Sex education

Surprising Lessons That Women Learned About Sex Later in Life

Published: OCTOBER 12, 2023 | Updated: APRIL 22, 2024
Confronting guilt and shame, seeking support and fostering self-empowerment through exploration are the keys to a life-long enjoyment of sex.

Many of us already know just how vital evidence-based sex education is for young people. But did you know that sex education is also needed at all stages of life if we want to enjoy passionate and pleasurable sex?


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It's totally normal for different things in life to affect our sex lives. Whether it's a breakup that makes us reevaluate what we want or just the stress of work and family, so many things can affect how we feel about ourselves and sex throughout our lives. Fortunately, ongoing sex education can help guide you through these phases of life.

Want to supercharge your sexual satisfaction at any stage of life? I spoke with women in their 30s, 40s and 50s about what they learned later in life that dramatically intensified their sex and pleasure.

Lesson 1: Work Through Shame and Guilt

One of the biggest factors that can get in the way of having really good sex is shame and guilt. And, unfortunately, each woman I spoke to experienced it in some way. Shame is a profoundly intense emotion that can make us feel something is fundamentally wrong with who we are, and messages of shame and guilt surrounding sex are everywhere in our society, particularly for women. Shame and guilt have pretty severe effects on sex, too, with a 2007 study finding that people who had higher levels of shame were more likely to have less pleasurable sex and experience sexual problems, including difficulty getting aroused or achieving orgasm.


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Overcoming shame and guilt about sex is a huge emotional and mental journey that is continuous for many people. Fortunately, it can be overcome. For many people, this journey starts with acknowledging that they carry shame and guilt surrounding their sexuality. This can happen at any stage of life.

"After my last relationship ended 11 years ago, I realized I carried a lot of guilt and shame around my sexuality. I had some unprocessed trauma from a sexual assault a few years earlier and a lot of unhealthy ways of relating in sex that I'd carried with me from my teens," said Jodie Milton, 35, an intimacy coach at Practical Intimacy.

While, unfortunately, this acknowledgment comes later in life for many people, it is a crucial step in the journey toward sexual empowerment.


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Read More: 10 Ways Sex Toys Can Help You Drop Guilt and Sexual Shame

How To Overcome Sexual Shame and Guilt

While it may take a while to work through these feelings, there are some research-backed methods that have been proven to help.

Keep a Journal

One of the best ways to understand exactly how you feel about sex is by writing your thoughts down. Writing in a journal can be super helpful when it comes to understanding your thoughts and feelings about sex, as it provides a clearer view of your emotions and can give you some insight into your beliefs.

Questions to ask yourself when journaling include:


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  • Where did I learn about sex?
  • How do I feel about pleasure?
  • What has influenced my thoughts, attitudes and beliefs about sexuality?
  • What negative thoughts do I tell myself about sex?
  • What messages have culture, media and religion taught me about sex?

By asking yourself these questions, you can uncover any areas where you might be experiencing shame surrounding sex and work on addressing them.

Read More: How Mindfulness Can Help You Have Better Orgasms

Talk With Someone You Trust

Having some sort of shame or guilt surrounding sex is a pretty common experience, and chances are that your partner or friends have experienced something similar. Communicating your feelings about shame and sex to someone you trust is a good way to get validation and understanding. If you feel as though you can’t talk to your friends or partner about it, speak with a sex therapist.

Lesson 2: Self-Empowerment Comes From Self-Discovery

Each woman I interviewed spoke of journeys of self-discovery that led to feelings of sexual empowerment. Studies have emphasized the importance of ongoing learning to enhance pleasure and the significance of self-empowerment and self-discovery in this process. Self-empowerment can be seen as the antidote to shame and guilt, as the process involves recognizing your own self-worth, embracing self-acceptance, and challenging negative beliefs and emotions contributing to shame.


