Relationship Ramblings

Walker Thornton: It Gets Better After 50

When I was in my early twenties in the mid-1980s, I assumed that sex stopped after 50 or so. I never heard people 50 or older talk about sex in person or in the media.

When I was in my early thirties, I kept hearing about how I was at the peak of my sexuality. I often heard that once menopause came around … Poof! That would be it.

Now that I’m about 13 months from my 50th birthday, I know that the notions my younger self had about sex in the golden years were far from valid. If anything, sex is the best it’s ever been and it keeps getting better.

Walker Thornton is one of my favorite sex bloggers. She writes about sex, dating and relationships for Better After 50 and her own blogs, Walker Thornton and The Diva of Dating. While a lot of what she writes about applies to younger women, I love how she’s opening the lines of communication about sex, dating and relationships for women over 50.

Walker was gracious enough to talk about some of the myths, misconceptions and realities of sex, relationships and dating with me. Here is what she had to say …

Ms. Quote: Is it just some or most women that have hang-ups about being sexually desirous and active after menopause?

Walker Thornton: As with any age woman I think there are a range of opinions and a range of activity. That being said, more older women seem to have bigger hang ups about sex — more so if they’re still married. I think it’s complex — it’s about upbringing and stale/lousy relationships and in some cases, a perception that sex after menopause naturally goes bad. I’ve connected with some women in my age range who are living very full sexy lives. I’ve also seen women who have just given it up. The single ones are more likely to be looking forward to a full sex life.

Ms. Q: Do you feel that a lot of women are challenged or morally conflicted or about engaging in sex with a new partner after divorce or the death of a spouse?

WT: Yes. There’s so much to that question. Long marriages, however they ended, make it harder for women to feel comfortable connecting sexually with another man. They worry about starting over with anxieties about body image being the most frequent response. There is emotional baggage that gathers as we age and that comes into play, as well. I hear women often talk about the need for privacy and the occasional comments about guilt, religion, etc. I grew up in the same era but have taken a different path. Maybe if I had remained married it might have been a similar story. My sex life deteriorated before the marriage did. In my case I examined my loss of interest in sex, plumbed it, and came to understand that it was a reflection of my loss of love and commitment to this man who I once carried for.

Ms. Q: What about women who have been married to the same partner for 25+ years? What are some ways they can reignite the flame with their spouses if that has been a problem?

WT: Those women who’ve been married for years and years and profess to be OK with a no-sex life. I wonder if they’re really OK with it or have rationalized that in order to keep the status quo. I hear from women who are working to keep a good sex life or who are open to making a positive change.

I think the first step in all sexual relationships is communication. Couples who have slipped into a more fraternal relationship and have stopped having sex will have a harder time reigniting the fire. The question becomes how will they start that conversation? How to move back to an intimate connection if you’ve been distanced for a number of years? I think it starts small with little kind gestures and affectionate touch like holding hands or a massage-like touch on the shoulders. Starting small can allow the warmness to develop naturally. It is possible to simply walk in one day and say, “Enough. I love you and want us to be passionately engaged. What would it take?” But you’ve got to have some guts to jump in like that and take the risk that your partner might say no.

Ms. Q: Do you feel that some women lose their sexual self-confidence since the portrayal of being sexy is usually projected on young women?

WT: Absolutely. We see images of Photoshopped girls with fake boobs and sexy men engaged in super sexy poses. Then we look at our bodies and feel embarrassed. The not too subtle message is that our day has passed. A Boomer-age woman recently said that she thought sexual energy was basically for the baby-making phase of life. (Not sure what happens to the single childless group.) Reality? The older woman is probably a better lover. She has the capacity to enjoy sex just as capably or better than a 20-something. We know our way around bodies and the bedroom and we’re experienced. We just have to not be drawn in by the doomsayers who say that menopause is the end of sex.

Ms. Q: Is it a myth that women don’t feel sexy after menopause?

WT: Yes, and it irritates me to no end. Menopause is a natural phase of life — it’s not a disease. We don’t wake up one day with an arid desert in our vaginas and some of us don’t experience any symptoms. I haven’t had a decrease in libido or issues with dryness three years after the end of my period and my friends aren’t reporting those issues either. But there are women who suffer seriously with hormonal fluctuations, hot flashes, and even if they’re not having issues with dryness, all those symptoms are enough to put you off sex now and then. I would urge premenopausal women to look at the positive examples of aging rather than be dragged down by all the negative fear-based information out there. Positive thinking is helpful in this area as in all areas of life. Expect to continue to enjoy good sex and you likely will.

Ms. Q: How is sex different or better after 50?

WT: Again, I hear a range of opinions. Nothing different for me right now. Aches and pains may make wild positions difficult. Arthritis impacts mobility, hand strength and other things that might be involved in couple or solo sex. I have heard women say that the strength of their orgasms have lessened as well as sensations.

How is sex better? We’re free of birth control issues, our kids are gone, and we can explore more freely. We have a better understanding of what turns us on and many of us are bold enough to seek out what we want. I enjoy sex much more now than I ever did. I’m sexier, more playful, and surer of my sexuality.

Ms. Q: Even though I’m 48, I’ve wanted to break these myths for a long time, especially since my partner is 68. Sex is just as great, if not better, than when we first met 17 years ago. His best friend is 82 and is having the time of his life, too.

WT: I dated a guy who was 69. He needed a little boost with Viagra at times but that didn’t’ interfere with his imagination, his desire to please or his vigor. Like other older men there is a mature understanding about sex. Once we’ve attained a certain age we know it’s not about a quick fuck. Sex is more complex and more nuanced. I don’t think 20 year-olds have got that figured out.

I occasionally worry about aging, but good sex is not one of my concerns.