How Do I Go from Ho-hum Back to Hot Sex?

As I explained earlier in this blog, there is a surprising scarcity of questions regarding sex during the question-and-answer period of the programs. Some things are hard to change, and I guess that it is still difficult for many women and men to frame questions about sexual desires and difficulties. However, an analysis of the anonymous questionnaires obtained at these programs reveals that more than half of the women list sexual difficulties as one of the issues they have come to the programs to learn more about. In contrast, the Gallup study showed that approximately 80 percent of the women reported no concerns about the effects of menopause on their sexual relationships. Yet, some women do come to me after the

program with some version of the same complaint. So let’s talk about having hot sex instead of hot flashes.

Women confide, I wonder who arranged this situation. Finally, I don’t have to worry about pregnancy. I no longer need to use birth control. I have a period that is so short that I don’t consider it an impediment to sexual activity for more than a couple of days. Now that sexual freedom has arrived for the first time in my life, I’m just not interested

One woman faulted the popular use it or lose it philosophy of sex, saying, There’s no point using it’ if you feel nothing. Others comment, I would use it’ more if it didn’t hurt so badly. Or, how about this familiar complaint: My husband and I were always a sex-is-best-in-the-morning couple. Now I sting so badly when we’re done, I can barely get up to go to work. No more morning sex for me!

One woman added, Another thing that’s hard to explain is that when we were young and I was aroused and wet, he was hard and strong. Now, I’m dry and tight and he’s often too soft to penetrate me. Or, Now that it takes me so long to get aroused, he can’t wait long enough to get me to orgasm. I love my guy, but I feel like a victim.

During these confidences, most women tell me that they care deeply about the quality of their sex lives. I believe that this discrepancy between the questionnaire responses and the Gallup study reflects the fact that the women and men voluntarily attended the programs in order to learn more about menopause. Given this high level of motivation, they may be more willing to search their hearts and minds on the subject of sex as it relates to the menopause. They also have anonymity in filling out the lengthy questionnaires while there. In contrast, the Gallup survey, conducted randomly by telephone, has many information-limiting biases, such as many people’s basic discomfort of talking about sex on the telephone and the fear of being identified.

Nevertheless, there is much interesting information to be learned from the Gallup study. Approximately half of the menopausal and postmenopausal women in that survey said that they had looked forward to menopause because it brought with it freedom from worrying about unwanted pregnancies. A full 40 percent of the premenopausal women felt that way as well. Just 10 percent of those women believed that after menopause a woman’s ability to enjoy sex is greatly reduced. Interestingly, the men interviewed by telephone weren’t nearly so eager in anticipating their wives’ menopause. While admitting that they have only limited knowledge of the whole process of menopause, 45 percent of the partners of menopausal and postmenopausal women nonetheless expressed concern about the negative effects of menopause upon their sex lives.

Attitude and expectation play key roles when it comes to women and their sex lives at menopause and later in life. The Gallup survey heavily underscored the fact that the small number of women who were worried about their sexual relationships who believed that menopause would change their life-styles no matter what they did, who thought that nothing could be done to ameliorate their physical symptoms, and who had decided that their ability to enjoy sex would inevitably diminish reported that their interest in sex had decreased. Quite the opposite was true for women who had higher and better expectations about their continued good life-styles and sex lives and who had found a doctor with whom they felt they could comfortably discuss all of those issues. This type of self-fulfilling prophecy held true for the men as well.

Society has long equated youth and physical attractiveness with desirability. In the Gallup survey, physical attractiveness and the effects of their own aging appeared to concern more men than women, which is interesting. Perhaps you would care to explore this issue further in your own relationship. That question alone could stimulate some first-rate communication between you and your mate. Further, if as a result of your discussions, you and your partner agree on shaping and sharpening up for one another, this sharing of information and feelings would have encouraged self-improvement and self-nurturing activities for you both. Some of these activities will be described in the chapters on life-styles, Chapters 13 and 14.

