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Sex after 50

Loss, Impotence, or a
Deeper, Richer Sex Life?

Book Review: Copyright © 1997 by Bert H. Hoff

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Jed Diamond, Male Menopause (updated 2nd ed.)(Naperville IL, SourceBooks, 1998. ISBN 1570713979)

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Male Menopause book - 2nd edition
Male Menopause

The story of mid-life, male menopause and sex that Jed tells in Male Menopause is a two-part story, paralleling the general theme of the book. There's the rolling down the mountain (or, for females in menopause the falling off the cliff.) Then there's the climbing of the Second Mountain, going on to a deeper, richer and fuller life. Jed pointed out at his talk at Gaia Bookstore that his wife, like many other women, experienced Post-Menopausal Zest, while he experienced Post-Menopausal ???.

Jed uses the imagery of the "sexual diamond," using Angeles Arrien's polarity of the "magnetic dimension" and the "dynamic dimension" of life. The post-menopausal "magnetic man" feels a "coming home," being more rooted and inner-directed. The "dynamic woman becomes more assertive and adventurous. Here Jed echoes what Robert Bly says in his audio tape The Red, White and Black.(order on-line) Men, Bly tells us there, begin in the red and move into the white before moving into the black. Women begin in the white, moving into the red at mid-life and then into the black.

Jed Diamond

At any rate, the two-part story of male menopause and sex that Jed describes involves loss, perhaps even impotence, and then climbing the "second mountain" to have a deeper, fuller, richer sex life.

Part 1: Loss and impotence

A while back, a man wrote me at MenWeb, saying:

I've had a problem with impotence for about six years. Never had the money to go get it check out, my insurance will not pay for it. But here's my story. I'm hoping maybe you can help me. Everytime my wife and I are having intercourse I always lose my rigidity(erection)when I'm in her. Why, I have no idea. Kind of makes me mad. I always say to myself and god what's wrong with me? Am I a man or what? Is there anyone you can refer me to or maybe know some other men who have walked in my shoes that might be an inspiration to me...thanks...please help..

There it is: that scary word. Impotence. Jed points out that impotence can be a significant problem for men going through male menopause. Impotence is defined as the persistent inability to attain and maintain an erection adequate to permit satisfactory sexual performance. According to results from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study that studied a large sample of men between the ages of forty and seventy, the combined prevalence of minimal, moderate, and complete impotence was 52 percent.

Although the study found that psychological factors play a role as men age, physical factors are more significant. It found that there was a high correlation between erection dysfunction and heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, as well as with the medications that are often taken to deal with these problems.

Jed's book goes into valuable detail about the medical help, hormonal treatment and holistic approaches available. The book's worth the price just for this. But since the physical, psychological, and sexual aspects are interconnected, most all these symptoms can be prevented and treated by concentrating on the whole man. This Jed does in later chapters.


What is male menopause, anyway?

But there are other sexual changes that occur in healthy, normal males as they age, such as:

  • Erections take longer to occur.
  • He often requires direct physical stimulation to get an erection; a sexy sight or fantastic fantasy may not arouse him as it did before.
  • The full erection doesn't get quite as firm as it used to.
  • His urge to ejaculate is not as insistent as before. Sometimes he doesn't feel the need to have an orgasm at all.
  • The force of ejaculation isn't as strong as it once was. The amount of his ejaculate is less, and he may have fewer sperm.
  • The desire for and frequency of masturbation may drop, but in some men may increase.
  • The testicles shrink some, and the scrotal sack droops. The sack doesn't bunch up as much during arousal.


Top Ten Warning Signs of Male Menopause

Top Ten Life Changes Associated with Male Menopause

Jed makes some general recommendations, both for impotence and for sealing with the sexual changes that happen to men at midlife, such as:
  • Get regular health checkups. Regular health care visits and screenings are important contributors to men's health and longevity.
  • Check hormone levels as you get older. Generally between forty and fifty-five a number of important hormones in a man's body begin to decline.Lowered levels of Dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, growth hormone, melatonin, DHEA, pregnenolone, thyroid hormone, and testosterone may decrease sex drive, increase depression and weight gain, and contribute to a general decrease in health and well-being.
  • Reduce stress and worry in your life. Stress is a major source of trouble for men at midlife.
  • Embrace a sexuality appropriate to the second half of life. In the second half of life, a man's sexuality expands to include more emphasis on friendship, love, intimacy, and spirituality.

Part 2: Sex and Love on the Second Mountain

Jed makes an observation that gives one pause. It's not true, he says, that "love" is an invention of Western Society and the influence of the Troubadours and the Courtly Love Tradition. It's in every culture. Similarly, the idea of a "sex life" as something separate from a life involving sex, love and intimacy is a modern invention. Here he echoes the theme of Dagara African initiated shaman and Sorbonne doctorate Malidoma Somé in his best-selling tape We Have No Word for Sex, also reviewed on MenWeb.

