Sex in your sixties is something to shout about: LINDA KELSEY

Why sex in your sixties is something to shout about: As a study shows older women are most likely to be honest about what goes on between the sheets, ex-Cosmo editor LINDA KELSEY, 68, insists her generation have all the best stories

  • Study shows those over age 65 are more casually candid about sensitive issues 
  • Linda Kelsey, 68, and her partner restored their feelings with make-up sex 
  • She says her generation is the first that won’t be shamed into silence on sex 
  • Former magazine editor reflects on learning about sex from working at Cosmo 

Perhaps what I am about to say will make you squirm, but here goes anyway.

Last Friday, after one of those grouchy lockdown days spent disagreeing with my partner over small domestic tasks and bickering over our phone use, followed by an emotionally fuelled argument about if and when he should go back to work as an osteopath — thereby exposing himself (and me) to Covid — we had make-up sex.

It was lovely, and our good feelings for one another were restored.

So far, so uncontroversial. Talking about sex today is hardly taboo. But add in the fact that I am 68 and my partner 66, and I can see noses wrinkling in barely disguised disgust laced with a large sprinkling of embarrassment.

Linda Kelsey, 68, who recently had make-up sex with her partner, 66, (pictured) revealed the myth that as we age we get more prissy has been debunked

Oldie sex is the 21st-century version of ‘the love that dare not speak its name’, a phrase first used in an 1890s poem by Lord Alfred Douglas, who dallied with Oscar Wilde, to describe homosexuality which was then a criminal offence.

We have — thank goodness — come a long way since then towards liberalising our views about sexuality, but we still haven’t come to terms with the fact that sex isn’t only for the young.

The truth that loose flesh can thrill to the touch as much as taut skin doesn’t bear thinking about if you are younger. And the idea that when you’re lost in loving contact the years melt away, especially if Sade is playing and you are flatteringly candle-lit, is a concept quite flummoxing to anyone under 45.

As for having the temerity to talk about it, well, grandma dear, that’s way too much information. How about a nice cup of tea to calm you down?

Shutting us up, it turns out, isn’t so easy. A new study shows that when it comes to talking about sensitive issues, such as sex (plus drugs, alcohol and money), those over the age of 65 are more casually candid than any other age group.

Researchers revealed that 39 per cent of those aged 65-plus would happily tell loved ones whatever they wanted to know about the intimate details of their lives, compared with just 20 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds.

Surprising though these results seem, they make absolute sense to me.

For a start, they debunk the myth that as we age we get more prissy. In actuality, with every passing decade I give less of a damn about what people think about me and am more prone to say what I think.

Linda (pictured) said she’s proud that her generation is the first that won’t be shamed into silence on sex 

I am reminded of Jenny Joseph’s poem in which she pledges to wear purple when she’s old and spend her pension on brandy and satin sandals, all the gaucheness and awkwardness of youth mercifully stripped away.

But there’s also something different about the current crop of 65-pluses.

I’m proud to say that my generation is the first that won’t be shamed into silence on sex merely because speaking out ruffles a few immature feathers. As a child of the 1960s and a young adult of the 1970s, I grew up in a world in which, for the first time, women felt able to talk about sex, to ask questions and to learn from one another. It’s not something we will let go of lightly.

Just 20 years old when I went to work on the launch of Cosmopolitan magazine in 1972, I was hugely privileged. Not only was I growing into womanhood freed by the Pill from the fear of unwanted childbirth and schooled in notions of women’s liberation, I was working on a glossy, glamorous magazine which paid me to share the kind of blush-worthy intimacies my mother would have been ashamed to own up to.

Linda said she learned a lot from the stories ran in Cosmopolitan, with topics including orgasm and sexual practices (file image)

I may have lost my virginity before I was 17, but I still regarded myself as a sexual nitwit, slowly working out that doing it was the easy bit, while gaining the pleasure I’d read about in novels by Harold Robbins and Jackie Collins was somewhat harder to achieve.

I learned so much from the true stories we ran in Cosmopolitan, on topics ranging from orgasm to sexual practices and positions, and how, even as we engaged in robust sex, feelings of guilt or lack of love for our own bodies could stymie our enjoyment.

At Monday morning ideas meetings, we were expected to share previously guarded sexual secrets in our very own version of group therapy. My sex life improved as my confidence grew. You couldn’t become editor of Cosmo, as I did in the mid-1980s, and be timid when talking about sex.

For me — and many of my generation — this openness has proved a blessing, and one that has not diminished with the years. Relationships don’t get easier, after all. I still talk to my female pals about having sex and, depending on who’s speaking, not having it; about missing it madly if it’s no longer in the frame or being relieved it’s all over; about dodgy hips and stiff necks and how they impact what happens in bed.

One friend sent me her favourite lubricant as a birthday gift, as she thought I might need pampering down there too! I was a little taken aback. But she was spot-on.

Linda said she hopes young people will take some pointers from her generation and talk about their sexual experiences. Pictured: Linda and her partner 

Only last week, I went for a socially distanced walk with a close friend of nearly 50 years and we enjoyed a wonderfully frank and funny talk about our sex lives, and about love. She is 72 and six years into a new relationship. I’m 12 years into my not-so-new one.

I confessed that sometimes, if my partner can’t sleep, he slips into the spare bedroom to avoid disturbing me — only to discover that hers does the same thing.

Once, we agreed, we would have panicked and regarded it as a slippery slope to the end of love and sex. Now we know it’s just a facet of this time of our lives. But it was a relief to hear that I wasn’t alone.

We also talked about how we both continue to enjoy sex with our partners. Less often than when love was new, admittedly, with peaks and slumps when backaches or work worries or a new series of The Crown take precedence.

Young people will have their own versions of what is good or bad about what they experience with their lovers. I hope they take some pointers from my generation and talk about it; it would be sad if they couldn’t voice these joys and worries to people close to them.

Linda claims women her age who are in newer relationships are more open about sex than those who have been married for decades. Pictured; Linda and her partner 

I find that women of my age who are in newer relationships are more open about sex than those who have been married for many decades, though we all love to rake over our past exploits once we’ve had a glass or two of wine.

Having embarked so enthusiastically on our sex lives, starting — in many cases — in our teens, we have a lot of tales to tell. Some of them hilarious, some excruciating.

But we wise (call us wizened if you must) women also recognise that at every stage of life there can be a lot of pain associated with sexual relationships which, if ignored, can lead to misunderstanding, misery and relationship breakdown.

So let’s consider it our duty to keep the sexual conversation open. My extended family of nieces and nephews — and even my son — have got used to me expounding on such matters. But if they catch wind of something I’ve written or heard me discuss on the radio, I come in for merciless teasing and rolling of the eyes.

Kids don’t want to know that their ageing parents are still sexual beings. Tough. We’ll not zip up our mouths along with the purses that holds our free bus passes.

More than half a century on from when my generation first talked openly about sex, we are still reaping the benefits. To keep schtum and carry on in silence would make a mockery of that great leap forward for female pleasure.

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