50 Shades of 60
Erotic Lit Your Grandmother Will Like
A candidate for the state senate is under fire for her romance writing, but she’s part of a growing trend of erotica for the gray-haired set.
Republican Colorado State Senate candidate Jaxine Bubis is in hot water after the revelation that she wrote the steamy romance novel Beantown Heat plus a handful of other similar titles under the name Jaxine Daniels. This conservative stalwart, who reportedly described herself as a “grammy who writes erotic romance,” is drawing ire after the revelation of her nom de plume, but for the rest of the world, penning steamy x-rated stories is something for seniors to kvell about. Not only that—they’re making bank, too.
Take Joan Price. After penning Better Than I Ever Expected and Naked at Our Age, nonfiction books tackling the hows and whys of senior sex, Price, 69, knew she wanted to highlight erotic writing, and not just in a humorous way (Phil Torcivia’s Fifty Shades of Silver Hair and Socks, a Fifty Shades of Grey parody featuring “old fart blogger” Mormon Silver interviewing young entrepreneur Bea Plastique, nicely fills this niche). The result is Ageless Erotica, a collection edited by Price exploring everything from long-term couples, nursing home nookie, a 70-year-old Tantric goddess, and an erotic ode to The Joy of Sex. With the rise last year of “gran-lit,” as Hilary Boyd’s bestselling romance Thursdays in the Park was termed, the time is ripe for aging to move beyond romance into smut. Price wanted stories that, while fictional, offered accurate portrayals of senior sex, “not just slapping wrinkles and an arbitrary age on the same old youth-oriented erotica.”
To be clear, she’s not knocking the genre, but simply wanted to expand its offerings. “Youth-oriented erotica doesn’t offend me in the least, but I have trouble relating to it—the instant arousal, instant lubrication, instant erections, instant orgasms. I know erotica is fantasy—but my fantasies have nothing to do with recapturing my youth.” To that end, the minimum age requirement to write for the book was 50. “I didn’t think that writers who haven’t experienced the changes that aging brings could write convincingly about it,” Price explained. Indeed, while younger women are concerned about the trend toward labiaplasty, Audrienne Roberts Womack proudly writes about a woman opting to acquire a new “designer vagina” (at the suggestion of a doctor who’s noticed vaginal tearing) that’s firmer and more responsive many years after the toll of childbirth.
Ageless Erotica details sex in aging bodies with a compassion and tenderness that doesn’t skimp on the eroticism. In Linda Poelzl’s “Endless Praise, Timeless Love,” a 59-year-old woman can’t get enough of her 82-year-old male lover, and vice versa. She’s not hot for him because of his powerful erection (indeed, he “doesn’t get really firm”), but because of their powerful connection, his extraordinary skill and stamina at cunnilingus, and his enthusiasm. To combat his flagging erections, they use a cock ring. We only find out toward the end of the story that she’s a sexual healer, he’s actually her client, and he has Alzheimer’s. But there’s a universality to the narrator’s conclusion that transcends age and speaks to an element of sexuality any reader could relate to: “With Max, I am forever new, amazing, precious, beautiful. He is never bored. What a delicious gift—for both of us.” Even when the plotlines are a bit more fantastical—a wife buying her husband a session with a dominatrix for his 55th birthday—they’re still plenty filthy. While the domme provides leather kneepads to counteract her client’s arthritis, she then makes sure he takes her cane and uses his tongue or as long as it takes.
