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Changing Our “Sex-pectations” at Midlife

This article originally appeared on Walker Thornton’s blog.

Note: This post contains educational, but explicit, language that may be offensive to some.

Changing Our "Sex-pectations" at Midlife: sexual experiences

Is there such a thing as best practices for sexual activity between consenting adults? There are certainly considerations such as respect, consent and reciprocity, but no absolutes. Sexual practice hasn’t changed much over the years- there are no modern advances that have changed the fundamentals of lovemaking–with the exception of medication and contraception. We apply the same basic Insert Part A into Part B across the span of years.

For couples, both heterosexual and same sex, the dynamics change with age. A proud, virile 22-year-old male may approach an evening of sex with the idea of having two or three orgasms. A female partner will consider birth control but most likely won’t contemplate the need for lubrication. Whereas, a 60-year-old male might be grateful for one orgasm.

Web sites that focus on healthy sexuality are full of questions and concerns from women and men about their sexual life. Some of the questions are medically related and many reveal lack of desire, mismatched expectations, and other issues that 20-somethings rarely encounter or contemplate. Erectile dysfunction medicines can be prescribed and lubricants can be purchased. Those cover the basic problems we frequently encounter as late-in-life lovers, mainly focused on the act of intercourse and leaving out a wide array of options that might be more satisfying.

I wonder, if we are approaching sex with goal-oriented behavior? From a best practices model, the goals would need to be defined and shaped by the circumstances. As noted earlier, the 60-70-year-old male cannot meet the same goals he could when he was 22, even with Viagra. Women who have difficulty achieving orgasms may find that even more challenging with age, due to menopausal changes,  a partner’s sexual functionality, and other factors.  Couples find themselves experiencing frustrations based on this concept of what sex has always been defined as–by the media, by their past encounters, by cultural expectations. We have been told, and, therefore expect intercourse to be the main and often, only, vehicle for sexual satisfaction.

If the goal of a sexual encounter between two people over the age of 50 is to have intercourse-driven sex then anything less could be deemed a failure. If the goal is to achieve mutual satisfaction and pleasure the various methods and outcomes are broadened. No one need walk away feeling frustrated or as if they ‘failed’ somehow.

For example–Maybe he can get an erection but it’s not sufficient to allow for penetration. Yes, he could get one of the 3 ED drugs: Viagra, Cialis or Levitra. But, it may be that he can be aroused and, happily, brought to orgasm manually or orally. Touch, partial insertion, and other stimulating activities using toys or body parts can bring a high level of satisfaction. Playing together, a couple might be able to achieve mutual pleasure that may not meet the traditional definition of a sexual encounter. With or without orgasm for one or both partners.  Admittedly, this is easier for women to accept as we have much more experience with satisfying sexual encounters that may not include orgasms.

Life is one long journey of adjustment and adapting. Why would we expect our sexual experiences to be excluded? Our youthful impulsivity is tempered by all the responsibilities and challenges of growing older. But at each step in our journey we can and should strive for meaningful experiences–in and out of the bedroom. Our desire may change subtly and our physiological changes may present the need for some creative thinking in the bedroom. It is our perception, our understanding of mutual gratification that allows us, at any age, to have meaningful sexual experiences with our partners.

So, yes there is a best practices approach to sex and sexuality after age 50. Be open to exploring the depths of your relationship. Whether it’s a one-night stand or a 30-year marriage, bringing happiness and mutual joy is the best thing we can do for ourselves and our partner. It is achievable once we let go of more conventional thinking about what constitutes sexual activity and create our own definition.

How has the passage of time changed your sexual relationship? What’s better about your intimate relationship now?


Walker Thornton

We are delighted to have Walker Thornton as our Women’s Sexual Health columnist. After working for over 10 years in the field of sexual violence against women, Walker is now enjoying a new career as a freelance writer, public speaker, and sex educator with an emphasis on midlife women. Her blog, was ranked #5 by in their top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes of 2014. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter For questions about sexual health, write her at

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Gilly Maddison

Tuesday 7th of July 2015

Yes - very well put. It did make me smile though that it is necessary to put the warning at the top about 'explicit' language. I find it amazing that the very act that brings most people into the world is still a taboo topic for some and may offend them. I could easily write a whole book about s-e-x after menopause but it would be a humorous one because all the steaminess and passion-driven heavy breathing associated with youthful sex just makes me laugh now at 58. If I see any passionate sex scenes in movies now, I laugh as if I am watching a comedy. The sheer urgency of all the tearing at clothes and eating of faces has me in stitches! I have done plenty of it myself of course and didn't see the funny side of it when I still had the right hormones. However now, I enjoy relaxed intimacy without all the drama that seems more like a race to get laid before the world ends! I am sure I will get shredded by people my age who still like sexual Olympics with all the heavy breathing. I don't mean to disprespect that, I just cannot see anything like that without seeing the funny side now. And if it is people my own age 'doing it' - it makes me laugh even more. Yup - so wrong I know but I am just hormone impaired I guess. :-) Thanks for the post!

Walker Thornton

Thursday 9th of July 2015

Gilly, thanks for sharing your perspective. The TV/movie sex is ridiculous--who really has that kind of sustained Passion anyway? I think that slow, intentional intimacy with a focus on all the ways people can excite one another is far better.

I typically wouldn't have put an 'explicit' warning on the article if it's on my website but when writing for Midlife Blvd, where women come to read a range of things I want to be sensitive! My writing is mild compared to some you'll find on the internet.

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