in my twenties before I knowingly met anyone like me in person.”

For others, sex education classes could have possibly saved their lives. A 2014 report published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the UCLA Williams Institute reveals that suicide attempt rates are particularly high among transgender and gender non-conforming students who face harassment or bullying at school. Through sex education, though, students could have a better understanding of gender transitioning or normalizing queer sexuality. The more that classrooms validate LGBTQ experiences, the more likely students are to treat their fellow classmates with respect.

“Gender was always conflated with assigned sex and body parts,” Searcy said. “It wasn’t that trans people were portrayed as evil or misguided, but that the possibility of being trans was never even acknowledged.”

Then came the internet

So if LGBTQ students aren’t able to learn about their bodies from primary and secondary schools, where do they go for information about queer sexuality? Many turn to the internet.

But the internet is a luxury, one that not everyone is able to access—especially those in previous generations. In Bess’s case, this directly impacted her exposure to trans material.

“I didn’t have consistent internet access for most of my life, so I picked up bits and pieces where and when I could,” she said. “I watched a lot of porn with trans women in it and read a lot of gross forced fem erotica, none of which was very helpful for learning about sex.”

Even when internet access is available, its resources aren’t always helpful. Sometimes they can be damaging.

Shortly after Glasser graduated from library school, she stumbled across a gender transitioning guideline called tsroadmap, also known as “Transsexual & Transgender Road Map.” Glasser felt even worse about herself while using the website, in part because the guide relied on rigid stereotypes and generalizations for trans women. In one case, the site demanded that trans women undergo surgeries in order to properly transition, when many trans people prefer not to undergo permanent surgery.

“It was useful at the time,” she said, “but in hindsight, I think its normativity had a fairly toxic effect on my self-esteem when I was at my most vulnerable point.”

Searcy, on the other hand, saw internet access as a major source for learning more about non-hetero sexuality. Some of her biggest resources for her transitioning were writers who have gained significant prominence thanks to the internet’s impact on the trans community.

“Ultimately, a close friend came out as trans which led me to question my own gender and explore resources on my own,” Searcy said. “Julia Serano and Morgan M Page were particularly helpful, as were Imogen Binnie and Casey Plett.”

So while online resources aren’t exactly perfect, the internet has advanced far enough that it can connect trans and queer people with the online communities they need to learn more about themselves. On Reddit, there are subreddits like /r/asktransgender that let trans people learn about undergoing gender transitioning. Sites like Sites like Keshet and Queer Theology provide resources for religious queer and transgender people. Resources like TJOBBANK host employment listings for LGBTQ folks searching for inclusive workplaces. And services like Discord and Slack allow queer and trans users to create their own closed groups where LGBTQ members can hang out, talk about queer life, or get together and play video games. The internet has changed over time, and that means there are more ways for queer and trans people to meet each other than before.

But it’s unfair to relegate LGBTQ students to the internet for advice, often in secret. It can stall LGBTQ kids from coming out, make trans and queer sexuality feel like a taboo, or send the message that queer and trans life isn’t important enough to understand.

Schools are supposed to provide students with learning opportunities that help young kids grow into productive adults. That’s why third graders learn basic reading comprehension skills, and high schools teach American history (albeit often from a very straight, white, male perspective), and middle schoolers get a whole class dedicated to sex and their bodies—so they can go out into the world informed and prepared.

But if schools leave out LGBTQ sexuality and force queer students to learn on their own time, then those schools are failing at their jobs. Why must the burden be on LGBTQ youth to educate themselves?

The solutions that exist

Casey Plett, author of A Safe Girl to Love, lived in an upper-middle class suburb in Oregon during her high school years. At the time, she enrolled in an “internationally-focused hippie-ish sub-program” that seemed more like “actual sex ed taught by Planned Parenthood.” And yet like Glasser and Searcy, she says, “I cannot recall LGBTQ issues ever coming up. Negatively or positively.”

And as for trans issues? “Ha,” she told the Daily Dot. “No. Zero.”

This was in 2001. But she recognizes things have changed since then. LGBTQ equality has become more mainstream, trans rights have entered the news cycle, and queer sex ed has turned into a serious activist rallying point. Today, she thinks there’s solutions that school districts can take to bring LGBTQ education to kids, instead of forcing them to turn to the internet. That is, if they’re willing to put in the effort.