There’s a realism in this collection that isn’t found in much of the latest crop of erotica books that fetishize billionaires. For instance, Doug Harrison details an HIV positive gay couple in “Smooth and Slippery,” where “We compare our pill regimens like two old ladies evaluating recipes” is followed immediately by, “It’s important if I want to drink his piss. Don’t want discordant medication sloshing around in my stomach.” Sue Katz took inspiration from a real-life GLBT Senior Dinner Club to detail a late-in-life lesbian awakening. When was the last time an older woman was portrayed with such tenderness? “It’s not what Cherie is saying—simple small talk—it’s her lips. And the lines at the corners of her mouth. Something about her smile framed by that shimmery white hair with its fabulous lavender lowlights is playing havoc with Regina’s bloodstream.” Fifty-year-old author Cheyenne Blue’s contribution, “Toast for Breakfast,” explores generational differences around sex when a single almost-60 mother is hesitant to share with her daughter the news that her neighbor is more than just a friend. However, Blue doesn’t see much difference between writing characters of varying ages. “The brain is the biggest sex organ, but sometimes the older body needs a bit of time to catch up.”
Not every author thinks that “senior erotica” needs to be separated out from the rest of the genre. Tsaurah Litzky wrote an impassioned open letter entitled “Wet is a State of Mind” to Price (disguised as “Cora Chemise,” but acknowledged by Price in the Ageless introduction) in response to her call for submissions, reading in part: “I [am] a proud sixty-eight-year-old senior who still responds to and is excited by big pulsing pricks; be they real, virtual or imagined…I write these stories for everyone to enjoy, regardless of age, in hopes of showing that we seniors are not alien creatures—that despite physical infirmities that may slow us down, in affairs of the heart we can and do remain forever young.” Litzky wasn’t so offended, though, because her nursing home story “Tony Tempo,” appears in Ageless.
Senior sex isn’t relegated to the realm of fiction, either. Within the last year, 80-year-old “mother of masturbation” Betty Dodson has released My Romantic Love Wars: A Sexual Memoir, while Cheryl Cohen Greene, the inspiration for the film The Sessions, details her life’s work as a sex surrogate in An Intimate Life; an integral part of her story is the conservative culture in which she grew up, welcoming the more freeing atmosphere of the anything-goes Bay Area. Bestselling Austin true crime writer Suzy Spencer changed beats with 2012’s journalism/memoir hybrid Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality, in which she shadowed swingers and revealed she’d gone a year without sex. But even as our culture has become more open toward polyamory and BDSM, the combination of sex and aging are still seen as taboo. New York-based Michelle Churchill, 56, penned the memoir Flashes: Adventures in Dating through Menopause, something she says she wouldn’t have done at a younger age. “In my youth I would have never had the courage to share intimate details about my life, sexual or not! Now that I’m older and hopefully a bit wiser, I feel like it’s a mission to let people know that there’s no shame in our mistakes, our pain or our pleasure.”
But not all senior authors specialize in senior characters. Desiree Holt began writing erotica at age 70 and has gone on to write over 40 erotic novels for publishers like Ellora’s Cave and Total E-Bound, as well as being featured on CBS Sunday Morning on the rise of “mommy porn.” Based on the stories alone—not to mention their racy covers—you’d have no idea the age of their author. Nailed, the third book in her Erector Set series, focuses on a fetish club called Finesse that gives out collars and cuffs to its clientele to signal their availability (sample line: “He visualized her naked, spread-eagled before him as he rammed his cock into her.”). While she’s being marketed as “the world’s most sex-crazed senior citizen,” according to Michael Musto, Holt says seniors have more freedom to explore this sometimes taboo topic. “You don’t have to care so much what other people think. But also you have a greater confidence. I see this as a chance to show from a mature vantage point that celebrating sexuality is a very good thing. Sex can change when you reach a certain age but it shouldn’t stop.” To that end, she’s at work on her Paradise Ranch series, which will feature protagonists in their late fifties.
While the aim of erotica should be to arouse, and most of the stories in Ageless Erotica hit their mark, Price has a broader vision—to teach readers that sex doesn’t end at 50 or 60 or any set age. What are some of its lessons? “How to keep sex spicy after decades together, how to compensate for slower arousal, how to make sex comfortable with arthritis, how to ‘own’ as fully sexual a body with wrinkles and sags—in other words: how to overcome the barriers of aging to have exhilarating and steamy sex.”