Octogenarian woman’s sex life
I was listening to The Cure’s song Friday, I’m in Love when an email from a fan of this blog landed on my inbox.It was in response to an article I had published sometimes back about menstruation and in her response, she demystified that old women don’t enjoy a fling.Older people, and particularly older women, are often thought of as being asexual or sexually undesirable. Although the particular age this is believed to happen varies somewhat in the popular imagination, the idea that older people have sex is routinely dismissed, or makes many people uncomfortable. Indeed, older people having sex are often the butt of jokes in the hood.Yet, there is a raft of evidence suggesting that older people are sexually active. Rises in sexually transmitted infection rates among older people and the increased use of dating sites among the over 55s shows older people are actively seeking out and engaging in sexual relationships. What’s more, many older people report their sexual lives are highly satisfying and rewarding.Accompanying this has been the diametrically opposed stereotype of the sexy senior, who remains youthfully sexual into older age. This is signified through things like performance enhancing medication which aims to restore youthful sexual functioning.I recently read a research that set out to explore how Baby Boomer women were experiencing sex and sexual desire in later life. These women led the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s, and have been challenging ideas around what it means to grow old.Perhaps the most striking finding of the research i read with Baby Boomer women was how diverse they were. I wanted to find out how that generation is approaching sex in later life and spoke to several women with fit the asexual older person stereotype, in that they no longer had any desire for sexual intimacy. Yet, some of these women still considered sexuality to be a part of their lives, suggesting that ageing was only rarely associated with a complete loss of sexual desire and sense of one’s self as sexual. Others engaged in a range of different sexual activity, including masturbation, oral sex, and penetrative intercourse.
Many of these women still desired sex and found it a highly pleasurable experience. However, some had lost desire for sex but continued to have sex to please their partner.One of those i spoke to lives and resides in Gold Coast and in her experiences of and desire for sex remain fluid and dynamic across her life. There is not necessarily a linear progression from desiring sex as a younger person, to not desiring sex in later life. Instead, desire for sex ebbs and flows according to various life events and contextual factors.The likes of pregnancy and having young children, illness, and stress were all commonly mentioned as things that negatively influenced women’s sexual desire.A Finn old women’s expert told me that menopause is associated with a decrease in sexual desire, while others experienced a renewed interest in sex and enjoyed the freedom of no longer having to worry about getting pregnant. Meeting a new partner in later life on most cases also spark renewed desire for sex.The influences on sexual practises are wide ranging. Many women, or their partners, see sex as being limited to penetrative intercourse. For such women, if they encountered difficulties such as a partner’s erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness or pain, their partnered sex lives would often come to a halt.Other women, and their partners, hold much broader understandings of what counts as sex, and had a broad sexual repertoire.
There are also, of course, certain realities associated with growing older that can impact on women’s sexual lives. In addition to menopause, women are also faced with the challenges of poor health and illness both their own and their partners, libido-depleting medications, or restricted physical mobility as a result of illnesses.A lack of an available partner was also a barrier to having sex for many women. Although some women did masturbate, one woman told your blogger that she’s been happily wanking since she was 18.Others see masturbation as an unfulfilling sexual act, particularly in comparison to sex with a partner.Despite the fact that many older women are having sex, women i spoke to bemoaned the lack of available discussion and advice on being sexually active in older age. They have a problem on how to adjust their sexual practises to cope with the physical realities of older bodies. The popular, but inaccurate, perception of older women as asexual undoubtedly contributes to this silence around sex in later life. I think it could also prevent them from being able to participate in desired and pleasurable sex.This reticence to talk about sex in older age is also concerning as it may act as a barrier to recognising sexual coercion as well as limiting the potential for pleasurable sex.Sex and sexual pleasure remains important to many older women. For others, this is not the case and this diversity needs to be recognised and respected.For those who want to continue to engage in sex, they need to develop a range of resources and support to accommodate for this. More open discussion is required to break down the taboo associated with sex in later life, and to enable women and their partners to adjust their sexual practises to accommodate for ageing bodies.This might include, for example, introducing sexual aides and sex toys into their sexual practice or broadening their sexual repertoire beyond penetration.In Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Finland and Norway, sex toys are aplenty.One can only hope that manufacturers can target all spheres of the world.