Saturday 20 January 2018

Pam: You're never too old for sex. . . and I know what I'm talking about

Sexagenarian sexologist Pamela Stephenson is as in-your-face as ever, writes Deirdre Reynolds Pamela Stephenson on why you're never too old for sex

Pamela Stephenson
Pamela Stephenson
Deirdre Reynolds

Deirdre Reynolds

After a long, tiring day talking about sex in her Shelbourne Hotel bedroom, Dr Pamela Stephenson-Connolly has kicked off her high heels and greets us at the door in silk-stockinged feet.

It's the only lapse in her otherwise perfectly made-up appearance.

With long platinum locks, come-hither false lashes and a bright green body-con dress that shows off her incredible figure, the 61-year-old is quite possibly the perfect person to pen a book called Sex Life about how you "don't have to hang up your pelvis at 40".

Part cuddly grandmum, part sexagenarian minx, sex therapist Stephenson proved as much when she appeared on BBC reality show Strictly Come Dancing last year -- out-foxing (and foxtrotting) contestants practically a third her age, cheered on by comedian husband Billy Connolly.

At the time, the best-selling author credited the hit show with putting the 'cha-cha' back into her own sex life and helping her to shed two-and-a-half stone -- and today she's got both the book and the body to prove it.

"If I did become a role model for older women then I'm very happy," says supergran Stephenson, who was born in New Zealand and raised in Australia -- her native twang only slightly diluted by four decades living in Britain and the States. "I wasn't surprised by the reaction -- there were a lot of older women saying: 'You've got to do it for us'."

"Between the TV show and the live tour, I spent half a year of my life on Strictly," she adds. "I got so fit -- and it's my daily struggle to keep it up. I'd hate to lose it, so I'm running, swimming and going to salsa bars to dance whenever I can."

Actress-turned-sexologist Stephenson was in the middle of penning her sixth book at the couple's New York home when an invite to take part in the celebrity dance-off pinged into her inbox last summer.

At an age when most are considering retirement, the clinical psychologist suddenly found herself reliving the fame of her glory days as the blonde bombshell with the mile-wide smile from Saturday Night Live and movies such as Superman III in the 1980s.

"Essentially, I'm a shrink now so it was kind of a wacky thing to happen," says Stephenson of being catapulted back into showbiz, eventually finishing third on Strictly behind 27-year-old Kara Tointon.

"Doing Strictly wasn't a career move in anyway -- I've no interest in getting back into acting or comedy. I just felt like I needed a bit of fun."

"When I started the show, I thought I was going to be booted off within three weeks and then I could finish the book. But I was lasting and having such a good time that eventually I had to ask for a later deadline."

The result is Sex Life, a cradle-to-grave look at human sexuality which hits shelves today.

And while 'sexy at 60' became the tagline to any story about her stint on Strictly, Stephenson's latest outing explores the idea of 'naughty at 90'.

"I wanted to write a book about sexuality throughout our lifespan," says Stephenson, who became a sexologist in her forties after raising the couple's three daughers -- as well as being stepmum to Billy's two adult children from his first marriage.

"People think sex is something that only happens during your childbearing years and then you hang up your pelvis -- but people can be sexual until the day they die.

"As a society, we have this strong prejudice against the idea of old people having sex," she adds.

"I'd go to a care home for the elderly and ask if I could talk to some of the residents about sex, and the management would be like: 'What? No!'

"But actually some older people were delighted to be given the chance to talk about their sex life."

Continued on p44

Continued from p41

"As is true for people living with disability, there's a sense that: 'Sex is the last thing you should be thinking about'. But sex is really precious and I don't think most of us realise that until we can't have it anymore.

"I was really touched by the extraordinary lengths some had gone to to try to continue their sexual connection with their partner against the odds."

Shoehorned on to the cover alongside a glamorous photo of the author is the byline 'Dr Pamela Stephenson-Connolly' -- a head-nod to her husband of 21 years, whom she met on sketch show Not The Nine O'Clock News and married in Fiji in 1989.

However, fans of the author may recall that she penned bestsellers Billy and Bravemouth: Living with Billy Connolly using her maiden name.

"I really don't know what my name is," she laughs.

Whether a late show of marital unity or simply a marketing tactic, Stephenson says her husband is happy to be associated with her daring day job -- even when she blabbed that her performance on Strictly had improved the couple's own horizontal tango.

"It's not even on his radar anymore," says Stephenson, who also presents More4 psychology show Shrink Rap. "Billy's just so used to my work being about sex.

"Our five children -- the youngest of whom is 22 -- just think it's cool that mum's a sexologist. And our two grandkids aren't really old enough to be aware of it."

Despite the studies of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Kinsey, Stephenson admits there are still those who view sexology as smut and its practitioners as little more than kinky quacks.

So are we mature enough to openly browse a book with the words Sex Life on the Luas without feeling like a pervert?

"I probably should have brought it out with a brown paper cover," she jokes.

"It's not an easy field. Nobody wants to put money into sex research in the United States -- unless a company stands to make a lot of money out of a drug."

"But I find that if you demonstrate comfort with the subject -- not raising your eyebrows and being shocked, other people will feel comfortable too."

Although unshockable when it comes to sex, Stephenson seems positively stunned to discover she was touted to earn £1m on the back of her Strictly appearance.

"I definitely haven't,"she gasps, "but if someone could tell me how to do that, I'm there!"

"At the minute, I'm sort of in a state of flux. On the one hand, I should be opening a practice in New York -- but I've got ideas for books and some other television offers that might be fun."

Meanwhile, Connolly next appears on the big screen -- or his voice at least -- as King Fergus in Pixar's animated fairy tale Brave next year.

After his wife wowed audiences with her bendability, he vowed to take part in Strictly if she won -- but what are the chances of seeing 'The Big Yin' cutting a rug on the camp dance show?

"I don't think he'll ever do Strictly," says Stephenson. "He's very coordinated but I don't think he'd enjoy the process -- it's very full-on."

Don't expect the sexologist to team up with her more hirsuite other half for a sex manual like Kim Cattrall and ex Mark Levinson any time soon either.

"People will certainly pick up tips and advice from Sex Life," she says, "But a 'How to' manual -- that's a whole different book. Maybe some day!"

Sex Life: How Our Sexual Experiences Define Who We Are by Dr Pamela Stephenson-Connolly, €14.99, is out now

Irish Independent

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