Sit down, Girlfriend. We need to talk.
Remember those uncomfortable discussions you had with your kids back in the day? You know, the birds-and-bees and how-not-to-get-pregnant talks?
Well, now it’s your turn to listen. This is your middle-age sex talk.
At some point in life, you’ll probably be alone, demographics and life expectancies being what they are. Maybe you already are. Maybe you’re newly divorced. Or widowed.
And maybe, after being married for many years you’re not ready to write off a relationship—or sex—for the rest of your life.
But the singles scene is now a completely different ball game from those long-ago days when you were a player. “When I was younger we only worried about getting pregnant or getting crabs. Now that I’m divorced, I realize it’s a whole new world!” said a woman on one health website.
“In my practice I see a lot of older single women who don’t know the rules of dating,” says Mary Jo Rapini, psychotherapist and MiddlesexMD advisor. “They’re looking for someone to desire them again, and they’re much too easy with letting sex happen. They aren’t comfortable with demanding that the guy wear a condom.”
You may not need protection against pregnancy any more, but you sure need protection against a cornucopia of STDs that has flourished since your first date.
STDs affect every age group, but rates of infection are growing fastest among older people. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 15 percent of new HIV infections are in those over 50—and death rates are rising, too. In 2008, the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections noted that infection rates among those over 45 had doubled in less than 10 years. Research at Indiana University in 2010 indicated that condom use was lowest in that age group. Maybe there’s some connection there?
Besides general lack of awareness, a few physiological factors make it easier for older women to become infected. The thin, dry vaginal walls that accompany loss of estrogen create small tears and microscopic vaginal bleeding during sex, thus offering a warm welcome to invading nasties. Further, our pH balance tends to be less acidic after menopause, creating a friendly environment for bacterial infection.
So what’s a newly single older gal to do?
Empower yourself, says Rapini. Take a page from your kids’ playbook and insist on safe sex. This isn’t about being difficult or demanding, it’s about your health, and you have every right to safeguard it. Here are the safe sex rules:
Empowerment, remember? Respect yourself enough to insist on safe sex.
Let us know how it goes.