By Lisabet Sarai
I have a confession to make, one that may shock many of you who know me and have read my books.
I haven't had sex in more than two months.
And here's another stunner. I don't mind nearly as much as I would have guessed, if you'd asked me when I was younger.
I'm in my sixties now. My husband is more than a decade older than I am. Although we both are fortunate to be in excellent health, our sexual capabilities have significantly declined due to age. I won't get into the gory details, but let me just say that these days sex is a lot more work and a good deal less fun than it used to be.
There are remedies of course, that might improve the situation, hormones and lubricants, new positions and new techniques. We've tried some of them, with mixed results. We're still very physical with one another. People snicker when they see us, two old geezers holding hands or kissing on the street. Penetrative sex, though, is a significant challenge, one that we seem to be confronting less and less often (and oral sex has never been a favorite for either of us, for various reasons).
When I was in my twenties, my thirties, even my forties, I would have been appalled by the notion of such a long interval of celibacy. Looking back to my youth, it seems as though sex stood at the center of my universe. Every experience was drenched in eroticism. Any seemingly innocent encounter was enough to start me spinning fantasies. Most of my sexual adventures took place before the advent of AIDS and after the perfection of the Pill, during that brief period when true sexual freedom was possible. If I can quote from one of my own characters (the nameless narrator in “Before the Plague”):
It's nearly inconceivable to you, I know, the notion of spontaneous sex. No vaccines, no tests, no questions asked. No barriers – at least no physical ones. You might enjoy yourself, you might not. That was the only risk.
I lived in that age. The golden age, it seems now. You could revel in your own body, in someone else's body. Anyone you fancied. Maybe a stranger. Maybe your best friend's husband – or even your best friend herself! If desire called, you answered, as long as that was what felt right.
Every day was ripe with erotic possibilities. We moved through our world (well, perhaps I should speak only for myself) in a continual state of borderline arousal, ready to recognize and enjoy the next sensual adventure.
I wrote that story more than ten years ago. Even then, I was nostalgic, I guess, for what I felt myself losing.
The funny thing is, I've always lived more in my mind than in my body, even during those wild days when I was juggling three lovers plus being regularly propositioned by strangers. (I must have been sending out powerful signals. Definitely makes me believe in pheromones!) Eroticism, then as well as now, lived in the situation, in the relationship, in the sharing of fantasies, in the breaking down of barriers and the pushing of limits, far more than in the physical acts. I spent as much time writing about sex in my journal as I did in bed (or elsewhere) with my partners. The thrill of lust has always been at least as intoxicating to me as the activities it engenders.
And to be honest, I miss that thrill more than the actual fucking. Although I'm moderately well-preserved for my age, these days it's difficult to conceive of myself as an object of desire. I still have frequent sexual dreams. In those nocturnal sagas I'm usually young and nubile – probably between twenty five and thirty five, when I was at my peak. The other night, though, I dreamed that someone wanted to have sex with me, and I couldn't remember where I'd stashed the KY Jelly. Too often when I begin to spin a kinky fantasy for myself, recollections of reality intervene.
My DH apparently perceives me as sexy, despite my wrinkles, my sagging flesh and my joint problems. I'm grateful but sometimes I wonder whether he's blind. I still believe that imagination is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Imagining the erotic, however, is becoming increasingly difficult.
Of course I worry about how this will affect my writing. I yearn for the excitement, the freshness, that poured out of me in Raw Silk, a book that celebrates lust in all its guises. I suppose that it's natural to become a bit jaded, after fourteen years of penning erotic fiction. I console myself with the certainty that my skill has grown even though my passion has ebbed. Apparently I can still create sexual scenarios with enough light and heat to please my readers. However, I find that it's increasingly difficult to arouse myself.
I've always been of the opinion that sex is important – that carnal connections can provide not just pleasure but also wisdom and self-knowledge. I haven't changed my mind. That's one motivation for writing my stories. More and more, though, those tales are based on recollection rather than direct experience. I cling to my memories of how it felt to be overwhelmed by desire, as those feelings recede into the increasingly distant past.
If I were to be suddenly infected by the insistent, incandescent lust of my youth, I'd probably be alarmed. But I do miss it.