How late is too late to start fucking? If you’re not sure of the answer to that, allow me to rephrase it: at what point in your life must you stop seeing your body as something that can bring you sexual pleasure? When I put it like this I hope you can see that the answer is ‘never’ – you’re never too late to start fucking, never too late to enjoy your body. Society feeds us so many lies about sex that it takes a lot of work to unpick them, and the idea that we should at some point give up on our sexual selves is an especially pernicious one. We’re told that you’ll hit a certain age and suddenly stop wanting sex (wrong!), that other people will stop wanting you (wrong!) or that beauty is synonymous with youth (also wrong!). Perhaps most bizarrely, we’re given the impression that our futures are fixed when we’re younger: we decide what – and who – we want to be when we grow up, and these early choices will determine our fate forever. SO WRONG! Unfortunately, just yelling ‘WRONG’ at full volume doesn’t help to calm the nerves of anyone who’s worried that they may have missed the boat. So let’s tackle the age-old question: how late is too late to start enjoying sex?
Recently I got an email from a reader asking me how old I was when I began blogging, worrying that she might have left it a bit late to leap naked into the fuckpool in which I like to swim. Her name is Sophie, and she has kindly agreed to let me publish her question in full:
“I was just wondering if you would be willing to share what age you were when you started your blog? I’m recently divorced and had, shall we say, a conservative marriage. I am only now really discovering myself, but I’m a little worried that I’ve missed the boat to enjoy a lifestyle like yours.”
And oh! My heart! My aching heart! This question is one that absolutely shatters me. It’s not the most common one I’m asked, but it’s up there. And even when it’s not explicit, it’s hovering in the background behind tentatively-pitched guest blogs, apologies from people who say they’re ‘not that experienced’ because they’ve lived a life relatively sheltered from sex. It’s there in conversations with lovers who worry that their single-digit bodycount makes them unqualified to shag me – perhaps destined to never have adventurous sex because they didn’t get their kink on soon enough. And, of course, it lurks in my own mind too: this nagging worry that the time I have spent so far has been wasted not doing enough, and that opportunities I’ve turned down won’t ever come around again.
As it happens, shortly after receiving Sophie’s email, the film Good Luck To You, Leo Grande hit the cinemas. In it, Emma Thompson plays recently-widowed Nancy, a woman who hires a sex worker (Leo, played brilliantly by Daryl McCormack) to introduce her to the kind of sex she never had with her husband. The film itself is a powerful depiction of Nancy’s desire, and the caring, skilful way that Leo helps her to unlock it. At the beginning of the film, Nancy is a bundle of nerves and uncertainty. Reading Leo a ‘fuck it’ list and trying to get a blow job over with just so she can tell herself she’s done it. She is spiky, ashamed and often terrified of her own desires. This leads to some fairly shocking behaviour, as she tramples over Leo’s feelings and professional boundaries – it’s worth noting that the film is far from a lesson in ‘how to be a good sex work client’.
Leo is extremely skilled at seduction – I use the word ‘seduction’ deliberately. He doesn’t just do exactly what’s on Nancy’s list, instead he encourages her to interrogate why she wants what she wants. In his own words: “desires are never mundane.” He encourages her to zoom out from seeing ‘sex’ as a limited series of acts – ‘blow job/cunnilingus/69/etc’ – and view intimacy not as something she must tick off a list but a journey of pleasure and desire. By the end of the film it isn’t just her desire but also her body that has been reframed in her mind: it stops being something to view and critique and nitpick, instead she recognises it as a vessel that is truly hers. A valuable tool for bringing her joy as it carries her through her life. Seen through fresh eyes, blow jobs are no longer a ‘bucket list’ item to be ‘tried’ like you’re forcing yourself to eat olives for the first time to learn what they taste like, instead they’re one option on a smorgasbord of pleasure that you consume purely for the joy of it.
