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German TV Explores Sex Among Seniors

Curious about the sex lives of the over-70 crowd? Even intimate relations among 50-somethings is usually not talked about. And teens? Now all is revealed on German television.

Laying it bare on German prime time
Laying it bare on German prime time

BERLIN — What’s sex like for couples over 50? How about for those 70 or older? Do they have sex regularly? Is the experience pretty much as it was when they were 20, except that their bodies are older? Or do hormonal changes mean that sex becomes a wholly different experience?

These and other questions about sexuality in older age are the subject of the the German docu-series Make Love, whose second installment is being planned. The successful TV program has just been nominated for 2014's Grimme Online Award, and many people have read the accompanying book by Danish sexologist Ann-Marlene Henning, the driving force behind the series.

The cross-media format asserts that "making love is something you can learn," and it deals with subjects like "good arguments, bad arguments" and "advertising to find personal happiness." It has attracted a great many fans.

"For the next docu-series Make Love, we're looking for retirees to tell us what sex is like for older people and what it's like to discover late in life that you have homoerotic feelings," Henning recently posted on her Facebook page. "If you're between 40 and 100 and would like to be a part of this, contact us."

In a video accompanying the message, Henning tries to defuse any fears potential participants may have. "Your clothes stay on … and your privacy is respected," she says. "That's very, very important to me."

Henning asks what others won't

The reason for these reassuring remarks may be because previous episodes featured naked partners having real sex. But the series got as much attention as it did because, though the video was realistic and the content graphic, the effect was never sensational or sleazy.

Along with older heterosexual couples, Henning is also looking for older, same-sex couples for the new Make Love series — or anyone who in later life discovered new aspects to their sexuality, or are planning to "come out." "It could, for example, be that past the age of 40 or 50 you discover that you actually prefer sex with same-sex partners," she says in another video.

The new episodes will also feature very young adults and explore what sex is like for them. In her sympathetic Danish accent, Henning says she wants to find out not only how notions of bodily perfection have influenced young people, but also how they've been influenced by pornography, which is much more accessible now than it used to be.

The new documentary will be filmed soon and broadcast serially next fall. Given the huge success of the first series, there is little doubt that Henning and the Make Love producers will find the protagonists they need.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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