“There are plenty of gay sexual health resources out there,” Plett said. “I’d get a hold of them, pay them to come, and let them take the wheel. And be open and loving and willing to learn.”

Plett is right. Today, many local LGBTQ organizations host workshops for queer youth, providing the resources students need to learn more about their sexuality. Long Island’s Pride for Youth, for example, facilitates workshops on fighting transphobia and working with LGBTQ youth. Other community centers, such as New York City’s Apicha Community Health Center and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, provide training segments for educators, giving them the skills they need to teach LGBTQ-inclusive material in classrooms. And in recent years, Planned Parenthood has both criticized the lack of LGBTQ sex education in public schools, and begun taking a more LGBTQ-inclusive approach to sex education.

Gender therapists and counselors traditionally host workshops for teens as well, allowing them to explore LGBTQ topics in an affirming environment. And programs like the GSA Network even give students the training they need to host workshops and class sessions that can debunk damaging myths about the queer community.

For those who don’t live in “gay-friendly” metropolitan areas, there are also online resources available for classrooms. TED hosts a variety of TED Talks covering LGBTQ issues, from coming out to helping transgender teens. And many educators host lesson plans and teach-ins that are available for free online, allowing students to engage in queer sex education topics through a vetted workshop environment.

These programs and groups normalize LGBTQ sexuality. Workshops talk frankly and openly about what it means to have sex as a gay or transgender person and provide safe sex education to prevent STIs. They also give educators the training they need not just to respect queer students, but to include LGBTQ topics in future lesson plans. If school districts aren’t sure how to approach queer sexuality, here is where they can start.

“It would have been incredible for me to hear the simple facts that sex is complicated and messy but that there are a few universals that we should consider (consent, safer methods, exploration),” Searcy explained, “or that gender is independent of assigned sex and that it might be helpful to consider if my assigned sex did not fit.”

That’s something echoed by Bess, who knows all too well that many school districts are still avoiding LGBTQ topics in their entirety. She insists that the federal government should take a more active role in protecting LGBTQ youth, especially in areas where people are particularly bigoted toward queer students. Many school districts simply aren’t evolving anywhere near the rate of young people’s attitudes toward sexuality.

“It’s been awhile since I was in school, but it doesn’t seem like things are much better now in the places I grew up,” she explained. “Federal intervention is absolutely necessary to protect queer and trans students and educators, especially in rural school districts.”

Safety is where educators need to start if they want to facilitate an open, tolerant conversation about sex and sexuality. With transgender students under attack through outrageous “bathroom bills” across the U.S. and the Trump administration officially rescinding any federal guidelines for protecting trans youth, state and federal intervention is more important than ever.

For example, in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially outlawed all forms of discrimination against transgender people in 2015. Discriminatory fines for “willful, wanton or malicious” discrimination is up to $100,000. Massachusetts offers the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students, a joint initiative that provides training for school administrators on queer topics and gives students the tools they need to become activists in their school settings.

Fostering change and giving schools a legal incentive to end discrimination is important. Seeing how 42 percent of all queer youth feel their community is not accepting of LGBTQ people, promoting tolerance and opening constructive discussion are the keys to getting there.

Schools teach basic sex education for a reason: Most adults will have sex, and the repercussions of sex are often far-reaching and far-ranging and can be life-changing. But if sex education doesn’t address the current population and the culture, then it’s time for administrators to recognize they’re doing youth a disservice. Making things right could actually save lives.

Complete Article HERE!

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How did evolution change our sexual organs? It’s time to learn the history of sex

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Porn images are everywhere but we need better ways to teach children about love, intimacy and yes, masturbation

evolution

At the start of this third millennium, sex seems to be all around us – within easy reach, on our screens, constantly talked about in the media. What used to be concealed, shameful and forbidden only a century ago is today regarded as evidence of progress in the freedom of thought. Artists use sex to push the limits of creativity: Paul McCarthy’s “butt plug” sculpture, for example, was installed at the Place Vendôme in Paris in 2014, even though it provoked outrage among residents.

The sexual metaphor is ever-present. Paradoxically, however, sex is rarely explained and almost never taught. Do you know how our sexual organs changed when we evolved from animal to human? When did the first couple show up? Where does our sense of modesty come from? Or eroticism? Or love, that most momentous of human concerns? What about our earliest customs? Which ancient civilisation championed equality between men and women? And why was masturbation frowned upon?

