Sexplain It: My Younger Boyfriend Loves Showing Me Off, but We Never Have Sex

I'm 74, and he's 38. What's the problem?

older woman younger man couple
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I'm Zachary Zane, a sex writer and ethical manwhore (a fancy way of saying I sleep with a lot of people, and I'm very, very open about it). Over the years, I've had my fair share of sexual experiences, dating and sleeping with hundreds of people of all genders and orientations. In doing so, I've learned a thing or two about navigating issues in the bedroom (and a bunch of other places, TBH). I'm here to answer your most pressing sex questions with thorough, actionable advice that isn't just "communicate with your partner," because you know that already. Ask me anything—literally, anything—and I will gladly Sexplain It.

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Dear Sexplain It,

I met a wonderful guy who works security at Walmart. He asked for my number, and I gave it to him. I am 74 and have been married twice. He is 38 and has never been married. I will admit, I do look damn good for my age.

Over the past three months, we've become much closer, and the chemistry is definitely there. We've become intimate in some ways, but not all the way. He says that one day we’ll have sex. I really like him. He’s amorous and caring, and we always have a great time together. We text every day and see each other multiple times a week.

He has introduced me to some of his coworkers, saying, “Would you believe she's 74?” I don't know if he's daring himself to be with me. Is there a way I could ask him without sounding judgmental?

Also, I’m now wondering if he’s gay, and maybe that’s why he’s hesitating to go further? He once told me he knew someone who had made love to women all over the world, and sometimes that guy would have sex with men, too. If he was gay, I’d understand why he didn’t want to have sex with me.

— Mrs. Robinson

sexplain it graphic

Dear Mrs. Robinson,

Without knowing your boyfriend, I can't say for certain whether or not he's gay. I know it would be a relief if he were exclusively into dudes, because you wouldn't have to contend with the possibility that he's into women, but not you. The rejection would be a lot less painful.

I want to get to the root of what seems to be troubling you: the fear that your boyfriend isn't sexually attracted to you, which—though I hate to say it—sounds like a more likely explanation for his behavior than him secretly being gay. We live in a wildly ageist society, so I can imagine how refreshing it feels for you, a 74-year-old woman, to get this attention from a 38-year-old suitor. I can tell you really want to believe it’s real, but some of his behaviors (i.e., introducing you with your age and not initiating sex) are making you question whether your relationship is real—and rightfully so.

Having a conversation with him is the only way for you to know with certainty whether he sees this going further—both emotionally and sexually—or whether he simply wants a story he’ll be able to share at parties for years to come. (“Yeah, I dated this woman who was 74 for a while.”)

I know this discussion is a terrifying prospect, as it opens the possibility of rejection. He might say you're "too old" for him to date seriously, which would be soul-crushing—but it doesn't sound like you're happy in your current confusing situation, either. It's better to know what he's truly thinking and feeling.

He's said that "one day" you'll have sex, which tells me you've have some kind of serious talk before. This time, you need to get straight to the point. Your age is the "elephant in the room," says sex and relationship therapist Todd Baratz, LMHC, and it's time you addressed it, along with your relationship expectations.

The next time you two are hanging out alone, ask him if now is a good time to talk about your relationship. If he says yes, say something like: "I really like you and enjoy spending time with you. I think we have a great connection and would love to take our relationship to the next level, including sex, but I'm sensing some hesitation on your part that might have something to do with my age. How are you feeling about us?"

If he says he doesn't want to take things further, well, there's your answer. But if he gives you that same wishy-washy "We'll have sex one day" response, let him know—not in a pressuring way, but in a factual way—that sex is something you need. You're not willing to wait around for it, and you'd rather not continue seeing someone who isn't on the same page. What I'm saying is, I think you should break things off. I know it won't be easy, but hey, you have a hell of a lot of life experience. You've lived through two marriages ending. You can handle it.

If you decide to look for a new partner, Walmart isn't the only place to meet guys. I'm not sure how experienced you are in the dating app world, but today's apps allow you to openly state what you're looking for in a relationship and find other people who feel the same. You deserve a sex-filled relationship where you feel loved, desired, and proud of your age—not self-conscious about it. If this younger gentleman can’t give you that, move along and find someone who can.

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