Sex in Your Vintage Years
( Originally Published 1956 )
"MAYBE I've been a fool," said Myron Kaufman, "to get myself mixed up in this. But what's a man going to do when his wife treats him like an intruder in his own home?"
Myron didn't have to explain further. He was involved in a triangle, and was experiencing all the guilt feelings and fears of discovery that accompany such a position. A hand-some man in his late forties, Myron was a well-known and successful photographer.
"Understand," he went on, "I loved Rose when we were married—but that was twenty years ago. Do you know what twenty years can do to a woman?"
"It depends," I said, "a lot on the woman, and the care she takes of herself. The years can be kind—or cruel."
"I am a photographer," he said, "and beautiful women are part of my business. When I leave my work and go home to a careless, slovenly wife the comparison hurts. I tried not to let it make any difference between Rose and me, but I got so it was impossible to respond to her advances. Finally she transferred all her affection to the children, and began treating me like an outsider."
How much of Myron's complaint was fact? How much was a rationalization of his own conduct? I didn't know yet. But if we can avoid the moral judgments and the prejudices of society, it's easier to understand the pattern of a man's behavior.
Each year some 150,000 men over forty are divorced by their wives because of extramarital involvements. The men themselves seldom seek a divorce. It's the wife who finds out, becomes outraged, indignant, or vengeful just at the time when her husband needs help and understanding.
"So," I said, "you've fallen in love with another woman."
"How could I help it?" he asked. "Sylvia is a model. Beautiful, immaculate, exciting—all the things I admire in a woman. Of course I don't want to hurt my wife--"
"And you wouldn't want to give up your children?" I asked.
"Certainly not!" he said. "Those children mean everything to me. But for several years the sight of young lovers has de-pressed me and made me feel nostalgic. I just want to find a little happiness in life before it's too late."
"Myron," I said, "you're going through your emotional second adolescence. You're having a middle-aged rebellion —revolting against biology and your own inner make-up, seeking another woman who will satisfy you. You're experiencing convulsions of waning youth, and you've brought these on yourself by your state of mind."
"But there's nothing left between Rose and me," he said. "She doesn't understand me. Maybe she never has."
"And you keep telling yourself, `It's later than you think,' " I said, "worrying because you believe you're on the down-grade.
"That's what I'm afraid of," he admitted.
"It's hard for a man to realize," I said, "that what he's going through is only a normal process of slow aging. It isn't something that affects your organs as swiftly and finally as a woman's menopause. You aggravate all your own symptoms be-cause of your psychological reaction to the first signs of decreased potency."
"That's why I'm so disturbed," Myron replied. "But surely with a lovely, desirable girl I can become potent again."
"A decrease in potency," I said, "may be accompanied by the normal decrease in libido, or sex urge. But there may be an increased libido. Anyway, you become alarmed. If your libido is normal and your potency has decreased, your male ego is hurt. Isn't it only natural that you're not as virile as you used to be when you were younger?"
"If my sex desire has decreased," Myron said, defensively, "it's not my fault. My wife. "
"Most men blame it on their wives," I pointed out, "because they're hurt to find their desire for sex isn't as great as it used to be. Many a man has embarrassed himself when his desire was aroused by a young, attractive woman only to have his decreased potency put him on the spot. When your male ego is hurt in such ways you become disturbed, and this often results in an inferiority complex."
"I have thought," admitted Myron, "that perhaps I was becoming neurotic. Sylvia had an unhappy marriage with a sadistic husband. She told me that her life has been a bed of neuroses. I'm a sensitive person, and these stories of her past affect me."
"In a neurotic state of mind," I said, "you naturally attract a neurotic of the opposite sex. You're in a vicious cycle of nervousness, jealousy—and profound psychological imbalance. Any stable woman would avoid the problems that would arise out of a relationship with you. Do you honestly believe it would make you happier to trade in your older wife for a younger, more attractive woman?"
