Sally Wendkos Olds
Crown Publishing Group, 1999 (originally published by Times Books)

This book is a major portrayal of contemporary sexual issues, presented chronologically as they are experienced throughout life. In this book I identify and describe 15 sexual turning points, or passages, which may be experienced universally—but I also make the point that the way people negotiate their way through these and other turning points is highly individual. THE ETERNAL GARDEN chronicles the profound influence of sex as a motivating life force.

I conducted more than 100 interviews with people from many areas of the U.S., varying in age from 20 to 83, from differing religious, socioeconomic, and ethnic backgrounds and of different sexual orientations, and I report these interviews, interpreting them in the light of both classic and contemporary research and theory. I was gratified by how open my interviewees were, sharing the most intimate details of their sexual lives regarding such significant sexual experiences as the onset of puberty, first intercourse, falling in love, becoming a parent, extramarital sex, menopause, diminishing sexual powers, and the death of a spouse.

Many of my findings in THE ETERNAL GARDEN are fascinating—and often unexpected. I discovered, for example, that in today’s more accepting climate, marriage is no longer the sexual turning point for young people that it was for their parents, and that the most prevalent sexual problem today is lack of desire. Furthermore, through the interviews, I uncovered difficulties in the most common marital scenario today—the working-couple marriage. I see tremendous frustration in these couples, for while they are striving to “have it all” in their relationships and their work lives, each partner may feel deprived and often angry at what they perceive as the other partner’s selfishness and inflexibility.

Throughout THE ETERNAL GARDEN, I raise provocative questions that explore the vital role of sexuality in everyone’s life:

  • How has casual sex affected marriage?
  • How have advances in birth control affected the sexual expression of marrieds and singles?
  • Are people meant to be monogamous?
  • How does parenthood affect sexuality?
  • What are the special problems of newly single adults?
  • How do high-powered careers affect sexual relationships?
  • Why do some people choose celibacy?
  • How do homosexual men and women recognize and accept their orientation?
  • How does sexuality contribute to and how is it affected by midlife crisis?
  • How do sexual attitudes and activities determine whether old age will be a fulfilling or depressing time of life?

Through the metaphor of the garden, I illustrate how sexuality affects virtually every aspect of people’s lives throughout life. THE ETERNAL GARDEN is divided into chapters that indicate the general sexual goals for each period of growth and change: infancy, childhood, puberty, adolescence, the decades of the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s and beyond. Additional chapters deal with sex after divorce and extramarital relations in middle age. Most readers like to identify with passages they have already been through and anticipate those to come.


“A compassionate and humane overview of the stages of sexual development . . . a non-judgmental approach . . . her intimate style lends authenticity.” —Rita Jackaway Freedman, Ph.D., Women and Health

“Covers a wide variety of sexual subjects with skill and humanity . . . a marvelous sense of humor . . . eminently sensible” —Lorna J. Sarrel, MSW, SIECUS Report (Sex Information & Education Council in the U.S.)

“She points to . . . a heartening acceptance of sexuality as a source of pleasure well into old age.” —Brett Harvey, Psychology Today

“A graceful and sensitive survey . . . touching insights.” —Marina Newmyer, The Washington Post

“A fascinating study of how sex impacts us all, from an author who . . . has kept her sense of humor about the whole thing.” —Maxine Rock, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Readers will appreciate the book’s advocacy of self-trust, its enlightening discussion . . . and the large amount of information.” —Booklist, American Library Association

“A major goal of her book is to help people understand the sexual passages they will face in their own lives.” —Marriage and Divorce Today

“Uses her gift for storytelling to make this book not only educational but informational . . . writing is concise and to the point.” —Patricia Dibsie, San Diego (CA) Tribune

“One of the delights of this book is that it reads like a cozy conversation with a trusted friend.” —Karen Comiskey, RN, Med, ACSC, The Journal of Sex Research

“You’ll find yourself somewhere in this book and you’ll find some powerful insights.” —Alan Caruba, Bookviews, Essex (N.J.) Journal

“Replete with case histories and amusing anecdotes . . . will give you standards to measure your own experiences against.” —Tom Elliott, Mensa Bulletin

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