Sex is one of those realities that for a long time we neither wanted to see nor hear about. The sexual liberation of the 1970s – which was, in my opinion, the biggest social revolution in the history of humanity – signalled the transition from a traditional male-dominated society to one in which sex with all its nuances could finally be examined openly and understood. But as sex has dared to uncover itself, to live, to speak, we face the challenge of expressing what for so long has been kept under wraps. How are we to communicate what so recently caused so much shock and outrage?

In the west, the union of two individuals is in complete flux, with a drop in those getting married (in France 57% of births now happen outside marriage); same-sex marriage; and the option of “slices of life”, relationships with different partners in the course of a lifetime. But however free our customs may be, censorship persists when it comes to the communication of sex, the words, the particular way of defining sexuality and the idea of sensuality. Literature and fiction have always attempted to push the boundaries of this censorship: in the 18th century we had Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s Dangerous Liaisons; and in the 21st, EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey. But mostly our discussions fall somewhere between sincerity and provocation as we attempt to understand intimacy and the fullest expression of sexual pleasure.

intimacy

No history book will delve too deeply into the sexual realm, yet it’s clear that history is a timeline of instructions and condemnations about sexuality. Each culture, each religion, each era has defined its own normality.

But without learning the history of love and intimacy, how can we understand the extraordinary evolution in customs that has led us from an existence ordered by family and society, and reinforced by religion, to the freedoms we know today? In his collection of aphorisms, Monogamy, the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips says that “most people would not live as a couple if they had never heard of it”. In this, he is reflecting the artificial nature of our customs and the need for a way to express our thoughts on sex, intimacy and being with other people.

We know today that human sexuality is not innate: it is learned and constructed through the images that society offers us. Even among our cousins, the primates, who live in a natural habitat, sexuality is learned through experience – young monkeys witness the courting and frolicking of the adults. The need for a model is evident: a young chimpanzee isolated from its peers is incapable of mating when it reaches adulthood.

Yet there is a fundamental difference: we invented modesty. Humans always make love away from the group. This is one of the great problems with sexuality: on the one hand it requires education; on the other, culture and religion collude to suppress sexual education.

The physician Thomas Beddoes was probably the first person to teach a course in sex education, complete with public demonstrations on the differences between men and women, in the early 19th century. But in the following two centuries, sex education failed to gain ground. Opposition was widespread and aggressive, on the part of the church as well as among teachers.

Sex education classes were subsequently written into law, but, in reality, rarely delivered. Sex education is today well established in Quebec and the Scandinavian countries, where primary school-age children are educated about gender differences and roles, as well as sexual orientation. In the Netherlands, where a complete programme of sex education is delivered from primary school, the rates of teenage pregnancies and abortions are among the lowest in the world.

But other western countries such as France and the UK provide little more than a perfunctory discourse on contraception and safeguarding against STDs. In France, a 2001 law stipulates three classes of sex education a year in middle and secondary school. However, as teachers have no training in this very particular field, it is often organisations such as those devoted to family planning that ensure these classes go ahead. In most cases, they rarely take place at all, and when they do they are limited to the three Ps: “prevention, pill, protection”, in other words, information on fertility and STDs. In this educational void the internet and porn offer themselves as models.

This is quite evidently the worst possible model, and the reason why a more reliable source of knowledge is indispensable, from primary school through to the last year of secondary. The average age at which children are first exposed to pornography is 11. Such an artificial vision of sex has altered our most intimate behaviour and has become the frame of reference not just for our teenagers but for us all. It makes us ask ourselves: am I sexy enough, am I the best lover?intimacy2

Nothing could be more damaging than these images devoid of explanation. We can’t stop young people from encountering porn, but a formal, educational approach would allow our society to explain its context and prevent misunderstandings that could otherwise compromise a fragile or still developing personality.

A genuine sex education should take the bio-psychological, emotional and social aspects of sexuality into account, should allow children to understand differences between the sexes, interpersonal relationships, the importance of developing critical thinking, an open mind and respect for the other. We must banish negative terms (sin, adultery, prostitution, Aids and STDs) in favour of positive schooling that allows children to understand desire, pleasure and excitement; the importance of sensitivity in love; the importance of masturbation, even. We must understand that everything can be taught, even the practicalities of how people live together, and we should start in primary school with discussions not only of genital differences but about the variations between boys and girls, the significance of love and of respect that may help with later relationships, notions of gender equality and domestic violence.