"With Sylvia," said Myron, "I feel young again . . . except when she's morbid. I can't be happy with anyone when I'm worried and anxious."
"Of course you can't," I said. "The anxiety state of adultery —apprehension, fear of being dragged into court, the degrading effects of lying all this weighs you down. It's difficult to face the truth that sex isn't the mainspring of human personality. In your case it's a relatively little spring jumping all over the box. And what about Sylvia? Do you think she's stable enough to be the companion you'd like to have in your old age?"
"I hadn't thought of that," Myron answered slowly. "I need her now so desperately. But a man does want somebody to grow old with him."
With advancing years sexual needs and desires do not undergo an abrupt change. The capacity for reproduction, which is dependent on the continued elaboration of healthy spermatozoa, ebbs more rapidly than does the sexual drive itself. There is no abrupt climacterium in a man, unless disease or an operation has destroyed his testicles. Some men are still fertile in their eighties, with sexual desire and capacity as well.
In sex prowess, as in other aspects of youthfulness, some men are old at fifty-five. Others are young at eighty. Sex organs, like hearts, vary in rate of degeneration. At the age of eighty-two Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes is reported to have said, "Whenever I see a pretty girl, I wish I were eighty again."
When the famed philosopher John Dewey was ninety, a young teacher told him, "I hope I'll be present to celebrate your one hundredth birthday."
"Why not?" asked Dewey. "You look healthy enough to last until then."
While a woman will shift from full activity to complete cessation within two or three years, there are few men who experience any awareness of the changes which are closing out the reproductive part of their life. The male climacteric should represent a gradual decline over a period of ten to fifteen years.
After the age of fifty most men experience a gradual reduction of sexual vigor and potency. How soon a man becomes impotent or finds his sex drive tapering off depends on both psychological and physiological factors. The tragedy of the male climacteric is that it often coincides with the menopause of the man's younger wife.
Impotency at a younger age may be functional. Your machinery may be in good order, your tests may show that you are normal, but fatigue and anxiety may have caused temporary impotence.
Decreased potency is normal after fifty. But the hot and cold flushes, the rapid heartbeat, dizziness, headaches, excessive perspiration, numbness and tingling in the fingers and toes, are not. They may be functional, too.
Intense nervousness and a feeling of tension are common symptoms. Excessive excitement or fatigue at this time accentuates that tension. You become easily angered—irritable at the office and unreasonable at home.
Here is the danger in the symptoms you may have at this time: your heart palpitations and shortness of breath may be put down to the climacteric, when in fact real heart disease exists. On the other hand, your stomach disorders, or abdominal distention or gas after meals may be diagnosed as ulcers. You may sleep poorly, get up exhausted, and consequently experience headaches and chronic fatigue.
Your work will probably suffer from this decline in mental and physical energy. The result may be a decreased ability to remember, a difficulty in concentration—or even mental con-fusion. These effects develop a feeling of inadequacy or in-competency in you to the extent that you may be unable to carry on your former activities or to engage in new duties. Your sudden mood changes—anger, depression, or even actual tantrums—may endanger your health as well as your job.
As you grow older it's natural to slow down physically and mentally. How much of this decline is due specifically to a loss of sex hormones and how much to the aging process as a whole, in which the tissue of the whole body slowly changes, is difficult to determine. Just being overweight will cause you to lose zest and tire more easily. It will also lessen your interest in a sex experience. You can blame a dozen other minor inconveniences on nothing else but old Father Time: some shortness of breath on exertion, a loss in your muscular strength, and a loss in physical stamina.
If your mental and physical health is good there shouldn't be any startling collapse in your sex prowess. The transition should be as gradual as losing the hotheadedness of youth. The man of sixty should find his sex desires less demanding, and the intervals between enjoyment may become longer, but the satisfaction may be unchanged or even increased. If you are wise enough to accept the adjustments that the years impose, you may continue to be both potent and fertile far into old age.
