Sex At Every Age

by: Willa Bernhard

How do women's feelings about men change as they grow older? How do women in midlife feel about sex? And what's the good news? I recently asked 50 women who are from 45 to 80 years old to talk to me about this exact topic. Here's what I learned …

Your 20s and Your 30s

Many women said their 20s - and for some their 30s - were difficult years and their relationships with men reflected their own doubts about themselves. Women said they were immature and had many unresolved issues in their 20s and needed men for security, to give them a sense of belonging, and particularly if they had children, support them. The men in their lives had the power in their relationships and were far more intent on having their needs and wants met - particularly sexual needs - than in satisfying them. Most were insecure in their relationships with men and were more focused on giving pleasure than receiving it. With hormones raging, many said they were aroused and enjoyed sex even if it was more about their partner's pleasure than their own. Women who had partners who were good lovers and sensitive to their needs look back on sex as a wonderful part of their younger lives.

Women who had and have solid, loving relationships with relating men consider their husbands and partners rare finds, the needles in a haystack of immature and boring men.

Women who had fathers who spent quality time with them when they were growing up, enjoyed them and believed in their potential to achieve like boys were more directed and sure of themselves and less needy in their relationships with men.

There are women of all ages, married and single, who value their non-sexual friendships with men. Most women say they don't expect from those friendships the intimacy and hands-on support that women give other women.

Sex in Midlife

Midlife is a great time for women, a time when they find out who they are and come into their own, begin or make strides in their jobs and career, begin to earn money or make more money. All women said they developed more self-esteem and self-confidence than they'd had when they were younger, feelings that continue to grow as women get older.

The balance of power in women's relationships with men equalizes in midlife when women become more independent, more aware of their own needs and wishes and more assertive. One woman after another said that earning money, or earning more money, changed the dynamics in their relationships with the significant men in their lives in ways they liked. When the men in their lives are threatened by them or unwilling to adapt, relationships fray. Women on their own choose different men than they might have chosen when they were younger.

Men who aren't threatened and are encouraging partners can find their lives enriched as their mates open new doors for them. It's very gratifying for women to have husbands and partners who value, enjoy and grow with them.

What do women in midlife say about sex?

Women who said that sex when they were younger was based on satisfying their partners now felt more entitled to pleasure for themselves. This has been a sticky area for some who say old habits and expectations are hard to break.

Some women have or find sensual, caring lovers and others don't. Women say it's hard to find sensual men.

The raging hormones of youth are gone by midlife. Many women said their sexual desire was gone or much lower than it had been. Others said they enjoyed sex more than they had when they were younger. Some women had always enjoyed sex and still did while others who had never enjoyed sex still didn't. Sexual desire decreases pre- and post-menopause for some women.

Often women who didn't have desire for their partners had sex with them anyway. Many women prefer oral sex and manual stimulation to intercourse, particularly women who find intercourse painful when the lining of their vagina thins.

Viagra-type drugs that enable men to have erections get mixed reviews. Some women enjoy their husband's ability to have intercourse again while others decry sex becoming focused on his erection, and agree with Alice who said, "It's all about him and his erection. What a bore. I'd much rather masturbate."
Good news! When women at any age fall in love sexual desire that may have been absent for years reappears. Sexual desire can go to sleep and reawaken when the circumstances are right.

Women in midlife are a busy lot and find the pressures of jobs, parenting, responsibilities for older parents and the demands of running homes and organizing social and community lives tiring. And now everyone has to exercise regularly. Their days start early and end late and they have very little time or energy for themselves or for sex with partners. Vacations help.

More on wOw:
Women, Men and Relationships: Forever a Work in Progress?

17 Breakups That Broke Our Hearts

60 Is the New Sexy

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