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Aging and Sex


Aging and Sex in Women and the Myth of Menopause

The capacity for sexual reproduction begins earlier in females than in males, often two years earlier. However, the commencement of puberty varies among girls and may not begin until age 14 or 15. Women differ from men in that the decline in sexual responsiveness with aging is quite gradual.

As women age, hormonal production diminishes, the lining of the vaginal wall begins to thin and becomes more rigid, and the production of vaginal lubrication drops. The latter change, in particular, can contribute to discomfort during intercourse, but a woman's capacity to achieve orgasm can remain at near peak levels well into her senior years, even though the length of time needed to achieve orgasm may increase.

Women who remain sexually active, in fact, may be less likely to experience a drop in available vaginal lubrication. These changes are quite minimal until menopause — the most dramatic organic change that a woman undergoes as she ages.

Menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, although it may begin earlier in women who have had a hysterectomy. A significant drop in the production of the hormone estrogen brings on menopause. With menopause, ovulation (the production and release of eggs), menstruation and fertility end.

In the past, menopause was assumed to mark an end in women's interest in sex. This view emerged from the assumption that women generally do not enjoy sex, and that they only engage in sex to have children.

In recent years it has become clear that not only does interest and capacity for sex continue well beyond menopause, but that many women report an increased enjoyment of sex because worries about unwanted pregnancy are no longer a concern. Women on average live seven years longer than men, and thus one of the primary challenges for heterosexual women as they age is the lack of available male partners, especially in a society that traditionally has looked down on women having relationships with younger men.

Copyright 2002 Sinclair Intimacy Institute


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