Soft News

07.27.11

Hef’s Sexless Engagement

Hugh Hefner ex Crystal Harris says she and the playboy in chief had sex only once—and it was brief. Studies do say seniors lack stamina, Anneli Rufus reports.

Crystal Harris is now publicly mocking her 85-year-old ex-fiancé Hugh Hefner’s sexual prowess, saying the pair did it only once during their engagement—and it lasted “like two seconds.” Hef says the 28-year-old hottie is lying. Outside of the Playboy Mansion, how much sex is an octogenarian likely to have? Libido, fantasies, oral, anal: scholarly studies reveal what seniors are really up to in the sack. The Daily Beast offers 15 findings:

1. Among people aged 75 to 90, 73 percent of men and 95 percent of women consider sex “not very important.”

In this age group, sex is considered “moderately important” by 13 percent of men and 2 percent of women, “somewhat important” by 11 percent of men and 3 percent of women, and “very important” by 4 percent of men and 0 percent of women.

Leon Flicker, et al. “Sexual Activity in Men and Women Aged 82–87 Years in Western Australia,” a presentation given at the 2010 Australian Association of Gerontology Conference.

2. Twice as many 40-somethings have cheated on their spouses as have people aged 70 and up.

Twenty percent of 40-somethings vs. only 10 percent of the 70-plus crowd have cheated, even though the over-70s have lived almost twice as long and thus had twice as much opportunity. “The disparity indicates that people born after 1940 are less likely to be monogamous, although not nearly to the degree popular culture assumes,” writes the author of the study that yielded this stat.

Tom W. Smith. “The Demography of Sexual Behavior”: a report compiled for the Kaiser Family Foundation, 1994.

3. 31 percent of married people aged 70 and over don’t have sex.

By comparison, only 1 percent of married people aged 18 to 49 don’t have sex. But if 31 percent of 70-plusers aren’t doing it, then 69 percent are. Sex among seniors “is a closeted topic the way homosexuality was 50 years ago,” says health educator Melina Winterton, author of Great Sex After Forty. “Thanks to the baby boomers, we’re in the midst of a social evolution as more and more people come out and say, ‘I’m not the only person over 50 who’s having sex. So is my next-door neighbor.’”

Tom W. Smith. “American Sexual Behavior: Trends, Socio-Demographic Differences, and Risk Behavior,” General Social Survey report no. 25, 2006.

4. Only 1 percent of 40-something men have had no erections at all in the last month, compared with 39 percent of men aged 70 and up.

The very idea of erections among the aged is enough to make some laugh and others gag. “This is probably very deeply biologically driven,” Winterton says. “There is something a little repulsive about extreme age, because it’s closer to death, so our reptilian brain says, ‘That’s not attractive.’ This is very difficult to overcome, but one of our responsibilities as human beings is to overcome that repulsion, because otherwise we are animals.”

M. P. O’Leary et al. “Distribution of the Brief Male Sexual Inventory,” International Journal of Impotence Research (2003) 15, 185-91.

Young people are on Estrogen Avenue and Testosterone Boulevard. They don’t have to think about it. As you get older, you do.

5. Men aged 70 and up are 20 times more likely to have daily sexual fantasies than are women of that age.

According to an AARP survey, 25 percent of men and only 5 percent of women aged 45 to 49 fantasize (or have “erotic dreams”) daily. At age 50-59, it’s 40 percent of men and only 5 percent of women. At age 60-69, it’s 18 percent of men and 5 percent of women. At age 70 and above, it’s 21 percent of men and 0 percent of women—in other words, no women. “The brain is our biggest sexual organ,” says psychologist and life coach Dorree Lynn, author of Sex for Grownups. “That’s where desire starts. Young people are on Estrogen Avenue and Testosterone Boulevard. Their hormones pulse, so they don’t have to think about it. As you get older, you do.”

Linda Fisher, et al. “Sex, Romance, and Relationships: AARP Survey of Midlife and Older Adults,” commissioned by AARP, 2010.

6. Seven times as many 50-something men perform oral sex on other men as do 70-something men.

According to an Indiana University study, 7 percent of 50-something men perform oral sex on other men, compared with 1 percent of 70-something men. According to this study, 50-something men lead men of all other age groups in performing oral sex on other men.

Michael Reece, et al. “Sexual Behaviors, Relationships, and Perceived Health Among Adult Men in the US: Results From a National Probability Sample,” Journal of Sexual Medicine (2010), 7 (5).

7. People aged 70 and up have sex less than one-tenth as frequently as people aged 18 to 29.

Eighteen-to-29-year-olds do it about 84 times per year; 40-somethings do it 64 times per year; and people aged 70-plus do it 10 times a year. “This is probably a function not of age per se but of declining health,” Winterton muses. “Ask a 30-year-old who has cancer and chronic pain how important sex is. The answer will be ‘Not at all.’ Give that person chemotherapy and make them well, and their vibrant sexuality returns. An active libido is one of the markers for recovery and quality of life.”

