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Leslie Larson on Elder Sex

18 Jul Posted by in Guest Writers | 4 comments
Leslie Larson on Elder Sex

In January I published my second novel, called Breaking Out of Bedlam. It’s the story of Cora Sledge, a 300-pound, chain-smoking, junk-food-eating, pill popping 82-year-old who is put into a senior facility by her children because they don’t think she can care for herself. A lot happens while Cora’s trying to escape the place and return home. For one thing, she falls in love. Not what’s considered nice, old lady love—holding hands across the aisle from twin rocking chairs. No. Cora wants action, and lots of it. After half a century in a loveless marriage, she aims to make up for lost time.

Writing sex scenes can be challenging, but writing what the media call “elder sex” (how many of us are having that?) gave me pause. Since I’m still a few years shy of 82, I didn’t want to make assumptions about how older people do it—until I realized there are thousands of ways for older people to get it on—just like there are for lesbians, adolescents, fat people, and missionaries. There’s no such thing as elder sex; there’s only old people doing the wild thing. So I couldn’t go wrong. I had a lot of fun describing what Cora wanted to do with the object of her affection, how she implemented those plans, and how they backfired.

Which leads me to a review that appeared somewhere out there in the blogosphere. The reviewer said that the book was enjoyable, though the reader did have to contend with the “ew factor” of older people having sex. Ew factor. That’s what she said.

People can write anything about your book, anything they want. They can spread it all over the net and there’s nothing you can do about it. I try to shrug it off, but this one got me. I felt personally offended. What right did this girl (I pictured her as a girl, a long-legged blond with a ponytail or maybe a headband) have to be disgusted by my character having sex? Which led me to a bigger question. If people are grossed out at the thought of certain people (queers come to mind) having sex, why do they go to the trouble of imagining it? If the thought makes them sick, why don’t they think of something else? Why don’t they read a magazine, or contemplate eternity? Does it occur to them that there might be a hot side to the ew factor? Do they realize that ew is in the eye of the beholder?

Of course Ponytail Girl will be exploring the ew factor up close and personal one of these days—if she’s lucky enough to have a long life and a durable libido. I wonder if she’ll still think it’s gross. In the meantime, I’ve decided to retaliate by refusing to imagine her having sex—it’s just too icky. For the rest of us, here’s hoping we’re like Cora and—no matter how wrinkled, flabby, or stretched-out the flesh becomes— the fire keeps burning.

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  • Robin says:

    Wow Leslie, even though I may look more like ponytail girl now, Cora Sledge is my hero! Thanks for sharing your insights on elder sex. I loved Breaking Out of Bedlam and your first book, Slipstream…Do you have a new one in the works?

  • Leslie Larson says:

    No offense about the ponytail, Robin. Thanks for reading my books (and liking them). I’m about 200 pages into the new one. Plugging away.

  • Robin says:

    Well at least its a ponytail and not a mullet! Please keep plugging away, can’t wait to see what you come up with…

  • Lisa says:

    Haven’t read the book yet, but will definitely have to look for it. About 10 years ago I took a human sexuality class where I was the oldest student and not much younger than the professor. We watched a film about an elderly couple’s sex life. There were lots of “ews and yucky’s and disgustings” as well as one who said “It’s like watching my grandparents having sex”. I was the lone voice saying “This is GREAT! I’ll be that age someday and hope I’m having as much sex as possible!” My professor later wrote on one of may papers thanking me for taking the class and helping him to stay sane!