Sexuality and Sexual Orientation:
Adjustments to Aging
Kelly B. Kyes
As a sex educator, I have found that one of the most predictable ways to generate a reaction of discomfort in my students has been to ask them to imagine their parents or even their grandparents engaged in sexual activity. This reaction seems typical of college students ( Pocs & Godaw 1977). The reason seems to be that our youth-oriented society has reinforced the belief that old people are not interested in sex. Little has been done to contradict the belief. We see older people in commercials advertising vitamins, laxatives, and incontinence undergarments. We rarely see them in advertisements for products intended to enhance sex appeal, such as cosmetics or cologne. We also receive many messages that tell us "young and smooth is beautiful; old, wrinkled and gray is ugly." The abundance of moisturizers, hair dyes, and other products designed to help us look younger reinforces these messages. These messages, combined with the reluctance to talk about sexuality in general, lead many to assume that older people are not interested in sex because they are sick, tired, and unattractive. If they are believed to be sexually active, they may be perceived as abnormal ( La Torre & Kear 1977).
For many years, research on sexuality in the elderly gave evidence that supported the belief that the aged are not interested in sex. Kinsey, Pomeroy, and