When thinking of sex, the images that come to one’s mind are of young, swaying, naked bodies, beautiful to the eye and mind. Sex has always been identified with youth and it is considered a very important part of its development. There is no doubt that up to a certain point, this is definitely true however, people get older and a big part of the planet’s population is older than 50. Does sex really exist for this sector of the human race and if so, what is it like? Much has been said and yet more is thought about aging and sexuality, but when taking a closer look, one quickly finds that there are many myths and false beliefs involved in the concept our society holds of sex at older ages.

WOMEN

Studies suggest that females reach their sexual peak between 27 and 45 years old and are considered to have reached their highest level of libido at those ages. During these ages, women reported having more sexual fantasies and one-night stands. Thoughts of sex increase levels of testosterone and so does sexual jealousy. Hormones have a small to no influence on desire.

A deficiency in androgen, seen before and after menopause, has been blamed as the reason for low sexual desire in 25% of women in a certain survey. Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) can be caused by extreme androgen deficiency and those with HSDD experience fewer orgasms, low sexual desire and less pleasure having sex. A study by the Journal of The North American Menopause Society concluded that sexual desire in women depends more on the individual’s life, her mental health and how important sex is to her than it does on age.

Menopause is often thought as the “end-of-the-line” for a woman’s sexuality however, many have an increased sense of sexual pleasure, with more habitual and acute orgasms. This is in part caused by a change in the levels and quantity of testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.

For females, frequent sex leads to a better metabolism which boosts the immune system, reduces risk of a heart attack, helps in keeping the vagina well lubricated, elastic and healthy in addition to being a whole lot of fun!

A decrease in sex was noted in females, even though almost 25%, aged 70 and over and involved in a relationship, had sex over 4 times a week. Having reached her 80th year, there are 39 men for every 100 women  and this lack of opportunity may be the reason why women appear as less interested in sex than men of equal age. In The Janus Report on sexual behavior, which marks age related changes within an individual´s lifetime instead of across genders, very small differences in sexual activity were reported. 68% aged 39 to 50 said they were engaged in sexual activity at least one time a week, 65% from 51 to 64 years old reported the same frequency, as did 74% of women over 65! An increase in sexual desire reported by many females after menopause, may be due to the elimination of the fear of conception.

MEN

There has been a lot of assumptions but little understanding about male libido. There are so many constructed norms and expectations within our society that are culturally based, that finding valid (not assumed) information about male sexual desire is quite a difficult task. Considering the amount of information found and studies made about sexual desire regarding women, it almost seems like social discrimination. And up to a point it is. There has been so much said and done about women’s liberation in the previous century, that few seem to notice that male sexual desire has been more and more categorized and scrutinized as aggressive behavior.

This has taken its toll on male libido studies as it is difficult to isolate the impact of the social definition. Men for example, are stereotyped as always thinking about and seeking sex, which in a real couple situation can be quite stressful. Guys have been reported finding it very difficult to refuse sex to their partner, thinking that it would be perceived as rude on their part and that she would find it insulting. Recent studies have shown that sexual desire between men and women does not have such a big difference and that many times, men in a relationship have a lower level of sexual desire to their female counterpart.

Men have been tagged with the chore of initiating sexual contact as a way to prove and upkeep their masculinity. There is a lot of pressure on men to always be responsive to sex when offered the opportunity to partake in it. To refuse is to doubt one’s manhood and can be badly seen in the eyes of other males but also females. This is not to doubt the patriarchal structure of most western societies which may slowly be shifting poles, but to show male gender entrapment in its own “legend” and the woes and worries it may have imposed on itself, leaving room and making possible the stereotyping of women at the same time and creating a vicious circle.

So, according to the information gathered to date and although, it has been seriously doubted, men reach their highest level of testosterone which controls their libido or sexual desire, and in difference to women, are sexually “best fit” in their early teens. From there on, their desire slowly decreases but most definitely, does not disappear.

Men over the age of 45 can expect to lose testosterone levels as they age. This is a very important change that reflects loss of sexual desire and levels of stamina. 85% of erectile difficulties are caused by problems in blood circulation, disorders of the prostate and medication side effects. This can cause depression, sleep problems, a loss of interest in everyday routines and is most always accompanied by a loss of libido. Most often, it is treated by hormone therapy with an aim in replacing the lost testosterone levels. Doctors also suggest a change in life style and more exercise that naturally replace testosterone.

Still, though, The Kinsey Institute’s 2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, reports that the frequency of sex in single men aged 70 and over is 13%, married men 15% while men in a relationship, a whooping 63%!

According to a National Council on Aging survey in people aged 60 and over, 70% of women and 74% of men find their sex lives more gratifying than in their 40s which is no surprise to sex therapist who are of the opinion that when physical appearance is discarded as the sole sex appeal factor, sex gets better. This self consciousness, especially present in young people, were one is aware of their body, looks and their partner’s opinion of their performance, tends to wear off as years go by.

SEXUAL INTERACTION BETWEEN AGES

Without a doubt, most relationships are formed between similar aged persons but disparity is not uncommon. During the ages and across societies, concepts and ideas about this kind of relationship have developed and have been accepted or scrutinized upon in accordance to sociocultural norms and legal systems.

Both, men and women have been known to look for younger partners and wealth, as well as physical attraction are many times relevant. This is known as the rational choice model which indicates that both genders tend to look for a partner who can provide for them during their lives. As men usually earn more as they grow older, women prefer older men as they provide more economic safety. This of course, as women enter the labor force more and more, is a diminishing factor.

Most studies have concluded that the majority of men preferred younger and more physically attractive women whilst women tend to prefer same age or older, established men. How much the rule of thumb that states “never date anyone under half your age plus seven”, considered of French origin, is true, would have to survive individual testing. Nevertheless, the rule has been said to be tilted in favor of accuracy in males and not so in females.

EPILOGUE

The aging of the body brings on new confrontations in how sex is enjoyed as many times, women may be “dryer” and men suffer of premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. Nevertheless, couples find ways that make sex pleasurable, sometimes more so as in younger people who tend to focus more on penetration, forgetting about foreplay. Sex improves as foreplay is more habitual as it increases creativity and imagination. As people get to know their bodies and understand their sexuality, sex is increasingly more about connection and pleasure which leads to more ease and carelessness.

To enjoy sex into the later years, it’s important to exercise, that improves blood circulation to the sexual organs and strengthens the heart, not smoke and drink alcohol in moderation for obvious reasons, control weight which allows for a better image of one’s body and keep a healthy diet to prevent heart disease and diabetes.

Let us know about the age factor you may have faced in your life and leave us a comment about anything you may want to voice on the subject of aging and sexuality. We would all love to hear your opinion and comment on it!