Earlier this week, in an interview with Matt Lauer, a young Miley Cyrus said that people over 40 stop having sex and by 55 you are "definitely not sexual." It was, of course, a ridiculous comment by a 20-year-old that sees 40 as being very old; even so, it has gotten a lot of press throughout the week and brings up the question - what happens to your sexual desire after the age of 40?
As women enter perimenopause, changes begin to occur. Their periods may become irregular, they experience vaginal dryness and mood swings. For some women, sexual desire decreases during this time due to the decrease in estrogen levels. But, overall, women over 40 are still having and enjoying sex thanks to hormone replacement therapy and external lubricants. According to Woman’s Day magazine, some of the myths surrounding sex over the age of 40 include:
You don’t need sex - while that is true - you don’t need sex to live, sex keeps you healthy by getting your blood flowing and your heart pumping. A healthy and emotionally satisfying sex life gives improves your overall feeling of well being.
You are undesirable - during perimenopause, women often gain weight, but, sex is about a feeling, not about how you look. And, if you are with the same partner you have been with or dating men your age, chances are their bodies aren’t what they were at 20 either.
Fatigue sets in - we don’t have as much energy as we did when we were 20 and could stay up all night and keep going the next day. But most women have enough energy for sex - if not there may be a medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder, or you simply are using tiredness as an excuse to not have sex. Some couples find sex in the morning, when they are refreshed from sleep, more satisfying.
Libido decreases - libido tends to be controlled more by your emotional connection with your partner than your age. If you aren’t feeling a lot of sexual desire, once you eliminate any medical conditions, try finding ways to reconnect with your partner
Even though men have the physical ability to father a child into the senior years, their bodies also go through changes after the age of 40, but none that need to take away the enjoyment of sex and physical intimacy.
Erection changes - for men, it often takes more than a fleeting thought of sex to bring on an erection and keep it there. Genital fondling usually helps. Despite what most people think, men don’t need an erection to have an orgasm - fondling and oral sex works, even when the penis is limp.
Erectile dysfunction - the inability to raise erections increases with age although some young men have ED as well. Work with your doctor to determine if this is the cause of erection problems and whether or not medication will help.
Many couples have found that enjoyment from sex increases after 40. A change to more foreplay, more physical intimacy - such as cuddling or massages, using sex toys increases feelings of closeness so that sex becomes more about the emotional connection than the act itself. The changes in the way men view and take part in sex - slowing down to enjoy physical closeness - tends to bring them more into sync with the way women view sex, creating a bond that wasn’t there in the early years of their relationship making sex even more satisfying.
"How Sex Changes for Men After 50," 2010. Oct. 12, Michael Castleman, AARP
"Myths About Sex After 40," Date Unknown, Denise Schipani, Woman’s Day Magazine
"Secrets of Great Sex After 40," 2012, Oct. 17, Michael Castleman, Psychology Today
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.