What did you imagine? A little ‘downstairs flutter’ whilst watching Alan Titchmarsh (Twitchmarsh?) on the telly? A perfunctory but pleasant 10 minutes making the sweet love every birthday (arthritis permitting)? Or sashaying purposefully into the bedroom….and then forgetting what you went into the bedroom for?
Well, greener you was wrong. And evergreen you is thanking God for that.
Sex in your 50s (and above) can be quite revolutionary. In many quite wonderful ways.
Yes, of course there can be issues. Sex during or post-menopause, for example, can be a challenging mix of fluctuating hormones, low mood, even lower libido, poor body image and painful vaginal dryness. But Tracey Cox, internationally-renowned sex and relationships expert, and author of best-selling books Hot Sex and Great Sex Starts at 50, believes women in their fifties and over can have amazing sex.
“It just takes some understanding of what’s actually happening to your body”, she says. “And then to challenge those issues. What mucks up your sex life after menopause is that the drop in oestrogen causes vaginal dryness — and that’s not only responsible for a decrease in spontaneous desire but can cause sensitivity problems. So sex can become uncomfortable and desire can drop. Lucky for us, living in this day and age, there are so many solutions to all these problems. We can use oestrogen pessaries, lubricants, vaginal moisturisers, HRT. There is so much we can do.”
And what about the emotional and mental barriers that can compromise the chances of having great sex in midlife? Tracey explains “the thing most people get upset about with post-menopausal sex is we’re so used to feeling like sex just happens – what’s called ‘spontaneous desire’ – but after menopause, it switches to ‘reactive desire’. Women panic and think ‘Oh my God! I don’t feel like sex. My desire has disappeared!’ But it hasn’t gone; it’s just a different type of desire. Once you start having sex, once you start becoming stimulated, that’s when desire will kick in. You just need to adjust your thinking and learn how to arouse yourself.
Move past your young-self comparisons
We also need to move past that whole ‘comparing your young self with your now self’ thing. We get old. It’s pointless and silly to keep saying ‘I don’t look as sexy’. We know now that what constantly tops the list of ‘what’s sexy’ is not what somebody looks like — it’s enthusiasm and it’s confidence. And you can have that at any age.
Sort out any physical issues – go to your GP or a menopause clinic – and then when you know what’s going on with your body, there’s usually something you can do to solve any problems. Communicate with your partner about what’s going on – they could be having issues, too – and then move on and focus on what is good about getting old. People have better sex when they’re older, by the way.”
If penetration is difficult, sex can become more foreplay-based. Oral sex, touching, which, by the way, is better for women anyway because that’s how we have our orgasms.”
She’s right. According to The Sexual Happiness Study 2019, commissioned by sex toy retailer Lovehoney, 45% of people in their fifties and over orgasm every time they have sex, compared to 32% of those in their 20s. Obviously life isn’t a competition, but we win.
So 50+ sex is orgasmic and, as a survey conducted by over-50s dating app Lumen revealed, it turns out daring, too. The report found that over a third of the over 50s are having the most adventurous sex of their lives. (Back to the Lovehoney survey which revealed that 20% of our age group say sex in a public place is the greatest turn-on).
There are many different ways to enjoy an active sex life
A big reason for the more adventurous sex could be the (solvable) physical problems mentioned above — with people focusing more on non-penetrative sex play like using sex toys externally or mutual masturbation. As my wishes-to-remain-anonymous friend poetically puts it: “There are many ways to enjoy an active sex life — it doesn’t all have to involve poking and riding.”
So what about my sex life in my 50s? Any poking and riding? Playing the ‘a lady never tells’ card, I won’t go into details (you don’t need to know about me meeting a 35-year-old adonis in a hotel room at midnight. Or the sweet long weekend spent in bed with a sweet blue-eyed soul. Or the encounter at my friend’s place of work that left me with splinters and a fear of working CCTV), but I will say it’s a totally different ball game. (I am aware I could have worded that better.)
Sex in your 50s is about freedom
You’re free from the debilitating self-consciousness about your body that meant sex when you were younger was a painful 15 minutes holding your stomach in and regretting not doing the whole damn thing by candlelight. Now? Now if I turn over during sex and my tummy hits the mattress a full three seconds before the rest of me does, I don’t care. Because experience has taught me my beau doesn’t care either. And, believe me, his focus is not there anyway.
In your 50s you’re free from self-doubt and performance-anxiety. Younger me would treat my man to my entire ‘sex repertoire’ to make him orgasm/like me/come back. Now? With this back? Now I have the confidence to do what I want to do — and to ask for what I want. From a gentle hand-place, to encouraging words, to a full-on Post-it moment, sex now is also about me.
You’re free too, from raging hormones. Which means you’re free to make more measured decisions. Or not, if that’s what you prefer. Younger hormone-and-Jack-Daniels-fuelled me got herself into all sorts of sticky situations — I’ll spare you the ‘car park at a wedding’ story, the ‘crowded bed’ and ‘comedy club’ ones, too, and instead recall the morning I woke up in a flat in Covent Garden next to a man I hated every single thing about. That trouble is over in your 50s. If you want it to be.
You’re free from the possibility of getting pregnant. And those who did have children no longer have the kids in bed with them. Although, the cost of living crisis could nix that.
You’re free from the noise in your head. The ‘you should be’, ‘s/he should be’, ‘this should be’ internal and external din that can drown out quiet intimacy. In your 50s you care less about opinions and more about experiencing moments. And this can make sex feel deeper and more precious.
You’re free from the self-imposed restraints (unless, of course, that’s your thing) of what sex was before. Sex in your 50s can be anything you want it to be. So If you’re not going to explore your sexuality – who you like, what you like, when you like it, how you like it – in your 50s when you’re confident, assured and give so many fewer f*cks, when will you?
Sex in your 50s is finally the time to get the sex you want.
By Bibi Lynch