Parents don’t have sex, let alone grandparents. And great-grandparents certainly not. Say what? Every person has basic needs, affection and sex drive. From the womb to the nursing home. The latter in particular is taboo, a taboo that sexologist Christian Vanhecke (73) wants to break through.
Christian, you are a sexologist and you are 73 years old. Your age in combination with sexuality, that’s a bit rough. Sex is taboo from a certain age. How did that happen?
“I come from a time when you were blind and deaf if you dared to masturbate.
Moreover, you would also have back injuries if you secretly masturbated. That is what parents used to tell their children. Sex is a sin, it was so ingrained. This is still the case for many generations today. That is why I have been traveling the country for nine years now, with the banner in my hand to break the taboo. I try to make it clear to people that they should enjoy every day and every moment. We are simply sex beings. “
Do you notice that many people of your generation have a hard time talking about sex?
‘Certainly. After a lecture an older couple approached me. They had attended the lecture with open mouth and they came to thank me. They thought they lived in sin because they had sex, something they tried to hide in all ways from the outside world. In their eyes, sex was something for young people, with a tight body and no wrinkles. “
“An older couple tried to hide from the outside world that they were still having sex. They thought they were living in sin.”
That is of course because it is so in the media. Sex and the elderly is a combination that we do not immediately see in the media.
“That’s right. And it is precisely that “sexuality of the media” that I am trying to eliminate. Sexuality is not just vagina, penis, erections and performance. It is much more than that, it is the whole experience of “being you.” And that is different for everyone: for one is a sincere hug, for the other it is a moment for themselves to masturbate. For someone who has or has had cancer, sexuality means something else. People who had to contend with the disease have to look again for themselves, for their possibilities and for a form of pleasure that the bruised body can still experience.
The word “senior” often reminds people of someone who is old and unable to do anything. That is of course not true, but how do you feel about that, from your profession?
“Seniors have the age of maturity and understanding to be able to talk about life with the caps and bumps they carry. But that is just the beauty, you learn to live with some crackling here and there but you also learned to enjoy more. When you are a senior, you actually start with the dessert of life, not to say: the dessert buffet. Everything is possible, everything is allowed and nothing is still required. It is just at this age that sexuality becomes a total experience that is much more intense than in the twenties. You start on Monday with the foreplay in the form of a caress, on Tuesday there is a chocolate in bed and the following days little surprises will follow to hold a big party on Friday.
Wrinkles and sex, it remains a strange combination in the eyes of many people …
“And that is also how many elderly people experience it themselves. They start spraying away the wrinkles so that they can no longer smile and tighten the forehead so that you can no longer see where the hairline starts. While every wrinkle is just a story. If we wipe out all the wrinkles, you wipe out the entire history of that person. And a woman without history is a woman without a future. “
That’s nicely said. I finish my question further.
… Especially for children of the elderly who stay in a residential care center, it is still very difficult to start a conversation about sexuality.
“It is still too often taboo for family members, too, for the cared for and the doctors. I am committed to a cuddle room in residential care centers, a room that is accessible and where couples can do what they want. They can experience sexuality together without being disturbed. Or even easier: provide door hangers that say “Do not disturb now.”
‘It is often even harder for people with dementia. Children see their mother suddenly fall in love with a man they don’t know. They often ask to “take apart their mother and husband”. While their mother with dementia is no longer the mother they used to know. So if she feels happy today when she is holding hands with that “strange” man who is a familiar face to her at that time, let her be happy with that. Allow it. “
“When you are a senior, you start the dessert of your life. Or better: the dessert buffet.”
You give a lot of lectures and you talk a lot about sex and sexual relationships. Undoubtedly you sometimes got the question if you never feel like cheating on yourself?
‘Yes. Every morning I lie next to another woman. Then the mouths open when I answer that. Every morning I lie next to a woman who has experienced a lot, who ended up in situations that changed her a bit. So I have to rediscover my partner every morning. Discover and meet. Meet. We have beautiful language, right? “
So you are not a fan of people who flit from one partner to another?
“I don’t have a problem with swingers, as long as they don’t make a show like” Temptation Island “where it’s all about the carnal. So I say: the carnal, not the physical. And then finish with #Metoo. Let everyone experience sexuality the way they want. I am convinced that cheating is not bad, provided that you know that you have the total package at home, that you know what you really need. As long as you have values in your life and in your relationship. Unfortunately, those values are often blurred today. “
“Don’t expect to see a second other half. But don’t keep mourning for life, you’ll die.”
Older people who lose their partner and are left alone often find it difficult to re-establish a relationship. They often only stay with isolation as a result. Do you have any tips for them?
“If you fall alone, everything starts with the meaning of life. You have lived a lifetime together with your other half, with the person who made you complete. You cannot expect to encounter a second other half. You can meet someone to see, to do fun things together and to experience physicality. I recommend entering into a slat relationship, you do not have to go together again or get married. See each other for the beautiful things. But don’t keep mourning for life, because then you’ll die. “
One of the focal points in your work is sexuality at the end of life. What does that mean exactly?
“You only die once so that must be good. We usually try to make a celebration of euthanasia. There is champagne, cookies and cake. It is often the case that the person who is going to die can no longer speak. But not talking does not mean that he cannot communicate. At the end, I ask family members to hold that person. That is sexuality in its purest form: all together transfer that one person to the other side. That is pure nature. “