The natural aging process creates a number of specific physiological changes in the male cycle of sexual response. Knowledge of these cycle variations has not been widely disseminated.
There has been the little concept of a physiological basis for differentiating between natural sexual involution and pathological dysfunction when considering the problems of male sexual dysfunction in the post-so age group.
If all too few professionals are conversant with anticipated alterations in male sexual functioning created by the aging process, how can the general public be expected to adjust to the internal alarms raised by these naturally occurring phenomena?
Tragically, yet understandably, tens of thousands of men have moved from effective sexual functioning to varying levels of secondary impotence as they age, because they did not understand the natural variants that physiological aging imposes on previously established patterns of sexual functioning.
Sexually Impaired at 50
From a psychosexual point of view, the male over age 50 has to contend with one of the great fallacies of our culture. Every man in this age group is arbitrarily identified by both public and professional alike as sexually impaired.
When the aging male is faced by unexplained yet natural involutional sexual changes, and deflated by widespread psychosocial acceptance of the fallacy of sexual incompetence as a natural component of the aging process, is it any wonder that he carries a constantly increasing burden of fear of performance?
Before discussing specifics of sexual dysfunction in the aging population, the natural variants that the aging process imposes on the established male cycle of sexual response should be considered.
For sake of discussion, the four phases of the sexual response cycle excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution will be employed to establish a descriptive framework. Also for descriptive purposes, the term older man will be used in reference to the male population from 50 to 70 years of age and the term younger man used to describe the 20 to 40 year age group.
In recent years the younger man’s sexual response cycle has been established with physiological validity and will serve as a baseline for comparison with the physiological variations of aging.
If an older man can be objective about his reactions to sexual stimuli during the excitement phase, he may note a significant delay in erective attainment compared to his facility of response as a younger man.
Most older men do not establish erective response to effective sexual stimulation for a matter of minutes, as opposed to a matter 9f seconds as younger men, and the erection may not be as full or as demanding as that to which previously he has been accustomed.
It simply takes the older man longer to be fully involved subjectively in acceptance and expression of any form of sensate stimulation.
If natural delays in reaction time are appreciated, there will be no panic on the part of either husband or wife. If, however, the aging male is uninformed and not anticipating delayed physiological reactions to sexual stimuli, he may indeed panic and responding in the worst possible way to try to will or force an erection.
The unfortunate results of this approach to erective security have been discussed at length in treatment of impotence.
Aging Male Erections
As the aging male approaches the plateau phase, his erection usually has been established with fair security. There may be little if any testicular elevation, a negligible amount of scrotal-sac vasocongestion, and minimal deep vascular engorgement of the testes.
Most older men who have had a pre-ejaculatory fluid emission (Cowper’s gland secretory activity) will notice either total absence of, or marked reduction in, the amount of this pre-ejaculatory emission as they age.
From the aspect of time-span, the plateau phase usually lasts longer for an older man than for his younger counterpart. When an aging male reaches that level of elevated sexual tension identified as thoroughly enjoyable, he usually can and frequently does wish to maintain this plateau-phase level of sensual pleasure for an indefinite period of time without becoming enmeshed by ejaculatory demand.
This response pattern is age-related; the younger man tends to drive for early ejaculatory release when plateau-phase levels of sexual tension have accrued. One of the advantages of the aging process with specific reference to sexual functioning is that.
Generally speaking, control of ejaculatory demand in the 50 to 70 year age group is far better than in the 20 to 40 year age group.
In the cycle of sexual response, the largest number of physiological changes to come within objective focus for older men occurs during the orgasmic phase (ejaculatory process). The orgasmic phase is relatively standardized for younger men, varying minimally in duration and intensity of experience unless influenced by the psychosexual opposites of long-continued continence or high level of sexual satiation.
For younger men, the entire ejaculatory process is divided into two well-recognized stages. The first stage, ejaculatory inevitability, is the brief period of time (2 to 4 seconds) during which the male feels the ejaculation coming and no longer can control it before ejaculation actually occurs.
These subjective symptoms of ejaculatory inevitability are created physiologically by regularly recurring contractions of the prostate gland and, questionably, the seminal vesicles. Contractions of the prostate begin at o.8-second intervals and continue through both stages of the male orgasmic experience.
The second stage of the orgasmic phenomenon consists of the expulsion of the seminal-fluid bolus accrued under pressure in the membranous and prostatic portions of the urethra, through the full length of the penile urethra.
Again, there are regularly recurring 0.8-second inter-contractile intervals. This specific interval lengthens after the first three or four contractions of the penile urethra in younger men.
Subjectively, the sensation is one of flow of a volume of warm fluid under pressure and emission of the seminal fluid bolus in ejaculatory spurts with pressure sufficient to expel fluid content distances of 12 to 24 inches beyond the urethral meatus.
As the male ages he develops many individual variants on the basic theme of the two-stage orgasmic experience described for the younger man. Usually his orgasmic experience encompasses a shorter time span.
There may not be even a recognizable first stage to the ejaculatory experience, so that an orgasmic experience without the stage of ejaculatory inevitability is quite a common occurrence.
Even with a recognizable first stage, there still may be marked variation in reaction pattern. Occasionally, the older man’s phase of ejaculatory inevitability lasts but a second or two as opposed to the younger man’s pattern ranging from 2 to 4 seconds.
In an older man’s first-stage experience, there may be only one or two contractions of the prostate before involuntary initiation of the second stage, seminal-fluid expulsion.
Alternatively, the first stage of orgasmic experience may be held for as long as 5 to 7 seconds. Occasionally the prostate, instead of contracting within the regularly described pattern of 0.8-second intervals, develops a spastic contraction, creating subjectively the sense of ejaculatory inevitability.
The prostate may not relax from spasm into rhythmically expulsive contractions for several seconds, hence the 5-7-second duration of the first-stage experience. In addition to objective variants in a first-stage orgasmic episode, there may be no possible objective or subjective definition of the first stage of orgasmic experience at all.
The stage of ejaculatory inevitability may be totally missing from the aging male’s sexual response cycle. A single-stage orgasmic episode develops clinically in two circumstances.
The first circumstance is that of clinical dysfunction developing as the result of inadequate testosterone production.
Actually the lack of a recognizable first stage in orgasmic experience can result from low sex-steroid level for the male just as steroid starvation in the female may produce an orgasmic experience of markedly brief duration.
The second occasion of an absent first stage in the orgasmic experience develops after there has been prior denial of ejaculatory opportunity over a long period of intravaginal containment in order to satisfy the aging male’s coital partner sexually.
There also are obvious physiological changes in the second stage of the orgasmic experience that develop with the aging process.
The expulsive contractions of the penile urethra have onset at 0.8second intervals but are maintained for only one or two contractions at this rate:
The expulsive force delivering the seminal fluid bolus externally, so characteristic of second-stage penile contractions in the younger man, also is diminished, with the distance of unencumbered seminal-fluid expulsion ranging from 3 to 12 inches from the urethral meatus.