As women age, sexual desire may diminish—or not. It’s a different game, but you can still win.
Sexuality incorporates our attitude towards our bodies, beliefs, values, gender, orientation, relationships and desires. For instance, the desire for intimate physical contact waxes and wanes over time, dependent as much on hormones as our life situations.
Sex drive may walk out the door when we are depressed, angry, having financial difficulty or trouble with a partner. Some people were never very interested in the first place; others are sorry to see desire diminish with age.
However, the death of desire as we age is not at all the rule. According to a study in The American Journal of Medicine, older women, despite any medical or psychological issues that may interfere in our sex lives as we age, continue to have very satisfactory, intimate relationships.
Let’s take a closer look at what we have to look forward to:
If you are single and not dating
Unfortunately, life has a way of taking us down winding roads. As you get older, you may lose a partner to separation, illness or death. As you recover, you may regret the absence of your partner and long to feel skin on skin. Or you may be perfectly satisfied with your single life, including your ability to give yourself orgasms when you choose to. Aside from tension and even pain relief, the old adage “use it or lose it” holds true, reminding your body of your sexual responses, including how to lubricate.
Now is a good time to experiment with different kinds of lubricants and sex toys, like a vibrator. After all, no one’s watching, so enjoy and have fun!
If you are single and looking
Friends and family may be encouraging you to start online dating, which can be a lot of fun, but sometimes disappointing. Start with a positive attitude towards yourself and cultivate a wry sense of humour. Be truthful online and take what potential partners say with a big dose of salt.
Take stock. Are you in reasonably good health? Is there anything you need to do to improve your health before you enter the dating scene? When you look in the mirror, do you say, “Not bad, not bad at all!”? If you have been consciously rejecting personal comparisons with the society’s public barrage of “perfect bodies,” keep it up. Confidence in your body, and in yourself, will be reflected in your profile.
If you spark with someone and the dates lead to physical intimacy and that intimacy involves taking off your clothes, your confidence needs to be channeled on a slightly different path.
It is important to practice safe sex, no matter your age. Now is the time to learn this important skill. Get tested with your potential partner and then negotiate the level of risk with which you are comfortable. For example, you may be comfortable giving or receiving oral sex without a barrier. And, yes, you do need to talk about that.
If you have a partner
There are some real advantages to being older:
- If pregnancy was once an issue, maybe it is no longer.
- We’ve learned to take our time.
- By now, we have a pretty good idea of what pleases us.
- Over time, we have developed more skills to please each other.
- We may be learning to be more creative.
There may be some issues you have to deal with, like the side effects of medication, chronic illness, pain, disability, diminished lubrication, a partner’s difficulties with their sexual functioning—the list goes on. If you and your partner have been together for a while, hopefully your communication skills are well honed. You need to talk honestly about what’s possible, what’s painful and what’s pleasurable.
The bottom line is: if you want to stay in the game, stay in the game.
Lyba Spring has been a sexual health educator since 1981, 30 years of which she worked at Toronto Public Health. Post retirement, she gives interviews, writes blogs and facilitates workshops.