Doctors find that the most frequent and bitter complaints of impotence come, not from the men who are going through the male climacteric, but from those in their twenties, thirties, or forties.
An amazing number of physically healthy young and middle-aged men are impotent as a result of crippling psychological influences. These men have depleted their nervous energy through the strains of competition and the tensions of modern business life through overwork and financial anxiety.
More often than not, a wife's rival is her husband's job—and not another woman!
How can a man work hard all day, have a business conference at dinner, take a brief case to bed with him, and expect to enjoy his wife at the same time?
Do you wonder why your wife becomes sexually frustrated? Why she nags at you? The chances are that she doesn't know about the male climacteric, and your pride won't permit you to tell her. So she becomes more impatient with you. Without the constant reweaving of the sexual bond, you drift farther apart. She focuses her love and affection on the children. You feel like a stranger in the house. Nobody understands or appreciates you.
You don't sleep well. You lose your appetite, and that's particularly bad, because what you eat—and what you don't eat—affect your sex performance. The same foods that aid in maintaining good health, youthfulness, sexual vigor, and consistent virility will also help you in dispensing with the troublesome symptoms and anxieties of your climacteric.
The male reproductive system consists of those organs which form the spermatozoa, or sex cells, and of a passageway and accessory structures that facilitate the entrance of the male sex cells into the female. The organs elaborate hormonal secretions as well, and these secretions are responsible for many of the characteristics we associate with the male 'of the species. The male sex organs, although important in the social life of the individual, are not essential for existence.
The testes play a dual role. They are necessary for reproduction and responsible for the maintenance of male characteristics during youth and middle age. These organs are about the size of a small hen's egg: smooth, white, oval, and rubbery.
Ordinarily they lie in the scrotum, a thin-walled sac with two compartments.
The deep voice, the beard, the male distribution of body hair, the size and healthy functioning of the reproductive organs, come from the complex chemical testosterone, a male sex hormone.
No erection can take place without nervous stimulation, since erection occurs when nerves stimulate the walls of the multitudinous blood vessels in the penis; it is not a matter of muscles. The mechanism is activated by nerves from the sacral portion of the spinal cord. Stimulation arises from local congestion, from local reaction, or even from the higher brain centers. In any discussion of potency it should be re-membered that thought, emotion, sights, smells, memory, and many other types of erotic stimuli are involved in sex activity.
For reproduction there must be healthy sex organs, proper nervous response, and mature, motile spermatozoa. A man is infertile or sterile if the ability to produce and emit normal spermatozoa is lost. He is impotent when he is unable to have an erection and coitus.
It is possible for you to be impotent, but fertile. It's also possible for you to be potent—but sterile. For your wife to conceive, you must produce 125 million sperm.
More than half the sterile marriages in the United States are due to infertility or subnormal fertility in the male. Much of this is caused by malnutrition, which interferes with the man's ability to produce healthy, viable spermatozoa.
A starving man, whether he is a prosperous businessman with no knowledge of adequate nutrition or a poverty-stricken war victim, experiences deterioration in body tissue.
Your sex organs are the first to deteriorate.
Other causes—and lasting ones!—of the regression of testicular tubules or inhibition of sperm formation are disease, exposure to radiation, and alcoholism.
"How's your appetite?" I asked Myron.
"You mean for food?" he wanted to know.
"Of course!" I replied. "Your sexual vigor is so closely related to your total vitality that what you eat directly influences your sex performance."
"I didn't know that," said Myron, "or I'd certainly never have been so careless about what I eat."
"You can't expect to keep up sexual vigor," I went on, "without sufficient nutrients to manufacture the spermatozoa. Under a prolonged deficiency of vitamin E, the male germ cells degenerate and can't be renewed. That's how important food is!"
"What should I do," asked Myron, "about my eating habits?"
"First," I said, "put yourself on a high-protein diet. Spermatozoa are composed almost wholly of protein—and you can't manufacture protein in a body that's fed insufficient protein. Then, you must have enough calcium in your diet to be sure that your protein will be used to keep you potent."
