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Between the sheets

Let’s talk about sex. If we use the media as a yardstick, everyone is swinging from the chandeliers on a nightly basis, making the earth move and giving Meg Ryan a run for her money in the oh-oh OOOOHHH stakes. But what if you’re not? What if a cup of cocoa and an episode of Escape to the Country is more enticing of an evening than squeezing into your sexy undies…

Some are content to leave that side of life behind, and that is a perfectly valid choice. So long as you and your partner are both happy in a celibate relationship, it’s no one’s business but yours. If, however, a lack of sexual intimacy is making you sad, how can you bring it back?

I asked writer, Amy Kavanagh, to explore the reality of midlife libido.

 

Menopause and the physical and emotional changes of your body can really put a strain on so many women in regard to the S word…SEX! There are so many factors that contribute to a loss of libido, including:

    • Dropping oestrogen levels
    • Physical changes in your vagina and vulva

If you are suffering from soreness, dryness and worse, it is little wonder that you have lost interest in sex. You are not alone. Look out for a separate article about physical changes, and in the meantime, you might enjoy this Podcast interview with Jane Lewis, author of “Me and My Menopausal Vagina”.

Other factors include:

    • Concerns about body image
    • Stress and general life changes
    • Depression or anxiety
    • A partner’s loss of interest in sex

But don’t despair - the more that you understand your own body and investigate why sex is not easy or enjoyable for you, the better you will feel and be able to find solutions for yourself.

"I’d like some libido back! I feel dead from neck down!”

If you feel like this, you’re not alone. In a recent poll in The Midlife Movement Facebook Group, about feelings towards sex and their libido. 22 women ticked “I have lost interest in sex.” 1 added that mentally she would love to, but her body would just not respond. 16 ticked “I don’t have a partner or my partner has lost interest and I miss sex.” 9 replied that they were as, or more, sexually active than they have ever been.

Loss of libido

Losing your interest in sex can be so frustrating and confusing, because your libido is part of who you are. Jenna Esarey writes in the Courier Journal:

“Local doctors say an older woman can find a new desire to explore her sexuality, relearn her body and experience some of the best sex of her life when she hits menopause if she is open and honest about her needs with her partner.”

Whether you have a partner or not, it’s important to be open and honest with yourself first and foremost. What do you like about sex? What do you not like about sex? Are there insecurities you have in relation to your body or intimacy? What arouses you? Or, what’s changed? Is there something you used to like but now is not the case? Or is there something new you find arousing throughout all these changes, and would like to incorporate in your sex life now? All women deserve to own their sexuality: addressing these questions can help you feel comfortable and in control of your libido and sexual experiences.

Hardships in our lives such as relationships ending, family difficulties, or career stresses can cause depression and anxiety which can contribute to our lack of sex drive.  Some antidepressant medications can actually dampen libido too.

Some women experience real depression when a child leaves home. Empty nest syndrome can be so upsetting and isolating. If you have put your main focus into raising your children through many many years, when they leave home you are bound to feel a sense of loss, and this can affect your sense of identity. This can contribute to depression and anxiety, causing a decrease in libido.

You can also find yourself looking at your partner and wondering who are you? If you’ve spent 18 years relating to each other primarily as “Mum and Dad” it isn’t impossible, but it can be difficult to rekindle the intimacy you once enjoyed.

Increase in libido

For some women, the children leaving home is a catalyst in their relationship, prompting them to follow suit.

“I think I gave myself a new lease of life when I got divorced. I’ve had more time for myself, connecting with my own desires, my own pleasures and not worrying too much about what the rest of the world thinks.”

This woman has had such a positive change during her midlife and by connecting with her own desires as a newly single woman, she has found happiness and a new lease of life.

But what if our partners are the ones who have lost interest in making love? Whilst there  Are solutions you can explore together, in the meantime “self care” as one respondent to our poll called it, is always available to us!

The benefits of sex

Let’s take a look at some of the wondrous benefits of sex and masturbation from Joan Price’s article:  “A *Seniors’ Guide to Solo Sex”. (*note from Jo: seniors??! that’s not a term we’ll be using in The Midlife Movement anytime soon!)

According to Joan, the benefits of orgasm include:

  • Reduced stress
  • Enhanced mood
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Helps fight infection and disease
  • Lowers diastolic blood pressure
  • Keeps sex organs healthy
  • Improves blood flow
  • Helps with sleep
  • Relieves headaches and other body aches
  • Relieves depression
  • Reduces risk of heart disease
  • May reduce risk of prostate cancer
  • Relieves chronic pain
  • Increases blood flow to the brain, increasing mental acuity
  • Makes your skin glow
  • Relaxes you
  • Makes you happier
  • Feels really good

Of course, you don’t have to have a partner to reap the benefits described above. You can masturbate. Yes, I know, an activity that women of all ages are reluctant to talk explicitly about, but masturbation has incredible benefits for the changing bodies of all women at any age, just take another look at the list! Joan Price writes:

“Masturbation is a hard-sounding word for an activity that’s immensely pleasurable and self-loving. It’s sex with the person who knows you the best: yourself. Self-pleasuring is delicious sex, and it doesn’t matter how old we are, whether or not we have a partner, if arousal and orgasms are easy for us or we’ve grown up to think of masturbation as shameful, even sinful…Staying sexual is within our own power”

So, if this particular bit of me-time can relieve tensions, reduce stress, improve our mood, our sleep, our aches and pains and all these wonderful benefits, why do we feel embarrassed about this act of self love? Price discusses how many women have been brought up in a "negative sex era" and how sex and masturbation was seen as shameful and the only sex education taught was don’t do it. She says: “Not only is masturbation not sinful, it is a very healthy and contributes to our physical and mental well-being. If you are not masturbating, then you would do well to begin. Spell the word as "Loving yourself.”

Loving yourself and your body can be a challenge, especially through out the hormonal rollercoaster and changes in ourselves us women have to go through. But it is every woman’s right to discover her body at any point in her life and understand and nurture it.

You deserve to feel in control of your libido and your sex life, and the difficulties you may face are not the be all and end all, you can find solutions for yourself.  There are lots of discussions and advice out there available to all, just dive in. Think of the journey as loving yourself, discovering and understanding your body and desires - how exciting!

You never know, through this, you may end up rediscovering your libido or having the most amazing sex of your life, and isn’t that worth investigating!

 

Sources:

Joan Price, Advocate for ageless sexuality https://joanprice.com/

https://seniorplanet.org/a-seniors-guide-to-solo-sex/

https://megsmenopause.com/2019/02/21/why-we-should-all-masturbate-more/

https://eu.courier-journal.com/story/life/wellness/health/2015/12/11/tips-healthy-sex-life-your-golden-years/76568004/

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