rē•Gaining Your Sex Drive As You Age
Growing older need not get in the way of your libido.
Growing older is a natural stage of life. But like the other aspects of the human experience, sex drives are not immune to the passage of time. With age, the libido begins to shift and can gradually decrease. Statistics show that women are more likely than men to be affected by a decrease in sex drive — but don’t be alarmed; it happens to the best of us. While this drop in libido is a natural part of life and aging, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways that we can regain and boost libido. To start, delve deeper into what desire means to each of you in order to address declining sex drives at their source.
The textbook definition of desire is “a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.” We can desire just about anything in life, shifting our perception based on the topic and subject matter. But in the case of libido, it’s really our desire for sex and pleasure. “Your libido is made up of psychological, biological, sociological, and physiological components,” says Cheryl Fagan, sex educator and founder of the sexual education platform On Top. “It can also be influenced by our mood, hormones, and environment. This is also sometimes referred to as a sex drive. However, it’s important to remember that this isn’t necessarily like your drive to eat or drive to drink water — as those are vital for your survival!”
While the sex drive isn’t necessarily integral to our survival, it is evolutionarily speaking linked to the survival of the human race. More experientially, it can be motivated by the need for connection, to express love, physical pleasure, or even emotional intimacy, according to Fagan. Understanding the root of your desires will help in the long run as you begin to identify what may be causing your changes in sex drive, and what practices you might adopt to help naturally boost your libido.
rē•Cognizing Changes in Libido
It’s no secret (and there’s no shame) that as we age, we go through various changes in the mind, body, and spirit. Your libido will naturally ebb and flow as time goes on, either due to age or potentially because of other external factors, and this is both normal and healthy. But you can work with these natural rhythms to rē-claim your pleasure in life. “[Changes in libido] could be caused by relational dissatisfaction, stress at home or at work, certain medications, and so on. The key is to stay curious about your desire or lack thereof,” Fagan explains. “Oftentimes people seek help when something seems wrong or off, but prioritizing your sexual wellness and pleasure as part of your overall health and wellness aids in an orgasmic life.”
Fagan wants to assure you that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to work on your sex life and that it need not be inspired by a ‘problem’ — be proactive. Just like other aspects of your lifestyles, like cooking and exercise, optimizing your experience of sex and intimacy can take a great amount of intention and attention in order to find what excites and satisfies you sustainably.
What Affects the Sex Drive?
Sometimes, the sex drive is affected by factors that are out of your control entirely. Perimenopause and menopause can both play a role in a women’s sex-drive because of their impact on hormones, which are what determine the libido. “[During these phases] the body produces less estrogen, which can affect your sex life, notably sexual arousal,” Fagan tells rē•spin. “Touch may feel different, you may start to experience emotional changes, your sleeping patterns change… You may also experience vaginal dryness as there can be a decrease in blood flow to the vagina.”
If this occurs, Fagan emphasizes the importance of open communication with your partner to express some of these feelings. In addition, she recommends talking to your doctor about the changes that you might be experiencing through those two conditions. “Remember that intimacy and desire are not limited to physical sex,” she adds. “Consider how you are relating to yourself and pleasure, what do you find pleasurable and enjoy? Give yourself permission to do those things you find pleasurable.”
Embrace your Curiosity
Rather than judge yourself or ignore your shift in sex drive, Fagan recommends that you get curious instead. “A huge myth is that sexual desire is spontaneous and being horny just drops on you, but in reality, there are many factors that lead to your desire and arousal,” she explains. Fagan references the “Dual Control Model of Sexual Response,” developed by researchers Erick Janssen and John Bancroft for the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, which suggests that much like other aspects of the brain-body relationship that are controlled by our central nervous system, sexual arousal is dependent on the balance between sexual excitation and sexual inhibition. In Emily Nagoski’s 2015 book Come as You Are, she corroborates these findings by referring to the Sexual Excitation System as the accelerator whereas the Sexual Inhibition System is the brake.
“Maybe you need to turn off some of the brakes,” Fagan suggests, meaning that it’s time to discard the things that turn you off. In order to work past these moments where you feel a decrease in sex drive, Fagan suggests buying a new toy or lube, testing out a new sex position (though she caveats this advice by explaining it may not give you all of the answers you want, but can be fun at times), and keeping an arousal diary to document what turns you on and off to keep track.
rē•Gaining Control of Your Sex Drive
Just because sexuality changes with age doesn’t mean that our sex drive disappears entirely. It may be a natural part of aging, but there are still practices to implement to once again boost your sex drive and embrace your inner desires, whatever this means to you. Since desire is cultivated, Fagan poses two simple questions to ask yourself: Do you truly believe you’re deserving? Do you feel desirable? “If not, this can influence your desire or lack thereof,” she explains. “Love, care, and invest into you! Sometimes sexual desire isn’t always there or isn’t what we expect it to be.”
A widely spread misconception about sex in Western culture is that it is always spontaneous and intense. Traditional sex education often leans into an edifying role or skews into a more unrealistic, hyper-sexualized model, both of which neglect the reality of the situation. In actuality, sex can be viewed through a spiritual and sacred lens to help improve the quality of sex that you’re having rather than focusing on the frequency. As Fagan explains, “Sex is creative, it’s not just a physical activity, but it’s spiritual, it takes us somewhere.”
When it comes to addressing your sexual desire from the spiritual dimension, Fagan suggests you look inward and address a few questions: What does it do for your relationship? With your partner expanding your ideas of what pleasure and intimacy look like, what are new ways you can deepen your intimacy? “I’m really just scratching the surface here because sexual desire is dependent on so many factors to really see some changes, we need to consider this from a bio-psycho-social approach — it could be something as simple as changing a medication, or scheduling sex, but it can also be more complex than that,” Fagan says.
Finding natural ways to boost your sex drive will range from person-to-person depending on their own specific needs and situation. At the very least, Fagan recommends that anyone looking to enhance their libido aim to cultivate their desire, keep a pleasure diary, in addition to practicing mindfulness when it comes to sex.