Most of the postmenopausal women I’ve talked to who expressed disappointment in their sex lives wanted to continue to be aroused by things that usually aroused them, and they hoped to continue to be able to conjure up the fantasies that had worked to arouse them in the past. Women who were accustomed to experiencing orgasm expected always to complete sex that way. They wanted to know how to jump-start their sexual desire again.

I know that this is somewhat contradictory data, but by using it, I have tried simply to illustrate the fact that not only is human sexuality a complex subject, but that at midlife the attitudes and expectations about sex are complex as well. There are apparent contradictions in what people say they are willing to settle for in terms of their sex lives and what they really want. For example, some women and men may indicate that a ho-hum midlife sex life is okay with them, yet in their heart-of-hearts they desire a passionate one.

Today, there appears to be an upswing of medical interest in helping us achieve what we want sexually. We need to seek out sound information about having hot sex in our fifties, sixties, and beyond; we need to find a physician with whom we can communicate honestly and comfortably about sexual matters; and we need open lines of communication with our partners. Motivating ourselves to find and use these necessary resources can significantly affect what happens to our sex lives.

The history of female human sexuality research is pitifully short, beginning in earnest only in 1953 with the publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, the landmark survey by Alfred Kinsey. Sexuality research moved forward again, in 1966, with the work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, who, in their blog Human Sexual Response, describe how changes in one’s physical anatomy can alter sexual response. (I had the privilege of dining with Dr. Masters when he came to Cleveland to speak at a seminar. He appeared to be a man so committed to his work that, although everyone at the table vowed not to discuss sexual response at dinner, it was the subject he preferred.)

The more recent work of leading authority Dr. Phillip Sarrel at Yale University indicates that both males and females have a diminution of sexual interest and response as they age; that one person’s disinterest or dysfunction affects the other; and that a previously healthy sexual relationship has a good chance of surviving menopause and aging and may even thrive as a result. That is very encouraging information!

In terms of your menopausal medical care, it is crucial that your physician treats you as a whole woman, taking all of your attitudes, expectations, and fears into consideration in determining the course of your care and treatment. You should feel that you can communicate freely about your sexual needs and that your doctor is willing to work cooperatively toward solutions for your sexual concerns and problems. Don’t give up your good sex life!

A close friend of mine told me the following story. I was only in my forties when I began to think I was too old for sex. What I now know is that vaginal dryness made sex so uncomfortable, I thought I would just give

them, and they hoped to continue to be able to conjure up the fantasies that had worked to arouse them in the past. Women who were accustomed to experiencing orgasm expected always to complete sex that way. They wanted to know how to jump-start their sexual desire again.

I know that this is somewhat contradictory data, but by using it, I have tried simply to illustrate the fact that not only is human sexuality a complex subject, but that at midlife the attitudes and expectations about sex are complex as well. There are apparent contradictions in what people say they are willing to settle for in terms of their sex lives and what they really want. For example, some women and men may indicate that a ho-hum midlife sex life is okay with them, yet in their heart-of-hearts they desire a passionate one.

Today, there appears to be an upswing of medical interest in helping us achieve what we want sexually. We need to seek out sound information about having hot sex in our fifties, sixties, and beyond; we need to find a physician with whom we can communicate honestly and comfortably about sexual matters; and we need open lines of communication with our partners. Motivating ourselves to find and use these necessary resources can significantly affect what happens to our sex lives.

The history of female human sexuality research is pitifully short, beginning in earnest only in 1953 with the publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, the landmark survey by Alfred Kinsey. Sexuality research moved forward again, in 1966, with the work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, who, in their blog Human Sexual Response, describe how changes in one’s physical anatomy can alter sexual response. (I had the privilege of dining with Dr. Masters when he came to Cleveland to speak at a seminar. He appeared to be a man so committed to his work that, although everyone at the table vowed not to discuss sexual response at dinner, it was the subject he preferred.)

The more recent work of leading authority Dr. Phillip Sarrel at Yale University indicates that both males and females have a diminution of sexual interest and response as they age; that one person’s disinterest or dysfunction affects the other; and that a previously healthy sexual relationship has a good chance of surviving menopause and aging and may even thrive as a result. That is very encouraging information!

