Dear Friends and Readers,
As one researcher said “women are great thinkers, but there is a downside to this because we struggle with disconnecting from our problems. This can cause us to lose focus on our relationships and consequently, we lose our sexual appetite as well.” There is little in our American culture that sings the praises of older women. Role models portraying older women as fit, sexy and in command of their lives are few and far between. As a result, I hypothesize that women who are 50 and older simply give up in many categories, except perhaps for being grandmothers.
For many older women not engaging in sex are still satisfied with their sex lives. Women in their fifties appear to be satisfied with their sex life no matter how much or how little they were engaged in sexual activity. Yet in a study of older women, investigators found a majority of study participants reported frequent arousal and orgasm that continue into old age, despite low sexual desire. These are facts that appear to be contradictory, however these seemingly polar findings can be reconciled.
The study from which I am quoting, is a small study of 806 women who were followed for forty years. The study measured the prevalence of current sexual activity including demographics, health and hormone use; frequency of arousal, lubrication, orgasm, pain during sexual intercourse and sexual desire in older women. Sixty three percent of the women were post menopausal with a median age of 67. Half of the respondents who reported having a partner had been sexually active within the last month. Two-thirds of the sexually active women reported achieving orgasm most of the time.
To get an idea how extraordinary these findings are, here are statistics about women and orgasm in general; however, before you read the numbers, researchers say that the number one reason women don’t experience orgasm is that they are overly conscious of how their bodies look. With that being said here’s what research indicates about women and orgasm:
1. Only one third of women experience orgasms regularly during intercourse.
2, One third can reach orgasm with intercourse but need extra stimulation.
3. A third never achieve orgasm during intercourse but can by manual or oral stimulation.
Within the same previously mentioned study, 40 percent of all of the women stated that they never or almost never have sexual desire, and one third of the sexually active women reported low desire. These results indicate that while older women can actually have orgasms, we don’t have the desire to have them. The lead investigator, Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, MD, in the study concluded “Despite a correlation between sexual desire and other sexual function domains, only 1 in 5 sexually active women reported high sexual desire. … In contrast with traditional linear models in which desire proceeds sex, these results suggest that women engage in sexual activities for multiple reasons, which may include affirmation or sustenance of a relationship.”
In response to Barrett- Connor’s conclusion other researchers say the number one thing that women should do to increase sexual desire or the desire to have sex is to give up the notion that sex is more about their partner’s satisfaction. Sex is for you and if you are engaged in sex why not enjoy it instead of enduring it? Women should also give up the idea that “it’s taking too long” to achieve pleasure. The good thing for women over fifty is that we tend to have more time. All women should learn to take their time when having sex.
My second hypothesis is that perhaps one reason for low desire for sexual activity is that as a culture our visions or what we should expect orgasms to be like are unrealistic. We all remember Meg Ryan’s character in “When Sally Met Harry”, but orgasms are not always experienced that way. An orgasm is not always an earth-moving experience and there is nothing “wrong” if a woman does not reach orgasm. Because of these notions of what orgasms should be like, some women have orgasms and they don’t know that they have them. Physiologically speaking orgasm occurs when the pelvic floor muscles contract. But reaching a peak of arousal after which women feel very relaxed and contented counts as an orgasm. This thought coincides well with what the author, Susan Trompeter, M.D., of the previously mentioned study found, “In this study sexual activity was not always necessary for sexual satisfaction. Those who were sexually active may have achieved sexual satisfaction through touching, caressing or other intimacies over the course of a long relationship. … Emotional and physical closeness of the partner may be more important than experiencing orgasm. A more positive approach to female sexual health focusing on sexual satisfaction may be more beneficial that a focus limited to to female sexual activity or dysfunction.”
I agree with Dr. Trompeter, however know there is no age limit on sex for women. Although older women may become aroused more slowly than younger women, many find that their desire increases when they no longer have to be worried by interruption by young children and getting pregnant. Finally, to prove that sex and older ages are compatible in the study half the women aged 80 years old and older reported arousal, lubrication and orgasm most of the time.
While I understand joining a book club can be mentally stimulating, stimulation need not be limited to the intellect. In fact if you are in a reading club two good books to read are “Sex and the Seasoned Woman” by Gail Sheehy and “Still Sexy After All These Years” by Leah Kliger.
In closing researchers in the area of older women and sexuality say focus on your strengths; be creative in making yourself feel more attractive; focus on giving and receiving pleasure and remember sex is good for you.
Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes