Sexy at 70
Before I turn 67 – next March – I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.
This is the personal ad that former English teacher Jane Juska placed in the New York Times Book Review back in fall of 1999. And now, at 74, she’s had enough romantic adventures to fill two books: A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance and more recently, Unaccompanied Women: Late-Life Adventures in Love, Sex and Real Estate. (For those not in the know, a ’round-heeled woman’ is an old-time slang expression for a woman who is promiscuous.)
Judging by the popularity of her books, Juska – who has been divorced for over 30 years and is a single parent – has apparently struck a resonant chord among women and men seeking romantic and sexual fulfillment into their 60s and beyond. A blossoming literary career has her jetting all over North America and Europe for appearances and book-signings. She recently appeared at Toronto’s ideaCity, an annual event that features an eclectic mix of artists, adventurers, authors, cosmologists, doctors, designers, entertainers, filmmakers, inventors, magicians, musicians, scientists and technologists.
50Plus.com had the opportunity to ask Juska a few questions about her bold exploration for Eros.
Q. In “A Round-Heeled Woman” you say that you were moved to action by Eric Rohmer’s film “Autumn Tale” whose plot involves a woman placing a personal ad in a newspaper on behalf of her middle-age friend. Have you always been this confident – and this courageous?
A: As a teacher, I was confident and sometimes courageous, but as a woman seeking sex I was neither. It took psychoanalysis to get me going.
Q. Once you started receiving responses to the personal ad, how could you be sure people were who they really said they were? Did you put into place any screening/personal security arrangements both before and after deciding to meet with a man?
A: With each person I decided to meet there was a period of emailing, letter-writing, talking on the telephone. When I first went to NYC to actually meet some of the men, I informed my niece who lived in Midtown of my plans; after she got up off the floor, she said I could consider her apartment a Safe Place.
Q. Did you ever consider registering for any of the online dating sites, which are increasingly popular not only among young people but more mature adults?
A. I looked at match.com a few times, but decided no: one has to send a photograph which I thought would ruin any chance I might have.
Q. Of the responses you received from the personal ads, were any truly surprising? Which ones did you accept – and which ones did you reject?
A. All the responses were surprising since I had not expected more than two. The one from “Ron” age 36 included a photograph of him stark-naked save for a pair of sunglasses. I rejected him, also letters from men who were married (too complicated there) and from men who were terrible writers.
Q. When placing the ad were you looking for love – or simply romance? Do you believe that sex, by definition, can be casual? It’s been reported that whether or not you were initially looking for love, you found it or perhaps it found you. Is that so?
A. When I placed the ad, I meant what it said: I wanted to have a lot of sex with a man I liked. I did not think that good sex need be accompanied by love; affection, friendship can do as well, perhaps even better. I do not think sex can be casual; it is an act with profound consequences. When people claim to have casual sex, they are saying they are having not particularly good sex or even bad sex and they don’t want to think about it. I fell in love almost immediately with a man who didn’t love me back; the sex was awful. The best sex I had was with a man I was not in love with but whom I liked enormously; and with a man I adored but who was 32 so love was out of the question, or so I thought.
Q. According to your books, one of your amours was in his mid 30s. Many women start to feel self-conscious about the affects of aging on their bodies – particularly when it comes to having sex with a younger man. What do you say to that?
A. I was as self-conscious as anyone about my body, especially with the man who was thirty-two. But he was persistent, gently so, and I didn’t want to get to be 90 and kick myself for having turned him down. So I hid under a lot of covers. He didn’t, though.
Q. You’ve stated that you don’t consider yourself an advocate for “senior sexuality”, but would you recommend your plan for others?
A. I would not recommend my plan to others; it is dangerous both physically and emotionally. I was willing to risk everything in my search for living fully which means you have to expect the hard parts as well as hope for the good. I got both. One has to know oneself pretty well to do what I did and survive as well as I have; what I do recommend is knowing oneself.
Jane Juska taught English in California for more than forty years–in high school, in college, and in prison. With the publication of her first book, A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance, Juska became a spokesperson for the romantically active senior set, and she appears frequently before book groups and women’s groups. Her most recent book is 2006’s Unaccompanied Women: Late-Life Adventures in Love, Sex and Real Estate. Both books are available in major bookstores across North America.
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