Baby boomer women: has your libido fallen and can’t get up? If you’re postmenopausal, it’s not uncommon. In fact, more than half of women in this population report a drop in their sex drive—and those are the ones willing to fess up. To explore this issue, we consulted pseudo sexpert Dr. B. Ruthless, who encourages women to “lean in” to address their lack of libido.
Q: Dr. Ruthless, why do you tell women who’ve lost their sexual mojo to “lean in” to their lack of desire. Isn’t this a problem that needs medical intervention?
A: Well, the pharmaceutical industry certainly thinks so. They’ve even managed to come up with a clinical name for it—hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD)—so they can sell women drugs to “fix” it. But the best so-called solution they’ve come up with is for premenopausal women, and you can’t drink alcohol when taking it (which is supposed to be daily). Most of my patients would rather give up sex than wine—which is likely why sales of this much-hyped drug are, well, anti-climactic.
Q: So you don’t think women’s lack of desire is a problem?
A: It’s only a problem if it’s a problem—if your MIA sex drive is causing stress in your relationship. Or if you really want your engine to rev again, but it’s not turning over. If you and your partner are okay with being in Park, however—hey, no harm, no foul.
Q: You mean it’s okay to not want sex?
A: Yes, it is. I know this is sacrilege to those who think a woman should be having hot, mind-blowing sex every chance she gets. Celebrities like Suzanne Somers, 69, and Jane Fonda, 78, make headlines bragging about their sex lives. But here’s a news flash: for many older women, shtupping twice a day, or even twice a week, isn’t something they aspire to.
Q: But what’s a woman to do if her partner wants to have sex and she doesn’t?
A: Many therapists tell a woman to do things like make sex dates with her partner, role play, wear costumes, tell her partner what she likes, buy sex toys and sexy lingerie, or watch porn together. In other words, a la Field of Dreams, if you show up tarted up, you will come.
But my patients are more like, “How the f*ck am I supposed to want sex if I don’t want sex? It’s like being told to eat when I’m not hungry, and my sense of taste and smell are shot. Waving something considered tasty under my nose isn’t going to get my juices flowing! And I’m sure as shit not dressing up like a French maid.”
Q: So what do you tell these women, Dr. Ruthless?
A: This is when I say, “Lean into your lack of libido, ladies.” It has a lovely, alliterative ring to it, no? Seriously, though, stop stressing and feeling guilty about it. Just own it.
Q: But women say it’s hard, you should pardon the expression, feeling sexless in a sexed-up world. The reminders are everywhere—like sex scenes in movies.
A: I understand. If it’s a scene with older lovers, you wonder how in hell she can do that without lube, right? And those shower scenes—how does any self-respecting senior dare do that without grab bars? Don’t they know most home accidents occur in the bathroom? And whose body bends that way anymore?
Q: But Dr. Ruthless, this still doesn’t address the problem if a woman and her partner are on different wavelengths—if he wants sex and she doesn’t. How does she “lean in?”
A: This is the real hard part. It means she must have the courage and self-confidence to talk to her partner about it. Instead of pretending to be asleep when he wants to play hide the weenie, or having the proverbial headache, she must share and communicate what is going on with her body and how it’s changed. Negotiate a new normal for intimacy—instead of leaning away every time her partner tries to get close.
Q: What does a new normal look like?
A: Well, for some women, it means no more vaginal penetration because it just hurts too much, even with lube, and hormonal treatments aren’t always an option. But—and this is key—it means accepting that there are other paths to gratification besides inserting part A into orifice A.
Unfortunately, some women and men think it’s a hard-and-fast rule that intercourse is the only “real” way to have sex, and that an orgasm for each participant is the only acceptable outcome. As a result, too many women feel like failures if they can’t accommodate their partners the “right” way. And some men feel inadequate if they can’t “give” their partners an orgasm. Enough with the rigid expectations, already.
The sensual, physical intimacy of a nice back or foot rub, or just holding each other, can be immensely satisfying all on its own. Or a woman can help her partner get his rocks off (why do you think you have two hands and a mouth?) without feeling pressured to have an orgasm herself. All roads lead to Rome.
Q: So you’re saying that just by talking about it, the situation can improve?
A: Yes! Many of my patients report that once they confront the elephant in the (bed)room, it’s as if a giant weight is lifted. They stop avoiding physical contact with their partners because they no longer feel like a failure if they don’t get aroused. To continue the meal analogy, if a woman’s partner is hungry, she can give him a snack even though she’s not in the mood to partake. Or he can fix his own snack, if you know what I’m saying. Of course, it takes a mature and understanding partner—with a reasonable appetite—to get to this place.
Q: So by leaning in, the dynamic changes?
A: Exactly. And here’s the thing…when the pressure to perform is taken away, and you can begin enjoy physical intimacy and affection without sexual expectations, some women report they actually start to feel some stirrings. So while you may not be transformed into a hunka, hunka burnin’ love, perhaps your libido hasn’t completely disappeared. Like Elvis, there can still be occasional sightings. And snacks.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Don’t care? Where are you on the libido spectrum? While you’re thinking about it, here’s this week’s Boomer Haiku:
My libido has
fallen and can’t get up. What
button do I push?