Sex expert, Tracey Cox, had always been what she described as “highly sexed”, but when the menopause came she felt her libido fall through the fall. Thus began a journey that led to her book, Great Sex Begins At 50: How to age-proof your libido. These are some of her words of wisdom.
Sex can be more satisfying as you get older. But straight people, in particular, need to stop thinking of sex as penetration. Make sex more sensual – more touching-based – and have less expectation. Let yourself be more adventurous than you have been. Lots of women get to fifty and think, you know what, I’m actually really curious about what X feels like. I want to try it with my partner and see what that feels like. A lot of women spend most of their lives caring for other people and get to the point where they think, ‘This is about me now – I’m going to explore my sexuality and I’m going to push myself into new directions that I’ve never explored before.’
Not everyone loses their libido. Part of it relates to the stage of your relationship. I’ve been with my husband now for eight years and you wonder how much of it is that and how much of it is the menopause. I put myself to the test: the next time I was watching some particularly gorgeous man on Netflix, I asked myself, “If I was single now, if he just presented himself, would I want to shag him senseless?” My response was, No, I wouldn’t actually. I wouldn’t because it would hurt. So it’s not just the issue of being in a long term relationship.
For most postmenopausal women, including me, desire really does drop. There’s no doubt about it. You really have to work to keep it going and sex can hurt [because of vaginal dryness and atrophy], even if you use HRT, even if you are having regular sex.
We’re very resistant to looking at sex as anything other than bit of foreplay followed by sex based around intercourse. Sex post menopause should be anything but that. It shouldn’t be penetration focused. It shouldn’t be orgasm-focused. It should be whatever gets you there. If you can only orgasm now using a vibrator on a high speed then embrace that and do that with your partner. Midlife is the era for oral sex and sex toys.
The problem is there’s no realistic portrayal of sex out there. I get so annoyed. I remember in the TV drama Doctor Foster they had this scene where you’ve got this couple who have been married probably fifteen years – more even! – and they just wake up on a Sunday morning and she’s, of course, dressed in amazing lingerie that she’s worn to bed, and he takes one look at her and next minute they’re having mad passionate sex up against the wall. The sex we see in the media is mythical sex. It’s as rare as unicorns. We’re constantly being told sex equals frenetic, passionate intercourse. It’s never nice, slow sensual lovemaking. Which is what sex post-fifty can be.
Don’t obsess over spontaneity. Anticipation is just as good as spontaneity. My partner and I have Sundays sex where we’ll plan sex on a Sunday…That would never have worked for me in the past when I was younger. But I think when you’re older it does work. If you don’t plan sex in a long-term relationship, it rarely happens. Everything else gets in the way.
Tracey Cox was asked for her tips as part of an interview for Still Hot! 42 Brilliantly Honest Menopause Stories by Vicky Allan and Kaye Adams