There is so much information out there written for us women about sex and our responses to it (present company included). To some degree when we’re addressed as women, we’re all lumped together in one fell swoop. We’re told about our G spots, our orgasmic potential, our vaginas, our ability to “ejaculate”, our biological clocks, our issues with menopause, our attempts to feel sexy, our issues with men and the list can and does go on. What often fails to happen in the self-help arena, however, is the distinguishing of us women.
Yes, we’re not all alike and while variables like race, ethnicity and socialization may separate us when it comes to sex; age is also a huge discriminator. So while we might tell women to do this or do that to maximise their sexual potential, the truth is that adulthood is not one generalised state of being. Like any other aspect of life, our sexual needs and priorities will change through the ages or decades of our lives. Of course the context within which we are having sex will also have some bearing on our experience of it. So, admittedly, the casual hooker-upper, the serial monogamist and the woman in a committed relationship like marriage, will all experience sex somewhat differently. Be that as it may, as women, we can still identify common emotional and even physical responses which define our sex through the ages.
The Roaring 20’s
I got married at nineteen. You could say I was reasonably well prepared emotionally and psychologically for some of what marriage entailed. But really and truly, although I was looking forward to loads of great sex, it wasn’t something I exactly thought about that deeply. What concerned me mostly in my twenties was the logistics of sex; the how, the when, the where; even though I was deeply in love with the man I was doing it with!
In our twenties, we’re still very much into carving out our sexual identity with respect to how we have and enjoy sex. Yet we have sex with very little thought to what we’re actually doing. It’s more like sex on automatic pilot; loads of sex drive, lot’s of gas in the garage and plenty mileage. And of course we want to experience the emotional connection and all the stuff the fairy tales and romantic comedies promise us. Yet we’re still fairly insecure, and worry about things like body image and how we will look in bright light. In spite of it all, sex in our twenties is usually a rip-roaring experience aided and abetted by lots of youthful sass.
The Thoughtful 30’s
Although none us likes to admit it, by the time we reach our mid-thirties, we are in essence fast approaching mid-life. Our kids are growing (or yet being born) and we’ve likely started a mortgage and our second car loan. Being consumed with a growing family, may cause sex to become routine or even boring. So who cares about light and dark at this stage? It’s sex for basic survival where our husband is lucky if we can manage it regularly with both eyes opened.
On the other hand, at this stage, sex is still fairly important in a committed relationship and we can become consumed with making it more meaningful or better. This may lead us to attend seminars (with our husbands kicking and screaming in tow), read books or even inspire us to try to match the national average or at least keep up with the Joneses. For those who were previously single, a decision to settle with one person can also make our sex life dynamite at this stage, as we grow in sexual confidence and deliberately try to find ways to keep things heated in the bedroom. In our thirties, sex involves a lot more thought than it perhaps did before. This can honestly lead to a desire for more experimentation; which can perhaps be squeezed in between the kids’ vaccine shots.
The Flaming 40’s
I am past forty; (chronologically forty-something, emotionally thirty-nine) and I have definitely gone into another sexual high-gear. I recently told some slightly embarrassed twenty-something year old friends of mine that I was having the best sex of my life. I totally got their averted glances because at twenty-something, I would never have said that either. And that’s the entire point of this article.
In her forties a woman is oozing with sexiness. There is a certain pep in her step. She knows what she’s about, she has greater self-confidence and this transfers to the bedroom where she’s not afraid to make her needs known. Some call it her sexual peak. Gone are the days of worrying about the toning of certain parts of her anatomy or about the way the light falls across her naked body. This sexually assertive woman is likely to be more vocal in bed, and even more assertive in initiating the act. She may even surprise her partner with a few tricks of her own. She’s doing the bedroom research and totally enjoying this new lease on her sexual life.
The fact that the kids have grown up, or are growing up and out of the house a lot more often, (on their own dates/away at college), means that there is a lot more free time for mummy and daddy to play. And I don’t mean hide and seek. This increased freedom and a woman’s desire to be at her best as she ages, has a wonderful spin-off effect and the result can be an increased sex-drive (and her husband is usually deliriously happy).
The Fulfilling 50’s
Having not yet reached the big five o, I can only imagine and of course take the cues from the fifty-somethings I either know, or have read about. At this stage, a woman can finally, legitimately say, “been there, done that, will do or never do again”. Hopefully where sex is concerned there is still quite a bit of doing left as her sex-drive can still be in full swing from the previous decade.
If what the developmental psychologists suggests is true, our fifties is a time of reflection and critical decision-making. We have lived long enough to know what we want and what we won’t put up with. Sex is no different. The woman at fifty and beyond who has taken care of herself, is still up to doing a full-scale romp in the hay but it’s on her own terms, since she has little to prove. Still assertive, she is also more caring, patient and willing to be inventive to keep the sex fresh; especially if her partner may not always be up to the times (if you get my drift).
Far from pausing from men (men-oh-pause), the absence of a bothersome menstrual cycle and the absence of a fear of pregnancy can actually do wonders to a previously flagging sex-drive. While depleted hormones may add to mood swings, vaginal dryness and the like, it is the quality of her relationship, her partner’s openness and her comfort with her own sexual identity, which will impact how she experiences sex at this stage.
Since times have definitely changed, and 50 is now considered the new 40, women in their 50’s appear to be sexier than ever. It is sexiness, however, born of inner confidence and groomed in spite of the harsh experiences of life. It is an assurance that says although a woman is worth a lot more than a vagina; she can still safely call it one of her best friends.
At the same time, since our attitudes to sex begin in the brain, how we engage our thinking about sex will continue to influence how we respond to it whether we are 60, 70 or beyond. Although time will age our bodies, it is the cumulative experiences of the ageless person on the inside, not just our sex, which should continue to affirm who we really are.