How a woman can enjoy sex whatever her age
Sex can be a powerful, emotional experience with many benefits to health, both physical and mental. It's a shame, therefore, that people seem to put something of a metaphorical age limit on it.
But, of course, intimacy isn't just for the young and beautiful.
And while it's fair to say there are some differences between the sex lives of those in their 20s to that of 50 and 60-somethings, it doesn't mean you can't enjoy intimacy just as much in later life.
In fact, recent research has revealed that the over-50s are seemingly having the best sex of their lives.
"Our bodies, our attitudes, the way we see ourselves and others, all change as we age. So of course, our sexualities and the ways we have sex, think about sex and talk about sex change too," explains sexologist Emilie Lavinia.
"There are so many stereotypes around the ways people of different ages enjoy sex or even view it, and most of these are unhelpful and perpetuate ageist and sexist stigmas.
"The reality is that we all have the capacity to have great sex as an adult of any age."
With that in mind, here's our guide to living your best sex life, no matter what stage of experience you're at.
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Enjoying sex in your 20s
Like most areas of your life in this decade, sex in your 20s is all about finding your feet, and learning more about yourself.
"You’ve probably got past the awkward fumbles of losing your virginity and navigating first sexual relationships, and may be dipping your toe in the waters of casual sex or finding your first long-term partner," explains Adeline Baldus, from sex toy and lingerie brand, Harmony.
According to Baldus, this period is the time to explore your sensuality.
"When you’re less 'tied down' with fewer commitments, and certainly full of more energy, you can focus on yourself and figure out what you like," she explains.
"If you’re already partnered up, avoid falling into the trap of trying to please your other half, and remember that sex is a two-way street."
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To help work out your turn-ons, Baldus recommends incorporating masturbation into your self-care routine.
"Not only are there numerous health benefits to it, but it’ll help you understand what your body prefers and how you get the most pleasure," she explains.
"Plus, you’ll be able to take this with you into your sexual encounters with other people."
Lavinia agrees that your twenties should be focussed on self-love and boundary setting.
She suggests asking yourself a few questions about intimacy during this decade.
"Do you want sex because you’re seeking pleasure, intimacy and enjoyment? Or is there another reason? Do you feel safe with the person(s) you’re sleeping with and what their expectations of you are?" she says.
"Always take care of your health and value yourself and have as much fun as you like."
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Enjoying sex in your 30s
As life becomes busier and somewhat more complicated, it's natural for sex to take more of a back seat, probably in favour of a good night's sleep.
But while you might not be having as much of it, there are some definite plus points to sex in your thirties.
"Sex may be more of a luxury than something that happens on a regular basis, but the key difference here is that you understand your body a lot more, along with what you like and don’t like," explains Baldus.
"You may also be more confident in your body, and confidence is key to great sex."
Lavinia says our thirties can be a stage when our sex lives become more hormonally driven.
"You might be more aware of how your desire to be sexual peaks at different stages of the month and you might find that you’re more comfortable thinking about sex and having sex in a way that feels less performative than it did in your twenties," she explains.
"In your thirties, don’t push yourself to be a sexual creature in ways that don’t serve you," she continues. "Take time to honour your body and enjoy sex on your terms, on a schedule that feels good and in ways that make you feel sexy and powerful."
For those in relationships (but also singles) Baldus says sex toys can often re-introduce great elements of excitement, where familiarity has settled.
"Fantasy exploration and role play are also great ways to discover new ways to play," she adds.
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Enjoying sex in middle-age
If you believe the rumours, our libidos will automatically drop off a cliff as soon as we hit the big 4-0, but while it is true to say women's sexual desire can be impacted during this phase, you can still enjoy a healthy sex life.
"Those with a uterus will experience menopause between the ages of 40 and 50," explains Baldus. "During this period libido and desire can dip due to falling levels of the hormone oestrogen."
These fluctuating hormone levels can also impact vaginal lubrication, which can sometimes make sex more uncomfortable.
"Thankfully, there are ways around everything that menopause brings," Baldus continues. "It’s essential that you communicate with your partner about what you’re feeling – not only can they listen but it will ensure that there are no hurt feelings on either side."
She also suggests speaking to your doctor about treatments to ease some of the symptoms of the menopause including hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
"The right mix for your body can help elevate libido," she explains.
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If you're not feeling as up for it as usual, Baldus suggests finding other ways to be intimate with one another.
"This could be simply cuddling naked or through massages by candlelight," she says. "Focus on intimacy and closeness, and the sex will follow.
"If you’re single, try and keep practice self-love you’ve previously enjoyed. It is normal for sexual desire to fluctuate over time, but masturbation is a key element of self-love and it can have a number of health benefits."
In other 40-something sex life plus points, Lavinia says at this age you'll like feel like sex is something you have a pretty good understanding of, including how to make yourself orgasm and how to have a pleasurable experience with a partner.
"Many anthropologists describe a woman’s thirties and forties as her sexual prime because by this point, we are more in tune with our bodies, more confident and less mentally affected by the socially enforced link between shame and sexuality," she explains.
"But this doesn’t mean you know it all. In fact people in their forties usually experience a sexual renaissance in which they’re comfortable enough to lean into new sexual experiences and discover new ways of having sex and thinking about sex," she adds.
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Enjoying sex in older age
While your sex drive is likely to change as you age, hitting retirement certainly doesn't not spell the end of intimacy and many older people still enjoy a healthy sex life.
Proof your sex life doesn't just stop as you reach your senior years can be found in recent research, by sexual wellness brand LELO which found that a whopping 70% of those aged 50+ polled have noticed significant, positive changes in their sex life compared to their younger years.
Nearly a third of respondents (32%) said they are having the best sex of their lives now that they’re older and over 16% claim that their sex drive has increased over recent years.
Interestingly, 42% of sexually active people have become more adventurous as they’ve got older, with half of the respondents (52%) revealing that they are more comfortable with experimenting in the bedroom now than ever before.
Read more: Midlife women are happiest with their sex lives, according to study
Of course, it is important to note that while the mind may be willing, there are certain other health factors that could impact bedroom shenanigans with more than 10 million people having painful joints in the UK.
While aches and pains can leave some struggling to get intimate, there are some things you can do to help.
“Heat therapy works well, so make massages and warm baths part of your foreplay,” Kate Taylor, sexpert at Lovekatetaylor.com previously told Yahoo.
“If certain positions put pressure on your joints, try a cushion or a padded rest that you can slip under your hips, shoulders or legs during sex.”
Once again communication can pay a key role in keeping your sex life on track, whether it's with your doctor to discuss health conditions, or your partner to find new ways of being intimate.
"Bottling things up from your partner can lead to feelings of rejection or disappointment, when an open and honest conversation can help resolve the situation," explains Baldus.
"Relaxing together in a number of ways – whether it’s taking a walk, cuddling, or having a chat over dinner – and discussing intimacy can bring things out into the open and help you inject some new energy into your sex life."