Perhaps you’ve seen reviews of a new book, called Sex After…: Women Share How Intimacy Changes as Life Changes. It’s definitely in my reading pile. The author, Iris Krasnow, interviewed 150 women from 20 to 90 about their sex lives.
The surprise—to Iris and some reviewers—was that the women in the later chapters were claiming some of the best sex of their lives. Among the comments:
We are so comfortable with each other that we will try anything to keep things hot.
When you’re younger, it’s all about the orgasm, then it’s over. I love this suspended feeling, the absolute intimacy we have been able to achieve.
Given my conversations with patients in my practice, I’m not surprised. There’s a whole lot of life after 50, and a whole lot of pleasure.
Two things typically get in our way: First, just as our kids never wanted to know we had sex (mine are adults and still don’t want to know!), we’re culturally just a little uneasy with grandparents having sex. Silly, but there it is.
And second, we could do a better job of sharing information about how to keep sex comfortable for just as long as we want it—and expanding our thinking about what “sex” means as intimacy beyond vaginal intercourse.
Most of the women I see are interested in being sexually active—I am, after all, a gynecologist. Every now and then, though, a woman will tell me, “We’re done with all that. And it’s okay.”
I think it’s awfully hard to tease out how we really feel about that “okay”: If it’s not cultural messages that we’re too old for sex, it's a cultural message that we need to keep at it to stay young. For many of us, the discomfort we may now experience with sex is enough to sway us toward that “too old” message.
But beyond the effect on relationships I’ve talked about before, what I hear from the women in this book echoes my own experience: Sex is part of feeling alive, powerful, energized, secure, blissed, refreshed. I’ll decide for myself when I’m ready to give that up.
And you can, too.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.