Sex, Queenagers and rainbow leg orgasms... we are still sexual beings
The Queenager: Eleanor's Letter (March 5th 2023)
No-one talks about sex for older women but we still deserve pleasure.
It was such a joy to see so many of you for this month’s Noon Circle; sorry for the squash, I know lots of you had to sit on the floor. But I hope it was worth it. What a treat to hear Ritula Shah, my favourite Radio 4 presenter from The World Tonight, talk about moving into her own new chapter in midlife. I was so honoured that she chose to spend the first day of the rest of her life (she left Radio 4 after 30 years last week) with us all at Noon! It was wonderful to hear so many stories of Queenager reinvention, moving into purpose, changing careers and thriving – honestly you are all an inspiration. So glad the idea of a midlife clusterfuck making us seek a pivot resonates so much with all of you. And a big welcome to all the new Queenagers who have joined us!
The next Noon Circle will be on March 28th and it will be all about sexuality (If you want to come you need to be a Paid subscriber).
The Queenager project is all about changing the narrative about the later stages of women’s lives to one which is more positive and fit for purpose. I am passionate that women have no sell by date – we’re not done, it’s not over, we’re coming into our prime. That applies to sex just as much as work, or wellness of any of the other things we talk about here.
Well a huge taboo around older women is about later life sex and sexuality. That is why, about six months ago, we ran a truly extraordinary Noon Circle about all of this, compered by Salome and Guilia (with me in the pic above), two Female Founders behind Tides , who are passionate about encouraging a conversation around later life sexuality and who have designed a new kind of vibrator designed specially for Queenager bodies which was launched at the Design Museum last week. (I was so proud, Noon got a mention in the exhibition as we have been providing the community’s insight for the project.)
The two Tides Founders first approached me last year; I think sex is a really important part of life, so I was delighted to help. Some of you lovely ladies were kind enough to fill in a survey for us about how you feel about sex now. It was so rich, deep and surprising in many ways. It showed how much many of you care about your sexual nature and how that goes on being a big part of us as we age, even though our culture fetishises youth in these matters! These are just some of the things you wrote: “Sex is warmth, orange, deep and safe”. “I feel an ever-strengthening connection with my partner; we have been together so long. But sex is never the same, it changes, deepens as we move into new levels of trust and communion.” “It is way more passionate and less inhibited than when we were younger.” “Sex now is loving, calm, natural.” “Dreamy tingling”. “Fading but with brilliant spots of colour”. “Passionate, mind-blowing erotic, dirty and surprising”. “Fantastic, unbelievably good.” “I feel more confident and desirable.” “Sex for me now is exciting, overwhelming – warm happy.” One of my favourites was a woman who said, “I find sex now is more gentle, goes on for longer and is sometimes surprisingly intense with rainbow leg orgasms”. Nope, me neither, but here’s hoping!
What the survey shows was how sexual chemistry, passion and intimacy really can flourish with age. And that was only reinforced for me when the Tides founders came to a special Noon Circle last year. It was one of the most moving, honest and surprising conversations I have EVER been part of. There was no judgement, no pressure, just truth about the reality of sex now for the Queenagers and the content was surprising…
We began by talking about what characterised a positive sexual experience. We thought back over our many decades and decided that safety, playfulness, a sense that nothing was off limits and everything was welcome and allowed, were some of the essential components. We began to talk about our best ever sexual experiences. For several of the women that was the sex they were having now; they described it taking on an almost spiritual dimension.
“I feel such an intense sense of connection with my partner, we have been together for so long that when we make love it is like all my senses merge; seeing becomes sound, touch becomes light and colours playing in my mind. During my orgasms which are intense and seem to last for a long time, I leave my body completely. It is as if I am floating around with my partner in a completely different dimension. I never felt this way when I was younger. Now we are older and we know each other so well all inhibitions have gone, there is no self-consciousness or worrying about wobbly bits or if they like you or if you are doing it right. Just a total sense of union, of playfulness – of everything being allowed and acceptable. A sense of total love and union and intimacy, of being fully known. It is beautiful, unlike anything I have ever known before. ”
This was echoed by several of the women in the group and I can definitely relate to that sense of being completely known and accepted; loved and appreciated for all and everything that you are. It is as if that long history of togetherness and deep sense of each other is epitomised in the act of intimate, carnal knowing.
