I’m so tired of hearing about the traumas of menopause - about how dried up and lacking in libido women become. Are these scare tactics intentionally designed to erode our sexual agency—the ability to make sexual choices according to one's will, free from coercion? Or are misconceptions like these meant to drive us into the arms of the pharmaceutical industry? Because if we are continually told that sex will hurt after menopause, or that no one will want us when we’re old, we begin to feel the pressure to give it up. We, menopausal women, are being subtly denied the ability to make our own decisions about sex.
I've often read blog articles and forums where women write about dreading menopause. They refer to it like it’s a medical illness and bemoan the end of their sex life as old age approaches. This fear mongering only serves to reinforce the anti-aging bias we already have in North America.
Age is both a physical reality and a state of mind. To be 60 means you’ve lived on the planet for 60 years. To feel 60? What does that mean? Adults today are living longer and experiencing better health than our grandparents did. We read about 90-year-olds working out in the gym and 70-year-olds discovering their love of porn and dirty talk, so here's what I propose: Let’s throw away the rules and let go of these 'end of the world’ messages about menopause, aging and sex.
I read about a study conducted in France where researchers interviewed women, ages 18-67, about their orgasms. They found that women who consistently had erotic thoughts were more likely to have orgasms—reinforcing my belief that sexual satisfaction requires us to have a 'sexy brain.' The researchers also reported that older women were less likely to report problems with orgasms than younger women. I’m not surprised. Older women have more experience, and typically have a greater understanding of their bodies. We seem to ripen, in a good way, with age. So, why the negative messaging about menopause and sex? (Read Are you Over 50 and Having Sex? You Should Be! for more about the benefits of sex in your older age).
Each experience of aging and menopause is different. You may be one of those women who have a quick and easy transition. If you want to read up on menopause, do so, but don’t believe all the hype.
Here are some helpful things to know about sex and menopause that may ease your transition:
Don't Write-Off Birth ControlWait until a doctor verifies your transition through menopause before giving up birth control. This may include hormone testing, so don’t assume that a full year without a period is sufficient protection against pregnancy.
Protect Against STDsRemember that condoms are a vital part of safe sex, even when you don’t need to worry about pregnancy. STDs are on the rise among older adults.
Lubrication is EssentialLube, wonderful at any age, becomes more useful as we get older. Menopause and the resulting decrease in estrogen cause changes in our skin and delicate tissues. Vaginal tissues can become thin and dry—so buy a good quality lube (or two) and use it regularly. Lubes help to replace or supplement natural lubricant. If you’re experiencing severe pain from dryness and the lubricant doesn’t help, it might be time to see your gynecologist. (For tips on choosing a lubricant, check out The Ins and Outs of Sexual Lubricants and the piece I wrote on midlife, How to Choose a Lubricant).
Foreplay is Your FriendTake more time to become aroused during sex. Extend playtime and use toys or touch to increase your level of arousal, as well as his. The more aroused you are, the more natural lubrication your body will produce. (Does your partner need some foreplay tips? Have them read Stroke That: How to Rub Her the Right Way).
An Orgasm a Day Keeps the Doctor AwaySexual activity is good for your sexual and vaginal health. Arousal brings blood flow to vaginal and genital tissues, which helps keep tissue supple and nourished. Regular sexual activity or self-pleasuring is as important as brushing your teeth or using face cream when it comes to maintaining vaginal health. (Check out our Top Solo Sex Tips for Women for masturbation inspiration).
Rather than jumping to conclusions about the horrors of sex and old age, take a positive, wait-and-see attitude about menopause and embrace your sexy life as a mature woman. Learn about your body’s needs and responses to pleasure and be sure to ask for what you want. Don’t let your age become a deterrent to having meaningful and exciting sex.