Enjoying Sex as We Age
How to be a Sage
Written by Jane Steckbeck
“It takes most people decades to reach their full sexual potential. Although our culture equates ripe sexuality with youth, true sexual maturity is often accompanied by soft bellies, gray hair and wrinkles…[t]he best lovers are sages—mature people who are able to act in alignment with their authentic self and to be in ongoing, conscious connection with others.”
-- Sheri Winston, “Women’s Anatomy of Arousal: Secret Maps to Buried Pleasure.”
While our cultural training may disagree, my experience with clients in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and yes, even 80’s, and with workshop participants (having attended over 40 workshops on Love, Intimacy and Sexuality), and with people who attend my public talks and classes, a lot of people over 50 are having passionate, connective and rich sex lives.
I can assure you that having a fulfilling sex life after 50 is entirely possible—if that is something you want. This post will cover a few practices that are common amongst sages and will offer “empowerment reframes” for anyone who wants to experience passion, pleasure and intimacy after 50.
1. A sage recognizes that great sexual intimacy is NOT dependent on intercourse. Sages understand that shared pleasure can include oral sex, hand stimulation, long cuddle sessions, erotic massage, sensation play…and much more! While important for procreation, intercourse is absolutely NOT necessary for sharing pleasure or experiencing orgasm. Finding ways to share intimate touch without the goal (or pressure) of intercourse and “performance” can provide couples countless ways to connect sexually.
Empowerment Reframe: I am a beautiful, sensual and sexual person no matter my age. I can experience pleasure in many ways and am eager to explore new ways of sharing pleasure with my partner.
2. A sage appreciates that his/her aging body may have wrinkles, sags or extra weight, but he/she is comfortable with such changes. A sage understands that we are sexual beings from birth to death and good sexual connectivity does not depend on our weight, skin tone, or other external factors. A negative body image certainly tanks libido whereas self-confidence and a steadfast belief in our worthiness as a sexual partner can keep us engaged and savoring the vitality we experience though sexual connectivity.
Empowerment Reframe: I am worthy of pleasure, sensual and sexual touch regardless of how my body looks.
3. A sage knows that it is worthwhile to cultivate libido by engaging with erotic stimuli and/or agreeing to show up for sex even if not initially “in the mood.” Low libido can be a serious impediment to enjoying sexual connectivity—and yet, what is a primary goal of sex? For many, it is connection and sharing intimacy. A sage recognizes that if he or she wants intimate connection, then seeking erotic stimuli and showing up for sex is vital. Remember, more people than not experience responsive desire as opposed to spontaneous desire—which means that we have to expose ourselves to erotic stimuli to become aroused—then desire follows. Follow this link to my recent blog post about responsive desire and this link for ideas for how to awaken libido at any age.
Empowerment Reframe: I can mindfully awaken my desire by seeking out erotic stimuli (erotica, ethical porn, podcasts, romance books, etc.). I understand that the more I have sex, the more I will want to have sex!
4. A sage understands that self-pleasure is an important component of retaining vital sexuality as we age. We are first and foremost our own sexual partners and not having a sexual partner does not need to derail your sex life! Masturbation is a primary form of sexual expression and can help us retain deep connectivity with our sexual energy and ourselves. For people over 50, masturbation is even more important for a multitude of reasons: it helps us retain healthy blood flow to genitals, keeps us interested in sex and can keep us informed about how our sexual response is changing. Mother Culture has given masturbation a terrible rap—I encourage everyone to re-think this one.
Empowerment reframe: Whether partnered or not, I have a robust self-pleasure practice and enjoy my solo sexuality a great deal. If I do find a partner, I’m ready to play. If not, I’m happy with my sex life!
5. A sage problem-solves around issues that are age related, like painful intercourse. For many post-menopausal women, this is an absolute reality—it certainly was for me until I found a solution—and fortunately, there are solutions. Any woman experiencing pain with intercourse should consider the following:
1) Visit your GYN to ensure that your pain is due to menopausal changes and nothing more;
2) Consider pelvic floor physical therapy or massage; in Eugene, we’re fortunate to have the Pelvic Wellness Center and Sage Red Healing to help;
3) If you want to work with vaginal health on your own, try the Vaginal Renweal Program through “A Woman’s Touch: Sexuality Resource Center.”
4) With your health care provider’s guidance, consider using a topical estrogen product. Personally, I found tremendous relief from painful intercourse with Bezwecken Cubes, which provide a low-dose of bio-identical estriol.
5) Look into the OhNut, a fabulous new product that allows women to control the depth of intercourse. Check out this review for a first-hand description of how it can work!
Empowerment reframe: I can have intercourse without pain. It may take some effort to get there, but if I want this, I can make it happen. I will not have intercourse if it hurts!
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6. A sage recognizes that our bodies may take longer to experience arousal and orgasm…and that taking time is perfectly acceptable. I hear women raise the concern that they take “too long” to experience orgasm, so they can’t possibly expect a partner to “work that hard.” Oh, my. Actually, you can ask for this and you’re worthy. There is such a cultural belief, mostly held by women, that if it takes “too long,” it’s not ok. (God forbid a woman’s pleasure requires some genuine effort on behalf of her partner…) Here’s how it can be made easier: use erotica to stimulate arousal and sex toys to stimulate the vulva. Sex toys (vibrators) help bring blood flow to the genitals and can facilitate orgasm. When used with a partner, the vibrator can do the heavy lifting—and guys, a vibrator will never replace you. Most women want loving connectivity with their partners. Use of a vibrator together can foster connectivity while delivering results without anyone working too hard. For a great resource on understanding female arousal, check out Sheri Winston’s “Women’s Anatomy of Arousal.”
Empowerment reframe: My partner and I can learn to use erotica and sex aids (toys) to help stimulate my arousal response and achieve orgasm. I’m worth the effort and my pleasure and orgasms are as important as my partner’s.
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In my experience, people over 50 who want to have passionate sex lives can indeed have them. It takes bucking our cultural training, flexible thinking, the willingness to problem-solve, a positive self-image and the belief that we’re worthy of sexual connectivity and pleasure. Be a sage and enjoy sexual intimacy at any age!