Older Women and the Challenges of Life, Love, and Sex

There is no doubt that older women who entered the prime of their life in the 1960’s and 70’s challenged and changed the playing rules- collectively making them up as we went along. We read Friedan’s Feminine Mystique and burned our bras, created a sexual revolution, became career women, fought for our rights – and wrote about our stories….all while we still juggled (but re-defined) our roles as mother’s and wives.  We have been acclaimed and we have been blamed.  But we persevered.

Now as we enter our ‘Second Adulthood’ we are still changing the rules of the game.  There are more women going into menopause at this time in history than any other.  We have shed the mantle that menopausal women are no longer vital players. Even in our 50’s, 60’s and 70’s women continue to redefine their lives – their sexuality and their relationships.  Professional colleague, Marcia G. Yerman writes about three icons of our time whose lives and now their books continue to help women wade through uncharted waters as we continue on our journeys of self-love, self-discovery and how to love others along the way.

Older Women Take on the Challenges of Life, Love, and Sex

EmpowHER
by Marcia G. Yerman
April 9, 2012

Marcia G. Yerman

 

With the baby boomers (those born from 1946-1964) aging in increasing numbers, many books are being written to help them navigate the terrain of aging. For women specifically, there are an abundance of titles that tackle issues from the nuts and bolts of older sexuality to their inner emotional lives.

Three books that fall on this continuum which overlap, while still standing solidly in their own sphere are:

 

 

Naked At Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex by Joan Price
How We Love Now: Sex and the New Intimacy in Second Adulthood by Suzanne Braun Levine
Prime Time by Jane Fonda

Price drills down on sexuality after sixty, leaving no stone unturned. Solitary sex, nontraditional practices and relationships, moving forward after divorce and breakup, sex after illness, and painful sex are some of the topics covered. Encompassing the concerns of men and women, straight and gay, she informs readers early on that “sex might not feel or look the way it did when our hormone rush propelled us into jet-stream sex, but it can be highly arousing and satisfactory.”

Having communicated via a questionnaire with readers of her books and blog, Price chose the recurrent themes as her subjects. She then interspersed individual stories culled from her correspondence with advice and facts from specialists.

One of Price’s key takeaways is that it’s important to revive desire and to make time for sex.

Top on her list is getting over not looking the same as when you were a twenty-something. She points out the health benefits to sexual activity (solo or coupled), and they are numerous:

• Hormones released during sex decreases the rate of breast cancer
• Sex can alleviate chronic pain, including migraines
• Protection against heart attack and stroke
Immune system bolstered
• Sex can protect against depression
• Sex can reduce stress and increase self-esteem

Price explains the physiological aspects of achieving orgasm as women age stating, “We get less blood flow to the clitoris and vagina, and the vaginal walls get thinner.” For this reason she is a strong proponent of sex toys for women, single or partnered, as they “can mean the difference between orgasm or not.” She clarifies, “Vibrators increase blood flow to [the] genitals quickly and powerfully.” Price is also definitive about taking responsibility for your own sexual health through masturbation, applying
the “use it or lose it” philosophy to pleasure and comfort. Inactivity can cause vaginal muscles to weaken over time. Women must have penetration via “fingers or a dildo to keep vaginas healthy.” Price communicates that otherwise tissues will become thin and fragile “leading to lesions and burning sensations.”

Unfortunately, when women look to physicians for answers on pain during intercourse or vulvar pain, it may not be an area the practitioner feels comfortable discussing. Price references the Pelvic and Sexual Health Institute as a resource. As unresolved problems can lead to “relationship conflict,” Price underscores the importance of talking about sex with partners, especially for those who have been leading solo life styles and may be accustomed to a set way of doing things.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.