Sophie’s email asks ‘have I missed the boat?’, and this film provides an answer. It’s the same answer that I instinctively gave Sophie when she emailed: no, you are not too late. There is no deadline. You don’t have to stick with the kind of sex you’ve had in your life until now: you’re allowed to start exploring your desires whenever you feel like it’s time. For as long as there is breath in your body to ask these questions, you are not too late.
What the fuck would YOU know, GOTN?
You could easily – and understandably – be forgiven for telling me that I don’t know what I’m talking about. After all, I’m only 38 and to answer Sophie’s specific question, when I started this blog I was in my mid-twenties. I started exploring my kinky side at the age of about nineteen, thanks to a boy I loved at Uni, who came on a filthy hot journey with me for which I was – and will always be – eternally fucking grateful. We were pretty early starters, but my own youth came with swaggering foolishness and led me to make mistakes that I wouldn’t dream of making if I’d started today. But even if I started today, at 38 I’m still pretty young. With luck I’ll be here for many more decades, and I don’t intend to quit shagging any time soon.
If you think that disqualifies me as a guide on this particular journey, I totally see where you’re coming from. I urge you to not to take my word for it. There are many other writers who can also show you that you have not missed the boat. When I replied to Sophie I pointed her towards:
Emilia Romero, who discovered kink just after her divorce. I believe she’s in her forties and judging by her blog she’s having an astonishingly sexy time. From the first guest blog she ever wrote for me:
“After a few messages, I found myself in my bedroom with N. It was a few months after my husband of 25 years had told me I just wasn’t sexy enough to keep our marriage alive. Yet, here I was, tied to my own headboard, with new-yet-familiar fingers inside me, making noises I can only describe as primal.”
I LOVE HER. Other people I also love: my good pal Molly Moore, absolute filth and just turned 50, the absolute Queen of UK sex blogging. This, from a fierce piece she wrote in her forties, when a magazine turned her pitch down because she was older than their target demographic:
“If I am anything to go by and I don’t think I am alone in this, your 20’s and 30’s are when you are really figuring things out. Now in my 40’s I find that I understand myself and the world around me in a much richer fuller way. I am strong and confident. I know I am capable of much. I have achieved much. I have broken apart my world and remade it better despite many people telling me I couldn’t. I am smart and thoughtful and a great listener. I am a good writer and really fucking talented photographer. I am a good adventurous lover. I know what I like and how my body works and also how to use it. I am 46 and I have come into my power.”
Master’s Eye, who is in her sixties and writes beautifully and sexily and cathartically – lust and love so thoroughly entwined that you couldn’t see where one ends and the other begins. From her post “Sometimes desire“:
“Know this, what you dream of could be right around the corner and will be better than you ever imagined it could be.”
And of course – of COURSE – Joan Price, who has been flying the flag for ageless sexuality over on her blog and in books for a long time. Joan is in her seventies and she’s incredible, combining practical advice like tips on sex toys with passionate advocacy for embracing sex in later life. She has also written about Good Luck To You, Leo Grande:
“I’m 78, and I never expected to see a film with such tender authenticity about a senior woman wanting to explore her sexual pleasure with a gentle, respectful, vulnerable, and gorgeous male sex worker… It’s startling to see her naked, staring in the mirror, no longer confined by a pencil skirt or draped in a negligee. She is unapologetically adorned with her natural wrinkles and loose skin. I loved that. I found her beautiful.”
Those were just off the top of my head, though not long after I started drafting this I read an essay by the brilliant Mona Eltahawy, who’s in her fifties. I quote from it here but please do click through and read it in full, it’s well worth your time:
“Heteronormative patriarchy’s designated shelf life for cisgender women is the age at which we cease to be its walking incubators. And yet here is a woman who not only wants to fuck, she has spent, as she confesses, months planning and quite a bit of money hiring Leo and renting a hotel room to finally take what she wants after years of giving.”
