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Baby Boomer sex – Will they still love it when they’re 64?

Newswise — Will baby boomers do the same for graying sex as they did for the sexual revolution of the 60s? Yes, says University of Maryland professor Robin Sawyer, who teaches human sexuality in Maryland’s department of public and community health. But there also could be pitfalls for newly divorced boomers thrust onto a “brave new world” of dating.

In the following interview, Sawyer, a boomer himself, talks about boomer sex, then, now and into old age, and about how boomers, for all of the sexual walls they’ve knocked down, still don’t know how to talk to their own kids about sex. And that’s a problem.

A Conversation with...Robin Sawyer, professor of public and community health, University of Maryland


Q - Can the baby boomers take all the credit for the 60's sexual revolution?

Sawyer: In a sense, it was part of the social revolution of the late 50s, early 60s. Sex was a subset of a larger movement - clothes, music. Boomers were in the vanguard of a movement away from the stoic 50s.

Q - How important was the pill?

Sawyer: The pill was huge. It was the first time in history that women could have sex and not worry about getting pregnant - the pill provided an awful lot of freedom.

Q - What's the prospect for boomers and sex in their 60s and beyond?

Sawyer: Today's 60 is yesterday's 40. Our sexuality has not ended. In addition, medical science (no doubt headed by boomers!) has provided "sexual assistance" in the way of Viagra and other products to treat erectile dysfunction. Much research is being carried out to also facilitate the enhancement of women's sexual response, such as hormone supplements. Boomers have an attitude that's very youthful, we are a positive generation. We ask "Why shouldn't I?"

Q - Are there any sexual pitfalls on the horizon for boomers?

Sawyer: Yes. There is a 60 percent divorce rate, and many of those people have been married for a long time. Now they're single without skills to negotiate things like safe sex. The older age group has one of the fastest growing rates of HIV. You never assume someone in this age group would be HIV positive. Add the internet, dating sites for 50 plus, and you don't know what you're getting. It's a brave new world.

Q - Did the sexual revolution of the 60's change the way boomers talk to their kids about sex?

Sawyer: One thing that has not changed in the U.S. is how one generation relates to another about sex. I meet these smooth, educated, well-dressed parents who can't talk to their kids about sex. The U.S. has high pregnancy rates compared to Europe and Canada. We can't get our heads around talking about sexuality. Americans think if they don't talk to their kids about sex, then their children won't think about it, and ultimately won't have sex! Kids will discover sex, whether we like it or not. Research shows that parents who talk openly to their kids about sex are less likely to have kids who get pregnant.

Q - How is the world different from a sexual perspective than it was when boomers were growing up?

Sawyer: Today's kids live in a more sexualized world than we did. The imagery in ads like Abercrombie and Fitch, Victoria 's Secret is basically soft porn. Rap lyrics and the music are very sexual, it's normalized. It's kind of scary in a sense. Kids lose their innocence so early. The prospects for a 14-year-old remaining a 14-year-old get less and less every year.

Q - What advice do you have for boomer parents for talking to their kids about sex?

Sawyer: Do it early and often, in a way that's appropriate for the age. The notion that you wait until kids are 13 and have the big talk is not going to work. If you haven't been creating building blocks along the way and make talking about sexuality normal, children are not going to listen to you when they're teenagers.


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