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1976: sexuality and aging.

... What Can We Do? For those who are old now, sexuality can be a solace, a continuing source of positive self-image, and a preservative. It can be--if it is maintained, or revived, without impertinent interference, or at least not condemned, mocked, or obstructed. Not all wish to have it pressed upon them, but at least we should stop turning it off. Surgeons could stop doing radical prostatic operations which compromise potency on the assumption that after the age of sixty "he won't need it," or suggesting that for certain conditions the vaginas of elderly women should simply be sewn up. The idea of providing petting rooms in hospitals is well-meaning, but it reflects a patronizing view of the old which we wouldn't like very much if it were offered to us. They need not petting but privacy.

We have to make society understand that all humans are sexual beings, retaining the same needs until they die. Without being overly evangelistic, we must show the elderly that loving and being loved, in their fullest physical expression, are never nonesthetic or contemptible.

How far the sexuality of the old can be rekindled or encouraged depends on them, on their wishes and feelings, but there is a lot we can do. This includes the avoidance of medical, surgical, or social castration, early counseling to neutralize the jinx which is laid on many people as they age, publicizing the facts about continued male potency and female capacity, continuing research in these areas, and, in some cases, active therapy with hormones and judicious cosmetic surgery ...

My general conclusions are these: without embarrassing or evangelizing the elderly, we need to support and encourage their sexuality. It is a mental, social, and probably physical preservative of their status as a person, which our society already attacks in so many cruel ways. We can at least stop mocking, governessing, and segregating the old and the aging. It is to their sexuality, after all, that we owe our own existence, and that sexuality is honorable.

Excerpted from SIECUS Report, Volume 4, Number 6, July 1976.

Alex Comfort, M.B., D.Sc.
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Title Annotation:Forty Years of Growing SIECUS on Sexuality and Aging; Sex Information and Education Council of the United States
Author:Comfort, Alex
Publication:SIECUS Report
Date:Mar 22, 2004
Words:352
Previous Article:1971: The sexuality of aging.
Next Article:1999: Viagra 1999.
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