I wept. As I wept quite a few times during Leo Grande, because the power of seeing a woman in her sixties naked and horny and nervous and brave, lusting for and lusted after on a fucking cinema screen… yeah, it’s rare. It’s extremely rare. Which is pathetic, when you think about it, because women in their sixties have been out having sex for fucking centuries. It’s not that it doesn’t happen, it’s that we do not see it. And all the while we’re not seeing it, our brains will continue to put us off exploring pleasure later in life, because there’s an inner voice perniciously whispering ‘you have missed the boat.’
One of the things that makes me uncomfortable in conversations about sex and ageing is that it’s often done in a way that’s either highly medicalised (assuming that younger sex is ‘the norm’ and older people need ‘adjustments’ from that norm rather than accepting that sex is different for everyone because we all have different physical needs/abilities, so we should never seek to define ‘normal’ in a way that excludes so many people anyway), or it’s cringingly patronising. Leo Grande doesn’t seek to patronise, which I think is clear when you get to the (intensely hot) scenes of actual fucking. They resonate and thrum with horn. This film is a revelation because Nancy is not treated as a comedy figure, or as someone to be pitied and patronised.
Good Luck To You, Leo Grande isn’t worthy of celebration because Emma Thompson gets her tits out and that’s ’empowering’ – pah. Nor is it ‘groundbreaking’ because Nancy is the first woman in her sixties to ever get eaten out by a twenty-year-old dude – lol. Nor is it powerful because it’s a rare example of these things happening on screen – it’s powerful because it feels like the first time a mainstream film has dared to show us that they’re hot!
Have I missed the boat?
There are a few different ways to tackle this question, but every way I look at it the answer is always ‘no.’ You’ve not missed the boat. Sex is not a schooner you need to catch at the right time, otherwise you’re doomed to sit on the shore for the rest of your life, paddling your feet in the waves created by its wake. The harbour is teeming with boats, and you can hop on board whenever you fancy it. You could live most of your life ambivalent about sex, or prevented from exploring it by partners, shyness or society, then one day just decide that you want to explore your own pleasure, and leap onto one of the many many boats and see where it takes you.
Please don’t beat yourself up for missing any of the boats that your peers caught at different points in life. Perhaps you weren’t ready to catch them back them. Perhaps you’d have fallen off because you weren’t ready. Maybe you wanted to explore the shore for a while. Every choice you make is a reflection of who you are in this moment, and a reflection of your circumstances right now. You’re never too late to start fucking because there is no such thing as ‘late’ or ‘early’, only ‘right for you.’
I was lucky enough to grow up in circumstances that made sexual adventures fairly easy, in a country where they were possible to achieve. I was also fortunate enough to meet a guy with whom I felt comfortable embarking on them. There were some things that made our lives harder: we didn’t have FetLife or decent sex ed, and most of our sex toys were terrifyingly unsafe (not to mention rubbish). On top of this, it’s important to note that twenty-year-old me was a prick. I wrapped myself in a devastating mixture of arrogance and insecurity, and that combo led to unnecessary tension and a whole heap of drama and pain for both myself and my partner (and likely some of our kinky friends too). He displayed similar rough edges, but that’s not my story to tell – he did nothing that wasn’t eminently forgivable, and normal for someone of his age and experience. Broadly we were two kids let loose in a sweet shop of sex, so it’s unsurprising that we ate till we were sick.
Would I do it differently if I started today? Hell yes! But would I change anything, looking back? Nope. In fact, the very question is nonsense. I made the decisions that felt right to me at the time, and all hindsight can do is help me make better ones today. And as I sailed around on the good ship HMS Fuck, I spied friends and family jumping on other boats around the bay – getting well-paid jobs, doing PHDs, writing TV shows, chasing their dreams of becoming stand-up comedians, becoming parents and grandparents, etcetera.