Only by speaking frankly, lightheartedly and wide-rangingly about sex, love and intimacy can we provide an education that enables adolescents, both boys and girls, to begin their lives with a better understanding of human relationships.

Complete Article HERE!

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How sex education videos have changed over the last 50 years

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By Amelia Butterly

sex education

Sex and relationship education (SRE) in schools isn’t good enough – at least, that’s what a lot of you often say.

From not being taught early enough, to lacking information about LGBT relationships and issues of consent – SRE gets a lot of criticism.

But, looking back at the archives, experts say there have been improvements when it comes to telling young people about relationships.

We’ve looked at posters and films once used to explain the birds and the bees.

And we asked sex and relationships teacher Caroline Stringer, a specialist from the charity Brook, to talk us through them.

1970s

This video – which was shown in schools – was also aired as part of a televised discussion about whether this kind of material was suitable for children to see.

Caroline says the way the penis is described as going “hard and straight” so that it can go into the woman’s vagina could be a problem.

“How confusing to young men having involuntary erections through puberty – they may have thought they need to go and find a vagina,” she explains.

Nowadays, says Caroline, good sex and relationship education will include topics such as consent and same-sex relationships.

Elsewhere in the videos, a man and woman are shown modelling nude in an art class.

“I thought it actually started off quite well, saying: ‘These people aren’t embarrassed’,” says Caroline.

“But for me, it was all about reproduction and a man and a woman. That’s the bit that is easy to talk about. It’s fact.”

In modern educational materials however, real people would not be shown posing nude, says Caroline.

“We would show diagrams, rather than the real thing.”

1980s

This film, which depicts a naked man on a beach, is the other one to feature full nudity.

It depends on the context, Caroline says, but seeing real-life naked bodies can serve a really useful educational function.

“If we’re showing people what STIs, for example, look like. How do they know what private parts look like without those STIs, if we only ever show them ones with?”

Like other films, it focuses on committed relationships.

“It’s all about making love. That’s what we would want to promote but that’s not always the case for people,” says Caroline.

Sex-Education

1990s

Caroline says in her classes she talks about all the different words which people use to describe sex and the body, including slang for the genitals.

“You can use those words,” she tells the students.

“But you need to know the proper words as well because if you’re going to talk to a doctor, you need to know what they’re saying back to you.”

Again, this video would not fit with “inclusive” modern sex education, Caroline explains.

“I did like that they talked about pleasure. It’s the first time in these videos they talked about it, for both a man and a woman.”

She adds: “It’s really important that it’s taught with a positive attitude. We don’t want scare messages.”

Nowadays

The sexual health charity Caroline works for, Brook, goes to in one in 10 UK schools to teach SRE.

“Brook believes SRE should start early in childhood so that children and young people learn to talk about feelings and relationships from a young age and are prepared for puberty before it happens,” they said in a statement.

“As children get older, we advocate SRE focusing on the positive qualities of relationships, such as trust, consent, body-positivity, commitment and pleasure.

“We also discuss the different forms relationships and sexuality can take.

“In addition to this, we also believe in ensuring that SRE is relevant and appropriate to the lives of young people so that it relates to other issues such as mental health, sexting, porn and staying safe online.”

Complete Article HERE!

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A Very Useful Guide to Sexy Spanking

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Spanking is fun and sexy, but you’re still hitting someone. Here’s how to do it right.

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Spanking must have a terrific PR person. Though frowned upon as a punishment for children, spanking is currently a super-popular, super-sexy method of “punishment” between two consenting adults. The spanking spectrum covers a lot of ground. At one end are the playful taps you do every now and then, and at the other end is “impact play” (when one person—the top/dominant—strikes another—the bottom/submissive—for sexual gratification). But whether you’re a beginner spanker or a powerful dominant who wants to leave a handprint on your submissive, let’s be real: While spanking is totally normal and fun, it’s still hitting someone. Here’s how to do it respectfully…and sexily.

Lesson 1: Spank inside the lines.

