Sex Education for Women Over 50
Last year I gave a sex education talk in New York City. The topic was online dating over 50. The emphasis was on various online sites, how to create an attractive on-line dating profile, and the basics of dating safely via this ‘new’ technology.
The conversation drifted to sex—a natural progression and very much on the mind of some of the women in the audience. And if we’re talking about sex, then we have to talk about STDs and protection.
There I was with a group of women, average age around 70, talking about condoms.
We tend not think about older adults and condoms in the same conversation. Sexually transmitted infections (the preferred term), or STIs, are on the rise in older populations.
Older adults have lots of questions about dating and sex, once they start dating again. But, they rarely ask about STIs, or STDs, so as educators we have to start that conversation. And I did just that in front of that group in NYC. I even went so far as to show them a condom AND talk about how to put it on.
The message I wanted to emphasize was that condoms are essential to safe sex. And nothing to be afraid of. Women need to be prepared to talk about them and to insist on using protection during sex with someone new.
I think it’s pretty simple. If a man doesn’t respect you enough to want to keep both of you safe then he’s not worthy of your time.
That’s not an easy one for older women to speak aloud. There are many ways to say it, some more direct than others. I think protecting each other is important. Let’s use condoms until we have both been tested for STIs.
Or even more directly and simply: no condoms, no sex.
When we were in our teens and 20s condoms were different. And the thought was that using a condom spoiled all the fun (for him).
That attitude toward condoms still exists, even though the improvements made possible by technology produce thinner, stronger products, which allow for more sensation.
A recent Canadian study on the sexual health, attitudes and behaviors of adults aged 40-59, funded by Trojan, found,
“A whopping 66 percent of middle-aged women and 49 percent of middle-aged men who’d had three or more sexual partners in the past year didn’t bother to use protection the last time they had sex.”
Canada, like the U.S., has seen a rise in cases of chlamydia, up 153% from 2003 to 2012; Gonorrhea cases have doubled since 2002. The results are similar for the US and older adults are one area with the most significant increase in cases.
Older adults are having sex, though the Canadian study included adults from ages 40-59, so its focus is actually middle age.
Seniors are having sex quite frequently and report levels of activity that counter the idea that older adults no long want, or can have, sex. They are discovering the fun of sex, without the concerns and worries of younger years—and why not?
Here are the report’s most notable findings:
- 55% of single, middle-aged men and 32% of single, middle-aged women reported having two or more sexual partners in the previous year.
- 28% of middle-aged men and 24% of middle-aged women described their last sexual encounter as a “friend with benefits”.
- 65% of men and 72% of women said they didn’t bother using a condom during their last sexual encounter.
- 56% of men and 61% of women reported not being concerned about contracting an STI. The less concerned respondents were, the less they used condoms.
- When it came to casual sex, just 38% of middle-aged men reported using protection, compared to 66% of university-age men. And only 39% of older women who were “not dating” insisted on condom use, far lower than university-age women, who used condoms 68% of the time.
It’s refreshing to see studies looking at the sexuality of older adults. Yet it’s alarming to see a lack of awareness about the dangers of sexually transmitted infections.
The answer is two-fold and relatively simple. If you’re reentering the dating pool, and having sex you need to understand the risks and start protecting yourself. I can’t stress enough the importance of getting comfortable using condoms.