It’s easy to assume that once people reach a certain age, their sex lives dwindle to nothing. But the findings of a new study might help turn that belief on its head.
The researchers analyzed data, specifically regarding oral sex, from 884 heterosexual couples between the ages of 62 and 90 who had previously participated in the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project. And they had some pretty interesting takeaways — including that 37 percent of the people reported having had oral sex in the past year.
The analysis, published in the Journals of Gerontology: Series B, also found that oral sex was linked to relationship quality. Specifically, older adults who reported having better relationship quality gave oral sex to their partner more often than those who rated their relationship quality as less positive. That link was stronger for men than for women.
Receiving oral sex seemed to influence how positively men and women felt about their relationships. Further, the more often a person gave oral sex to his or her partner, the more often the partner reciprocated.
“Stereotypes exist that most older people are sexually inactive or asexual, and that sex is not important for older people,” lead study author Hui Liu, a professor of sociology at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “However, emerging evidence has shown that sexuality remains an important part of life and is key to the quality of life and well-being for many older adults.” Liu explains that she wanted to research the topic because “sexuality in later life is an underexplored research area.”
Sex in general may bring couples closer together, she adds, but “oral sex may play a special role for older couples because many older adults suffer sexual dysfunction problems (which makes penile-vaginal sex challenging for them), but they still want to be sexually intimate and remain close to their partners in old age. And, as the findings suggest, she says, oral sex may be “an alternate way to maintain an active sexual life, a high-quality relationship, and psychological vibrancy.”
The study also found that men seemed to get more relationship satisfaction from giving, rather than receiving, oral sex. And that’s not surprising to David Ley, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sexuality issues. “A consistent finding in sexual research is that men gain a sense of masculinity, satisfaction, and pride from being able to give their female partner an orgasm and sexual pleasure,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I suspect this foundation may underlie these results, as a man who cares more about his partner, their relationship, and her pleasure is more likely to be willing to perform oral sex, focusing on her own needs. In other words, it’s easier to be sexually selfless when you feel good about your relationship and partner.”
Still, Ley assures, older couples who don’t practice oral sex shouldn’t worry that it will affect their relationship satisfaction. “Remember that 63 percent of these elderly couples aren’t having oral sex,” he says. “Couples with higher levels of sexual dysfunction, including erectile issues or problems with vaginal lubrication, were more likely to practice oral sex. So not having oral sex might just mean that intercourse is working just fine.”
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