DDid you know that orgasms can help your hair grow? This is a fun fact, especially important for women over 40, because in our 40s our hair thins as growth slows. I know this because as a 53-year-old woman and co-host of the Postcards from Midlife podcast, I’m now something of an expert on women in this age group. And sex, I discovered, is vital to us – emotionally, physically and culturally.
The traditional narrative that the baby boomer generation encountered and passed on to today’s generation now in their 40s – Generation X – was that women’s sexual drives diminished with age, while those of men remained the same or increased. There was an assumption that other things would come to dominate our lives – caring for aging parents, caring for teenagers, coping with illness, trying to stay relevant at work – our sex lives, just like our physical self, would become invisible. And of course, juggling it all affects us – but this notion of low libido is not only condescending, but also inaccurate. In fact, 40% of middle-aged women we surveyed in a poll on our Facebook group said they wanted more sex. In total, 56% said they owned at least one sex toy; 65% enjoyed the sexual fantasies (although 82% did not discuss them with their partners); more than 35% masturbated at least once a week; and almost 37% had sex at least once a week. So it looks like we haven’t put our love lives in the loft with our vinyl collections.
Before hosting the podcast, I worked as a magazine editor – and I was editor of Cosmopolitan and Elle during the 2000s; my co-host, Trish Halpin, is a former Marie Clare editor. Between us, we really know the women of the generation X on the fingertips. Our generation grew up on the racy lines of Samantha Jones in Sex and the City and the expert sex advice from the magazines we edited. We’ve talked about our desires, libido and need for sex all through our 20s and 30s – so why wouldn’t we want the same sovereignty over our sex life as we get older? Sex matters to us.
We want more sex because we know from medical studies that sex is good for relieving stress and anxiety, which are classic symptoms of perimenopause (the 10 years of fluctuating hormones before menopause). It also helps keep our sex organs healthy, helping to prevent symptoms of vaginal atrophy, which is estimated to affect 80% of women during menopause – and the increased blood flow from regular orgasms promotes healthy hair. , skin and sleep.
More important perhaps, intimacy; the ever important communication between you and your partner is also enhanced by sex. As family therapist Julia Samuel told us on the podcast, the quality of your relationship is the most important predictor of the quality of your life as you age. And 75% of our listeners surveyed said intimacy was the most important aspect of having sex with a partner.
Of course, many middle-aged women experience a disappointing drop in libido due to a drop in the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. We now know that hormone replacement therapy (which is much safer than previously believed and is recommended by Nice) relieves women of these symptoms (not to mention reducing their risk of heart disease and stroke). osteoporosis). And safe estrogen-based pessaries, which may become available without a prescription, will unlock the desire of thousands of women who struggle to have a sex life due to the loss of this hormone in their vagina, which can make intercourse difficult sex.
The very fact that these treatment options are available shows just how far we’ve come. Generation X isn’t squeamish when it comes to talking about sex; our sex lives aren’t secret, and many of us are upfront about what we need to sustain our thriving midlife love lives (just watch Davina McCall’s groundbreaking Channel 4 documentary Sex, Myths and the Menopause).
This new understanding of perimenopause has put us on the brink of a new sexual revolution, unleashing an army of women to seek out what they need to stay healthy and happy. Middle-aged women will not be limited by GPs’ terrible misunderstanding of our health – in 2019 more than two-thirds of GPs had wrongly prescribed antidepressants instead of HRT – against which Nice guidelines on the treatment of menopause have clear warnings.
Gen Xers are good at asking for what we need: we’ve done that all our lives so far. When I was editing Cosmo, one of my male bosses once told me to stop reporting on anal sex. “No woman likes it, so stop writing about it,” he said.
“But I have a mailbag of letters from women telling me this is one of the things they want to live, which is why I am writing about it,” I replied, puzzled by her logic in the face of evidence.
“Women don’t know what they want,” he says.
How wrong he was. We want intimacy, orgasms, and yes, thicker hair.