Many women are enjoying a midlife sexual renaissance, and if you’re not, there’s plenty you can do to kickstart your own, says Katreen Hardt.
When I first met my ex-boyfriend Alexander* at a Christmas ball in 2018, we ended the evening with me sprawled across my dining room table, enjoying a mind-blowing orgasm.
At the time, I was 51. Over the course of our relationship, which came to an end last July, our love-making repertoire expanded to include acts of intimacy I’d have shied away from at any other age. Our sex life was spontaneous and exciting in a way I’d never experienced in my younger years – and discovering this level of satisfaction and sexual fulfilment in midlife has been an absolute revelation.
Our sex life was spontaneous and exciting in a way I’d never experienced in my younger years
I was 15 when I lost my virginity, but it wasn’t until I was 19 that I had my first orgasm, and as I’ve moved on from boyfriend to boyfriend, it’s been fascinating to note how my desires have changed with each decade. In my twenties, I’d have been mortified at the thought of certain positions which I now consider firm favourites. There were times in my thirties when I insisted the lights stay off because I felt timid about my body, and in my early forties, with Thomas*, a man I’d hoped to start a family with, sex became a chore, as it was all about creating optimal conditions for conception.
It wasn’t until my late forties, when I started dating younger men, that I experienced a genuine sexual awakening. With Jakob*, a qualified personal trainer 20 years my junior, who trained me for my first Tough Mudder challenge, the sexual tension was undeniable from our first session. It wasn’t long before he was coming over after our workouts under the pretence of cooking me a vegan meal, only for us to be having sex on the kitchen counter before we’d finished chopping the onions. Suddenly, in this context, sex became impulsive and ridiculously exciting.
Now, at the age of 53, I have few – if any – inhibitions and my desire for good sex is stronger than it has ever been. My libido is higher and I’ve discovered a newfound sexual self-confidence. I know what turns me on and have no qualms in passing this on to my lovers. It leaves me feeling sorry that I didn’t master these skills earlier and I can’t help but feel that many younger women might be missing out.
Now, at the age of 53, I have few – if any – inhibitions and my desire for good sex is stronger than it has ever been
“Midlifers are often more comfortable in their own skin,” says Antoine Argouges, co-founder and CEO of dating app Lumen, which recently conducted research that confirmed people over 50 are having the most adventurous sex of their lives.
Take 51-year-old Mia*, a divorced mum-of-three who’s been with her partner for 15 months. “The missionary position was all my husband and I ever did and Most nights, I was too exhausted,” she says. “Now that the kids are older, my mind is freer and I’m no longer embarrassed to try new things, like role-play.”
And she’s not the only one who’s found her fifties to be her most sexually fulfilling decade.
Cassandra Gabel, 52, recently reconnected with her childhood sweetheart after the breakdown of her 27-year marriage. She says, “Because we come from the same background, and share a similar past, our relationship has allowed me to feel safe and free to explore new things in bed. At my age, the pressure is off to perform a certain way. Now it’s all about taking my time and communication, making sure each other’s needs are met, and having fun. Because of Covid-19, we’ve been forced into a long distance relationship, so we’ve had to get imaginative when it comes to sex. Doing it via FaceTime has absolutely saved us, something I never would’ve considered doing years ago.”
Lynn Anderton, 59, a life coach from Wirral (near Liverpool, in the northwest of England), is also in the early stages of a new relationship and has found intimacy unparalleled in her younger years. “The sex I have now with my partner is open and honest,” she says. “We always go straight to dessert and begin our dates with sex. It might seem strange, but we’re on the same page about how we want to connect, which makes for great sex, as well as a good connection, because we cuddle and talk afterwards.”
So why does talking openly about sex seem to come more easily to midlifers? “Women in their fifties have nothing to lose. We also realise we deserve to have a satisfying sex life,” says Lynn.
It’s certainly true that, in my case, my girlfriends and I talk constantly about sex, swapping stories on what gives us pleasure, what doesn’t and how fluctuating oestrogen levels don’t seem to have affected our sex drive in the slightest. Obviously, that’s not the case for many women, but I’ve been struck by how a loss of desire – something I assumed was inevitable – hasn’t (yet) hit my group of friends.
“Today, women in their fifties have a more liberal attitude toward sex than the generations of women before them had at the same age and, as a result, there is no longer the same stigma attached to a woman who is enjoying a sexual relationship with a casual or committed partner – or herself. Our sense of a sexual self should be there for us as long as we want,” offers Dr Amani Zarroug, a clinical psychologist and relationship and psychosexual therapist.
And for women who would like to ignite their passion but feel their hormones are working against them, Dr Zarroug recommends talking to your GP about hormone replacement therapy (HRT). On a day-to-day level, he adds, “Anything a woman can do to maintain the best level of health, be it through diet, yoga, meditation, avoiding stress and getting enough sleep, is going to have a positive effect on her sex life.”
The sexual renaissance that my single friends and I are enjoying is just as available to women in long-term relationships. For women with children, embarking on their fifties often coincides with a return of freedom and an opportunity to prioritise their own needs and wants. Rosamund*, 50, a mum-of-three who’s been married for 21 years, now plans regular weekends away (when restrictions allow) to indulge the sexual side of her marriage.
“Going away for a romantic weekend and knowing we’ll have endless hours in bed together – not having to worry about ‘getting caught’ – makes it all the more exciting. The moment we close the hotel room door, we can’t take our hands off each other. Sex has become more intimate; it’s no longer about quantity, but quality.”
Not every woman hitting 50 suddenly sheds decades of self-consciousness – some of us are more shy thanks to our ageing bodies. So, if you didn’t feel like swinging from a chandelier on your 50th birthday, but would like to rekindle your relationship with desire, here’s what to do.
Reclaim your orgasm
How many times have you given up on an orgasm because it was too hard to ask for what you wanted? Or faked it because you cared about your lover’s feelings? Promise yourself to commit to your pleasure, making it more important than any worry you used to have.
People who engage in regular fitness activities report higher libidos and more satisfying sex lives longer into middle age (and beyond) than those who don’t. If you’re out of the habit of exercise, start easy (try YouTube pilates and daily fast walking) then work up steadily. The act of moving rhythmically will help reattune your mind to your body.
Think quality over quantity
Having sex you don’t really want and can barely be bothered to have could “cold shower” your whole sex life. And don’t allow the thought of being in a sexless relationship make you feel as though you have to force it. A regular intimacy date – no pressure, just show up and kiss, talk and touch – will keep you connected in that special way until you both feel ready.
©Katreen Hardt/Stella magazine. *Names have been changed.