Will you be better at sex than I was when I launched into it? Maybe. Probably. Whatever else you’ve been up to in these intervening years, I’m sure at least some of it will have given you lessons that’ll serve you well on the Fuck Boat: experience and wisdom go a long way towards helping you make decisions that work for you. Maybe not though! Perhaps you’ll cock it all up because after all, experience isn’t magic, and as well as never being too late to explore sex, you’re also never too late to make some terrible mistakes.
But either way, it doesn’t matter. Sure, you won’t be able to turn the clock back to your sexual awakening, but the alternative universe in which you began your sluttery back then might have been one which ended in tears and heartbreak. Perhaps the ‘you’ you are in June 2022 needed at least some of this longing in order to get the drive to go search for the sex you want now. Perhaps you’ll have gained wisdom and empathy far beyond the capacity that your younger self might have had.
There is no official standing by with a clipboard judging when you may and may not use your Shag Card. That decision is up to you and the people you want to shag. You’re allowed to seek these people out at any point in life.
You’re never too late to start looking.
But what about my body? Will anyone want me?
Here lies the kernel of pain at the heart of so many people’s worries that they might have missed the boat – including my own. The ugliest lie society tells us – especially if we are women – is that from the age of about twenty two, the trajectory only goes down. Our bodies lose value. Lose tautness, smoothness, mobility, fucking beauty. But that’s not true. Our bodies change as the years go on, sure. Getting larger, smaller, changing shape. Becoming more wrinkled and blemished, sometimes losing various abilities, but often gaining new skills. Change is certain. But the idea that change will always be negative is laughable. Every single one of us is living proof.
I’ll lose you all at this point if I try to tell you that it doesn’t matter what you look like. For what it’s worth, I don’t think it does: what makes you sexy has far more to do with the way you carry yourself – your attitude and approach and whether your smile hints at filthy thoughts beneath your exterior. And ‘beauty’ should certainly never be tied to whatever society decides is conventionally attractive – a standard which literally changes with fashion depending on the decade. Even if there were such a thing as objective beauty, the idea that you’d tie it to youth feels genuinely tragic. If you could only ever shag young people, and never know the joy of worshipping a body that’s been through some stuff, I’d say you’re missing out on one of life’s great pleasures. But as I say, I’ll lose people if I say that. So brainwashed are we by the message that people (women especially) by necessity become less sexy as they age that I’m not even going to bother trying to counter that here. For my purposes it doesn’t matter, because regardless of what you think ‘beautiful’ looks like, ‘beauty’ is only one of the ways in which your body serves you.
Back to Nancy. At the start of the film she’s horrified by her own body – Emma Thompson’s awkward, nervous change into a negligée punched me right in the heart. But part of the journey she goes on in the film is recognising that ‘what it looks like’ is only a tiny part of what her body is for. In her twenties or thirties, Nancy was married to a man who just climbed on top, shagged her, came and had done with it. She’d never had an orgasm. Never masturbated. Only once – at the hands of a man she met on holiday – had she ever felt truly sexy and desired (the story in that scene is fire, btw, watch the film). Her younger body might have been sexy by society’s standards, but it didn’t serve a sexy purpose for her. She describes it as a ‘carcass’ she’d been ‘dragging around.’
My body was pretty hot when I was nineteen years old, but I despised it back then. And I never understood how to use it properly, either. It’s only in very recent years that I’ve started paying attention to actively loving it. By ‘actively’ I mean moving it and looking at it and appreciating it as it exists in the moment, rather than longing for what it once was or fiercely cowering away from any recent changes. I have wrinkles now. My tits aren’t as pert as they used to be. I fall outside the age bracket of loads of men on dating sites. But fuck it, it’s mine, and it does some awesome shit.
Perhaps the missed-boat analogy needs refining. Pleasure isn’t something you choose to go on the hunt for, leaping on and off different boats until you find what you want. Sexual pleasure is something that is created when you use your body. So there is no ‘boat’ to miss: you own the boat!
