Keeping Our Sexuality Alive as We Age
We are sexual beings. Sexual energy is life force. It’s our core energy. However, when it comes to females and aging, there are so many deep seeded beliefs surrounding our sexuality, that we just ‘don’t go there’. I wanted to uncover and expose some of these root issues. I recently met up with the amazing Bridget Finn, Ph.D, a Sex Therapist and researcher for over 30 years and the founder and president of The Capital Region Center for Sexual Health. We had an amazing conversation surrounding sexuality and the older female.
We are sexual beings, even as we age.
As I stated, sexual energy is our core life force. It drives so much of our passion and spreads to all areas of our life. Yet many women are unaware that they are sexual beings, or possess this amazing core energy. There are so many cultural messages thrown at women surrounding our sexuality. We’ve been taught that being sexual = being promiscuous, bad, wrong. We have deep seeded psychological beliefs surrounding our sexuality, based upon how we have been conditioned, based upon all the messages we have received and continue to receive, including messages about violence, harassment, the governments trying to take a role in our personal sexual decisions, sex addiction, pornography, youth, body image, and so much more. All of these messages play into our core sexual beliefs, and will be explored in further pieces. In this piece, we explore our sexuality as we age.
As we age, we believe our sexuality ends. Sex is marketed towards youth and beauty. According to Finn, “When you think about peri-menopause, what does the culture tell us? What are we being sold? What are we buying? We are buying into: I’m old, I’m dry, I’m going to gain weight, it’s over.” Well that’s a load of bull! As we age, our sexuality or life energy becomes even more intense and amazing. We just have to make the decision to nurture and expand it, and let go of any shame we have created over the years surrounding it.
Finn suggests, when women hit a certain age, typically mid 40’s into 50’s, we start to feel invisible to men. We stop turning heads. We feel no one really sees us anymore, and therefore we feed into this and often stop investing in ourselves and our sexuality. “Perhaps there is an invisibility to men, but there is not an invisibility to ourselves, and the other people in our lives.” Women at this stage in life have a vibrancy about them. We’re alive in ways that we just didn’t realize, and when we take the time to nurture this vibrancy, we create amazing sexual energy beyond our wildest imagination.
Women: Our libido is our job.
We think we lose our libodo as we age. We believe our sexual time is over, and our sexuality ends with menopause. What we don’t realize is that our libido needs to be nurtured to be kept alive, and that our libido is our creativity, our passion, our driving force. We have to make a conscious effort to nurture our libido. It needs to be fed. Dr Finn suggests that your libido needs to be inspired. “Our sexuality needs to be put on the front burner, on a low boil, all the time.” It is not something that you just let sit, and then wonder why it dies.
“My uncle use to have this car that he would leave out in the winter for months and never turn it on. Then in the spring, he would wonder why it wouldn’t start. As women we are taught that our sexual activity depends upon another person. We think that someone needs to come along and just make it happen for us. However, our libido is our job. It’s our mojo, our energy. We are responsible for turning the engine on frequently, and firing it up.”
Are you giving yourself permission to be a sexual being?
According to Finn, the number one issue holding women back is that they are not giving themselves permission to be sexual beings. Do you feel like you need to have permission to self pleasure? Do you believe self-pleasure is something dirty and wrong, or bad? Just like movement is imperative to maintain our strength and endurance, we also can atrophy in the vaginal tissue, which thins and dries as we age. Sexual pleasure, whether it be self pleasure or from an partner, keeps that area full of blood, moisturized, and vibrant. It is part of our self care, yet so many of us neglect it. The orgasm releases stress and increases feel good chemicals to the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin. According to Finn, for most of us women, our vagina is foreign. We have little to no body awareness in that entire area. No blood flow. Numb. No stimulation. We just let it die.
Sexual energy is not stagnant.
Many Americans are living single now. The demographic has shifted. Just because you are single, it doesn’t mean that you are not a sexual being. “When it comes to somebody coming in for therapy, stating they are in peri-menopause and no longer have a libido, there’s a whole lot that isn’t happening that needs to get that libido fired up. I always ask them, are you feeling joy in your life? Are you feeling alive? Are you tapping into your creativity? Are you in a relationship that’s inspiring you? That’s compelling you? Is it additive, not just neutral, but is it bringing joy to you?” The issue is that we are not nurturing, renewing, expanding, rejuvenating, redetermining, and re-exploring. Finn suggests “with peri-menopause, my message to women is that you cannot be living your life the way you were 20 years ago.”
Everything has changed. People change. Jobs change. Landscapes changed. Why on earth would our sexuality remain the same? People have a static perspective of sexuality and relationships. As we grow as people and change, so does our sexuality. Why are we remaining stagnant? Just because our sexuality changes as we age, it doesn’t mean it ends.
Monogamy does not equal monotony.
Couples get comfortable in the day to day monotony, they get set in their ways and then it becomes scary to reinvent and reinvigorate ourselves. Finn suggests “If we were as unconscious in our jobs as we are in our relationships, we would be fired” We have sex in the same room, and in the same way, and at the same time. Do you eat boiled chicken for every meal, every day? People get bored. We need adventure. We have to be willing to be adventuresome as a sexual couple to feel alive. Sexual energy is vibrancy. The biggest lie we feed ourselves is that sex is a chore. Our sexual energy is not the same energy we use to get through the day, to take care of the kiddos, yet we compartmentalize it right there with the grocery list and the mortgage payment. Our sexuality is not part of our ‘to do’ list, yet we schedule it in. We make it another task that needs to be accomplished, and checked off the to do list.
Keeping our sexuality alive is a core lifestyle choice.
There are many factors that come into play in order to maintain our libido as we age. Movement is huge. We need to move our bodies, which helps to keep our energy flowing and not stagnant. Nutrition, grounding, sunlight, and prayer/meditation are also very important. All of these are important for all aspects of our life as we age. However, we need to let go of the idea that after menopause we are no longer sexual beings. This is such a big lie. Please don’t succumb to this. Sexual contact helps us to release stress, and correlates with better health as we age.
We need to feel alive. We need this life force energy because it expands into all that we do. However, one of the biggest factors here is our relationships. Our relationships become our essence, and if our essence is stale and boring, so is our sexuality. It feels safe and comfortable for us to become stagnant in our sexual relationships. We don’t want to do the hard work to maintain it. We think it should just happen for us, and if it doesn’t, we just don’t have it anymore. We have to be active participants in our sexuality. Having a good sexual relationship is a lifestyle choice, not something that just happens with chemistry. The chemistry helps early on when someone in our life is new. However, we have to make that lifestyle choice to nurture our sexuality, to leave the state of comfort and ease, and to do the hard work. We can’t wait until we might ‘feel something’. We have to communicate with our partner, allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
“We have to be willing to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work it takes to keep our sexual life force alive.” -Bridget Finn, Ph.D.