I am a Baby Boomer, a moniker for those born between 1945 and 1965. As such, I’ve lived through some pivotal changes in regard to my gender’s equality under law. How’s this for a shocking bit of trivia? It wasn’t until 1968 that women were finally eligible to sit on juries in Mississippi! But this post isn’t about women’s social progress or legal recognitions. It’s about my generation’s sexual evolution.
Born in 1956, I was too young for the counter culture/free love movement of the 60s. Nonetheless, I was a definite beneficiary of one the revolution’s most life-changing repercussions—specifically, a little som’ em som’ em called “oral contraception.”
Here’s a little history on THE PILL. While the first oral contraception was approved by the FDA in 1960, it took a literal federal case in 1965 (when the Supreme Court overruled an archaic 1870’s law called the Comstock Act) before married couples were given the right to use birth control. It took another 7 years before yet another damn Supreme Court case (Baird vs. Eisenstadt) legalized birth control for all citizens irrespective of marital status. Other countries lagged even more. (1970 for Italy and 1980 for Iceland) Interestingly, however, behind the dreaded Iron Curtain of Communism and oppression, the Soviet Union made the Pill readily available to women in order to “facilitate social equality between men and women.” Hold that thought.
So what the hell took so long in the supposed “free world?” In a nut shell (no pun intended) sexual moralities, traditional mores and societal attitudes had to change. Social acceptance of birth control required the separation of sexual activity from procreation—a highly controversial subject, to say the least. You see, birth control, i.e. THE PILL, did far more than permit a woman to control her reproduction. For the first time in the course of human history, a woman could have sexual intercourse as she desired (gasp!) without the risk of pregnancy! No longer was she reliant upon the man to wrap it up or pull it out. (neither effect measures, BTW). In other words—sexual freedom to f**k just like a man. Oh, happy day! Right? Wrong. Puritan, Victorian, backward, dumbass (take your pick of applicable quantifiers) attitudes to sex were—to put it mildly—reluctant to embrace the idea. Convinced the Pill encouraged promiscuity and “free love,” the powers that were (old white men, same then as now) passed laws controlling its availability. (Lest you think ancient history, know the debate about making sex education, condoms and other birth control measures available to minors remains a hot button topic. But that’s a soapbox for another day.) Back to the Pill . . . In 1974 family planning clinics were finally and legally allowed to prescribe and dispense oral contraception to single women—regardless of age and absent parental consent.
I am proud to say I was there. In a Planned Parenthood clinic in April of 1974, to be exact. I was a senior in high school, a 17 ½-year-old-trailblazer—only I didn’t know it at the time. But I was among that first generation of women able to enjoy ABSOLUTE control—not only over her reproductive rights, but of her sex life—on her own terms. (BTW, mine was also the first generation to go to college, get married and then have a full-time career while being a full-time wife and mother. And FYI, back in that day there was little to no paid maternity leave and very few husbands changed diapers or did middle of the night feedings. But such is progress—thank God!)
Now 61, I am ironically poised yet again on the cusp of treading new sexual ground. But first I need to backtrack.
Last month I received an email from a woman in the UK. She’s the product manager or such for a company that manufactures, among other products . . . are you ready for this? . . . vibrators. (gasp!) Somehow she had come across this blog (thank you, world of the world wide web) and noted that I was one who wrote rather openly about the subject of sex and women over 60. Since market analysis had determined this was a widely under-targeted and untapped demographic, her job was to explore it, I guess. She asked if I would be interested in posting a link on my site to a tasteful ad about their complete product line geared to older women. (It was tasteful. I looked at it.) At first I laughed, visualizing how mortified my sons would be should their mother become, not only the face of sex after 60, but of vibrators, lubricants and sex toys! But then the inner rebel, hippie chick, sexual trailblazer I was reared.
I have always loved the shock value of dispelling preconceptions. Why the hell not? I asked myself. Who am I worried about offending at this point in my life? One of the best things about being 61 is that I truly don’t give a rat’s ass about what people think. I am who, what and how I am. And at my age this leopard isn’t going to be changing her spots. (Adding age ones, for sure, but not changing them!)
We are the first generation of women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond willing to admit we are still sexually active. Ask AARP. They will tell you sixty is the new sexy. In several posts I have already intimated toward the subject. We all know what is meant by a reference to “the nightstand drawer.” So who are we fooling? Seriously! We know the need, desire or practice doesn’t suddenly die at 60. And just why the hell is it such a touchy, indelicate, shocking and taboo subject? Walk around most European cities and you’ll see the damn things in the front window. But here in the ole good U S of A, we rely on euphemisms. On the shelves of Walmart, Kroger, CVS, Safeway, Target, they are labeled “personal massagers.” Really? Am I the only one who knows what they are meant to massage? Call it like it is. Vibrator. Vibrator. Vibrator. Who the f**k cares? And who the f**k gets to judge?
