Sex Can Also Get Better, Not Worse, With Age

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Despite common assumptions, youth sex isn't the only good sex, says Margaret Morganroth Gullette. In this excerpt from her book, "Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America," she posits that many women find that sex actually improves with age.

(WOMENSENEWS)--Under what circumstances do women with some experience say sex got better after young adulthood?

Not when they are asked, "Do you [still] want sex and how often?" which assumes that youth sex was fabulous and treats older sex as a series of metered losses. Questions about frequency-over-time reveal little but male anxiety, from Alfred Kinsey on into recent large-scale surveys, including AARP's.

More sensitive questions are, "Has sex gotten better or worse over your life course, when did improvements occur and why?" These questions start to get at stories of being aged by culture and experience in a period of American sexual history that was crucial to women (and mostly for other reasons, men) who are now in their middle and later lives.

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There are credible explanations for why sex subjectively improved for many women as they aged past youth. Thirty or 40 years of enlightenment–contraception, abortion rights, same-sex activism, greater acceptance of divorce and psychotherapy, feminist, disability and anti-racist empowerment--made possible enormous changes in consciousness and behavior.

Women don't find it hard to tell stories of sexual progress if they started years ago with brutal or incompatible partners, forced pregnancies, unsafe abortions, ignorance of their own erogenous zones and fantasies, a gender ascription that didn't accord with their sexual selfhood, an ideology of marital "duty," religious proscriptions against passion and against various forms of sexual expression including masturbation, exhaustion at work plus child-rearing or frightening phobias.

Many women surmounted such problems to discover or heighten their satisfaction with sexuality. They could beneficially ask themselves, how did that happen? Did aging have anything to do with that? If you define "aging" without recourse to the medical model, yes.

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