In a famous experiment conducted with laboratory animals, a group of scientists found that rats fed a high-protein diet without milk fared miserably in sexual potency compared with another set of rats whose high-protein diet included milk.
Calcium is a vital factor in a diet to strengthen sexual vigor, but the proportion of calcium to protein must be maintained.
"I remember," said Myron, "that you get calcium in milk. And I never touch the stuff! Haven't since I was a baby."
"Since you don't drink milk," I said, "you should be extra careful to use a good vitamin-and-mineral supplement each and every day without fail! Your vigor depends on the amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals you consume. Each of the minerals is necessary for a host of body functions, but all the minerals known to be present in the body are important contributors to your total vitality and sexual virility. Science is proving that the smaller the normal quantity of a particular mineral in the body, the more necessary it is for proper amount of the mineral to be maintained."
Your body is only four hundred-thousandths part iodine. Yet without this iodine, your thyroid gland cannot function properly, and serious illness or even death may result. Your body is only four-thousandths part iron; but without this element, you suffer from anemia. Manganese is another indispensable trace mineral. The cobalt and zinc factors in your body may be too tiny to be measured; yet these two minerals are necessary for good nutrition and for your total vitality and sexual vigor.
The normal healthy body needs a daily supply of all minerals to replace those you lose just in the process of being a live and functioning human being. Sexual vigor is found only in a healthy body which is constantly supplied with the basic nutriments.
The safest, most reliable method of stimulating waning vigor—or of maintaining it at a satisfactory level—is to eat your way to health.
In addition to the daily use of good vitamin-and-mineral concentrates, give the following foods high priority at meal-time and also, when it is necessary, in the educated snack between meals: lean meat, fish, milk, cheese, sunflower seeds, whole-wheat bread (if any!), yellow and leafy-green vegetables, citrus fruits, and honey. As far as possible, avoid sugar, desserts, fatty foods, and the starches of white bread, macaroni, and potatoes. The foods on the latter list add nothing to your potency and fertility, and are in many ways detrimental to your health.
Actually, there is no time limit on sex.
According to Dr. Edmund Bergler, sexual activity stabilizes itself on a moderate level during the late thirties or early forties, and remains more or less unchanged until the late sixties or early seventies if there is no organic disease.
Prostate trouble is the physical condition that can interfere most with your sex life. Twenty-five per cent of men between the ages of twenty and forty experience prostatic difficulties. Sixty-five per cent of men past fifty have enlargement of the prostate. For your physical, emotional, and sexual well-being you should be fully informed on this subject. Yet most men know little or nothing about it.
Disturbances of the prostate can be prevented or corrected by the daily use of lecithin. Another potent argument for its regular use by all men!
Although it's no bigger than a horse chestnut, the prostate gland has one of the most strategic locations in the male body. It fits like a collar around the neck of the bladder, thus being in a position to choke off the outflow of urine by just minute alterations in its size.
Since it's impossible to live without the elimination of waste products through the filtering system formed by the kidneys and urinary tract, the prostate gland is in a position to jeopardize life by a slight abnormality.
The prostate is necessary for reproduction. It manufactures a secretion which gives motility to the spermatozoa. Without a healthy prostatic secretion, the sperm cells cannot move. By the contraction of its smooth muscles, the prostate ejects its usually akaline secretion into the urethra at the climax of the sexual act.
Hundreds of tiny glands held together by a firm, fibrous sheath form the prostate. It is so encapsulated that, during an operation, it can usually be shelled out like an outsize pea popping out of a pod. In a boy the prostate consists only of a thin layer of immature glands grouped around the urethra; a continuous and adequate supply of the male hormone causes it to develop.
