November 13, 2011

INDIA: Where's the Kama Sutra for the Elderly?

MUMBAI, Maharashtra / Daily News & Analysis / Lifestyle / November 13, 2011


We need to set up sex-coaching classes for the benefit of senior citizens who have taken retirement from such activity and tend to mistake enforced celibacy for spiritual pursuit, writes Dilip Raote

By Dilip Raote

My favourite sexually active senior is French writer Victor Hugo. He was so prolific that he was called ‘Nine-times-a-night’ Hugo.

When he was in his 80s and making love to a housemaid, his grandson walked in. Hugo greeted him and said, “That’s what they call genius.”

Hugo was popular with the prostitutes of Paris. When he died the government gave the prostitutes a paid holiday so that they could attend his funeral. When Hugo was so busy horizontally, how did he get time to sit erect and write his many books? Hugo has given me aspirations for my 80s. I hope I have a grandson by then.

Not all seniors are so active, of course. One asked for 12 condoms at a pharmacy. The pharmacist was curious. “Why 12?” he said. The customer said, “One for January, one for February, one for ….” Another complained to his doctor that when he had sex he felt very hot or very cold. “Before you answer him, doctor,” the patient’s wife intervened, “let me tell you that we have sex once in May and once in December.”

Doing it still
Poor women! How bored they must be. The men would be so dull, so devoid of mischief and laughter that lead to a hug and kiss … and Ooh! Aaaah! The men would definitely be couch potatoes watching cricket on TV. Or blah-blahing about the good old days, like George Bernard Shaw. Shaw was once entertaining a guest with witty anecdotes. Shaw’s wife was sitting nearby and knitting. When Shaw left the room for a moment, the guest asked Mrs Shaw what she was knitting. “Nothing,” she said. “If I didn’t keep my hands busy I would strangle him. I have heard all those stories at least 500 times.”

Then there are women who are so cold they put their husbands in deep freeze. If they are not enterprising enough to have affairs, the husbands descend into compulsory celibacy and call it spiritual pursuit. So there are lots of lewd monks who assess middle-aged women in terms of possibilities, but don’t have the courage to go beyond that.

Fortunately, there is now a revival of the trend of elderly widows and widowers marrying or forming live-in relationships. 

Recently I was reading dame Edith Sitwell’s book, The English Eccentrics. One chapter was about eccentric centenarians. One man married at age 120 and had a child. He died on November 15, 1635 at age 152. Then I saw a newspaper report about an Assamese man aged 120 who married a 60-year-old woman. The man wanted a companion to share his social work. Damn good! They may even produce babies.

But my favourite eccentric in Sitwell’s book is Countess of Desmond. She died in 1732 at age 140 when she fell from an apple tree. Climbing a tree at 140! I’d love to marry such an energetic woman when I am 120. What fun we will have in bed! Edith Sitwell, who died in 1964 at age 77, was herself an adorable eccentric and features in The World’s Greatest Cranks & Crackpots by Margaret Nicholas. Her flat on the fourth floor of a building in London was a literary ‘adda’ which attracted famous names like Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf, TS Eliot and Dylan Thomas.

Now there are many organisations in India which are reactivating the elderly by bringing them into social work. This togetherness may be promoting affairs, marriages, or live-in relationships among the oldies. But I have not heard of sex-coaching classes for seniors, especially those who’ve taken voluntary retirement from such activity. They’ve been there and done it and are not interested any more. Such bored seniors need to be re-educated so that they become lively again.

Reactivating the elderly
What we need is a ‘Kamasutra for the Elderly’, a how-to guide for intellectual pleasure and physical fun. Then there will be a revival of interest in the erotic sculptures of Ellora, Konark and Khajuraho.

These sculptures should be available in miniature form so that they can be given as gifts and installed in the bedrooms of seniors, along with religious icons. In India, sex and spiritualism are related, the best representation of it being Lord Shiva’s linga rising out of Parvati’s yoni. It is possible that Indians invented the exclamation uttered in bedrooms across the world: “Oh God, I am coming!” Then came the prudery of the British who converted sex into sin during their 200-year rule. Since their departure, films, TV, internet and advertising have made sex a public business again.

Seniors have to rethink sex. A good beginner’s guide is American Dr Patricia Bloom’s essay, ‘Sex in the Elderly’, which you’ll find online if you Google it. She says that in America 87% of married men and 89% of married women (aged 60-64) are sexually active. For those over age 80, the statistics are 29% and 25%. “Older age is a time of freedom to explore sexual expression in ways never before realised…Sexual activity can be physically, intellectually and even spiritually fulfilling. It is often a good form of exercise and it can stimulate the brain.” Senior citizens’ organisations should start elementary and advanced sex courses. Perhaps I could be invited as a guest lecturer.

In the coming decades, there will be a hilarious other side to elderly romance. When youngsters find that their space in Chowpatty, Nariman Point, and Shivaji Park is taken over by necking elders, they will moralise: “What is the world coming to! Oldies are so debauched now!” Hee-hee, or Hoho!

©2011 Diligent Media Corporation Ltd.
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