A Woman’s Sex through the Ages: 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s . . .and Beyond

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.

The Score: What Type of Lover Are You?

If you were to be rated by your partner as a lover on a scale of 1 to 10, what would you score? For those of you who are wondering why we would want to go about the business of being rated as lovers, it is important to note that everything in life has a value. We value things as fickle as our cars, our clothes, shoes and even our smart-phones. We want specific brand-names because they come with a specific reputation of quality. It’s no different when it comes to relationships. We can be considered good, bad, mediocre, excellent, moderate, or poor as lovers and these descriptions are by no means exhaustive.

How you rate your partner as a lover is, however, heavily contingent on what your “lover” expectations are. The same holds true for how your partner rates you. How we were socialised into relationships, our gender, the quality and nature of our first love affair, how we saw our parents experience love, what we expose ourselves to with respect to the media, (television, books, film) will to a large degree influence what we hope to get out of relationships. These factors not only affect what we demand from or hope to get for ourselves out of a relationship but they will definitely colour the lens through which we see our partner.

When we speak about our rating as a lover, this does not only concern how good we are or hope to be in bed. This ‘lover’s rating” covers the whole gamut from how we communicate, how we are emotionally intimate, how we play together and yes of course, how we have sex. The ticklish part about being perceived as a lover is that there can be a great disparity between how we perceive ourselves and how our partner views us. At face value a rating may not seem to be that important, but if you think about it, at the most intrinsic level of the relationship, it speaks of our ability to satisfy the one we have chosen to be with. When we know that we’re doing a great job as a lover, it can do wonders to our self confidence and this validation makes us try even harder to please. At the other end of the spectrum, being rated as a poor lover can really place our self esteem in the toilet.

If we women were called upon to rate our husbands or boyfriends as communicators, I’m sure that most of us would give them a failing grade with a Capital F. Science has it that we women are wired to be great verbal communicators. From an early age we girls show a greater inclination and comfort with language and not just any old words. We show a superior ability at expressing emotion.

Men on the other hand, generally speaking, prefer the “less is more” dictum when it comes to word-use. They seem to view words as priceless commodities which should only be used on very, very, rare occasions and then only sparingly. This in turn, seems to have some influence on their ability to be emotionally exposed or to be emotionally vulnerable in their relationships.

When it comes to play and sex, however, the levels of testosterone carried by men, apparently help them to show a much greater interest in these areas. What they lack in language they definitely make up for in the love-making department. Many husbands nonetheless complain that their sex lives leave much to be desired because they never seem to get enough.

With these critical differences in key relationship areas identified, it may be interesting for couples to examine how they would rate each other as lovers. The following reflects an attempt at combining some of the traits/qualities which men and women are likely to prefer in the critical areas of communication, emotional intimacy, play/recreation and sex. If we give each quality two points (except in the category of sex where we should give one point to each) and understand that some of us will sometimes score half because the described trait is not consistently shown, then we may get a pretty good idea of how our partner is rated

HOW A WOMAN RATES HER MAN

Communication

v  Values hearing his woman’s opinion and communicates this by listening patiently in an atmosphere of encouragement and unconditional positive regard (not sure that this guy actually exists)
v  Is not threatened by his woman’s comfort, skill or facility with language but sees it as a plus for the relationship; therefore listens and responds without getting on the defensive
v  Responds with honesty, whether angry, sad, disappointed, overwhelmed or just plain happy
v  Is open to other opinions and points of view
v  Maintains eye contact

(10 Points Max)

Emotional Intimacy

v  Understands the importance of sharing his feelings and practices this actively in the relationship

v  Is not afraid to show weakness or vulnerability

v  Does not hide important elements of his present, past or future from his wife or significant other; has no secrets

v  Affirms and validates his partner

v  Accepts personal responsibility when wrong and does not project by blaming

(10 Points Max)

Play/Recreation

v  Is willing to do some recreational activities with his partner just as a means of having fun and also to strengthen the relationship bond

v  Does not allow recreation or sports to become a wedge in the relationship; puts his partner first

v  Is willing to be open, responsive and spontaneous in the relationship

v  Does not use play to compete with partner

v  Likes partner and shows it

(10 Points Max)

Sex

v  Understands that sex begins long before the actual touching starts

v  Will give it the way his wife wants it (hot, fast and passionate or long, tender and romantic) and not the way he thinks it should be given

v  Will not judge his partner based on her previous sexual experiences

v  Will not compare wife to his own previous lovers

v  Understands that superior testosterone does not necessarily make him a “master strokes-man”  where sex is concerned; he should demonstrate a willingness to learn new things and new ways to please his wife

v  Focusses on his woman in bed and not the fantasy in his head

v  Adores his wife with his body and uses sex to communicate love so that she feels valued and not used

v  Does not use sex to manipulate or control

v  Is considerate even if partner has a reduced or smaller sex drive than his

v  Is adventurous and spontaneous in bed

(10 Points Max)

HOW A MAN RATES HIS WOMAN

Communication

v  Values constructive conversation and does not talk unnecessarily

v  Is articulate and logical about sharing her issues and concerns; does not get personal

v  Communicates to affirm and validate and not just to criticize

v  Does not use nagging to wear down her partner or to influence his decision-making

v  Allows her partner to express his opinion without belittling him with her “superior” language skills

(10 Points Max)

Emotional Intimacy

v  Understands the importance of sharing her feelings honestly in the relationship, practices this actively but not excessively

v  Shares her personal life-story and especially her sexual past voluntarily; does not spring sexual surprises on her partner

v  Is not afraid to show both her strengths and her weaknesses

v  Although independent, allows her man to feel that he can still “take care” of her

v  Cries if she needs to but does not use tears to manipulate

(10 Points Max)

Play/Recreation

v  Supports her man unwaveringly and cheers him on from the sidelines when he competes in any field of play

v  Knows when to let her hair down and be carefree, spontaneous and playful

v  Is willing to share some sporting or recreational activity with her partner

v  Is not afraid of competition

v  Is a good sport whether she loses or wins a game or an argument and knows how not to hold a grudge

(10 Points Max)

Sex

v  Is free and uninhibited in bed, is willing to be sexually adventurous and tries new sexual positions

v  Initiates sex other than when she’s trying to get him out of a bad mood

v  Praises his sexual skill and his penis

v  Does not even think about comparing him with previous lovers/husband

v  Has sex regularly without having to be begged or persuaded

v  Refrains from using sex as a bargaining chip

v  Does not laugh at or belittle his efforts in bed

v  Is very enthusiastic about sex with her husband

v  Calls his name loudly at the right moment

v  Understands the value of sex to the marriage relationship

(10 Points Max)

While this rating exercise may not be terribly scientific, what it serves to drive home is the reality that men and women often expect different things based on their peculiar gender-based needs. It is worthy of note that what women desire in men and what men desire in women, is often linked to their own strengths and preferences. This is where the problem lies.  If a guy must choose between an evening of deep, meaningful conversation and a roll in the hay, the latter will win hands down every time. In the same respect, we women can enjoy deep emotional connection even when this does not progress to sex.

Instead of expecting that we will become clones of each other in every respect, as lovers, we must progress towards celebrating each other’s differences. These peculiarities are in fact the factors which fuel the energy and excitement in this man to woman tango called love. Striking a happy compromise is essential if couples are to experience any sense of relational well-being.

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Better Blends Relationship Institute

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Denise J Charles (M. Ed)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Executive Director