It’s safe to spank someone in your bedroom, but unsafe to spank someone at Buffalo Wild Wings because you’ll freak out the other diners. But where on the body is it safe to spank someone? Anywhere with muscle and fat, like the booty, is safe. David Ortmann, a San Francisco– and Manhattan-based psychotherapist and sex therapist, says his trick is to have the woman he’s spanking put on her sexiest pair of panties (that covers the butt—not a thong). Then, he says, you spank just the clothed area—you can take off her panties later. Stay away from the sides of the body, because it’s more painful. You should also avoid spanking areas that are not protected by fat or muscle. That includes the kidney area, neck, joints, and the tailbone and hip bones.

Lesson 2: Talk about intensity.

Along with spanking, common forms of impact play are slapping, paddling, caning, and whipping. (Please note that single-tailed whips are ill-advised for newbies because they can wrap around the body like a python.) Before adding any of the above to your sex life, pick a safe word. “Safe words are mandatory for anything that involves striking or hitting. You should come up with one that’s not ‘No, please stop,’ ” says Ortmann. With BDSM play such as spanking, begging and whining can be dirty talk that’s part of the action, so Ortmann recommends selecting a word that’s completely out of context. Pick something that you know will snap you out of an Inception-ish sex fugue, like “hedgehog,” “Ralph Lauren,” or “La Croix.”

While choosing a safe word is super-fun (like naming a puppy!), with impact play you also need to communicate with your partner before, during, and afterward. Use touch to get a feel for the spankee’s preferred intensity. Ask your partner, “So what’s your pain threshold like? How hard do you like to be spanked?” while running your hand down their back. Move your hand down to their ass and try a few practice rounds to learn what their comfort level is. And even after you’ve laid out ground rules and established a safe word, pay attention: “Consent can change. If I’m spanking someone and we agreed on a certain level of intensity, but they change their mind, I have to know. It’s okay for them to change their mind,” Ortmann says.

Lesson 3: Level up with non-hands.

If you’re new to impact play, start with your hands, because they’re easily accessible/attached to you and won’t hurt your wallet. “They also allow for skin-to-skin contact, which is a great way to connect to each other,” says Goddess Aviva, a New York City–based dominatrix. But if you do want to level up and spank someone with an object, simply waltz through your kitchen. If you don’t want to spend on expensive kink toys, Aviva recommends a wooden spoon. Unless you’re an impact-play expert, stick with tools that make a “thuddy” sound, like a paddle. I’m a snob, so when I want to be spanked with something other than a hand, I love a BDSM-black paddle.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘I’m 62 and my sex life is more important now than ever’

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‘I don’t believe I shouldn’t have a sex life just because I haven’t met ‘the one’’

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Sex is just as important for women after 50: that’s what the European Court of Human Rights made clear when it ruled that the judges who reduced a 50-year-old woman’s compensation for a botched gynaecological operation had discriminated against her.

Maria Morais, who is Portuguese and has two children, sought compensation on the grounds that she was unable to continue a normal sex life, but the judges in the original case had argued that the importance of sex declines for women as they get older.

The European Court of Human Rights found that this constituted sexual discrimination, and that the judges had “ignored the physical and psychological importance of sexuality for women’s self-fulfilment and other dimensions of women’s sexuality”.

Sex doesn’t stop at a certain age

In popular culture, portrayals of relationships among older people are becoming more common, implying a greater acknowledgement of older women’s sexuality

In popular culture, portrayals of relationships among older people are becoming more common, implying a greater acknowledgement of older women’s sexuality. The film It’s Complicated (2009) starred Meryl Streep (inset), whose character has an affair with her ex, played by Alec Baldwin, decades after their divorce. This year, Hampstead saw Diane Keaton as a widow falling in love with a man living wild on Hampstead Heath, played by Brendan Gleeson.

Data backs up her case, too. In 2014, a Saga survey of 9,685 people aged over 50 found three-fifths are sexually active and 23 per cent are having sex once a week.

Research released by the Longevity Centre in 2016 showed that 60 per cent of men and 37 per cent of women aged over 65 had sexual activity in the past year.

Caitlin (not her real name), 62, needs no court ruling or Hollywood film to tell her that her sex life is important. She has been in a number of monogamous relationships, but is now having intimate relationships with more than one man.

