The Sex Issue

Now before you young and tender readers run for the exits screaming EEEWWWWWWW all the way, let me reassure you that this blogpost is not going to mention anything about the sex lives of senior citizens. Not one disconcerting whisper. I will only say that if you pass Grandma and Grandpa’s closed bedroom door and hear moaning, it is more likely to be a flareup of arthritis than anything else you might imagine.

But as an academic subject, sex has proven to be a perpetually interesting topic to members of nearly all age groups. In fact, the havoc the passage of time wreaks on the body’s hormones does not necessarily make the viewpoint of an elder citizen less valuable when it comes to sex. In fact, it may be even more so, having been cleansed of much the foolishness, blind romanticism, heavy breathing, and general mindlessness that often accompanies the sexual encounters of younger generations.

But here is an odd truth. As long as an aging man has at least one eye that is still working, and the two halves of his brain can communicate with one another in at least a rudimentary fashion, he may forget his age when rounding a corner and coming upon a comely lass in a well-fitted outfit. At that point the body leaps way ahead of the brain and the senior suddenly wonders if his hair looks okay and if he’s remembered to zip up after the last trip to the men’s room. His posture improves and what he fancies to be a provocative smile begins to play at the corners of his mouth.

All the while this reflexive mental primping is put into play by the older dude, the sweet young thing regards him with the interest she might show in a deceased woodchuck at the natural history museum. At some point the elder realizes this and slinks away to nurse his wounded pride, hoping that he hasn’t made too big of an ass of himself this time.

No, friends, there are very few periods in our lives where sex leaves us completely alone. Where it lets us be. Even dementia patients who don’t know who they are any longer will sometimes go through a hypersexualized stage where they begin fantasizing about that good looking nurse on the evening shift, and start leaving one or two buttons open on their pajama top, to catch the wandering eye … .


A good example is the film The Blue Angel, from 1930. A stuffy and pedantic older professor in Germany becomes completely undone when his head is enveloped in a cloud of lust encouraged by a young Marlene Dietrich. Loss of job? Piffle. Loss of reputation? Who gives a pfennig? Family? Who are those people to me, anyway?


He plunges blindly ahead while Ms. Dietrich spends much of the movie showing us how one-sided this infatuation really is. It’s a morality play set up to show two things. One is that there is no fool like an old fool. The other is that one’s organs of procreation are not to be depended upon to provide good leadership.


From The New Yorker


There is an abundance of music that deals with today’s subject, if not by name at least by innuendo. One that comes right out and says it is an album entitled Sex, by The Necks. I purchased the album during the monastic period that followed my divorce, and was deeply disappointed when I got home and found that it wasn’t one of those slightly shady DVDs at all, but a Compact Disc containing 56 minutes of instrumental jazz. (A lot of my thinking during that same period could be described as fuzzy). For some reason, I did not sail the CD right out the window in frustration, but kept it and added it to my collection.

The Necks are an Australian avant-garde jazz trio formed in 1987 by founding mainstays Chris Abrahams on piano and Hammond organ, Tony Buck on drums, percussion and electric guitar, and Lloyd Swanton on bass guitar and double bass. They play improvisational  pieces of up to an hour in length that explore the development and demise of repeating musical figures.

The group issued their debut album, Sex, on the Spiral Scratch label in 1989. It consists of a single track of the same name, which is just under an hour long. Couture noticed that “The difference between Sex and the many other CDs they would record afterwards is the purity: The trio’s hypnotic repetitive piece relies only on piano, bass, and drums; no electronics, extra keyboards, samples, or lengthy introduction.”

The Necks, Wikipedia

No matter, here it is all these years later, as if it was meant to be brought out on just this occasion …

Sex, by The Necks


Some Random Quotations Dealing With Today’s Subject Matter

I remember the first time I had sex – I kept the receipt.

Groucho Marx

I thank God I was raised Catholic, so sex will always be dirty.

Roger Waters

I have an idea that the phrase ‘weaker sex’ was coined by some woman to disarm the man she was preparing to overwhelm.

Ogden Nash

There is nothing safe about sex. There never will be.

Norman Mailer

Don’t bother discussing sex with small children. They rarely have anything to add.

Fran Lebowitz

My wife wants sex in the back of the car and she wants me to drive.

Rodney Dangerfield


From The New Yorker


I think that’s enough for now, about sex, that is. How about we move on to ghost surgery? This is where once the patient is put to sleep the surgeon may turn the operation over to a less qualified person. Apparently this is happening often enough in Korea that video cams are being installed in operating suites all over that country to keep things on the up and up. I think this might be interpreted by the physicians using those hospitals as a lack of trust, don’t you?

But on reflection, I may have been the victim of this unscrupulous practice myself. When I was about to retire from clinical practice, I decided to attend to some medical issues of my own, and have those hernia surgeries that I had been putting off. I turned out to have three of these mildly annoying conditions, and the surgeon planned to repair all three at one sitting (or one lying-down, as in my case).

They were to be done under local anesthesia, but of course I was given a drug that took me to la-la land and I have no recollection of the proceedings. It was when the dressings came off that I noticed that not everything was as it should have been. My navel was now off from the midline about one centimeter to the left. Prior to surgery, it had been where navels are supposed to be, center stage. I chose not to make an issue of the matter, and did not take it up with my surgeon. But it did have an effect on my life … you may have noticed that I never wear a crop-top.

But after reading the article in the Times, I now wonder … was my surgery ghosted? Perhaps the doctor came in after an all-nighter and called the janitor over to ask: “Hey Walter, would you like to do an operation? It’s easy … here … let me show you.” And when the personnel substitution had been made, the surgeon went off to take a needed nap.

It would explain so many things.


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