Chantelle Otten is an award-winning psychosexologist who is passionate about empowering people to feel great about their sexual health, self-esteem, communication and education.
Pleasurable sex is amazing, and regular sex (either solo or partnered) can offer a range of health benefits, including the release of mood boosting hormones and bonding with your sexual partner.
As we age, our sex lives will change. I mean, if you think about it, the sex you are having now, is totally different to what was experienced in your teens, and early twenties, right? Who we are in the bedroom now, will be different to who we are in the future. This goes with our roles in society, or stress levels, potential children, emotions and of course physical challenges as well.
In fact for all the vulva owners out there, when we get close to menopause, the vagina actually shortens and becomes narrower, and the walls get a little thinner, with less lubrication. For those with a penis, your chance of erectile dysfunction increases with age, and the penis can get softer. But does that mean that sex doesn't work when we get older? Absolutely not. In-fact, many people report having better sex as they age.
If you're in your 20’s
Your twenties offer a time of sexual exploration. Its a period where you have more access to unbiased sex education, and you can make independent decisions about how you would like to navigate your personal sex life. You can learn from self pleasure and sexual fantasies, and have the opportunity to explore safely with different sexual partners.
Your twenties is also a time where you can have the opportunity to have pleasure-centred sex, as opposed to purpose-driven sex. What do I mean by that? Well, purpose driven sex is goal oriented so that goal might be to have an orgasm, or penetration or to make a baby. I like to teach people pleasure sex education because really, there is only a short amount of time in your life where you will be having sex with a purpose. And it’s handy to learn about pleasure-ed early so you can bring those skills into your coming years.
You learn a lot about orgasms, control, consent, and sexual orientation in your 20s (and beyond), but remember, it’s never too late to learn about your sexuality. I find that this is a great period of growth and figuring out what you like and don’t like in the bedroom. For most, they also travel to different countries in their 20s (cmon vaccinated travel!), so you are able to learn about passion in different cultures, and with different partners.
Your twenties is also a great time to unpack any challenges you have relating to your sexuality, such as painful sex, like vaginismus. Or premature ejaculation, for example.
If you're in your 30’s
In your 30s, usually career focus, family and pregnancy becomes a priority in your life and sex life. During this time, you need to actually prioritise your sex life, and schedule time for it, as it can become an afterthought, where as it should stay front and centre as a priority, because life is short. Sex is good, it’s healthy and keeps the partnered bond together. Sex is vital to many to keep the intimacy alive, and is less ‘spontaneous’ in your thirties, more ‘responsive’. Responsive sexual desire is when desire shows up in response to stimulation, meaning something sexy happens and the body responds. So if you plan a sexy night with a partner, and ask them to stroke your inner thigh, the body might respond in a way that says ‘oh this is nice, I could get into this!’
I also like that for those in their 30’s, single or partnered, it's a time where they settle into their body a little more. There is more self-love and ownership over the beauty of the body, with more emphasis on erotic attention being paid to the whole map, rather than just the genitals. This means, being open to body hair, kissing the cellulite on thighs, accepting of lumps and bumps and learning more about erogenous zones that are seperate to breasts, vulva and penis.
It’s also a great time to be more aware of love languages, so there is emphasis on how to show special others you are involved with that they are loved in the way they want to be loved, not how you want to show them love. The five categories include:
- words of affirmation
- acts of service
- receiving gifts
- quality time
- physical touch
While all of these languages are important, we often usually relate to one or two in a strong way. It’s a great idea to do the love languages quiz with your special person (or by yourself), to see what your/their needs are for love and intimacy.
It would also be remiss of me to not mention a very important part of your 30’s. For those who choose it, pregnancy and childbirth is a game changer for sexuality. When it comes to your sex life, pregnancy, child birth and child rearing can have a massive influence, and so can the exhaustion. Your erotic attention often goes to the bub, so try and put aside some time for your own sexual self and for some quickies with your partner.
If you're in your 40’s
Well, kids can be small at this age if you have them, so there are still privacy challenges here. But those in their 40s also tend to be more sexually confident because they have a better understanding of their bodies and preferences. Plus, in your 40’s people tend to know what they want and how to ask for it.
It’s a great time for you to reassess your sexual self. Do you like what you are doing in the bedroom? Do you need to introduce new activities and energies into the boudoir? You have some emotional and physical energy to refocus your self pleasure techniques and add some excitement into the bedroom. Including new toys, some outfits and potentially extra sexual partners (if you are into ethical non monogamy).
I suggest you use your 40's to revamp your sex life and explore options of eroticism to spice it up.
When you start to reach your late 40's, there may be some challenges around perimenopause, and erectile functioning. But these are all well handled with a team of medical specialists, endocrinologists and sexologists.
If you're in your 50’s
As you reach your 50s, for those with ovaries, menopause can cause some challenges. Usually menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, and can cause a drop in estrogen and progesterone levels, which leads to hot flashes, trouble sleeping and vaginal dryness, all of which can impact sexuality.
These challenges can be addressed with hormone replacement therapy for anyone who is willing and eligible. Alternative therapies and good lubricants can also help!
For penis owners, the peen may be a little softer in their 50's, which can also be helped with medication.
During this time however, non penetrative sex becomes more important, with the eros being directed towards creative sexuality. There is adaptation and accommodation to partners, physical health, mental health and various other effects. And you can take the time to really explore pleasure oriented sex without fear of becoming pregnant. STI’s are still prevalent though, so safety first.
60’s and beyond
This is a time of pleasure. You have sex for fun, for closeness and experimentation. Watch porn, be naked, be intimate and communicate about what you like and don’t like. I have many patients going into late 80's and early 90's that are just having so much fun with their sex life. The body image pressures tend to ease off, and many are just there to have a giggle and be naked and close with each other. It’s a beautiful time.
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