Having an active sex life makes me feel alive. There’s a deliciousness about it.

I’m single and I have sex regularly, but I’ve been celibate in an earlier relationship when my partner lost interest. I have also been a mistress, where I discovered the thrill of coming to terms with my non-vanilla side. I feel more in touch with my sexuality now than I ever have done.

Sex is not the be all and end all. While I’m passionate about sex for those who want it, I’m also very aware that other people can get satisfaction from other things. But I think if one has the desire, sex is such a fabulous, life-enforcing thing at any age. It’s just a marvellous sensation.

Being 62 doesn’t mean I have to settle

I talk openly about my sex life with my close friends; it’s a running joke with them about what my neighbours would make of me.

I’m not hankering for my ‘one and only’. If I met them, that would be delightful. But I don’t believe I shouldn’t have a sex life just because I haven’t met ‘the one’. You can have good enough relationships that are absolutely fine without being the big thing. I don’t like compromising – just because I’m 62, it doesn’t mean I have to settle.

It would be fabulous to meet somebody who ticks all of the boxes, but I don’t feel I’m missing out because I haven’t got that. Having a sense of adventure and not knowing who I may meet is great fun.

I wanted to be open minded about sex

‘I was stood in the college library and thought, ‘I’m going to go and masturbate’

I grew up in a village South Wales and lost my virginity aged 18 to the man I thought I was going to marry. It was a huge thing because I was still a practising Catholic and it was not the done thing to have sex at school.

At that age, I wanted to be open minded about sex. I enjoyed it. I loved the power of being able to turn a man on, But with everything around you [at that age] you have a patriarchal version of sexuality. The whole thing of ‘what is sexy’ comes from the images you see.

I never masturbated as a teenager – I think I was quite proud that I didn’t. Then I got into this relationship and started to think there must be more to sex than this. When I was 19, I was stood in the college library and thought, ‘I’m going to go and masturbate.’ And I went back to my room and I did!

I began exploring my sexuality in my forties

‘I set myself a goal of being able to use a computer.’

I’ve always had sexual fantasies about spanking, which meant I had a life time of growing up with these suppressed fantasies that I thought were sort of dangerous.

I began exploring my sexuality in my forties when I posted adverts in a magazine. I met someone I thought I was going to be with for the rest of my life when he responded to my advert.

He already knew that I had these fantasies from reading my advert. Our sex life was completely vanilla but fantastic and very active until about six years in, when he developed an illness and went off sex. He seemed almost relieved of the burden.

I cared about him and so I put up with it and set myself a couple of personal goals. One was to learn to use a computer properly. Another was to start creative writing – I had always wanted to write erotica.

Things changed with this exploration of female sexuality and fantasies. I realised I wasn’t going to bring the world crashing down because I have sexual fantasies.

Age 56, I started advertising for lovers

‘I discovered this community out there with the same interest.’

Writing erotica was fun and I was curious to find out if what worked for me sexually worked for other people. I discovered this community out there with the same interest and it brought me back to life.

I started communicating with a man online. We discovered we were both in sexless relationships. I had never been unfaithful and took monogamy very seriously but I was getting to the point where I couldn’t continue like this. I told my partner I was going to struggle to stay faithful if our relationship remained non-sexual.

Suddenly, we had a fantastic sex life again. But it only lasted a fortnight.I told my partner again that I would not be able to be faithful in a sexless marriage and he left me. The man I was talking to online became my lover.

I began putting adverts out online to meet other people and started having other sexual partners. I was 56 at this time.

Sex has to be intimate

We have the rituals you have as a couple; going out together, watching TV, going on holidays

For me, there has to be a level of intimacy in sexual encounters. I met a couple of guys where there was a coldness and that is just not right for me. But there can be a level of intimacy without love.

There’s a chap I’ve been seeing for a few years and we’re very comfortable with each other. We have the rituals you have as a couple; going out together, watching TV, going on holidays.

I see other people because the time we have together is limited and I want more. The ages of the people I see varies; I recently stopped seeing someone who was five years older. The oldest chap I was seeing was about 69. But I’ve also had relationships with people in their thirties and forties.

I’ve now moved back to the village where I grew up. I’m part of the Women’s Institutes and I’ve done relatively serious things work wise. It’s just nice that there is this other part of you that is private, such fun and so life-enhancing.

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