“Let’s Talk About Sex . . . After Fifty”
August 6, 2014
#NBCToday Third Hour with Al Roker, Tamron Hall, Natalie Morales, and Dr. Lauren Streicher
The occasion: NBCToday Host Hoda Kotb turned fifty, and the NBC crew decided to celebrate it in grand style — they brought in Chicago gyn and menopause expert Dr Lauren Streicher, author of Love Sex Again, plus me, plus five middle-aged couples from across the country, to let Hoda know what to expect.
The segment was filmed at the Museum of Sex and at NBC studios at Rockefeller Center. Of the five couples who’d volunteered to appear on the show to talk about how they’d kept eroticism rewarding after fifty, four couples reported having quite a bit more sex than your average over-fifty couple. The fifth couple appeared to be struggling. The above-average erotic couples provided lots of tips for the viewing audience. But I couldn’t help wondering what their friends and neighbors back home thought seeing them discuss their sex lives on national TV.
You can see a clip from the show HERE.
Key Points About Sex After Fifty . . .
- “Sandpaper sex” is a reality for many women post-menopause. For women whose vaginal dryness doesn’t respond to some good silicone lubricant, there are many prescription products that your gynecologist can recommend for additional benefit.
Men: Don’t assume just because your partner isn’t complaining that she isn’t in pain. Many women tough it out, trying not to make too much of a fuss. So if you think she might be in pain, go ahead and ask.
- Vaginal dryness has an exact equivalent for men: erectile dysfunction (ED). Over half of all men in their 50’s have ED to some degree. It’s the #1 cause of men avoiding sex. And it’s probably a leading cause of bad sex as well, since most men with ED are too worried about their erections to really enjoy lovemaking. Oral medications for ED have been a real gift to many men and their partners — just as lubricants and other products to help with dryness have been for many women.
- Don’t’ wait until you feel desire to be sexual together. Among couples who keep having sex after fifty, most report that they don’t really need sex the same way they did when they were younger. Often there’s more perceived need for a good nights’ sleep! But you still want to make sure you’re having sex at least once a week. Otherwise, if you’re living with someone and you’re not having sex with them, your mind begins to think you’re not supposed to. It’s kind of like the incest taboo. You don’t want that.
- With sex after fifty, you have to open yourself up to it. Sometimes desire isn’t going to be there right away, and you have to find it. People tend to be more spiritually attuned over 50. So sex tends to be a lot more from the heart. Having regular sex can keep that channel open in your heart.
- It’s a good idea to get excited together sometimes without having sex. Just a minute or two in the kitchen before work, or in bed before you fall asleep. In sex therapy we call this “simmering.” Some couples figure this out on their own; they just don’t have a name for it. You explain it to them and they look at each other and say, “Oh, THAT’S what it’s called.”
Real important: simmering is not cuddling. Cuddling doesn’t give you that erotic buzz. From a sex therapy standpoint, cuddling can be kind of a waste. What keeps busy couples erotically connected long-term is often more the simmering than the sex.
- Think of sex after fifty as like having an erotic bank account. Every time you have good sex, think of it as making a deposit in your bank account together. Keep doing it, and over time it will pay off in more intense connection and better sex. If you haven’t been doing this regularly, you can still start. But you have to be diligent. And it has to be good sex.
For further reading, you may want to take a look at my PsychologyToday article — on sex after fifty, menopausal whales, and other things I learned while working with the crew at NBC on this project: HERE
Stephen Snyder, MD