Fifty Shades of Normal

lovers watching tv in the...
lovers watching tv in the...

Fifty Shades Fever is a modern pandemic. Yet the thrill of sex that includes lots of weird stuff has been at the core of humanity since our inception. And while Anastasia and Christian are buff and young, old people do it too -- with great gusto and creativity, and have been since biblical times.

As a journalist, I count on information I can confirm. I can confirm that sex matters until the day we die, from my interviews with seniors in their seventies, eighties and beyond for my latest book, Sex After... Women Share How Intimacy Changes As Life Changes. And while I didn't get to speak directly to Old Testament players, there is plenty of hanky panky documented in there, too, performed by folks of all ages.

Sarah supposedly was fooling around with Abraham at the age of 90 when she gave birth to a son Isaac, following seven barren decades. This, after luring him away from their fertile slave Hagar, with whom Sarah allowed Abraham to bed with and conceive a firstborn.

Fifty Shades of Grey is the sordid obsession of now. Yet the timeless reality of human sexuality as a "garden of good and evil" started when Eve tempted Adam with the apple that God forbid them to eat, with this warning: "In the day that you eat from it you shall surely die."

Instead, the couple fell for the tease of a serpent wrapped around the forbidden tree, who basically tells them to "do it," egging them with on with this: "Ye shall not surely die; For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."

Their chomp on the apple, disregard of the Lord and surrender to the serpent offers a first glimpse of the uncontrollable human sex drive. Gone is the shame over nudity Adam and Eve once felt. Now, we speak of BDSM, or Bondage, Dominance, Sado-Masochism. But I'd argue BDSM was around long before Christian Grey tied Anastasia to his bed with his silk tie. Delilah, professing to be "helpless," ties up the lead-bodied Samson to enhance their erotic encounters, so, as he puts it, he can "become as weak as an ordinary man."

Another biblical bodice-ripper is portrayed in the Book of Samuel when King David catches a glimpse of the gorgeous Bathsheba, another man's wife, naked on the terrace below his swooping hilltop digs. Intoxicated by her beauty, he lures her into his royal chambers. Things get really messy for the couple as they begin an affair. Bathsheba gets pregnant, and to keep her husband Uriah from finding out, David sends him into a dangerous battle with the intent that he gets killed, which he does. Sinning with another man's wife, then getting that guy obliterated doesn't sit well with God, who hits David with a series of divine punishments.

While David, the mighty king that toppled Goliath, tries to sanctify their tryst by marrying Bathsheba, their firstborn is sickly and dies in infancy. Another son, Absalom, born to another wife Maacah (the Bible cites that David had at least seven wives) rebels against his father, and mobilizes an army to take over David's kingdom, only to die in the Battle of Ephraim.

Despite these blows, David's relationship with Bathsheba that started as pure sex turns into an abiding bond and produces another son.

Who knows if Fifty Shades sequels will have Anastasia and Christian savoring Happily-Ever-After or thrashing in divorce? What I do know from interviews with long-married couples is that it's a pilot light of love flickering within, and not roaring bonfire sex, that is the real secret to endurance... though engaging in some degree of sex-play along the way helps greatly in solidifying a lengthy union.

And with women in their nineties comprising the fastest growing segment of the aging population, our sex lives have the potential to last a very long time.

Yet it would be a huge mistake to compare your intimate relationships to anyone else's, especially to Anastasia's and Christian's, those fantasy concoctions of stage lights and youth. Also avoid the urge to keep up with the Joneses -- those friends who constantly boast about their robust libidos and endless action. No one knows what's really going on behind closed doors except the two people in that room.

Well, I know a lot, too.

A 35-year career writing about relationships has given me two crucial takeaways: Most people lie about sex, and there is no normal when it comes to sex.

That means couples claiming nonstop sizzle, who sit with their legs twined, feed each other anchovies while they share Caesar Salads and call each other "sweetie" may have been sexless for years.

One common question I get from readers is how often is "normal" to be intimate. There is no gold standard sexual relationship toward which we should aspire to. Everyone has challenges and secrets that are played out in privacy. This frees us all to create our own brands of intimacy based on our individual emotional and physical needs.

Normal is what feels right to you, a rhythm in sync with your own mental compass and physical intensity -- with hopes that it matches your partner's. While sexual highs are very fun, they are also fleeting. It's love that is the real ticket to longevity.

Lasting love comes from celebrating each other in small and meaningful ways, with gestures that have nothing to do with buying Fifty Shades paraphernalia or over-priced bling on holidays or for birthdays.

The Beatles got it right: "Can't buy me love".

We've already got too much stuff in our bureaus we don't need or wear. Yet, we can never receive too much kindness, an unexpected pat on the butt, a long morning kiss, being told "You look great! I love you so much."

Iris is a bestselling author and a frequent keynote speaker to women's groups on topics related to empowering women throughout the life-cycle. Connect with her on