Self-described “sexpert” and author Dr. Dorree Lynn talks about STDs and other between-the-sheets secrets.
Dr. Dorree Lynn is tough to ignore as she dashes across the ballroom at the National Press Club’s recent Book Fair and Authors’ Night in Washington, D.C.
Clad in red leather, Lynn stands out even in a room with celebs like blockbuster biographer Kitty Kelley and Capt. Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger, who safely glided a stricken US Airways jet onto the Hudson River last year.
The petite powerhouse preaches safe sex and passes out condoms packed in plastic wrappers emblazoned with the cover of her latest book, Sex for Grownups. Pushing 70, Lynn is a practicing psychologist, intimacy expert, and life coach with more than 40 years of experience. She refers to herself gleefully as a “sexpert.”
In an interview with SecondAct, Lynn talks about the state of sex after 50 and how to foster creativity and passion in the second half of life.
SA: Do you always pass out condoms?
DL: Yes, I certainly do — to catch everybody’s attention and get the message across. The next batch will glow in the dark.
SA: Why do you do that?
DL: Because the sex secret of the century is that men and women over 50 have the fastest-growing rate of HIV and STDs in the country, according to a study published in the Journal of Sexually Transmitted Infections and AIDS infoNet.
SA: What is the reason for that?
DL: Not just Viagra, which is what a lot of people think. It’s because most of us have grown up in a generation where we think condoms are for not getting pregnant. Only one in five men and one in four women over 50 use condoms, according to a study by the University if Indiana. Very few people realize that if they’re in the dating scene in any kind of nonmonogamous relationship, they are susceptible to an STD and the HIV virus. The STD virus can be in your system for 12 years or longer without a person even knowing it. It’s a big between-the-sheets secret.
SA: Why is talking about sex after 50 taboo? Aren’t we all more mature than that?
DL: More than 80 million American men and women over 50 are facing a number of very common yet rarely talked about challenges in the bedroom — from low libido to unrealistic expectations, from waning hormones to physical limitations, from repressed desires and fantasies to performance anxiety. This is not common cocktail party chitchat.
SA: How can sex over 50 be better than before?
DL: As hormones wane, sensuality gains. With age, everything slows down, and you can learn new techniques. Sex is a process, not just an end goal. So you have a much greater opportunity for intimacy. We are all old enough to remember the Pointer Sisters singing “Slow Hand”… well, it makes a difference, and that’s what’s needed.
SA: What are some things people will be surprised to learn about sex after 50?
DL: Most people don’t realize that the brain is the biggest sex organ. Romance comes from the brain. Sex becomes, for most, less hormone-driven, more desire-driven. Desire starts in the brain, and that’s physiological. If the brain kicks in, the heart pumps. When the heart pumps, the genitals engorge and intercourse can flow. Better thinking, better sex. Many people get stuck in their twentysomething image and don’t realize that they have to change their attitude. If you think sexy, you are sexy.
SA: Your mantra is “use it or lose it.” How do you keep sex alive?
DL: First, I’m a huge believer in a midweek date night between you and your partner where you get out and romanticize one another a bit. Talk about yourselves, each other, interesting issues — not a leaky roof, not who’s sick, problems with the kids or money concerns. We tend to see each other at the end of the day in our sweats and our nightgowns and our pajamas, none of which is very sexy. Getting dressed up and going out is like courting and romance all over again. Second, location. Get out of the bedroom. There is something wonderful about hotel sex, camping sex, uh, kitchen sex…any kind of new experience. Third, communication. Without authentic communication, relationships tend to die.
SA: Why is adjusting to sex after 50 harder for men?
DL: I may be the only woman in America who believes this. Women go through menopause, so they get a physiological as well a psychological wake-up call. They know that their body has changed, and they have to do something to keep their juices flowing. Men go through men-o-morph. Their hormones and their genital equipment change gradually. Men in our society still do not really talk to each other about feelings or physiological changes. Men get a little more pear-shaped. They develop breasts. They don’t say: “Houston, we’ve got a problem.”
SA: What do you mean when you say, “There is no such thing as a long-time monogamous relationship anymore.”
DL: When I say that, people always catch their breath. That doesn’t mean you have to run out and have an affair. What it does mean is that in a long-time relationship, you have to renegotiate the relationship for whom you and your partner have each grown into and how you’ve changed at specific life junctures. One major transition point is often after kids leave home. Couples tend to look at each other and, to quote your wonderful book, say, “What’s next?” It isn’t that you necessarily have to have an affair or leave your relationship, but you do need to put some effort into getting to know yourself and your partner as you each have become. You can have multiple and new relationships with the same partner.
SA: “Laugh yourself sexy.” Explain that.
DL: Laughter can be a great aphrodisiac and an antidote to what ails you. Physiologically it keeps all the good endorphins going. If you laugh a lot and share activities, you have a pretty good shot of doing well in the bedroom. Exercise is also a great aphrodisiac. Studies show it’s more important than what you eat. Remember to leave stress at the bedroom door…and take your thumb off the channel changer.
SA: What if you’re single? What’s the best way to get back into the dating scene?
DL: Understand that you are a catch just the way you are. You need to get out in the world and have fun doing the things you love — not just going out looking for a marriage proposal. If you like movies, nature, cycling, camping, museums, join a group and get going. I can’t tell you how many marriages I know where the lovers have met in museums. They’re wonderful meeting places because you can pretend to look at the paintings and not obviously be looking for each other.
SA: You have a chapter called the “Great Joy Ride.” Sounds kind of wild.
DL: Adult sex toys are more mainstream than ever. I can tell you people over 50 are buying vibrators, dildos, mutually agreed-upon pornography in a kind of revolution. I say go for anything that is a little bit of a surprise, add spice, change positions, and use sex toys with an adventuresome spirit.
Hometown: Originally from New York City; now Washington, D.C., and Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Personal: Married to Isaac. Two grown children; two grandchildren
Education: Ph.D., American University
Interests: yoga, Pilates, reading, theater, travel
Books: co-author of Sex for Grownups: Dr. Dorree Reveals the Truth, Lies and Must-Tries for Great Sex after 50 (2010); co-author of When the Man You Love is Ill: Doing Your Best for Your Partner Without Losing Yourself (2007)