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Read More: Healing from Purity Culture

This journey is done through constant self-discovery, which includes learning about your own body and what turns you on. As Emme Witt, 49, states, "Once I finally left my marriage at age 41, I went on a sexual journey to reconnect to my sexuality and to improve my sex life. Suddenly single again at 41 and understanding to what extent I had repressed myself sexually, my sex drive was reignited. I was suddenly sexually insatiable and began to explore my sexuality in an unbridled fashion." This sentiment was echoed by Only Fans content creator Elaina St James, 56. "I am more confident now sexually than I was 30 years ago at age 26 with a perfect body," she said. "My body has all the imperfections that time and gravity produce, and yet, sexually, I'm much more confident and at ease. This has resulted in some phenomenal sexual experiences and pushing boundaries that I never thought I would."

How To Go On A Journey Of Self-Discovery

Discovering just what turns you on requires a willingness to explore, a little bit of curiosity, and an open mind. Using the methods below will get you started on that journey.

Get Touching

One of the best ways to discover just exactly what turns you on is through self-touch. This can be done as part of a self-care routine. Run yourself a bath, light some candles and start exploring your body, finding what feels pleasurable to touch. Experiment with different pressures, strokes or even toys.


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Explore Erotic Media

You may be thinking that the only type of erotic media to explore is from tube sites. But, thankfully, there’s a whole host of media to explore that is ethical and super hot. These include audio erotica, erotic literature, or ethically produced pornography.

Lesson 3: Always Continue To Learn and Explore

Great sex comes, in part, from great sex education. As we age, our bodies change, and so do our sexual preferences. What might have excited us when we were younger might not excite us in the future. Thankfully, this opens the door for many more possibilities and exciting new journeys, with one study even finding that women's sexual satisfaction increases with age.

The women I spoke to found that increasing sexual satisfaction throughout their lifetime often involves one key component: continued education. "Ongoing education is extremely important! Our sexual needs are always changing and evolving because our sexuality is a reflection of who we are as a person," Milton said. For her, one transformative resource was the book "Come As You Are" by Emily Nagoski, which Milton says profoundly impacted her life. It gave her an understanding of responsive desire and highlighted the significance of recognizing exactly what turns her on and off. The book challenged her preconceptions about libido and sex drive, helping her realize that her desire and arousal are aspects she can actively influence and direct.

Great Sources of Sex Education

There is so much great evidence-based information on sex and sexuality.

My favorites include:

Websites

There are many websites out there that provide quality information, but one of my favorites is OMGYES. This subscription-based website has animations and videos explaining many different sexual techniques.

Podcasts

There are so many good podcasts out there, but I recommend listening to Emily Nagoksi's podcast, which has the same name as her hit book, Come As You Are. The Hook Up podcast, produced by Australian radio channel Triple J, is another great resource. It has been around for years and has many great episodes about hundreds of topics, featuring a whole bunch of sexual health professionals.

Books

There are so many great books to help you advance your sex education journey. Some of the best include Becoming Cliterate by Dr. Laurie Mintz, Tell Me What You Want by Dr. Justin Lehmiller, Mating In Captivity by Esther Perel, and So Tell Me About The Last Time You Had Sex by Dr. Ian Kerner.

Sex Education and Your Sex Life

Although each woman I interviewed had unique experiences on their journey to heightened sexual pleasure, they all shared a common story. They had to overcome shame and guilt to go on a journey of self-discovery, which was made possible through continued education.

So, how can you begin your own journey to sexual satisfaction? Consider these three crucial steps: confront any lingering shame and guilt by journaling and seeking support from trusted individuals or professionals, foster self-empowerment through self-exploration, and stay committed to lifelong learning. It may not be easy, but the continued growth of a healthy sex life depends on it.

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Rhiannon John

Rhiannon John obtained her Master's of Sexology from Curtin University in Perth, Australia, where she researched women's use of pornography for pleasure. She is a sexologist with a keen interest in women's sexual health and pleasure. Rhiannon believes that sexuality is vital to our overall well-being and should be celebrated.

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