There’ll be people who don’t want to fuck you because they think you’re too old, for sure. I have met lots of them, and I’d rather I hadn’t. But the point of Nancy’s journey in the film – and one of the reasons I love it, and think it would not have worked nearly as well if it weren’t for Leo Grande being a pro – is not to make her attractive to other people, or send her on a journey from feeling unattractive to seeing herself as hot via the medium of the male gaze. The male gaze is merely a sidenote: Leo tells Nancy at the very beginning that she’s sexy, he doesn’t need to ‘learn’ or ‘discover’ it like she’s a heroine in a teen movie being given a makeover to remove her ‘nerdy’ glasses and become the sexy Prom Queen. Her sexual journey isn’t about about what other people think, it’s about how she feels. I don’t want to give you spoilers, but I think the ‘climax’ of the film demonstrates this point very neatly. Even if Nancy never fucks anyone after Leo, she’s set sail in her own ship and is off on an adventure.
So yeah, your body will change. The sun will rise tomorrow. Every single one of us will die. But as we carve our way through our short and precious lives, our bodies are the most important things we will ever own. Your body is the only thing that is truly, inalienably yours. Sometimes it’ll do what you want, other times it won’t. It’ll have its own quirks as well as powerful skills, and these will be in flux throughout your life. At certain points you’ll need help doing various things, and that may include sex and masturbation. But that doesn’t mean your body is broken or undesirable, or that you’re ‘too late’ to start using it. It certainly doesn’t mean you should ever write it off. For as long as you exist, your body is yours to do with what you will. Enjoy it. Today. Right now.
Today is precious, you are never too late
It’s fun to wallow in nostalgia sometimes, and reflect on the people we were, but no past version of yourself could ever hope to be as important as the ‘you’ that exists right now. I am not saying anyone’s wrong for having regrets, because sometimes regrets help fuel better decisions today. But every second you spend berating yourself for missing the boat, or wishing you could turn back the clock, is a second you could have spent doing something that’s good for you right now.
This advice holds true for so many things, incidentally. Whether you’re starting to explore your sexual self, trying a new hobby, looking to escape a relationship that’s making you unhappy, or planning a trip round the world. If you want to quit smoking or try acid or ask the guy you’ve been crushing on if he’s single and into you. Learn a language, meet your neighbours, pick up an acoustic guitar. Sure, you could have done any of these things when you were younger, but maybe the time wasn’t right. If the time feels right in this moment? Do it. Please do it.
Your past helps to make you who you are, and everyone will have mixed feelings – both positive and negative – about what that past looks like. But contrary to what society tells us, our future isn’t written when we’re young – I firmly believe that each of our lives is a story that we’re constantly writing. Adding characters as they pop up, changing genres depending on what’s going on, and making choices that can take the plot in directions we may never have conceived of in our twenties. Your story is yours to write with every new decision you make, and whether you’re on chapter one or one hundred, it’s never too late to swerve into erotica.
I’m having far better sex today than I did when I started this blog, and I’m confident it won’t be a patch on some of the sex I will have in the distant future. And the journey you begin today will be richly different to the ones you may have made if you’d started fucking twenty years ago. Or five years ago. Or one! Or even at half past three on Tuesday last week.
You are never too late to start exploring sex, and your body, because your own story isn’t finished until the day you die. And even that is debatable, to be honest – long after you’re gone you’ll leave a legacy of stories that people who have known and loved you will tell their friends and lovers in turn. Who’s to say that what you do tomorrow won’t provide a powerful, pleasurable moment for someone that they’ll still be wanking about in decades? You could be inspiring orgasms with your past actions even when your physical body is no longer able to make new ones.
Sophie’s email came with the subject line ‘silly question’, but it’s not a silly question: not at all. It’s one of the most important questions – thank you so much for asking it.
My answer is that you’re never too late. You have not missed the boat. For as long as you have breath in your body, that body can bring you pleasure. Use it however you can to do what brings you joy. Today. Right now. The only time there is.