Does having more sex make you happy? It's not how women in their 60s are expected to behave. George, 68, was a good catch, a retired Sydney lawyer, chatty, charming and well-read. When he first tentatively entered the online dating world three years ago, he was stunned by provocative sexual behaviour from women in his own age group.
From the first meeting some women made their intentions clear. Massaging his crotch whilst standing at the bar ordering their first drink. Rubbing his thigh under the coffee table. Tongue kissing to say a first "hello". Brushing a braless breast repeatedly up against him. Finding an excuse to ask him home and then undressing before the front door had even closed.
He's now in a happy relationship with a somewhat more reticent woman he met online. His experience isn't unusual. The current generation of seniors is no blushing bunch of old fogies ready to hang up their spurs. This is the baby boomer generation which came of age during the sexual revolution so it's hardly surprising that when large numbers found themselves over 50 and unattached, many revelled in new opportunities provided by online dating to leap back into the saddle.
According to the census figures there are about , more unattached women than men aged — about , women compared to , men.
That's a huge pool of older singles and many are enjoying having the internet to bring them together. According to Nielsen research conducted for RSVP most over 50s singles 53 per cent have tried or would consider trying online dating. In the face of this stiff competition, women have become far more active. When RSVP, owned by Fairfax Media, started in males outnumbered females almost two to one — but gradually more women, particularly older women, have joined various sites and are now participating with enthusiasm.
And for some that means not just approaching men but putting the hard word on them when it suits them. I've been working as an online dating coach for the past three years and among my clients are some very lusty women happy to acknowledge that while they are ultimately looking for a relationship they aren't adverse to just a roll in the cot. Chatting in bed has always been much easier than stiffly conversing over a cup of coffee," says Andrea, a year-old Melbourne woman who is revelling in such pleasures after a long sexual hibernation after becoming a widow.
As long as I am up front with myself and my partners, I reckon I can do what feels good and have a ball. No more fears of pregnancy, no more of those crazy messages like 'He'll think you're a slut' or 'He'll think you are too easy'. What a load of rubbish all that was. When one of my older female clients contacts me with glad tidings — she's met a lovely man and giving up dating to enjoy their new relationship — often she gets back in touch some months later to say they are struggling with an erection problem.
That's hardly surprising — with men in their 50s one man in two has some erectile dysfunction. By the 60s the numbers hit 60 per cent, 70 per cent for year-olds. These are big numbers which means that lovemaking in this age group can often be a very bumpy road. Making matters worse is men often don't want to talk about the problem. I've had a number of clients who have gone out for long periods with men who never touched them.
A man may have good reason to take things slowly — an older father who still has youngish children may be just taking care not to get too quickly involved, given the high stakes for his family. There are also older men who just aren't very interested in sex or who believe in waiting until the right person comes along — all sort of possible reasons why a man might not want to rush into a sexual relationship.
But the erection issue looms large for many who prefer to avoid sex altogether than risk having sex and failing. The good thing is there are now very effective treatments available to help a man in this situation but it isn't so easy for a woman to negotiate this with her new lover.
That was never the issue. He was the most generous and skilled lover and you don't need an erection for giving pleasure. But I hated the fact he was feeling a failure and wanted to help him find a solution so he didn't beat himself up over the issue," commented one woman I helped through this difficult phase in their new relationship. So while some older online daters are enjoying all sorts of erotic adventures, many prefer to take it slow.
The RSVP Nielsen research shows online dating is doing a good job helping these over 50s singles connect — 53 per cent report it's led to a short-term relationship or new friendship whilst 12 per cent end up married or in long-term relationships. When to hop into bed The research showed roughly a third of singles over 50 have slept with someone they met online.
A similar proportion typically have sex on the third date but another third wait for five to 10 dates or longer. Eleven per cent have sex on the first date. When couples take it slowly often it is the women putting on the breaks.
George mentions a number of dates who refused a goodnight kiss even after the fourth or fifth date. Another man reports he has had women pronounce that sex was not on the agenda. It's baffling for men meeting so many women who just want to be friends. With research showing large numbers of older women with low sex drive it's hardly surprising that men encountered many women who are only seeking companionship.
But divorced men emerging from often sexless marriages are rightly wary. Women can be equally confused, as this Sydney woman 59 explains: I can't do one night stands because I'm only interested in sex if there is chemistry and if there's that spark it means I will want to see them again.
Sometimes men seem to want you to be prim and proper and so if you have flirted they think that all you want is sex. And then there are men who are all over you like a rash, sucking your tonsils on your very first kiss. It's just not that easy. I've found it works wonders to hint in an older woman's profile that she hasn't shut up shop. There's nothing like a subtle, sexy touch to stand out from the crowd.
For the last year Melbourne physiotherapist Patricia 62 has been doing very well online with her lively, entertaining profile which amongst details of her interesting life mentions the fact she enjoys being "ravished". Yes, she finds it attracts some inappropriate male attention but also the intelligent, respectful, professional men she chooses to date.
She finds that going to bed with someone she doesn't see as a prospective partner is a "hollow experience" so she avoids that. But overall her experience is very positive. It's the age old problem for women — wanting sex to be the start of something wonderful and being bitterly disappointed if it turns out he just wants sex.
But there are many lively boomers handling negotiations over sex with confidence and self-knowledge. Andrea mentions the old Kris Kristofferson lyric — "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. The safe sex issue Don't get too alarmed by all the media stories linking online dating to increased risk of sexually transmitted infections in older women, says one of the top experts in the field.
Online dating has meant older singles are having more sex which has pushed rates of STIs up a little — but that's compared to very low rates in a generation where sex with new partners used to be less common. He points out that some of the worst threats to younger generations don't apply to this age group. Hardly any women over 50 contract chlamydia and there are no risks for fertility for the over 50s.
People who've had herpes for many years are very unlikely to spread it. The HIV, syphilis, or gonorrhoea risk is almost entirely confined to gay or bisexual men or people who've been sexually active in high prevalence countries in parts of Asia, Africa and the Americas.