SEX: the taboo of men who don't want sex
No sex please, we'll settle for a nice dinner instead.
Former football star Gary Lineker has lifted the lid on a taboo subject by admitting he isn't interested in scoring between the sheets.
In his role as the smiling, Walkers crisp-eating face of liberal Britain, BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker uses his Twitter feed to rail against everything from Donald Trump and Brexit through to fox-hunting.
Recently, though, the former England striker broached a subject that really was taboo. In an interview, twice-divorced Lineker made a startling admission for a man still considered one of Britain's most eligible bachelors.
He was, he said, no longer bothered about sex or dating. " It's a stupid and horrible thing to say in a way, but I'm not massively into sex," the 59-year-old said. "I've had the odd (date). But I'm straight right from the start. I say, 'I don't want a relationship; a nice dinner's fine.'"
Unlike Lineker's anti-Brexit comments, which get approvingly retweeted millions of times, this latest gem did not spark a chorus of MeToos. Love Island-era Britain may well be more open about sex, but it's still not a place where heterosexual men of a certain age will readily admit they're simply no longer interested.
To do so is to invite questions about your masculinity, or even how heterosexual you were in the first place.
Yet Lineker is by no means alone, reckons London-based sex therapist Silva Neves, who says it's a perfectly natural phenomenon of middle age. It's only an issue if they - or other people - see it as such.
"Gary Lineker sounds at peace with it," he says. "But many men do worry about it, especially those who associate masculinity with sexual potency." In a sense, Lineker is merely confirming what science tells us.
Once a man is in his 30s, his testosterone levels typically fall around 1 per cent a year. The effect can be noticeable within a decade or two, even though most men retain some sex drive well into their 60s or 70s.
This, though, seems to be a phenomenon observable only in a laboratory, as trying to find men who will talk about it publicly is like trying to interview unicorns.
When I put out an appeal to Facebook friends as research for this article, all I got at first was matey bravado. "Sorry, mate, feeling a bit tired after satisfying my woman for the ninth time today," said one wag. "Off to make love for the 27th time this month, mate," added another.
The few who were more candid, meanwhile, insisted on anonymity. "Lots of factors have suppressed my libido - children, work and so on," said one married father, 42.
"But it's also about accepting your own age - when I was young, I'd get girls approaching me, but of course that doesn't happen any more, and if I were single again, that would make the whole prospect a bit off-putting for me."
Another father, separated at 45 after years in a sexless relationship, added: "I was terrified when I started dating again that my libido would have packed up. I'm pleased to say, though, that my new relationship is proving extremely healthy. It really is down to the personal connection, not the age."
Where men are less able to dodge the issue is when it interferes in an existing relationship. Ammanda Major, a counsellor at Relate, says a loss of male libido can cause tension, although only if it leads to a partner feeling short-changed.
"Some couples don't have that much sex anyway, and so it's not necessarily a problem - where there's difficulties is when it causes a disparity," she adds. "It can be just that sex assumes less importance in a man's life, but a woman can interpret that as him no longer finding her attractive."
Indeed, reduced libido is often nothing to do with how one feels about one's partner, but the result of stress or depression, or being too overweight or unfit. That though, makes it just an understandable and resolvable by-product of other problems.
What society isn't quite comfortable with yet is the idea that like Lineker, some men just aren't bothered about sex per se.
"If I were single again, I would date, but it would be less for the sex, and more just to seem normal," said one 46-year-old family man. "Not having a partner puts you off everyone's dinner invite list. Guys who don't want sex are seen as a bit weird."
As Major points out, no glossy magazine or lifestyle supplement is complete without a section about couples boasting of Olympian sex feats in their dotage. And in the age of Viagra, older men have less excuse than they did before to say they simply aren't up for it.
Yet arguably the biggest surprise about Lineker Syndrome, as one might call it, is that it is any surprise at all. For a start, sex no longer holds much mystique for most middle-aged men, and they may feel that their best years in the bedroom are behind them.
And unlike their fathers' generation, whose leisure activities revolved around the pub, football once a week, and fiddling around under the Ford Cortina, today's man also has far more distractions to compete with sex.
If he's not trying to compete on Masterchef, there's his X-box, his 24-hour satellite sport channels, his new road bike, and his bread-making machine. Not to mention poker night with the lads, Netflix must-sees to catch up on, and time on Facebook and Twitter (which is quite a lot if you're Gary Lineker).
And, yes, for those moments where the libido gets a look-in again, there's also endless online porn - not that even Lineker would be likely to admit to that. Finally, for those who are single, there's also the question of just how match-fit they feel for playing the field again.
While Lineker has those well-preserved, silver fox looks usually found on men who do adverts for erectile dysfunction clinics, most blokes in their 50s aren't such catches. More likely, they'll be balding, with impressive moobs and an expanding waistline.
Neves argues this should not be a problem. When you're 50 plus, it's perfectly natural that your torso looks less like a six-pack and more like a beer barrel. "As we age, our bodies change, and we have to keep loving them," he says.
Still, in a looks-obsessed world, persuading men of that is perhaps easier said than done. And, even if they can overcome bodily embarrassment, there is, to be blunt, the challenge of getting aroused by a partner who may have some wear and tear themselves.
Small wonder, then, that some men might now prefer a Lineker-style "nice dinner" instead. With or without a female dining companion.
The Daily Telegraph Tips for boosting your libido By sex therapist Silva Neves: Exercise, especially weightlifting, is a natural way to boost testosterone.
A Mediterranean diet, combined with exercise, will help with sexual desire.
Get testosterone levels checked: if low, a boost of testosterone might help.? Sex isn't just about your manhood, or about penetration. Take time with your partner to discover other erogenous zones - especially helpful if you're having erection problems. If there's something sexually that you no longer like, or are bored by, talk to your partner.
Explore your erotic mind with your partner and share sexual fantasies or read erotica to each other.
If you still need help, you can find a suitably qualified therapist on Therapists for Sexuality And Gender in South Africa.
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