About five years ago, a close friend of mine described to me an exchange she had with a man at the Gym. My friend whom I will refer to as Lola was about 51 at the time and had gone through a painful divorce a few years earlier. She was just beginning her foray into the confusing realm of 21st century dating. One night at the Gym, Lola found herself being watched by a younger man. Lola is quite beautiful and physically fit, and she could easily pass for 40ish. As Lola explained to me, the man was obviously interested in her and kept smiling. At the end of her work out, he approached her and made some kind of gesture about going out sometime. Lola smiled and informed him that if she were younger she would definitely take him up on the offer, but she let him know they were years apart. The man was not rebuffed and asked if she were in her late 30s. Lola said no. The young man continued his pursuit and questioned if she were in her early 40s. Lola shook her head again with another smile. The man remained steadfast and questioned her a couple of more times until he reached the age of 48. When Lola finally told him her age, he looked at her with bewilderment and asked her “Do you still even like to do it?” When Lola shared this story with me, we laughed because she had been talking about how high her sex drive had been in the last few months. A year later, Lola began dating a man with whom she had an extremely passionate relationship, one she never dreamed she would have, and she went on to have another which was even more powerful, substantial and relational.

I have heard many of these same yearnings from women well over 50. With the publication of the book, Fifty Shades of Grey, a few years ago, this could not have been more evident. I had not even opened the book, but middle-aged plus women were coming into my office sharing their feelings of passion, desire and sexual awakening after reading it. In fact, it did not matter that the book was about a young twenty something. Erotic feelings were raised in women of all ages. The book and its sequels as well as those of a similar vein flew off the bookshelves and were being purchased by these very women. One of my clients around 60 plus read the entire Fifty Shades’ trilogy, and she could not put into words how tantalizing the books were.

So where does our society, especially some men, conclude that women over 50 are over the hill, all dried up and ready to hang it up? Well, certainly Hollywood, doesn’t help this myth, but more about that later. This began long, long ago, probably back to 5000 years where the older man/younger woman syndrome evolved. Perhaps, throughout the course of history, it has to do with women’s limited fertility and men’s endless virility. Women had and continue to have a limited time to procreate while men as we know can impregnate a woman until their dying breath. Well, no one said life was fair, but it is what it is. Did men derive their power and ability to choose younger women because of this? I would venture to guess this says it all. In addition, with the exception of the very privileged classes, women were too busy caring for large families, keeping up with tedious house chores now given to modern-day conveniences and putting food on the table for many mouths. If that wasn’t enough, they had a very good chance of dying from childbirth which was the number one cause of death for women before the 20th century. I would hypothesize that taking care of themselves, never mind their appearance, was the last thing on a woman’s mind, and at the end of an exhausting day, especially as they got older, sleep was the greatest desire of all. This does not mean they did not want sex. I am just conveying the burdensome liabilities outside their control were tough obstacles to overcome. We are complicated creatures, and yes, different from men. There are often a few ingredients to concoct the better-than-not situation for women to feel amorous. Our predecessors did not have it easy.

That was then. This is now, the 21st Century. We’ve come a long way baby ……. or have we?

What happened to my friend is more common than not. Some of my clients who are navigating the unwieldy world of online dating tell me that a question on the first date may focus on sex such as when was the last time you had it. Well, these women are often looking for some kind of relationship which involves sex but is not just about sex. Although some men and women might view this as being direct and getting to the point, many others would prefer an appetizer before diving into the main course. Because of our society’s progress, speed and instant gratification seem to encompass all areas of our life. The problem is that human behavior and emotions don’t always fit so readily with this fast approach. According to a 3/2012 article in the Wall Street Journal, one out of four or five women over 50 are getting divorced. With that said, it does not mean they want to remain celibate nor does it mean they would like to have a series of exciting but nonrelational sexual encounters which brings us to the crux of some of the confusion. Women are relational beings no matter how old they are. Does it mean there are times in their lives where they will not engage in a brief sexual encounter? Of course not! Some will and may get much pleasure out of it, but for the majority of women (I have seen this for over thirty years), an emotional connection is needed to experience passion and intimacy. Yes, that includes those over 50 year-old women. Men do not necessarily feel the same way. From their genitalia to their brains, they are different from us. Consequently, they often view sex in a less layered fashion. In my opinion and after years of observation, women and men remain sexual beings, and although some of these feelings may become dormant, it does not mean they are extinguished. This is widely accepted for men, but there remains a false narrative about women. Thankfully, this myth is beginning to be challenged…TO BE CONTINUED