Share this article Share Sex? It went from adorable, surrendering to non-existent. He sulked while I sobbed. I then staggered into the arms of a charming corporate man with whom I had great sex.
But he didn't say he was married. I thought he could have mentioned it. I went off sex at about the same time as my married friends. We used to phone each other and say: Probably the old 'life begins at 40' feeling I'd always thought was a load of rubbish to console the elderly.
It was like being a chick hatching. I remember the sensation of slowly bursting through my old shell. Heaven knows what that sensation is, or was, but we all felt it sooner or later in our 40s.
A feeling of being re-born. I single woman learned, among other things, that sex could be separated from love you can still be loving , and promptly got into bed with some attractive and decent men I'd missed out on before. I took my affection to bed and left my emotions behind. Ah, the unfettered bliss of not being emotional. My sex life was no longer dominated by the feeling that this had 'to go somewhere'. Sex is not a national airline - it's fun, and pleasure.
I easily went back to one or two old lovers - and had a much friskier and, oddly enough, even more loving time than before. The good news is the 50s can be wonderful, too! Well, wake up, what's new? Older women have always known this, but keep pretty quiet about it because of the mud that is hurled at them if they speak out.
Look at our society's emphasis on youth and beauty and the way it despises signs of age; witness the furore when an older woman behaves in a sexual way and lets on that she still likes sex and wants it.
A quick glance at the history of female sexuality reveals the roots of this potent taboo. The idea that older women have little or no interest in sex can be traced back to the 19th century and beyond.
Some doctors recommended that women gave up sex completely when they hit 40, and believed that love should be banished for ever from their hearts once they were approaching menopause. Drugs such as camphor were prescribed to help with unwanted sexual urges. Women of our grandmothers' generation were even thought insane for loving sex.
But today we can say that sex is better when you are older because of experience, independence, relief from the risk of pregnancy and, frankly, my dear, just not giving a damn. A hundred years ago, a doctor called Heinrich Kisch wrote The Sexual Life Of Women, marvelling that it was 'precisely in women of the climacteric age [that] there often exists a strong desire'.
His influential contemporary, Dame Mary Scharlieb MD, thought it was 'extremely pathetic to find women well on to 50 years of age who are apparently as keen on sexual enjoyment as a bride might be'.
Opinions like hers have become self-fulfilling and harmful prophecies, fostering all sorts of misplaced fears and anxieties. The sexualisation of our society has undoubtedly muddied people's expectations and understanding of sex, and turned it into a looks and performance-oriented, one-trick pony parody, when it is a much deeper and rarer creature. Some women, of course, experience a lowering of their libido when they pass 40 - and might be quite content with that; pleased, even.
Undoubtedly, this is how sexuality can sometimes be when you are older, no longer fully available or centred on the lives and needs of others, and able to experience a more reflective sexual response. Changes which may occur around the time of menopause might equally be caused by other life events involving partners, work, children, elderly parents, quality of sleep and health. Yet if women report a loss of interest in sex they may find themselves being prescribed hormones to maintain a higher level of libido, despite an incompatibility with other aspects of their mid-life experience.
Historically, absurd assumptions such as the idea that sex stops, or at least should stop, at menopause have had serious implications for the treatment, health and well-being of post-menopausal women. Research by groups such as The Pennell Initiative for Women's Health, a charity campaigning for the needs of women over the age of 45, which has commissioned research into sexuality and the menopause, is trying to rectify the mistakes.
The Pennell study of attempted to demystify what, for many, remains a taboo subject, and to show that sex is important to many older women. According to the report, women's sexual arousal or capacity to orgasm actually increases.
Further, according to The New Hite Report , older women are more likely to enjoy more multiple orgasms than younger women, and the confusion between reproductive activity and sexual pleasure is playing havoc with our lives.
We need to stop repeating and relying on outdated assumptions about menopausal and older women. Some women may want to get back on the sexual merry-go-round, others may want to get off it. But whichever you choose, the truth is that freedom is a well-documented aphrodisiac. Hot Flushes, Cold Science: Certainly, most of the older female pop stars I've known are incapable of entering a recording session without first eyeing up a promising young male guitarist.
The sex you're having depends, of course, on whether you're single or married. A marriage that one started in one's 20s might well have become stale by one's 40s - in the bedroom most of all. One famous French writer certainly thought so when he described a wife as 'a couch on which one makes love to the woman of one's dreams'. I had the good luck, or whatever it was, to be single for most of my 40s.
When I turned 40 I had thought: Suddenly they were coming at me from all directions, like Exocet missiles. I did not marry until the age of 47 - but to the right person. And since then, absolutely everything - including sex, of course - has been infinitely better than it was before. Testosterone is traditionally thought of as a male hormone, but all women produce it from puberty. However, it is a very powerful hormone, so women produce the sex hormone-binding globulin SHBG , which mops up much of the testosterone to help keep its effects in check.
The knock-on effect of this would be an increase in testosterone - which could lead to increased desire. However, while levels tend to drop a little as a women gets older, the more sex a women has the more oxytocin she produces - it is known as the libido meter.
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