The first disturbance you may have in your prostate is congestion. Through sexual irregularity this can occur in a man as young as twenty-five. Irregularities which contribute to prostate difficulties include overindulgencee, underindulgence, or long periods of sexual excitation. The unsatisfactory practice of coitus interruptus will invariably result in a congested prostate. Petting will ultimately provoke functional irritation of the prostate.
The following symptoms may develop after weeks or months of irritation: (1) urgency or frequency of urination, (2) constant discomfort in the bladder region, which is in the lower part of the abdomen, (3) loss of control over the bladder, (4) a urethral discharge, (5) burning or discomfort while urinating, and (6) inability to have satisfactory intercourse.
It is not uncommon for young men to experience prostatic congestion. The cause must be recognized and removed, naturally, before relief is obtained. But the removal of the cause, together with simple, conservative treatment by hot sitz baths and gentle prostatic massage, can bring prompt relief to simple congestion of this gland.
Inflammation of the prostate resulting from the fact that bacteria of the lower bowel have found their way through the rectal wall and into the prostate gland during periods of constipation can also be relieved. Clear up the constipated condition and the gland can soon be restored to normal.
In advanced age continued irritations provoke more serious complications. The prostate, like other body organs, undergoes changes as a result of disease, stress, and advancing age. After fifty begin to watch for signs of prostate trouble. Sixty-five per cent of men past fifty develop prostate enlargements, and 20 per cent of these become malignant.
"I've worried about prostate difficulties," said Myron, "ever since a friend of mine had some trouble. He noticed that a few drops of blood appeared at the end of his urination. He hurried to his doctor, but there was no evidence of a malignant tumor."
"In a case like that," I said, "your friend should have a checkup every three months."
"That's what the doctor told him," said Myron. "And after several months Bob told me that the doctor had found a little, suspicious nodule in his rectum. Still, nothing was done about it. The doctor just told Bob to come back for a checkup more often."
"The reason," I said, "is that the prostate operation is a serious one. Your friend's urologist probably wanted to defer operation until he was sure there was some progression. There's always the possibility of stirring up trouble and sending some of the cancer cells from the prostate into some re-mote region. Cancer of the prostate is slow-growing, so the patient often has a chance to advance into old age with very little prostatic difficulty. Until the beginning of the twentieth century victims of prostatic enlargement were offered little help. Since then great advances have been made in the medical and surgical treatment of this gland."
"What's the best way to prevent prostate trouble?" asked Myron.
"Leading a normal, moral, hygienic life," I said. "Do not engage in the harmful practice of coitus interruptus. Eliminate any foci of infection, in the teeth or tonsils for instance, which might inflame the prostate. Increasing your daily in-take of fluids to avoid constipation is desirable. Drink each day at least ten glasses of water and fruit juices, and eat plenty of high-protein foods: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, milk, and seed cereals, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Supplement this diet with a vitamin-and-mineral concentrate. Don't overlook the daily use of lecithin. A poor diet causes constipation, which irritates the prostate. Alcohol causes the same irritation by upsetting the body chemistry."
"A normal, moral life," said Myron, "isn't so easy to lead in my business."
"You've distinguished yourself in your work, Myron," I replied, "and you want to live to enjoy that success. You don't want to pay in impotency and prostate trouble for the punishment given your body. You can be virile for many years after your chronological age pronounces you a senior citizen. Man is the pioneer, the warrior, the great inventor, and he can be the great lover, too—but only if he recognizes the enemies, both physical and psychological, of his virility."
"Sylvia," he said slowly, "is exciting, but she does put a man under a strain. And as a companion to grow old with, she'd be a total loss. I'm afraid I got into the habit of looking at my wife as somebody that I'd outgrown—instead of a human being, with frustrations, needs, and desires of her own."
"Lots of men do," I said, "and not all of them are wise enough to realize it."
Myron got up, walked over to the window, and looked out into the early twilight.
"I was just trying to think of his name," he said.
"Whose name?" I asked.
"The name of the man," he said, "who wrote, `May there be just enough clouds in your sky to make a beautiful sun-set.' "