Folks 45 and older are loving sexual liberation, AARP survey finds

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By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 8, 2010

We went out Friday afternoon with our copy of the new 105-page AARP sex survey and randomly flipped to some choice bits in search of reaction and comment:

Table 18: Frequency of Intercourse by Gender and Age.

"When I was 55, I was doing it seven times a week with my wife," said Ronald Militello, retired from the Air Force in Washington. Now, at 65, not quite so much. "You do it as much as you can."

The national study of folks 45 and older found, in fact, that 48 percent of those who are dating have sex at least once a week, while 36 percent of the married ones do.

Table 13: Attitudes Toward Sex by Age and Gender.

"I love sex," said Judy Lear, 66, national chair of the Gray Panthers, the intergenerational advocacy group for social justice and peace, when reached by telephone in New York City. "I thinks it's fun, I think it's great. I think it's a really positive thing. I'm single, divorced; I have a very nice gentleman here in New York City. I don't want to be married, I don't want to live together, but I do like to have sex. We have this wonderful relationship."

Lear could be the liberated-and-loving-it poster lady of a certain age for this new report, titled, "Sex, Romance, and Relationships: AARP Survey of Midlife and Older Adults," based on a survey taken in August 2009.

The researchers found that baby boomers, those sons and daughters -- also older brothers and sisters -- of the sexual revolution have gotten older, and their sexual mores have aged up with them. Key finding: The percentage who think you must be married to have sex has dropped by almost half in 10 years, from 41 percent to 22 percent.

That's not an endorsement of infidelity. Only one in five men and one in 10 women in this age group admit to cheating on a partner. Rather, it's an assertion of sexual freedom among widows, widowers, divorced people or folks who never married.

And yet, alas, all is not perfectly orgasmic either. In spite of the increased sense of permission to have sex, less sex is being had!

The researchers blame the lousy economy and related stress for undermining everyone's libido. The frequency of intercourse and general sexual satisfaction are down about 10 points since 2004, "while the frequency of self-stimulation and sexual thoughts and fantasies have not changed," the study found.

"The downturn is not a change in terms of liking sex or being happy with each other," said Pepper Schwartz, whose title at the AARP is Love and Relationships Ambassador. She also writes the group's online column, the Naked Truth. "That kind of stress, depression and angst don't do anything for a sex drive.

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