YOUR SEXUAL HEALTH The Refractory Period: Sex and Aging

Young folks are often shocked that the old still engage merrily in sex. A
man or woman can still have wonderful sex into their 70s, 80s, and 90s. In
the United States, some studies indicate that 25-30 per cent of women in
their 70s masturbate.
But there are changes which take place and an awareness of these changes
may allow one to enjoy sex without fear of the natural changes which
occur. With men and women having a better understanding of these changes,
sex can still be lusty and hearty as a couple grows old.

The refractory period
Most men do not know of their changing “Refractory Period” as they age.
And women are not aware of this change in men either. The refractory
period refers to that period of time between one’s last ejaculation at
orgasm and the next.
In a young man in his late teens or early 20s, the refractory period can
be as short as two-five minutes. They can have an ejaculation now and in
five minutes time have yet another orgasm and ejaculation. Frequent bouts
of sexual intercourse culminating in orgasm/ejaculations are therefore
very common when one is young.
But as men age, the refractory period lengthens. In one’s late 20s, the
period maybe 15-30 minutes between orgasms. In one’s 40s, the period is
even longer and may be as long three to four hours. In one’s 50s, the
refractory period becomes even longer yet and may now be as long as 10-12
hours. And so it goes: in one’s 60s, it could be as long as 12-24 hours.
Now this is not to be confused with getting an erection. Erections are
about blood flow and in one’s 50s, you’ll be able to get another erection
(especially if there is more direct physical stimulation of the penis –
more on this later) but having an another orgasm/ejaculation will have to
wait a while.
Aging men confuse the natural physiological, biological phenomenon of
lengthened refractory period with impotence and erectile dysfunction. They
may then resort to the use of Vigara or Cialis or similar drugs but all
these will do is provide for an erection; they will do nothing for
decreasing the refractory period.
If men will recognise and accept as a normal part of aging this
lengthening refractory period, they will be able to continue to enjoy sex
with their partner and with an erection and not fret too much about not
having an orgasm soon after they have just had one.

Women’s sex and aging
What about women and their refractory period? Women do not have a
refractory period. If they are able to have orgasms, women can go from one
orgasm to another with minimum pause or no pause at all. And this is not
affected by age. They can have delight in orgasms throughout life.
In fact women are desirous of even more sex as they approach middle age
and later. And herein lies potential problems in a relationship based on
misperceptions of what is happening with sexual desire as one ages.
The aging man experiencing a lengthened refractory period is less driven
to wanting sexual release compared to when he was younger. A partner
noticing this may misinterpret it as a lack of her attractiveness and a
lack of her partner’s specific sexual interest in her. And this leads to
both of them pulling back from each other sexually.

Changes in arousal
Now here is another phenomenon which confounds couples as they age: As a
young man, one can become sexually aroused by the mere sight of a female
form. A photo of a bra can prompt an erection. So too the vibration of a
bus. Just sitting in a taxi next to a woman (and not even touching)
provokes an erection. But as one ages, these stimuli are not sufficient
for arousal. And this too is part of natural physiological body changes as
one ages.
After the age of 50, a man requires longer and more direct intense
stimulation in order to achieve an erection and arrive at orgasm. When the
couple was younger, the man would see the woman across the living room and
instantly become aroused and rush to the couch … or floor. But now in
one’s 50s, there is no urge to rush to the couch even though there might
be sexual interest. The woman again interprets this as lack of sexual
interest in her and further withdraws. And what the man needs in this
instance is more direct handling by her.
Aging brings with it other changes in sexual response. As they age, women
will experience less vaginal lubrication in the stage of sexual arousal.
This could contribute to painful or uncomfortable  sex but is easily taken
care of with a liberal dose of K-Y jelly or other creams available at
pharmacies.
Aging men may experience less force in their ejaculation. In youth the
ejaculate may spurt to a distance of 12-24 cm; as one gets older, the
distance is a lot less and may even dwindle to what some researchers refer
to as “seepage”.  When young, he is able to retain an erection for some
half hour or so after ejaculation; as one gets older, detumescence after
ejaculation is rather quick.
For both men and women, as one ages the production of testosterone in the
body decreases. Testosterone is vital for the “lust” component of sex and
one should anticipate some decrease in sexual drive. We are talking about
a decrease, not elimination.

Older couples and sex
Many women worry about their sexual functioning during their menopause.
But this too is so varied. Some women report less desire in sex; others
have a very heightened interest in sex.
But none of these changes should deter older couples from enjoying great
sex. Sex therapist Helen Singer puts it nicely: “Indeed freed of the
intense need for fast orgastic release and of the inhibitions of youth,
more satisfying and imaginative love play is often enjoyed by the older
man and his partner.”
At sixty, sex can still be sensational.

Dr. Everold Hosein is Senior Communication Advisor/Consultant to the World
Health Organization (WHO). He is also an Adjunct Professor at New York
University and Indiana University. The views expressed here are his own
and do not necessarily reflect any official views of the WHO, New York
University or Indiana University. Copyright © 2010 Everold Hosein, PhD

Pin It

6 thoughts on “YOUR SEXUAL HEALTH The Refractory Period: Sex and Aging

  1. I’m just about 22 now, and I’ve come to realize that something I’ve taken for granted isn’t all that normal after all. After my first ejaculation, I find myself able to maintain a strong erection, for a good 5 minutes without stimulation. If I, or my partner continues to stimulate me, I have no problem achieving multiple more orgasms. Usually, the initial orgasm only takes a few minutes to achieve, but then the next takes around 10 minutes, and the next around 30 minutes. I’ve never had the will to go past that, but easily could if I had the patience. Does anyone else notice this lack of refractory period? I’ve read online that it is possible but that it is due to a lack of initial ejaculation, which definitely isn’t the case with me. However, I have noticed that the amount of ejaculate I produce is, in fact, quite low, so maybe this has something to do with it? Input would be much appreciated!

    +5

    Vote +1

    Vote -1

    -5Hot Debate!

  2. This is a misleading and unhelpful in that it fails to emphasize the differences in sexual aging due to genetics, health, attitudes, and experience. For example, there are men who are considered “normal” and experience erectile difficulties and orgasm difficulties in their 40’s. Likewise, there are men in their 60’s who need nowhere near the stated 12-24 hours to have another orgasm. Some of them can easily have 5, even 10 orgasms in a day.

    So this article is not really all that useful for a particular person, who may fall well below, or significantly surpass, the age-related descriptions in this article. It only describes a sort of hazy “average” which is not all that useful in any particular instance.

    +4

    Vote +1

    Vote -1

    -1

  3. What is the refractory period for older people, say in their 70’s to 8o’s? Why stop at 50 to 60?

    +5

    Vote +1

    Vote -1

    -1

  4. If you’re in your 20s and don’t keep erections for that long, you probably have low testosterone. Try getting 8 hours of sleep and not eating junk food. Your body is meant to be a ‘sexual machine’ you just have to take care of it better.

    0

    Vote +1

    Vote -1

    -2

  5. Clown ! how exactly do you , or your mates know precisely when your wet-dream erection subsided, You were asleep, idiot .

    The man has studied the subject !

    He has statistics , because there are a range of erection reaction times .

    You don’t even know what statistically normal is !

    so Shut TFU !

    +1

    Vote +1

    Vote -1

    -2

  6. i m 20 years old and have never kept an erection after orgsasm for 30 minutes , maybe when i was 15 years old… none of my m8s could either, so dr i m guessing you haven t had a sexual life when you weee young , and imagine young men to be sexual machines , when we are just horny normal guys.

    0

    Vote +1

    Vote -1

    -2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>