Here’s a little interesting history on the subject of vibrators. Their first documented use was in a Paris hospital in 1878. Magazine ads in 1899 offered them as a cure for “neuralgia, headaches and wrinkles.” A 1908 National Home Journal ad for the Bebout hand-powered mechanical vibrator touted its “gentle, soothing, invigorating and refreshing” properties. A tag line declared it was “invented by a woman who knows a woman’s needs.” Hello?
In truth, the vibrator was invented by a man. In the late 19th century it was used as a medical instrument for pain relief and the treatment of a wide variety of ailments in men and women both. Rachel Maines, the author of a book called The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction goes into deeper historical detail. She maintains that from the time of Hippocrates on, “massaging female patients to orgasm” was a standard medical practice for the treatment of “female hysteria.” According to her research (BTW, her book has won multiple awards) “doctors loathed the time-consuming procedure” and so they, after the vibrator’s invention, happily substituted the device. Ironically—or amusingly, depending on one’s point of view—she says the practice “was not seen as sexual because of the lack of penetration.” Regardless, from 1900 into the 1920s, vibrators were widely marketed in mainstream magazines for home use for health and beauty benefits. Then, when their appearance in pornography apparently made it no longer tenable for mainstream society to ignore the sexual aspect and connotations of the device, the ads disappeared. So, too, the “device” itself—until it reemerged in the 1960s due to the sexual revolution. Now here’s some really interesting trivia. Until recently many southern and Great Plains states were able to ban the sale of vibrators completely as “obscene devices” by enforcing public moral codes that restricted private intimate conduct. In Alabama it is still illegal to sell them to anyone without a doctor’s note. (FYI, in India, the possession and sale of vibrators is still illegal.)
According to a 2009 Journal of Sound Medicine article, there are 15 different kinds of vibrators (who knew?), including one that uses Bluetooth connection. Seriously??!! BTW, the same article reports that 53% of US women aged 18-60 have used a vibrator. So what the eff happens after 60?!? I guess no one knows ‘cause no one has asked. So I’m telling.
The sexual revolution of the 1960s gave my generation of women choices previous generations couldn’t have imagined. It should be a natural progression we continue to carry the torch and more openly address subjects previously taboo “in polite company.” So here goes . . . Yes. I am 61. And yes I am a grandmother—but I am not the grandmother of my grandmother’s generation—or my mother’s. I still wear make-up, my hair long and high heels. I am not invisible. Neither in appearance nor attitude. And here’s the shocker (or not—if you are a regular reader) I still like sex. In fact, in 2017 I enjoyed several months of the best sex of my life. But for the last 5 months I have been celibate. I miss it. I miss the intimacy and the physical contact. But I also miss the release and the feeling of pleasure. Yet I won’t “date” someone I have no attraction toward just in order to have an orgasm. Therefore, since there is no one in the picture or on the horizon, I have 2 choices: Go without or go for it. So, yes, I have a “back massager” in a nightstand drawer.
Today we laugh about Lucy and Ricky’s twin beds. (Like TV audiences in the 50s didn’t know how little Ricky really came to be?) But are those stupid ads for Viagra or Cialis or whatever the f**k (pun intended) the male enhancer is any less ridiculous? Seventy years ago the morality police (or someone) wanted society to believe husbands and wives didn’t sleep in the same bed. Today it’s the notion that if a man and woman over 50 do “it,” it’s by sitting in respective claw-footed bathtubs and holding hands over the rim? I don’t think so. In fact, I know so.
The first generation of women to control their sex lives is alive and kicking and still controlling. Unfortunately, I can’t now find that woman’s email. I hope she sees this and gets in contact. I will absolutely run her article and supply her link. In the meantime, in a step on the road to open discourse about sex after 60, including toys and lubes, here’s a couple recommendations. The best personal lubricant I’ve ever used was recommended by my doctor during a marital dry spell. Dewdrops, P. O. Box 6350 Scottsdale AZ 85261 www.fillingfantasies.com And if “back massagers” aren’t your thing, Riteaid has a little fit-on-the-finger number they call a “personal massager.”
And contrary to the ads, a claw-footed bathtub is not required.