Sex is almost always complicated. Whether you’re saving yourself for marriage, practicing safe habits while dating or trying to keep the spark alive in your relationship, there always seem to be more questions out there than answers. Is it the right time? Am I any good? How can sex be better?
Admit it, ladies, you’ve asked yourself these questions, and more, time and time again. And, as you navigate through the different stages in your life, with age, even more questions arise. Is this as good as it gets? What’s up with my libido?
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Age and sex are more related than women often realize, and where you are in life can dictate your attitude and aptitude toward sex. We checked in with two top sexologists to separate the myths from the facts and find out what your age has to do with it.
Sex In Your 20s
This is a time for self-exploration and trial and error—to “overcome misinformation, sexual shame, fear or shyness,” says Dr. Carol Queen, PhD, an award-winning author and sex educator with Good Vibrations. Conquering these battles, so to speak, will help you determine what you like and what you don’t.
Experimentation is encouraged as long as you make smart choices like always practicing safe sex and picking partners wisely. Queen says not knowing what you want in your 20s or feeling sexually inadequate can come with the territory—hey, you’re young. “Sex [in your 20s] is frequently focused on establishing one’s own adult sexual interests and habits—the sorts of people you’re most attracted to, where you like to meet them, what kind of sex you like to have with them—and [often includes] experimentation, or at least imagining, things you’d like to try sexually,” she said. “[It’s about] learning how to be with a partner and increasing your ability to be intimate and to communicate.”
The key to arriving at better sex later in life is putting yourself first in your 20s and staying true to your own morals, values and priorities. Avoid men who are more concerned with being pleased than with satisfying you. “When we’re younger, we’re much more likely to be having sex because we think we have to or to make a partner happy,” said adult sex educator Dr. Charlie Glickman. “Or we do it in ways that are for our partners rather than for ourselves.”
Sex In Your 30s
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Men reach their sexual peak during their teenage years, while a woman’s sex drive doesn’t reach it’s peak until she’s in her 30s. Fact or fiction? Queen said it’s just not that cut and dry. “While there may be some physiological reasons that women often blossom in their 30s, I am much more inclined to think it has to do with finally achieving real comfort and a sense of identity as an adult, sexual woman, and often having matured into real comfort in one’s relationship,” she said.
Sex In Your 40s
“This is the decade when women’s hormonal levels begin to fluctuate and most women enter perimenopause,” said Queen. “A few authorities actually think something similar happens with men, as well. Hormones are a big deal as far as sexual functioning is concerned and sometimes women in their 40s find it hard to age gracefully, sexually speaking. Many people [at that age] are also working extremely hard, consolidating money for their kids’ school funds or making sure they aren’t passed over at work, so stress, limited free time and a sedentary lifestyle can make it tough to stay sexually engaged and active.”
The secret to blissfully sailing through sex in your 40s is to exercise regularly at focus on your health first, insists Queen. Make your relationship and the role sex plays in it a priority, not an afterthought.
Sex In Your 50s
Although many women tend to assume this is the end of the “good years” in their sex lives, they’re wrong. It can mean new beginnings for those with an open mind, Queen tells us. “Empty-nesters, especially those couples in which a woman is in menopause and no longer has to watch out for getting pregnant, often find that a sexual renaissance is possible in their 50s,” Queen said. “Some women find it’s easier to continue a vibrant sex life if they ease through the transition with hormone replacement therapy; others change their diets and go natural. Communication stays key here, because some couples find the aging process really does affect what they can do sexually.”
Sex Drive Killers At Every Age
You read quite often about how things like depression, poor eating habits and stress can dampen your libido, but there are many less-obvious culprits to beware of at any age. “Long term cigarette smoking causes both erectile dysfunction for men and a decrease in vaginal lubrication for women because the blood vessels can’t expand,” says Glickman, who says anti-depressants and antihistamines can cause a drought of sorts down below.
“Antihistamines don’t just dry out the sinuses. They can dry out the mucus membranes in your vagina,” he said. “Basically, anything that gives you cotton mouth can also dry out your vagina.”
Staying healthy is important too. Recent studies reveal that diabetes can also effect vaginal lubrication, Glickman revealed. Dealing with disease and personal injury can sometimes immediately change your sexual desires or ability to have sex in ways that were once normal for you.
Yes, Your Vagina Can Age!
It’s no secret that certain parts of your body begin to weaken and fail as you age, which begs the question: Can your vajayay age too? Yes, in a sense, Glickman hints. It’s not really your vagina that ages; it’s the muscles that surround your vagina that can and will start to weaken.
Your vaginal muscles need a workout, too. This means Kegel exercises are a must for women who don’t want to feel like they’re losing their ability to perform sexually they way they did during their younger years. “It takes more work in every part of our body to maintain the same muscle tone,” he tells us. “Just like when you’re 40 you can’t just get up and go dancing for six hours without stretching first. Kegel exercises are a great way to keep the vaginal muscles toned, whether you’ve had children or not. You can even use iPhone apps now to remind you to do the exercises at the same time every day.”