Viagra Vagaries: Old Men Have More Sex, But Old Women May Not MindS

A study has found that older men want — and enjoy — sex more than older women do. But "there is a silver lining for older women having bad or unwanted sex: men tend to die younger than women."

Yes ladies, according to Time's John Cloud, you may not be into the Viagra-fuelled romps, but at least your partner will die soon and quit bothering you! On a more serious note, the study in question appears to indicate that it's men who determine whether older women have sex. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that 67% of men aged 65-75 had had sex in the past year, while only 40% of women that age had. The difference grew starker as respondents got older: 40% of men 75-85 reported sex in the last year, compared to only 17% of women. Married women (the study population almost exclusively identified as heterosexual) aged 57-64 had about the same amount of sex as married men that age, but while 77% of such men said they were interested in sex, only 36% of women were. Two-thirds of men 75 and over were satisfied with their sex lives, while only half of older women were. And while being single was associated with less sex in women over 60 in general, it didn't have the same effect on men.

The research appears to bolster the conventional — and somewhat annoying — wisdom that in relationships, it's men who push for sex. Says study author Dr. Stacy Tessler Lindau, "It may be that women are more likely to have sex for reasons other than fulfilling pleasure - or that they are more interested in giving a partner satisfaction. Maybe they lack the agency, or maybe they feel marital duty, but our paper doesn't provide an explanation." Lindau also notes that while men can receive Viagra for sexual dysfunction, women don't receive comparable treatment. She says,

[T]here's a difference in how we treat women for other diseases that affect their sexual desire. If a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and she has, for example, her breasts removed, and we never counsel her about her sexual function, we start to realize how many years of life she's losing. Not doing those things could mean 10 years of lost sexual activity.

It's also possible that older women, raised in a climate of less openness about sex, are less comfortable than men with talking about their sex lives or admitting to sexual desire. As Cloud notes, the research "is based on self-reported data, and although the authors note that self-reported information about health is usually highly consistent with objective health data, reports of actual sexual activity simply cannot be objectively measured." If it's true that older women are having significantly less sex — and less satisfying sex — than older men, then perhaps we need to pay more attention to a group whose sexuality has been traditionally ignored or denied. Maybe the frequency with which randy older women are pop culture punchlines keeps some women from expressing their true desires?

In an editorial accompanying the research, however, Patricia Goodson mentions something interesting: the study "sheds no light on the intriguing - and still poorly understood - question of why, even though they enjoy fewer years of sexually active life, many women do not perceive this as a 'problem.' " Maybe many women are totally fine with a sexual drop-off as they age. For married women, there remains the issue of satisfying a partner — but since some older men reportedly don't consider penile-vaginal intercourse to be "sex," maybe those guys could get off on making toast or something. And, failing that, there's always death.

Image via YouTube.

Even In Old Age, Men Want Sex More Than Women [Time]
Healthier Men Want More Sex For More Years [CNN]
Men Outlive Women Sexually [LiveScience]
Better Health Associated With More Frequent And Better Quality Sex In Later Life [EurekAlert]
Life Is Shorter For Men, But Sexually Active Life Expectancy Is Longer [EurekAlert]