Get the Sex You Need

Experts disclose the truth about sex, menopause, and aging.

By Kristyn Kusek Lewis
We know that the partners of successfully treated men also get a lift, because men who are more sexually confident reach out to their partners more, engage in more foreplay and have less anxiety, which lessens their partners’ anxiety as well.What’s crucial is to approach treatment as a team. Your partner needs to understand that just because he took his pill before dinner and he has an erection by the end of the meal, it doesn’t mean you’re ready to jump into bed. In other words, you don’t need to "use" the erection as soon as it happens. Viagra, in particular, has a 12-hour half-life, so he can get the erection, it can soften during foreplay, and then he’ll get the erection back.What are some ways to achieve a better orgasm?Berman: Decreased vaginal blood flow, which can often be helped by hormone therapy, is one reason midlife women experience less genital sensation or have less intense orgasms. Vibrators can help, and I actually prescribe them to my patients to help them reach different goals. For example, with a mini massager, you can learn to stimulate orgasm by varying the pressure on different areas of your genitals, or you can learn how to achieve orgasm more easily by placing it on your clitoral area, between you and your partner, while you’re having intercourse. Weakening of the pelvic floor muscles causes less intense orgasms too. Childbirth is the most common culprit; women who’ve had several vaginal births have the most trouble, but even women who’ve had cesarean births can experience it. Regular Kegel exercises, in which you contract your vaginal muscles as if you’re stopping the flow of urine, can help.How to Feel SexierThe expert: Christiane Northrup, MD, ob-gyn in Yarmouth, Maine, and author of The Wisdom of MenopauseWhy do so many over-40 women simply find sex less appealing? Northrup: What’s really happening with women’s libidos after 40 is that there’s this hormonal shift that allows unresolved anger, if you have it, to show itself. You’re mad at yourself for allowing your family to put you last, you’re irritable at work, and none of these sentiments help you feel sexy. The good news is that these changes, in my opinion, are actually designed for women to clean up their pasts and give birth to their best selves.Is this a universal problem? Do all women feel less sexual as they age?Northrup: No, which is why we can’t say that the menopausal transition is solely responsible for decreased sex drive. Boredom in relationships is a real issue: We know from research that the number-one predictor of a really good sex life at midlife is a new partner. With somebody new, you don’t have all that history together. How can we learn to feel sexier?Northrup: Women at midlife need to be able to see themselves as the ideal sexual woman no matter whether they’re single, married, gay, or straight. Find out what turns you on by making pleasure a priority in your life. Let me get completely graphic: Set aside several times a week for self-pleasuring. Act as if a rock star (or whoever does it for you) is coming to your home and you are going to seduce him or her. Put fresh flowers in the bedroom, make the sheets all sexy flesh tones or red silk — whatever you like. Turn your bedroom into a boudoir and practice. The exercise will help you fall in love with yourself.It’s important to learn to communicate what we want from our partners, isn’t it? Northrup: It’s essential. We are taught backward: Men feel they should know what to do during sex, but it’s actually a woman’s job to decide what she wants and tell her mate how to provide it. That’s why it’s so good that we’re seeing the interest in classes like belly dancing and pole dancing — things that help you find your inner erotic creature, which is not at all about being sexy for a man. Women are finding that their ability to be seductive and experience pleasure is unlimited. It’s very exciting!More from Your Over-40 Health Guide Originally published in MORE magazine, May 2008.

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