The Real Truth About Sex And Menopause

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sex after menopause
Menopause myths abound. Here, Gail Sheehy explores what happens to intimacy as you age.

Eight women sitting around my living room talking about sex—all of us on the downside of 50—and even my ears burned from the sizzle of passion and rawness of confession. The idea that a contemporary women's sex drive disappears in middle or advanced age is as obsolete as the notion that women go batty in menopause. But many of us are ignorant about what changes to expect in our sexual responses during this passage, and the unforeseen consequences can drive us a little crazy! ThirdAge: Sexual Changes During Menopause Take Most Women by Surprise

Craemer, a lusty-looking California woman, told us she started menopause early, at 44. When night sweats made her feel as sexy as melted candle wax, she began mainlining tofu and soy. Her flashes subsided. She still enjoyed sex and continued to have lots of it; she was a single woman.

"At 48, I was with a younger man who was very well-endowed," she said. "It was wonderful at the beginning, then it started being less comfortable, and after awhile it was like, 'Oh, my God, major pain!'" Craemer had a bias against hormone replacement—taking the risk of breast cancer just to remain a sex object wasn't a good tradeoff, she believed—and she felt like she was still lubricating very well when aroused. ThirdAge: Boost Your Sex Drive

"I kept promising I'd find another gynecologist, but I didn't. And finally, when sex literally became a pain, we split up."As more and more women go off hormones cold turkey or enter the tumultuous phase of perimenopause confused by all the conflicting advice, there is a danger of reviving the myth that sex after menopause is merely a chore.

It's not. In fact, in interviewing hundreds of women between 45 and 75 for my book, Sex and the Seasoned Woman, it is plain that many are finding far greater pleasure and contentment in "middle-sex" than they did in their younger years or their first marriages. Third Age: Undying Love—For Some Couples, Passion Doesn't Fade