Dildos to the Dump

Certified sexuality counselor Evelyn Resh reflects on how our sex lives and perceptions of pleasure change over time.

I recently celebrated my 55th birthday. As time has gone by, I find myself enjoying my birthdays more now than when I was younger. I have none of that: “let’s pretend it’s not happening” feeling that many of my friends have. I love cake and presents and if nothing else, my birthday allows me to ask for and enjoy both. This year, my best present of all was my partner’s offer to help me clean out my home office.

The big day came and we marched upstairs to grab the bull by the horns. I have an amazing capacity to work productively in the midst of enormous clutter and dust. However, even I have my limits and with my second book out on store shelves now, I agreed that it was time to clean up the mess that had accumulated the past couple of years from writing it.

We started with my bookshelf that is home to far more than books. True to my partner’s ways she started at the top and worked down. There was an old boot box on the top of the shelf, the contents of which I had forgotten about. When Robin opened the box I looked in and exclaimed: “Whoa, look at THAT! OMG, we sure we’re ambitious back then! What were we thinking? Get rid of that stuff.” Inside the box was an impressive selection of sex toys circa 10 years ago or so. My how things have changed! I took one look at the assortment and wanted to run for the hills.

The people I see for sex counseling often complain about not having the kind of sex in their long-term relationships that they had in the beginning, when things were sizzling hot and no one could keep their hands off one another. I understand what they’re saying. I also know that nothing is static in life, including our sexuality. Many of us use an anachronistic reference point when we describe and evaluate our sex lives in the present. No matter what age you are, the sex you’re having now can’t help but be different from what you had 20 years ago. Everything changes over time. Yet many people find it difficult to let their sexuality and sexual expression change along with everything else in life. Perhaps if they did they would feel less disappointed and critical of the sex they have as they age.

Personally, I am content and still deeply moved by what goes on in my most intimate life with my partner now, after almost 21 years together and 22 years older than when we first met. And while neither of us can accommodate the box of fun and favorites from yesteryear anymore, what has replaced that is something I find just right for where I am in life now. When I set my novel aside and chose sex instead, it reassures me. It reaffirms that there is no statute of limitations on the pleasure I’m able to experience from the fusion of skin and soul. I am grateful for this and never think of it as a booby prize in comparison to what we used to have and do. If I now had the kind of sex I used to have 20 years ago, and as frequently, I would be on life support in the ICU of our local hospital. I wouldn’t be able to keep up and truthfully, I have no interest in that anymore.

Thursday mornings are the slowest time at our local dump. We therefore decided to take our now obsolete sex toys on that day, along with the other trash, and discard them with minimal risk of running into one of our neighbors. With box in hand, Robin whispered, “Here it goes,” and marched over to the trash compactor and threw the box of toys in, never to be seen again. I felt a sigh of relief, calm and pleasurably reminiscent. Those toys were from a different time in our lives—not better, just different. I like where we are now. I am not sad about how we and our sex lives have changed and although I work diligently to keep sex alive and well for myself and within our marriage, I feel impressed by how our sexual history has helped shape and inform our sex life in the present. Having loved those toys way back when is a statement of my capacity and willingness to enjoy my body and my spouse’s body in a way that is unique to us as lovers. This hasn’t vanished. It’s simply changed shape and matches who we are now, not who we were then.

I still like sex toys and so does she. But the selection is different and perhaps a little less ambitious.

© E. Resh 2013 Reprinted with permission

Evelyn Resh

Evelyn Resh, CNM, MPH, CSC, MSN, is a certified sexuality counselor and a certified nurse-midwife with over 20 years of experience as an integrative health and sexuality practitioner. Her books include Women, Sex, Power, and Pleasure: Getting the life (and Sex) You Want and The Secret Lives of Teen Girls: What Your Mother Wouldn’t Talk About but Your Daughter Needs to Know, that takes a distinctly sex-positive spin on the topic of sexually active teen girls.