It seems women in their 50s are giv­ing up on sex... so how do we get back in touch with our erotic side?

NEXT (New Zealand) - - Contents - by Deb­o­rah Hill Cone

LLadies. Ladies. Ladies. Your at­ten­tion please. We need to talk about stats. Nah, that’s not gonna work. Sex! That’s what I meant. Sex. We need to talk about sex. You lis­ten­ing now, hoochie ma­mas? Good. We are not get­ting enough sex. Or do­ing enough sex on our own. Or stay­ing sex­ual. How do I know this? Good ques­tion.

For­get those raunchy stud­ies done by lube com­pa­nies and lads’ mag­a­zines. “New sur­vey finds 22% of Aus­tralian men and women have more than 11 sex toys each.” Se­ri­ously, that was a real head­line in the

Daily Mail. No, me nei­ther. Does a Cuisi­nart and an elec­tric tooth­brush count?

The New Zealand Her­ald: “A lot of peo­ple re­port an im­prove­ment in their sex lives when their chil­dren leave home; it’s a time when mar­riages get the va-va-voom back.” Oh, re­ally? If your hus­band hasn’t left you for a younger model, I guess. No one tells the truth on those bol­locky things, ob­vi­ously.

But voilà! Here is a real peer-re­viewed aca­demic study, pub­lished in a proper fusty med­i­cal jour­nal. And it is des­per­ately sad.

Half of women in their 50s said they hadn’t mas­tur­bated in the past year, and half of the women in the same co­hort (not sure if the same ones, but re­gard­less, no one’s get­ting much) hadn’t had sex­ual in­ter­course in the past year. No shag­ging and no strum­ming. For half the women in their 50s. In a whole year. Half! Oh, and only one third said they’d re­ceived oral sex in the past year. (Sorry, I’m not sure where gay women fit into

You know that old say­ing ‘use it or lose it’? Well it ap­plies here

this re­search. I hope you gals are feel­ing a bit fox­ier.) These piti­ful sta­tis­tics made me feel weepy for us older het­ero chicks.

Oh, I’m not say­ing we’re all love-starved and lonely. If you hit menopause and don’t want to have sex any­more; if you feel more up­lifted by a sweaty box­ing class or blow­ing glass vases or lec­tures on Fou­cault in­stead, or what­ever your jam is, that’s tick­ety boo; you shouldn’t feel any shame what­so­ever about that. Ger­maine Greer said after a cer­tain age she found gardening more zingy than sex. What­ever floats your boat. (If you saw my gar­den you would know at a glance what I think about that.)

But I can’t help won­der­ing whether some of those 50% of women who are not get­ting any ac­tion would re­ally like to still be sex­u­ally ac­tive? Maybe they just don’t know how, or don’t feel like they should, or think just be­cause they’re past the ‘bleed­ing age’ they have to ac­tu­ally put men-on-pause. And not just men, but them­selves.

Maybe those women don’t feel de­sired, but even more im­por­tantly, they have stopped feel­ing de­sir­able. And that has to start with feel­ing de­sir­able to your­self.

So I’m just go­ing to say it: I think the so­cial norms about sex for women like me, past the age of 50, re­ally need to change. Honey, we’re sim­ply giv­ing up on our­selves too soon.

It’s not like in gen­er­a­tions past, when you might be lucky to live past 50 and in what time you had left you had to go all whiskery and ma­tronly. We’re all liv­ing longer, lis­ten­ing to Nick Cave and rock­ing out, and we should be lov­ing longer too.

You know that hoary – whorey? – old say­ing ‘use it or lose it’? Well it ap­plies here. (An ar­ti­cle: ‘My cli­toris is shrink­ing’ made som­bre read­ing. You’re wel­come. And yes, I have to con­fess I’ve en­joyed do­ing the more steamy re­search for this ar­ti­cle.) Mostly, I find it poignant that so many women see the change of life as a marker for the on­set of old age which causes some, un­der­stand­ably, to be­come de­pressed. What I sus­pect – and it’s bloody an­gry-mak­ing – is women feel un­less they’re young and con­ven­tion­ally ‘hot’ they can’t be sex­ual. That is sim­ply rot. Sex is for ev­ery­one, not just those who look like Ken­dall Jen­ner. So maybe we need to get over our re­luc­tance to talk about sex for the un-young and un-hot. Per­son­ally, I’d like to be more like PhD, erotic artist and fem­i­nist sex coach (yes, it’s a real thing) Betty Dod­son, aged 87. Dod­son, once dubbed the ‘god­mother of mas­tur­ba­tion’ wants to help the post-Sex

and the City, post-Girls gen­er­a­tion of women who she be­lieves are not nearly as lib­er­ated as they think they are. “Most of them haven’t even seen their gen­i­tals in a mir­ror. You show ‘em and they go ‘eek!’ Or ‘ugh!’”

She’s been named one of the 100 “most im­por­tant peo­ple in sex” by Play­boy. And hon­estly, you should visit her web­site, dod­so­nan­ “Bet­ter or­gasms, bet­ter world.” Not of­ten you see 79 men­tions of labia on a sin­gle page, and right now, you might be in­ter­ested to know cli­toral hoods are trend­ing. Dod­son is a great pro­po­nent of what an­thro­pol­o­gist Mar­garet Mead called ‘post­menopausal zest’. Dod­son says the “best sex of my life­time” was in her 70s when she was “train­ing” a twen­tysome­thing called Eric. After 10 years she de­cided to let him go. “You have to let the young ones go. You don’t want to be Hugh Hefner.”

She’s an in­spi­ra­tion, but for the rest of us we don’t have to take our hand mir­ror to an en­counter group or sign up for an orgy to start to feel sexy. You can just choose to nur­ture that part of your­self, how­ever it pleases you. That’s the whole point. Feel­ing sexy makes you feel good about your­self and your body. It makes you feel healthy. Just to give you a happy end­ing – like what I did there? – I’ll leave you with an up­lift­ing statis­tic. Four per­cent of over 80-year-old women de­clared they’d had oral sex in the past year. Hooray for them! So ladies, let’s get go­ing on those stats, STAT.

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