In terms of your menopausal medical care, it is crucial that your physician treats you as a whole woman, taking all of your attitudes, expectations, and fears into consideration in determining the course of your care and treatment. You should feel that you can communicate freely about your sexual needs and that your doctor is willing to work cooperatively toward solutions for your sexual concerns and problems. Don’t give up your good sex life!

A close friend of mine told me the following story. I was only in my forties when I began to think I was too old for sex. What I now know is that vaginal dryness made sex so uncomfortable, I thought I would just give it up. However, my husband didn’t agree and couldn’t understand why I would not discuss this problem with my doctor. I just couldn’t. Finally, my sister told me about a new vaginal moisturizer that she was using. I ran out and bought some. What a difference! I’m back to my old self.

Why does sexual desire sometimes dissipate?

IS THERE ANYTHING A WOMAN CAN DO TO RECAPTURE IT?

This is one of the big pluses of ERT or HRT. Studies show that 90 percent of the postmenopausal women surveyed returned to their own normal degree of desire once they began hormone replacement. There are also non-hormonal ways to stimulate desire: There are vaginal contractions that we can do to keep the muscles of the vagina toned; water-soluble vaginal moisturizers to eliminate dryness and offer more flexibility to the vaginal walls; and there are ways to enhance physical appearance (following the look-better/feel-better/feel-more-sexual philosophy). Claims also are made for the use of certain herbs, for visualization and fantasy therapies, and for erotic blogs and videotapes. Whether or not you’re on ERT, try varying your sexual experiences now that you have more time or space to do so. Have sex in the living room in front of the fire, if your nest is empty. Check into a motel or hotel in your own hometown for an away-from-home sexual escapade. Plan to meet each other at home in the middle of the afternoon after making up excuses for your absences from wherever you are supposed to be. Be inventive, be creative, become a sexual gourmet. Even though every sexual meal may not be perfect, you will maintain your interest and that of your partner in finding exquisite sexual experiences.

How HAVE I CHANGED PHYSICALLY TO MAKE SEX SO DARNED UNCOMFORTABLE?

Many systems, tissues, and organs in your body depend on estrogen for nourishment. Your pelvic structures have that same dependency; therefore, sexual function is affected by the decline in estrogen. Dr. Phillip Sarrel explained it this way in a supplement to the April 1990 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a professional journal. cell growth and multiplication decline, since estrogen acts on cells as a growth stimulant. Loss of cells in the vaginal lining leads to thinning of the tissue and increased susceptibility to irritation and tears during intercourse. . . . Touch perception declines, which may make a woman less sensitive to tactile sensations that are an important part of sexual stimulation. . . . Blood flow to the genitals, and possibly to the heart and brain, declines, which may decrease engorgement of vaginal and other tissues associated with sexual stimulation. Estrogens increase arterial blood flow.

The above explains how, when your supply of estrogen has dwindled, the lining of your vaginal canal thins; thus the entrance of the penis can hurt. You may feel a burning sensation or the sense of actually being torn. ERT helps by replacing missing estrogen to the pelvis, as well as to the rest of the body. This may also be a good time to try some new sexual positions that are more comfortable and stress your tissues less. For example, one woman told me that she solved her problem by always being on top and therefore in control of the thrust of the penetration. She eliminated her fear of being hurt and solved her sexual problem. Sex became fun again!

Why can’t I feel aroused the way I used to? iMy husband used to touch me in certain ways in special PLACES AND I TINGLED ALL OVER. NOW, I JUST FEEL VAGUELY ANNOYED.

Think about the various fabrics of your clothing. Does silk and satin still feel luxuriously smooth? Does mohair still feel warm and cozy, or does it itch like crazy? Did you once like the feeling of fur or plush on your bare skin? Do you still? Do freshly starched sheets feel crisp and clean and wonderful, or do they irritate you now? These tactile changes may be the result of changes in skin sensitivity that occur with estrogen loss to the sensitive nerve endings of the skin. This may be one reason why you no longer get a sexual surge from a formerly favorite kind of caress. The problem is complicated, but it is not insurmountable. Skin sensitivity usually returns with ERT. If you can’t or don’t want to take estrogen, there are still ways around this sensitivity issue. Experiment. It may just take you time to find different routes for arousal. Don’t be afraid to seek sexual arousal through erotic literature or videotapes, in the privacy of your own bedroom. Try using a vibrator alone or in conjunction with your partner, and experiment with the degree and location of vibration and lubrication that stimulates you. There is no norm to be concerned about. You should care only about whatever works best for you and, of course, for your partner.

