Sexual desire, age and a whole lotta debunking…

Posted by on Jan 6, 2012 in aging, sexual desire, sexual health | 0 comments

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve stumbled across studies or articles about sexual desire. She does, she doesn’t, he does, it doesn’t, take this pill, patch, supplement, eat this food, wear this article of clothing, blah blah blah. Guess what? A lot of it is in your head (or your environment). No really! At least if you are a woman. Granted, waning hormones, namely estrogen, will likely affect vaginal dryness, pliancy and libido, at least to a certain extent. But there is a whole body of literature that points to the importance of the value of, and satisfaction with, partner relationships.

I’ve been writing about sexual desire and sexual dysfunction since I started this blog four years ago. And I continue to be frustrated by the number of solutions and panaceas that overlook integral factors like emotions and intimacy. Consequently, I was truly happy to run across another piece of evidence demonstrating the importance of these factors. This time, researchers looked at a cohort of over 800 women who were as young as 40 and as old as 100 and asked them a number of questions about their emotional health, sexual activity and menopausal status. The results? 90% reported that they were in good health, and about half had had sexual activity within a month of being surveyed, with or without a partner. Notably, a large percentage of these women were using hormones.

However, while a third of women reported that they never or almost never felt sexual desire and a third reported having low sexual desire, most of the women who were sexually active indicated that emotional closeness with their partners was key and in fact, was associated with more frequent arousal, lubrication and orgasm. And, guess what? Although aging has often been thought to be a harbinger of low sexual satisfaction (or activity, for that matter), the percentage of women who reported being sexually satisfied actually increased with age, with about half of women older than 80 reporting that they were always or almost always satisfied! Moreover, these older women also had the same degree of orgasm satisfaction as their younger peers!

One of the study’s most important findings was the fact that sexual activity was not always the litmus for sexual satisfaction, and that emotional and physical closeness were almost equally if not more important. Indeed, lead researcher Dr. Susan Trompeter notes that women in the study “who were not sexually active may have achieved sexual satisfaction through touching, caressing or other intimacies developed over the course of a long relationship” adding that “emotional and physical closeness to the partner may be more important than experiencing orgasm.”

Clearly, this research highlights the need to focus on sexual satisfaction rather than sexual dysfunction or limitations to what is commonly perceived as sexual activity. By ignoring intimacy and partner relationships, we do a huge disservice to women. Moreover, it is certainly refreshing to know that it often gets better, not worse over time.


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