Jed draws on the work of psychologist Paul Pearsall, author of Sexual Healing: Using the Power of an Intimate, Loving Relationship to Heal Your Body and Soul who outlines a five-part approach to sexual healing:

  • Self-Esteem - a connection with Self
  • Intimacy - a connection with someone significant in your life
  • Coherency - a connection with someone who shares your beliefs in a higher purpose and meaning
  • Mindfulness - a connection with the current moment
  • Sensuality - a connection with the physical body of yourself and someone you love as an intense physical expression and manifestation of all five levels of connection.

(Remember, for example, that the skin is our most sensitive organ.)

Pearsall coins the term "sexual shaman." He states: "To become a sexual shaman or healer requires learning two special skills practiced by all shamans: playful joy in living with others and sensual activity and movement throughout the life cycle." Jed observes that shamanism as a spiritual tradition that links people to the natural world is as old as humankind. But "sexual shaman"? More common-sense living than "hocus-pocus," as I read Jed's advice. He offers his own seven-point program for healthy living and a healthy and satisfying post-menopausal sex life, that makes sense whether or not the idea of "sexual shaman" appeals to you.

Eat food for life. Ancient diets of vegetarianism with a little meat added goes back to our Paleolithic ancestors and accounts for longevity of life and lower rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer in Asian countries.

Take vitamins to prevent disease. Here he quotes Dr. Andrew Weil, author of 8 Weeks to Optimal Health(order on-line) in "Protecting Your Prostrate," from his Self-Healing Newsletter Dr. Weil states he takes 10,000 IUs of mixed carotenoids, 800 IU of Vitamin E, 800 mcg. of selenium daily, and 2,000 mg. of Vitamin C 2-3 times a day. He takes 30 mg. of supplemental zinc and 80 mg. of coenzyme Q, which increases aerobic capacity and protects the heart muscle.

Exercise for health. This is not just a matter of keeping up your strength and endurance trough aerobic exercises like biking, and keeping the abs tight to prevent backaches, although "a lover with a stiff back is an oxymoron." My wife, Bernetta, the yoga instructor, will be pleased to see Jed's words of praise for daily yoga stretches as a way of keeping flexibility. Jed also points out that over half the men over 40 have experienced impotence, but Walter Bortz M.D. reports that of the men over 75 in the Fifty-Plus Fitness Association, 58% rated their sex lives as good or very good, 23% rated it fair, and only 19% rated it as poor. 'Nuff said?

Find the Healthy Herbs for High Level Sex. Jed recommends:

  • Wild Yam for hormone building assistance,
  • Black Cohosh for a relaxant and normalizer,
  • Saw Palmetto for a reproductive system nutrient,
  • Damiana as a prostate tonic, anti-depressant and nutrient for sluggish sexual organs, and
  • St. Johns Wart and Oat for nerve tonics to help deal with depression and stressful life changes.

Elsewhere in the book, Jed reports on a study where, of the 10,000 impotency patients who took pausinstalia yohimbine (yohimbe), 80% reported good results.

Embrace Self-Love and the Joys of Celibacy. Jed is not talking about entering the priesthood here. He points out that during his wife's menopausal time of life there were periods where sex just "didn't work." He doesn't deny that he experienced anger, frustration and sexual fantasies. But he does point out that he found some deep value in these periods as times to redirect his creative energies elsewhere, as well as finding more expansive expressions of intimacy ad love.

Learn to Love the One You're With. Find a partner and practice loving the one you're with. It is the most difficult and rewarding activity on the face of the planet, in Jed's view.

Accept That You Have 24-Hour Access to the Best Healers in the World. What did he say? What does he mean? In 1978 Jed found a book by Mike Samuels, M.D. and Hal Bennett called the Well Body Book. The authors state that your body is a three million year old healer with all the knowledge, tools, materials and energy necessary to keep yourself healthy. These inner healers have been Jed's main source of support every day since then.

So where does this post-menopausal sex path lead you? In Jed's view, to be the "sexual shamans" who will be the leaders we need to ensure the survival of ourselves, our children, our communities, and the fragile planet we all share.


Jed Diamond is a psychotherapist with 30 years' experience, and a prolific and noted author. His book Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man was one of the first books of the "men's movement," before it was popularized by Robert Bly. He has also written Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Overcoming Romantic and Sexual Addictions and The Warrior's Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet. He's a frequent contributor to MenWeb. His articles include Back to the Future: Implications of Evolutionary Biology and Becoming Native to Your Place.

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Related stories:


 Male Menopause, a book review of Jed Diamond's book Male Menopause, © 1997 by Bert H. Hoff

 What is male menopause, anyway? Here's a quick overview of male menopause and how it affects men's lives.

 A personal perspective. Author Jed Diamond's remarks at the Gaia Bookstore, his first stop on his tour to promote this book, offer some personal perspectives on male menopause.© 1997 by Jed Diamond and Bert H. Hoff

 Top Ten Warning Signs of Male Menopause

 Top Ten Life Changes Associated with Male Menopause

 Mid-Life and the Shaman/Trickster, an interview with Allan Chinen, by Bert H. Hoff

 Men are Not Impotent to Postpone their Sexual Decline, by Gail Sheehy. From New Passages: Mapping Your Life Across Time (Random House, $25). © 1995 The Detroit News, reprinted with their kind permission.


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Copyright © 1997 by Bert H. Hoff