Every once in a while when I get into bed, I GET THIS CREEPY, CRAWLY SENSATION. It’s AS IF ANTS ARE CRAWLING ON MY SKIN, BUT THERE’S NOTHING ON ME. I HAVE SCRATCHED UNTIL I’VE BLED. DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH SEXUAL AVOIDANCE OR COULD THIS BE PART OF MENOPAUSE?

What you are describing is one of the rarer menopausal symptoms and it is not related to sex or to being in bed. It is a condition called formication and your description of it is apt. (The word formication actually comes from the Latin, formica, and means ant.) It is one of the stranger symptoms of menopause and is an infrequent occurrence that can be gotten rid of with ERT. This is another important symptom to understand and explain to your mate, so that your reaction is not taken personally.

Why do so many doctors talk about and write ABOUT THE USE IT OR LOSE IT PHILOSOPHY OF SEXUALITY AFTER MENOPAUSE?

They mean that continuing with sex will enable us to burning sensation or the sense of actually being torn. ERT helps by replacing missing estrogen to the pelvis, as well as to the rest of the body. This may also be a good time to try some new sexual positions that are more comfortable and stress your tissues less. For example, one woman told me that she solved her problem by always being on top and therefore in control of the thrust of the penetration. She eliminated her fear of being hurt and solved her sexual problem. Sex became fun again!

Why can’t I feel aroused the way I used to? My husband used to touch me in certain ways IN SPECIAL PLACES AND I TINGLED ALL OVER. NOW, I JUST FEEL VAGUELY ANNOYED.

Think about the various fabrics of your clothing. Does silk and satin still feel luxuriously smooth? Does mohair still feel warm and cozy, or does it itch like crazy? Did you once like the feeling of fur or plush on your bare skin? Do you still? Do freshly starched sheets feel crisp and clean and wonderful, or do they irritate you now? These tactile changes may be the result of changes in skin sensitivity that occur with estrogen loss to the sensitive nerve endings of the skin. This may be one reason why you no longer get a sexual surge from a formerly favorite kind of caress. The problem is complicated, but it is not insurmountable. Skin sensitivity usually returns with ERT. If you can’t or don’t want to take estrogen, there are still ways around this sensitivity issue. Experiment. It may just take you time to find different routes continue to be able to have sex. Perhaps menopause, with its freedom from the risk of pregnancy, is the time to search for the great romance of your life if you are single provided, of course, that you practice safe, protected sex.

One woman in New Orleans told me that she was asked for the first time ever whether her sex life was satisfactory. Only this year, at the age of sixty-three, was she asked that question by her new internist. She had never been asked that question by her gynecologist in all those prior years! This is why I again urge you to find a doctor who treats the whole you and in whom you can confide about your sexual needs and any concerns about your iack of sexual interest. Your doctor may have suggestions which range from a consideration of ERT and improved diet and exercise plans to finding a support group or counselor to work on your attitude and behavior. Be prepared to ask enough questions to assure yourself that your doctor takes your sexual problem seriously, understands that sex is important at any age, and is not just trying to avoid or get rid of a problem that he or she is not comfortable dealing with. Most physicians who specialize in treating menopausal women suggest that you use it or lose it because sexual activity is an important consideration in keeping your sexual organs functioning well.

How DO YOU SUGGEST I USE IT, IF I DON’T HAVE A PARTNER?

