Sexuality in and after menopause

Sexuality in old age, especially the sex life of older women, is a taboo subject in our eternal youth society. Many women experience aging with a continuous sexual devaluation, which is accompanied by concerns about their own attractiveness, decreasing efficiency, various illnesses and complaints. In addition, women are influenced by the social "double standard of aging", which means that women, unlike men, are previously perceived as unattractive, old and asexual. The hormonal change with the onset of menopause and the increase in general diseases have so far been mainly blamed for the causes of the changes in sexual life. But what determines the quality and quantity of female sexuality after menopause is an involuntarily guarded secret of many women. The medical psychologist Beate Schultz-Zehden from the Campus Benjamin Franklin of the Berlin Charité has set out on the trail of this secret.

Pleasure and Pain

That the lust for sex in men hardly diminishes in old age, is more well-known than the fact that women have sexual interests and needs in old age. Until old age, women remain sexually enjoyable and orgasmable, although a decline in libido and sexual activity with age seems undisputed.

So far, this has been attributed to changes during the hormonal conversion processes. It may also be responsible for a number of other causes that are not only physical, but mainly psychological and sociological reasons or are generally related to the partnership.

Older people experience sexual needs sometimes shy or inappropriate, especially when the partner has age-related difficulties. Although satisfactory contacts would be possible for both partners, the lack of dialogue between the partners sometimes leads to the complete abandonment of sexual encounters.

The spectrum of needs

In a representative survey, 521 women between the ages of 50 and 70 answered an extensive questionnaire on sexuality anonymously. This nationwide study not only covered the current sex life of women in old age, but also asked about the changes in lived sexuality. The result of the survey refuted the widespread view that sexual desire decreases significantly with the onset of hormonal changes.

Rather, the spectrum of sexual needs ranges from the daily desire for sexual contact to complete rejection. Between the ages of 50 and 60, the women surveyed on average wish sex several times a month, whereas between the ages of 65 and 70, half of all women no longer want a sexual relationship. However, the desire for sexual contacts was greater than the actual sexuality. Existing sexual needs are therefore not satisfied in some women.

How women deal with sexuality in old age is certainly dependent on their individual biographies. With increasing age, not only the frequency but also the number of women with sexual intercourse decreases. According to their own statements, one-quarter of the 50- to 55-year-olds do not experience active sexuality, while those aged 65-70 already account for 66 percent. At this age, only one in three women claim to be sexually active.

Dwindling desire in old age?

There are a variety of reasons for this: Many women live without a partner and the ability to find a new partner is difficult in many ways, as men usually die earlier and only a third of women living alone are prepared to reconnect, In addition, illnesses, the loss of the partner as well as general relationship problems reduce the libido of women - with the result that some women remain unsatisfied in their sexual relationship.

Some women use aging to free themselves from the obligation to engage in sexual activities: over the years, some form of erosion of the partnership has come about, or they have been sexually abusive for years and now take the liberty of sexual denial.

Changed sexuality changed

Both the sexual desire and a satisfying sex life - it can be concluded from the survey - correlate with the quality of the partnership and with the quality of the sex life in earlier years, whereby the satisfaction in the sexuality not primarily on the quantity of activities, but the Quality of sexual encounter is made dependent. As the frequency of sexual intercourse decreases with age, the importance of tenderness in sexuality increases, also with a view to developing sexual desire.

New freedoms

Some women feel freer in sexuality because of relief from menopause. The elimination of monthly menstrual bleeding and menstrual hygiene, the elimination of contraceptive problems and the fear of unwanted pregnancies revive sex life just as much as the exodus of children from the home. These women have more time, enjoy the spontaneity in sexuality and no longer have to take care of their children. A happy partnership and few sexual problems in the past also play an important role, as a woman who has learned in the past to be satisfied with her sex life is more likely to enjoy it as she grows older.

The study indicates that there may have been changes in the sexual behavior of women. There was a smaller group of so-called "sexually emancipated" women between the ages of 50 and 65, who reported a highly fulfilling and satisfying sex life. They are particularly active sexually, sometimes taking the initiative in their sexual life more often than their partner and taking an active role instead of the passive part.

Lack of advice

Unfortunately, there is still a lack of adequate counseling services especially for older women. Many offers specifically target younger women when it comes to questions about pregnancy or abortion. However, gynecologists can be important contacts for older women. But only about one in four women who even visit a gynecologist or gynecologist in the age group examined openly talks about sexual issues and in the majority of cases it is the women themselves who address the issue.

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