Sex and the Seasoned Romance

In 2018, I was on a Seasoned Romance panel at the Emerald City Writers Conference. My topic was “Sex and the Seasoned Romance”. I was recently reminded of this presentation when another author posted a rather shocking comment in a seasoned romance author discussion group I am no longer a member of:

“I would not write an erotic romance about an older couple…simply because there’s a level of maturity that makes their sexual relationship much deeper and more meaningful, because of all they’ve been through.”

Uh…that’s exactly why an author can write a seasoned erotic romance! Or even just sex scenes featuring seasoned characters.

I’m still trying to get my head around what this author might have meant. Does she think “erotic romance” means lots of vacuous, meaningless sex? Because that’s not what an erotic romance is at all. In fact, the “maturity that makes their sexual relationship much deeper and more meaningful” feeds into what an erotic romance is: a sexual journey leading to a happily-ever-after.

Sex isn’t just for teenagers and twenty-somethings. If you are writing Seasoned Romance, you have an unlimited “toolbox” of plot elements relating to sex and sexuality with your seasoned characters.

Challenges: Physiological Changes

As we age, we often experience physiological changes. As will your characters.

You don’t have to include any of these changes in your writing, especially if they are not relevant. But such elements can be opportunities to explore characters and relationships. Playing with character point-of-view can give you further insights.

Let’s explore some examples of physiological changes that your older characters might deal with and how they can be used in a story.

Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
How your hero handles his inability to perform in bed can reveal a lot about his character.
– Does he roll over and mope?
– Does he apologize and proceed to give the other romantic protagonist(s) pleasure in other ways?
– Has this ever happened to him before? Is he surprised or concerned? (This can be an opportunity for backstory.)

How does your other romantic protagonist respond if your hero can’t perform?
– Are they frustrated?
– Are they understanding?
– Has this ever happened with a previous partner? What import does this have?

The point-of-view of the scene will affect the outcome. For example, if we are in a heroine’s POV, the hero rolling over and moping might make her think he’s a “typical male”, self-centered jerk. Is she going to want to remain with him?

In the hero’s POV, he might roll over because he’s mortified, and his inability to perform has emasculated him. Will he think he needs to prove himself as a worthy hero?

Yes! I have included performance issues in scenes with my seasoned historical heroes:
– In The Westerman Affair, Jeremy has an episode but pleasures his partner in another way.
– In Where Destiny Plays Julius gets a bit mopey. Partly because he’s, well, just Julius.

Menopausal Hormonal Surges
Your older heroine might experience hot flashes, but does she also experience menopausal hormonal surges where she craves sex?

Yes, this is an actual thing! Not all women experience this. But your heroine might.

A seasoned heroine being overly horny can be fodder for some romantic comedy moments. For example, a meet-cute with the hero while buying a vibrator at an adult store.

But having unfulfilled urges can also lead to serious introspection. If your heroine is oppressed by loneliness, she might seek solace in ways that compound her loneliness, such as watching porn alone, or going to a bar alone.

Again, the same physiological issue, just handled in different ways depending on what the story and your characters demand.

Sexual Freedom

Just because a character is over 35 doesn’t mean she, he, or they isn’t still curious about new ways to explore sexual pleasure.

As we become older we grow more sure of who we are sexually and what we want or are willing to explore. Especially if what we’ve been doing for a few decades is no longer working for us.

Emotional maturity can bring depth to an intimate connection.

Which circles back to that statement I encountered on the discussion board and what makes it so preposterous:

“I would not write an erotic romance about an older couple…simply because there’s a level of maturity that makes their sexual relationship much deeper and more meaningful, because of all they’ve been through.”

Some examples,
– Your older characters might experience empty nest syndrome. What new exciting things can they do now they have the house to themselves?
– A long-time married couple might realize they need to break out of old patterns of behavior. That is, spice up their marriage.
– Thinking back to the discussion of physiological changes, your characters might want to integrate new sexual practices to deal with these changes.
For example,
— Your hero with erectile dysfunction might find role-play helps him keep his mind off his problem
— Your heroine with crazy hormonal surges might want to explore menage or polyamorous arrangements.

In my Victorian erotic romance, The Westerman Affair, the 45-year-old hero, Charles Westerman, has a history of failed relationships. He falls for a married woman in her forties and follows her on a journey of sexual discovery. The mature characters of The Westerman Affair explore:
– spanking
– polyamory
– role-play

A note about condoms
Preventing pregnancy might not be an issue for your post-menopausal heroine, but if you are writing contemporary romance you will still need to include the dreaded condom, or a conversation between your characters about sexually transmitted diseases.

If you’re writing historical seasoned characters, condom use is a whole other conversation, which one day I might explore in another blog post.

Sexual Identity

Along the same vein as seasoned folk being more sure of who they are sexually, some seasoned folk people become more aware of what their sexuality and sexual identity is once they reach a certain age. Or perhaps as times change and societal acceptance shifts, people become more comfortable living their true selves out loud.

Sexual Fluidity
The concept of sexual fluidity — when one’s sexual orientation changes — is somewhat controversial. Some people feel if a person prefers one gender, then changes their preference to the other gender, that person is bisexual, hence “sexual fluidity” is bi-erasure. Others believe sexuality can actually change over the course of one’s life and sexual identity can change as well. I think, to paraphrase Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there are more things in life than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

A friend of mine was heterosexual when I knew him in high school. He married in his twenties and had a child. He divorced in his thirties. As he himself relates the story, when he hit his forties, he became a gay man. That was over 15 years ago. He never identified as bisexual, and he was comfortable being heterosexual when he was heterosexual. He just changed later in life.

Discovering Sexuality
People coming “out of the closet” has been a fact of our world for decades now, and was a bigger deal for my parent’s generation and even my generation than it is today as I write this.

There’s a somewhat famous example from my parent’s generation. My mom’s boss in the early 1970s was a married man with a child. This man’s wife died when he was 75. Six months later, the man came out as gay.

He had been gay his whole life, of course, but his was a different generation, with different expectations where a man simply got married and had children. He and his wife had a friendly relationship — the implication being she knew about his true sexuality — and stayed married until her death. For the next few years after he came out, he was a very active member of the local gay community and lived out and proud as a gay man. He died only a few years later.

This man’s son, Mike Mills, wrote and directed a movie of his dad’s experience called Beginners. It’s a good movie with a seasoned central character.

Conclusion: Seasoned Sex

Just because your heroes and heroines are older does not mean you are limited in how you handle plot and character elements relating to sex.

In fact, because your characters are older, you may have more tools in your writing toolbox to tell the erotic aspects of their stories.

** Want to read some sexy Seasoned Romance? Check out my Seasoned Romance books! **