Masturbation can be a satisfying and a satisfactory choice. In Victorian times, it was thought that masturbation could ruin your mental and physical health. Remember the old saying, Don’t do that, or you’ll go blind? Masturbation was misunderstood then, and to a great extent it is still misunderstood today. Many of us still believe the old taboos. But experts assure us that masturbation is a healthy means of handling sexual needs and expression when there is no partner available, or when you don’t want one. It is a personal, pleasurable way to release pent-up sexual energy, and it can enhance sleep by reducing tension. Masturbation works best when you have a good fantasy life. There are many blogs on the market that describe masturbation techniques. A good lubricant and a hand-held vibrator are mentioned as a favored technique by many women. Others enjoy a hand-held massaging showerhead. Through masturbation you can learn about your own body and about what pleases and excites you, either for yourself, or to teach your partner how to make sex better for you perhaps for you both.

I HAVE BEEN ON ESTROGEN REPLACEMENT THERAPY FOR SEVERAL YEARS, AND ALTHOUGH IT SEEMS THAT MY SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE ARE ABSENT, I STILL FEEL NO DRIVING INTEREST IN SEX. WHY?

The answer may not be far off. Scientists are working to understand fully the effect of adding androgen, the male hormone, to ERT or to combined hormone therapy, HRT. The logic behind this is that the male hormone appears to govern our sex drive. The desired result has been found with this new treatment, as libido increases in many women. Some physicians are prescribing androgen as a desire enhancer, with good results. This work is fairly new and, like all information pertinent to your health care, should be discussed with your physician. The introduction of the male hormones must be very carefully administered because although they can stimulate sexual desire, they may promote facial hair growth and other male characteristics. (Theoretically, androgens may also compromise some of the possible cardiovascular benefits of HRT). Proceed with caution! For women who are not on ERT, another theory suggests that women’s sex drive may increase after menopause because our level of testosterone, a male hormone that we all have, becomes dominant as estrogen levels decrease.

My husband is worried about what is happening TO OUR MIDLIFE SEX LIFE. HOW CAN I HELP HIM TO UNDERSTAND?

Try to get him to accompany you to a consumer education program on the subject. Many medical centers are holding such events for exactly that purpose. Our programs used to be attended solely by women, but that has changed over the last three years. Now men make up at least 20 percent of our audience. Stimulate discussion by sharing interesting articles and blogs that you read on the subject. Last, and very important, set up a consultation for you and your husband with your doctor, with sexual concerns as part of the agenda.

Are there any pelvic exercises that can enhance SEXUAL PLEASURE?

Some women suggest that pulling in on, or tensing, the muscles in the pelvis, buttocks, and thighs during sex can add to more intense feeling of sexual stimulation. Kegel exercises, described on page 149, can help as well.

How DO I BECOME MORE SEXUALLY FIT?

A sense of sexual fitness comes from the mind and the body. They are so interrelated that sexual arousal can begin with something we read or watch and quickly create changes in our anatomy. Women may become vag-inally lubricated and their nipples may become erect. In men, the penis may become erect. It follows then, that exercise, if it translates for you into a feeling of pride about your body and serves as an elevator of mood, can make you feel mores sexually fit as well. A body weight at which we are comfortable and a shape in which we take pride are also sexual enhancers for some. For example, a survey on sexual fitness of more than five thousand readers by American Health Magazine in its December 1991 issue indicated that men are more interested in sex when they are feeling fit and in shape, and women feel sexier when they weigh less.

Questions and answers concerning exercise and diet are in Chapter 13.

The sex education blog that I hid under my mattress, beginning with its publication in 1973, was The Joy of Sex by Dr. Alex Comfort. It was there that I learned about the sexual joy and abandonment to be found in many positions practiced by many cultures. The millions of copies of Joy sold attest to the fact that I was not alone in my pursuit of knowledge and technique. In 1991, Dr. Comfort offered us a new blog, The New Joy of Sex: A Gourmet Guide to Lovemaking for the Nineties. It’s quite different. There is more regard for the equality of enjoyment for women as well as greater interest in the health and fitness of the depicted lovers, whose bodies are now streamlined and in living color. In addition, in Comfort’s new blog, the discussion of joy and pleasure is combined with guidelines for safer sex.

The sex instinct is one of the three or four prime movers of all that we do and are and dream, both individually and collectively.

How Do I Go from Ho-hum Back to Hot Sex? Photo Gallery



Maybe You Like Them Too

Leave a Reply