Sex In Adulthood

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Freud was right: Preschool children have sexual desires. So do 80- and 90-year-old adults. For most people, sex is a lifelong interest and activity. It does not stop with aging, and it does not kill you. Unfortunately, it does not make you live longer, either, but it may make you wish that you could.

I don't know exactly how old I was when I first became aware of sex differences. I must have been fairly young, because I had a mother, a sister, and two grandmothers, and there were several aunts and female cousins around. My first memories of girls were that, unlike boys, they had long hair, wore dresses instead of trousers (pants], played with dolls a lot, were poorer at sports but better at talking than boys, tended to cry when they were hurt or fussed at, and were generally cleaner than boys. (Much of that changed after "women's liberation," but I can still tell the difference about 90% of the time.)

Unlike the sentiments expressed by many other boys my age, I really didn't dislike girls when I was growing up. They were just different. A girl kissed me once in a game of post office, and we subsequently exchanged autographs, but that was pretty much as far as it went. I also helped girls with their homework on occasion, and one of them shared her lunch with me. I suppose it was in junior high that I first became aware of girls in a romantic or sexual sense, but girls my age were so tall that I thought of them as Amazons rather than sex objects.

Having spent quite a bit of time on a farm, as a boy I knew something about the "birds and the bees," or rather the dogs, cats, cows, horses, and pigs. Although much of their information concerning reproduction was grossly inaccurate, my friends talked quite a bit about "doing it," "making out," and assorted sexual aberrations. A few boys also told dirty stories or jokes and used bathroom vocabulary. Because my slightly puritanical parents and grandparents had warned me about the dangers of precocious sexual thoughts and behavior, I mostly limited myself to merely ogling rather than indulging. The girls my age were even more sexually naive than I. The daughter of our elementary school principal brought a package of condoms to class for "Show and Tell," explaining that she had found "these cute little white balloons" in her father's desk drawer, and proceeded to inflate them.

Our junior and senior high schools offered no sex education classes or even marital/premarital advice, and

Sex is more than intercourse. Closeness, touching, hugging, kissing, and petting are an important part of it. Sexual attraction brings people together so they can give and receive affection. "It's not so much how powerful the orgasm is or how many orgasms you have. It's just touching and being together and loving" (Kotre & Hall, 1990, p. 331).

Sex is not just a way of achieving closeness and expressing love and affection. It may also be used to dominate or to exert power over another person, to increase one's self-esteem, to enhance one's feelings of masculinity or femininity, to combat boredom, or to make up after an argument (Neubeck, occasionally a female student became pregnant. If there was any uncertainty concerning the identity of the father,a list of suspects was drawn up and a shotgun wedding of sorts was held in due course. One case provided an occasion for barely suppressed hilarity when the culprit was suspected for a time ofbeing one of the history teachers. Because continued attendance at school would presumably have been embarrassing to both the victim and the institution (as well as playing havoc with the morals of the other students), in such cases the unhappy, expectant mother was banished from school and none ofus ever saw her again. Some of the more wayward and adventurous boys expressed a desire to visit her,but I doubt if it ever happened. I don't remember what social sanctions were applied to the father other than having to marry the expectant mother, but he was certainly not ostracized in the same fashion as she. The double standard was in full force in those days.

Things have certainly changed since these events took place. Not long ago I revisited several members of my high school class. Although time had shrunk the class (but not my classmates), enough ofus remained to engage in some serious reminiscing. After spending a few minutes getting reacquainted, we began talking about the "good old days." Almost everyone agreed that adolescents today have more freedom than we did at their age and that sex has really "come out of the closet." We attributed this change in large measure to Kinsey, Hefner, X-rated movies, and the decade of the sixties. We also agreed that greater freedom has not necessarily been accompanied by greater happiness. Certainly the gender gap is narrower than it was a half-century ago, and for the most part we felt that to be an improvement. However, we also viewed women's liberation and the increased opportunities for both sexes as having come at something of a price. We felt, for example, that for many young people the mystery and romance of sex and sex differences is no longer a part of their lives. It may be that failing memory and a rose-colored reconstruction of the past gave us oldsters a distorted view of how things once were, and that the "good old days" were not nearly as good as they seem in retrospect. As the song goes,perhaps something has been lost but something has also been gained. In any event, despite the depletion of our hormones, most of my surviving classmates were still interested in talking (and dreaming) about sex.

1972). Sex can serve as a means of expressing both the good and the bad, the affectionate and the angry side of human nature. But whatever its underlying motivation may be, sex is a necessary and an extremely interesting part of life.

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