Tom W. Smith. “American Sexual Behavior: Trends, Socio-Demographic Differences, and Risk Behavior”: General Social Survey report no. 25, 2006. (PDF)

8. Fewer than 1 percent of men in their 40s describe their sexual drive as “none at all,” compared with 22 percent of men aged 70 and up.

Sometimes the reason is physical, sometimes it’s psychological, and sometimes it’s both—even for the partnered. “Let’s face it, long-term relationships get boring,” says Lynn, who recommends stoking the fire with date nights, hotel sex, and “the joys of toys. We use eyeglasses. We use hearing aids. We use false teeth. Why not use vibrators?”

M. P. O’Leary et al. “Distribution of the Brief Male Sexual Inventory,” International Journal of Impotence Research (2003) 15, 185-91.

9. More than 25 percent of people aged 18 to 24 spend at least an hour on the average sexual encounter, compared with only 5 percent of people aged 55 to 59.

Maybe that’s because as many people age, they feel uglier and less eager to undergo extended exposure. “When people tell me they want to change their lifestyles, the No. 1 reason is that they feel unattractive and thus unable to get into a good, juicy sexual space,” Winterton says. Feeling ugly, old, ill, and out-of-shape “is a humiliating place for them, and it correlates intensely with self-esteem.”

Edward Laumann et al. The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994, p. 94.

10. Nearly half of men aged 70 and older have been diagnosed with erectile dysfunction or impotence.

This figure—48 percent—compares with only 6 percent of men aged 45 to 49, 16 percent of men aged 50 to 59, and 29 percent of men aged 60 to 69. “Half of what gets called erectile dysfunction really isn’t,” Lynn asserts. “At that age, men don’t talk to anyone—including other men—truthfully about sex. This makes them very isolated, and they get performance anxiety. Sure, testosterone diminishes. That’s like your engine running out. But there are a zillion ways to help that without having to take drugs that you consider dangerous.”

Linda Fisher, et al. “Sex, Romance, and Relationships: AARP Survey of Midlife and Older Adults,” commissioned by AARP, 2010.

11. More than three times as many single men aged 25 to 39 masturbate as married men aged 70 and up.

Who’s got sticky fingers? According to an Indiana University study, it’s 96 percent of single men aged 25 to 39, compared with only 27 percent of married men aged 70 and up.

Michael Reece, et al. “Sexual Behaviors, Relationships, and Perceived Health Among Adult Men in the US: Results From a National Probability Sample,” Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7 (5).

12. More than twice as many men aged 56 to 64 perform oral sex (on partners of either gender) than do men aged 75 to 85.

According to the study that yielded this stat, 62 percent of men aged 57 to 64 have performed oral sex at least once in the last year, compared with 28 percent of men aged 75 to 85. But, hey, 28 percent isn’t peanuts. “Very few people totally stop all sexual activity” as they age, Winterton says. “It’s really a function of how healthy they are and how they’re feeling. No matter their age, when they’re minding their diet and exercising, sex all of a sudden pops up like a happy surprise, like ‘Oh, I’d almost forgotten that my body could do this.’”

Stacy Tessler Lindau, et al. “A Study of Sexuality and Health Among Older Adults in the United States,” New England Journal of Medicine, 357, 762–74.

13. 11 percent of men aged 90 to 95 have had sex at least once in the past year.

That is, 11 percent of men aged 90 to 95 in Perth, Australia. According to researchers from the Western Australian Centre for Health and Ageing, a man this age is more likely to remain sexually active if he lives with a partner and has “a non-English-speaking background.”

Zoë Hyde, et al. “Prevalence of Sexual Activity and Associated Factors in Men Aged 75 to 95 Years,” Annals of Internal Medicine, 153, 693–702.

14. Only 2 percent of 40-something men are unable to reach orgasm, compared with 40 percent of 70-something men.

“Sex changes as we age,” Lynn asserts. “At some point, it’s no longer about hopping into bed like a bunny rabbit, as you did when you were 20 years old. It gets kind of slow and steady, and it’s about the relationship and sharing. Too many people forget that sex is more than just intercourse. It’s a process.” Which doesn’t always end with a bang.

M. P. O’Leary et al. “Distribution of the Brief Male Sexual Inventory,” International Journal of Impotence Research (2003) 15, 185-91.

15. Eleven percent of men aged 20 to 24 have been penetrated anally over their lifetimes, compared with 9 percent of 40-something men and 10 percent of 50-something men.

Although 50-something men have lived twice as long as men in their early 20s, time and increased opportunity apparently don’t apply to this finding. In this realm along with many others, younger guys outpace their elders. It will be interesting to see how these stats change by the time today’s 20-somethings turn 70.

Debby Herbenick, et al. “Sexual Behavior in the United States: Results From a National Probability Sample of Men and Women Ages 14–94,” Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7 (5).