A few years ago, a group of scientists decided to research the sexual expectations and needs of middle-aged women. They gathered a whole 15 women and chatted to them about their sex lives.
Their findings? Prepare yourself:
“Results showed that middle-aged women have various sexual needs and expectations and paying attention to these needs and expectations could affect the improvement of the sexual and mental health of middle-aged women and their families.”
I know! I mean, it blew my mind as well. Who’d have thought midlife women had various sexual needs?
I have no doubt today’s guest could have told them that without all the expense. Annabelle Knight (that’s her above) is a sex and relationship expert, seen on the likes of Loose Women, The 7 Year Itch and This Morning. She’s also the author of the bestselling novel The Endless Autumn, which is described as a mix between Bridget Jones and Fifty Shades.
But I was more interested in her work with the UK’s biggest sex-toy retailer LoveHoney. Annabelle is LoveHoney’s resident “sexpert” and has designed a range of stylish sex toys for women and men.
Sex toys have changed a lot over the last few years. It wasn’t that long ago that, staying with a friend, I refused her offer of a lift to the train station by saying I had to buy some jam for my mam rather than the truth: my vibrator had broken and I wanted to grab a new one. I wouldn’t hesitate in saying the real reason now.
It seems I’m not alone. When I visited the LoveHoney pop-up store in London’s Covent Garden, the staff told me women in their early 40s were among their biggest spenders. I’m not surprised: gone are the slightly seedy shops of yore, replaced with bright, colourful stores filled with sales assistants with excellent knowledge of the products, sexy lingerie up to size 24 and some cracking his-and-her gifts (although you should, perhaps, not open these presents in front of Great-Aunt Gertie at Christmas – unless she’s one of the great-aunts I know…)
Demographics weren’t, however, on my mind. With the fall in oestrogen and testosterone levels, midlife and menopause can have a real impact on a woman’s sex drive and I wanted to know what new, fun ways there were to spice up the bedroom.
Changes can include:
vaginal atrophy, where the tissue of your vagina becomes drier and thinner, which can make sex uncomfortable or painful;
a lower sex drive, which means you take longer to get aroused;
insomnia, making you tired and irritable, and
stress, making sex the last thing on your mind.
With all this in mind, I asked Annabelle to give us her guide to sex and the midlife woman…
What problems can midlife cause to your sex life?
As you get older certain hormone levels decrease, this can cause your libido to alter and for your sexual responses to be less intense than they were in years gone by. You can also experience changes in your circulatory function, which means that blood has a harder time flowing to your genitals during sexual arousal, this can result in erection problems for those with penises, or discomfort during penetrative sex for those with vaginas.
How can you bring back the va-va-voom into your relationship if it has gone stale?
Conversation, experimentation and preparation. Those three words will rescue any ailing sex life.
It’s important to talk to your partner, to be aware of any they are going though and vice versa. By working together you’ll feel more in control and better able to tackle any issues that may have arisen.
Next is to try new things, there’s nothing sexier than experimentation. Invest in some erotic fiction for ideas, read the novel together and see if there’s anything that sparks interest.
Lastly, be prepared for anything sexual bumps in the road, a love ring can help to maintain erections and a good quality water based lubricant will ensure slippery, sensual and friction free sex.
What can we do about vaginal dryness?
Try not to worry. Stress is a poison when it comes to sex and is toxic for your mind and body. Accepting that this is a part of growing older will release you from unnecessary feelings of responsibility.
Having your partner understand that this isn’t a mark on their performance or your enjoyment will also help, and always have a bottle of lube by the bed!
What sex toys do you recommend for a “beginner” and how can you introduce your partner into using them?
Bullet vibrators are perfect for first-time users. They’re non-anatomical, inexpensive and come with a range of settings that you can experiment with. They’re also super small and discrete and can easily be slipped between partners during sex. This means that they’re probably the ‘safest’ toy to introduce to your partner.
If you’ve never used sex toys together before then I’d recommend using a wish list to introduce them. Try getting together and writing a list of three things you’d like to try in the bedroom, make sure you have sex toys on yours! This is great because not only does it open the conversation up to sex toys, but also to anything else you’d both be keen to try.
What advice would you give women who want more/less sex than their partner?
Always talk to your partner. Conversation and active listening are two of the most important things to having a happy relationship and a happy and healthy sex life. If your libidos are mismatched then it’s important to be aware of this, to talk about it and to find a way to compromise so that you’re both satisfied.
One last word from me: remember you can still get pregnant during the peri-menopause years so use contraception!
HAS MIDLIFE AFFECTED YOUR SEX LIFE? WOULD YOU USE SEX TOYS TO BRING SOME FUN BACK TO THE BEDROOM? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.