We recently received a question from one of our readers who asked, "May I know five good reasons why 62-year-old women need sex?"
We loved this question, both in its simplicity and for its complexity. It is complex because, before we can answer it, we have to look at why so many women give up on sex as they get older. Social messages telling women that sex is not for them cause women to distance themselves from their desire throughout their lives. As they get older, the fact that they no longer have the hormones that supported their earlier sex drive, combined with the negative messages they may still have in their minds around sex, means they often give up on sex altogether. As an engineer client of ours put it, "Sounds like they end up with low drive and a lot of resistance, but you need high drive and low resistance for things to move."
If you are a woman who has given up on your sex life, we invite you to reconsider! There are many good reasons to have sex as you age.
1) Sex can be for you. It is time to define what kind of sex is right for you. Sex is no longer about reproduction (if it ever was) and you have an opportunity to move beyond the basics of genital intercourse and find out what is actually pleasurable for you about sex. Instead of just going along with your partner's needs or desires, take some time to explore all the possibilities around sex. You may prefer all-over body touch, extended sensual kissing sessions, or playing with long, slow teasing. If you haven't gone on this journey, why not try it now? We had a female client in her 60s who, after much struggle and frustration around orgasm (she was having them but not getting much pleasure), finally realized, "Orgasm isn't what I like about sex, I like the feeling of my husband's body pressed into mine. It makes me feel warm and safe and connected." Another client in her late 50s had only had an orgasm by herself, never with a partner, and another woman had never had an orgasm before. Through her work with us, she found she could have orgasms with her partner and that she was multiply orgasmic! Some women experience their full pleasure potential and learn to orgasm for the first time in their 60s.
2) Sex bonds you to your partner. If you are having sex that is right for you, sex can be a very bonding experience with a partner. If you learn what you really enjoy and a partner gives it to you, and you give them what they enjoy, sex can be an amazing place where you can experience the pleasure of generosity and reciprocity in your relationship. As we see couples learning to give each other physical pleasure, we also see them grow closer emotionally. We also know that many women need emotional closeness in order to feel safe to open up to their desire and pleasure. If there is an emotional divide in your relationship that makes you avoid sex, consider bringing it up and getting help from a sex therapist if you need it.
3) Sex has many health benefits. Sex is a form of exercise that releases relaxing and stress-reducing hormones. Aging is a process that all of us go through, and as we age our energy and vitality can begin to wane. Sex is one way to stay connected to your energy and vitality, to get some wonderful exercise, and to lower your chance of sickness and even disease, since so many diseases are predicted by higher stress levels and having sex that is pleasurable to you lowers stress!
4) Sex is the best make-over. Having sex in a way that is pleasurable to you reminds you that you still have young, vibrant energy inside and helps you glow from the inside out. As you get older and your body changes, you may avoid sex because you don't feel beautiful and desirable anymore, but sex can actually bring you back in touch with your feeling of internal beauty. When you feel beautiful on the inside you glow on the outside and this is a feeling that does not have to change even as your body is changing.
5) Sex is a celebration of life. As you get older, the world can weigh on you and you might forget to celebrate your aliveness, your drive and your desire to keep engaging in all that life has to offer. Sex is a reminder to your body and your spirit that life can be full of joy and celebration.
We can't emphasize enough how important it is that the sex you are having is for you and pleasurable to you, and that you are not doing it out of obligation or engaging in sex that does not satisfy you. In order for you to get all the amazing benefits sex can offer, you must discover and ask for the sex that is right for you!
Oysters have a well-established history as an aphrodisiac (just look at that suggestive shape!): Romans believed in their libido-increasing abilities and Casanova wrote that he ate 50 for breakfast in "The Story of My Life." Well guess what? The mollusks are packed with the feel-good hormone dopamine. Zinc -- a mineral linked to stimulating testosterone, a hormone key to sexual arousal, can also be found in oysters, according to WebMD. A past study also suggested a link between raw oyster consumption and sex-hormone production, after researchers discovered that they contain rare amino acids previously found to stimulate testosterone and progesterone production in rats, The Telegraph reports.
The "shaky bridge experiment" is probably familiar to anyone who took Psych 101 in college. In the study, men were asked to walk across a tall, shaky bridge, and then asked by an attractive researcher to fill out a survey. They were more likely than those who walked across a less scary bridge to give the researcher a call later on, mistaking the physiological arousal from their fear response to the shaky bridge (increased heart rate, feeling a bit warm, breaking a sweat) for sexual attraction and arousal. In the absence of terrifying suspension bridges, you might try chomping down on a hot chile for the same physiological arousal. And just like hot peppers, spices like curry and cumin can also increase blood flow and in turn, your libido, according to Live Strong.
Another provocatively shaped food, garlic is associated with increased blood circulation, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. "Better blood flow to the genitals creates greater arousal for men and women," Men's Health reports. Garlic is also a traditional aphrodisiac in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. It is one of the five pungent roots monks were told to avoid because of its effect on sexual desire (according to the Surangama sutra: "if eaten cooked, they are aphrodisiac...").
As Shakespeare wrote in "The Tragedy of Macbeth": "Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes; it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance..." In moderation, however, alcohol can lower inhibitions without the unfortunate side effect of decreased performance. A 2009 study conducted by the University of Florence also found that women who drank one to two glasses of red wine a day reported "higher...sexual desire, lubrication and overall sexual functioning."
Sex isn't all about the physical act; there's a good deal of mental stimulation necessary before one is in "the mood." Taking a bite or two of chocolate can help. The cocoa-packed treat contains a compound called phenylethylamine, which floods the body with serotonin and endorphins creating that loving feeling, according to Fitbie. While a study found that a boost in sexual desire after eating chocolate was all in participants' heads, we'll take it where we can get it!
Follow Dr. Danielle Harel and Celeste Hirschman M.A. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sexandintimacy