This spiritual sense of a kind of soulful congress in sexuality post or during menopause for women is not widely discussed in our culture. So I was fascinated to discover the work of Jewels Winfield who talks about older women as Autumn Queens, needing a more reverent kind of love making to embrace their shift into their true feminine power and wisdom which comes at menopause. “A power that is unapologetic and in union with sexuality,” as she puts it. This kind of “womb wisdom” is not in much of our everyday consciousness, but listening to many of the women at the Noon Circle speak about the mind-blowing, spiritual and extremely different quality of the sex they were having as they got older, this Autumn Queen idea really resonated with me. Our society so worships at the altar of young women embodying sexiness and fecundity, it is refreshing to consider and hear that women can discover a deeper, higher kind of sexuality as they age – that it really can get better with the years.
But it wasn’t all soulful. Far from it! One woman in her fifties described extremely saucy evenings out with her husband involving all sorts of kink play, weekends when the children went off to stay with grandparents which became extremely sexually adventurous involving all sorts of roles and shenanigans in private and public. Another described a night fuelled by Ectasy as one of her most enjoyable sexual experiences: “My usual British reserve just vanished, so did my friend’s – we’d always been a bit stilted, awkward together but this felt like all barriers had come down and we could be our true selves with no filters. It was magical”.
Of course it is not all swinging from the chandeliers; some women described how sex had become painful during menopause (Dr Nighat from our Noon Advisory board recommends oestrogen pessaries which you can get from the chemist to help that and lubricant). One woman said she’d ‘rather have a nice cup of tea’. Another that she could not even think about having sex until she knew her house was “completely tidy and everything was clean”. The discussion was wide-ranging and fuelled by laughter and deep honesty.
All of us expressed wonder at the nature of the conversation and what we discovered and we were all left with a simmering anger that these Queenager stories of sex in the third quarter were so absent in the wider culture; at how cut off and marginalised we felt as older women when it came to this conversation.
It’s not that we lose interest in sex it is like sex loses interest in us. I remember how in one of the early focus groups we conducted for our Noon Queenager research the women talked excitedly about vibrators – which ones worked, which didn’t. How expensive they were and how too often they were hot-pink, or porny and definitely “not designed for older more sensitive bodies where skin is thinning”. Many were embarassed to buy them in person and had wasted money online.
That conversation stayed with me when the Founders at Tides asked for help from me and Noon to help them open up this conversation and develop a vibrator for the Queenager market. I’m proud to say that this week the result of that collaboration, a new vibrator, which looks like a smooth white pebble (it’s like the Iphone of vibrators)
went on display as part of an exhibition on the future of ageing at the Design Museum in London’s Kensington. Tides has been working with Noon and the Design Age Institute on this special vibrator – but even in this context the museum couldn’t bring themselves to describe it as such. They call it a euphemistic ‘personal massager’ not a vibrator designed to give Queenagers pleasure and orgasms which is what it is. It’s like the Design Museum don’t think we deserve sexual pleasure – but we do! Whether that’s sex for one, or sex with a partner.
Anyway, if you would like a Tides Queenager vibrator, the crowd-funder to manufacture the first 500 has just launched. Sign up here!
And we’ll be hosting the Tides Founders Salome and Guilia at the next Noon Circle on March 28th – so if you’d like to come and share in the magic of this conversation, do come along!
And if you are in London on Tuesday and want to come to my International Women’s Day Event for Fora (all about the power of the Queenager, I’m chairing, we’ve got Gail Porter, northern entrepreneur Sarah Pittendrigh, the Fora Founder Katrina Larkin and incredible FemTech Fund manager Priya Oberoi of Goddess Gaia Ventures.) Tickets here – it’s at 7pm at Fora Folgate Street in Spittlefields.
And I’m chairing a panel on Midlife and Queenagers at the Women of the World Festival WOW at the Southbank on Saturday March 11th. Do come for the day and join us and meet some amazing Queenagers. Link here.
Have a wonderful rest of the weekend.
PS Noon Circles are for all Paid Subscribers to this newsletter if you’d like to join us
By Eleanor Mills