extract from The Tao of Turning Fifty, What Every Woman in Her Forties Needs to Know, Little Red Bird Press 2012
Our sense of womanhood is inherently linked to our sexuality. Maybe that’s why some women mourn their youth at menopause. They think they will lose their attractiveness to the opposite sex and there goes their womanhood. However, according to Dr Christiane Northrup, there is evidence that some women experience a reawakening of their libido at mid-life. Scientists say a woman’s sexual peak is probably somewhere in her forties. Then again, some others experience a temporary deadened feeling: where oh where, did my libido go?
I was one of the ones who momentarily (for a few years!) lost touch with my desire. This was when I still had fairly young children and not sleeping well, on top of being perimenopausal. I think it was largely a matter of fatigue and timing. It turns out I am more easily aroused in the morning than at midnight when I’m half asleep! Talking about things certainly helped, once I became brave enough. My marriage might not have survived if I had not decided to take matters into my own hands (very literally). Two books that helped me understand the difference between women’s and men’s sexuality are John Gray’s Venus and Mars in the Bedroom and Reclaiming Goddess Sexuality by Linda E. Savage, Ph. D.
Now I can give myself permission to enjoy gourmet sex when I need it (meaning a lot of time for foreplay), or allow my husband a quickie occasionally. I feel more comfortable asking for what I need and less pressured to be available sexually when I don’t feel like it. Think of it this way: you might be letting your partner off the hook. He may also be experiencing a slowing of desire at his male andropause.
A lot has been written about the differences between male and female desire, and I’m not sure we can generalize, but certainly women’s arousal often starts in the head – with being courted, talked to and listened to, which creates a feeling of closeness or intimacy. Dr. Micheal Goodman considers himself an expert on this. He says, “Men’s sexuality is linear: desire leading to arousal leading to erection and sexual intimacy. Women are different; their sexuality is more circular and circuitous (“women need a reason for sex; men just need a place”), and starts with intimacy, not desire.” This inherently makes sense to me.
If it’s painful sex that is slowing you down, don’t wait; get advice from your health care provider. Or try herbal teas or tinctures like oatstraw and nettle which help relubricate the vagina. Certain homeopathic remedies help too. I have found some natural lubricants (Sexy Ganga, made with hemp oil) are more compatible than the artificial ones made of petroleum products (if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, it doesn’t belong in your vagina). Susun Weed’s New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way is a very helpful book in this regard, with lots of herbal remedies for each malady.
Whatever happens, don’t give up on sex just because of a few hormonal changes. A saliva test can help you find out which hormones are lacking (progesterone, estrogen or testosterone). See Dr Christiane Northrup’s book, The Secret Pleasures of Menopause for a thorough discussion of all things sexual.
That being said, consider that a time of sexual abstinence may be called for to honour your own need for rest, and to give you a time to find your wholeness within. Sex is wonderful, when you feel like having sex. Not out of guilt or a habit of pleasing others. Can you stand your ground, be with your own desire or lack of desire? Be patient with yourself and know that your desire is not gone for good.