This a summary transcription of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast interview with the Midlife Sex Coach, Dr Sonia Wright. You can listen to the full interview here.
I’m a paediatric radiologist. I love my job, but I wanted to do more. After life coach training, I enrolled in a sexual counselling course for a year and then I combined my life coaching with my sexual counselling skills to become the midlife sex coach for women.
I love working with women in their forties, fifties, sixties. It’s a wonderful time. It’s like the time where we finally get to say, what is it about us that I want? Am I getting all the pleasure that I want in life? How is my sex life? How’s sexual intimacy?
I want for all women to be sexual and have sexual intimacy, and be enjoying themselves into the seventies, eighties and nineties. Midlife is the time that determines whether that’s going to happen or if it’s going to kind of shut down.
At this point, we have a lot going on in our lives. We’re raising the kids and are figuring out our careers. We’ve got our relationship as well. We’re juggling a lot of balls at the same time.
This is a time when we have to prioritize ourselves and say this is an important issue to work on, so we can have that sexual intimacy that we want into our later years. Now’s the time that we work on it so we can enjoy it later.
I call menopause the second puberty for women. Our bodies shift, things are changing. We’re not reacting the same way we did previously. Things that we enjoyed and stimulated us don’t necessarily stimulate us the same way, with maybe issues with lubrication.
Then there’s this issue of vaginal atrophy that a lot of people are not talking about. All these things contribute. If we don’t know and don’t understand what’s happening with our bodies, we might make the choice that there’s something wrong with our body or our libido’s no longer there.
You might say I’m in my fifties now, I guess that means I don’t have sex anymore. I’m here to tell you, that’s not the case. I really need to say that you can have fabulous sex after menopause, it gets better.
We need to understand that if you’re having issues and concerns physiologically, then you need to go talk to your gynaecologist. You can look into hormone replacement, either locally in the vaginal area or systemically, but there are a lot of different options, not just those.
Maybe it’s just a matter of making sure you have lubricant on your bedside table every night. If you’re going to engage in sex, these are the type of practical things.
Moving beyond penis in vagina sex
Penis in vagina – when men think about sex, that’s what they think about because that’s the main reason they’re engaging in sex, for the pleasure associated with penis in vagina. Women have many reasons for engaging in sex and sexual intimacy.
It may be about having an orgasm and pleasure. It may be about intimacy and closeness, maybe because they want to connect more with their partner, but there are many other reasons involved here.
What’s the concept of the pleasure gap? If we’re talking about penis in vagina sex, men will have an orgasm. We’ll have a lot of pleasure from this. 15 to 20% of women will have an orgasm by penetrative sex alone. But the majority of women need stimulation to their clitoris to have an orgasm and to really enjoy sexual intimacy.
If you have penis in vagina sex and stimulation to the clitoris, there’s still this gap here where men are enjoying sex and having orgasms at a rate of 85% and women at a rate of 63%. There’s a pleasure gap here. Part of that is associated with a bias that men have to come, and men have to have this pleasure.
Sometimes, women think it’s optimal if they have it, but it’s not necessarily a requirement. If it’s something you’re not getting a lot of pleasure out of, you may be okay with it going by the wayside. You’re okay with saying goodbye to sex if it’s not pleasurable.
We need to have this concept that both partners need to appreciate and value their other partner’s pleasure, and to make sure it’s coming at an equal level. You’d be surprised at how much sex women would like to have, so let’s decrease that pleasure gap.
In terms of the pleasure gap between partners, if they’re in a heterosexual type of sexual intimacy or intercourse, there’s more of a gap. If they’re in a women being intimate with women situation, they don’t have that pleasure gap.
That’s something to take into consideration and to think about. We’re not seeing that pleasure gap when it’s two women that are engaged in sexual intimacy, versus a man and a woman.
The importance is the focus on the pleasure, whether you’re in a heterosexual relationship or lesbian relationship or whatever the relationship is. It’s the focus on both partners having that pleasure and then also recognizing that things change.
Finding your libido again
When you’re in this period of midlife, your libido is different than it was previously when you were 17 or18 when you have more of what we call a spontaneous libido wherein you see somebody, you find them attractive and you’re ready to go.
When you’re in your thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, you may not have that spontaneous libido. You’re in a different phase of your life. You’re usually in a different phase of the relationship. In that case, you’re talking about more of a responsive type of libido. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost your libido. You’re not broken. There’s nothing wrong with you.
If you understand what makes you more interested in sex, and identify it, then you have an understanding of what’s going to make you more interested in going towards sex. Whereas, there will probably be some other concepts that make you less interested in sex like if you had an argument with your partner if you’re very stressed out at work if the house is a mess. These things are triggers to make you less interested in sex, then your libido is going to go down.
On the opposite side, there are things that will increase your libido and you just need to be aware of that. Do you need to be relaxed first? Do you need to take a bath? Do you need to have a conversation and make sure intimacy and communication is there with your partner before you put the sexual intimacy on?
Do you need to listen to erotica? Do you need to watch a little porn? There’s lots of ethical porn out there as well. Those types of things could make you more interested in sex.
Sometimes, you don’t actually even need to have the libido or the desire for sex to be there. It may be the case that you start the sexual intimacy process and you have arousal stimulation to your vulva region, to your clitoris and that causes your libido to actually increase because you’re having more pleasure or you’re enjoying yourself.
You’re like, oh wait, I forgot about this. I forgot that I liked this and so then your libido will come back that way. If you have more of a responsive libido, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what most women experience.
With older women, when they get a new partner, there’s suddenly the spontaneous libido right back there, like a 16-year-old; that’s why you haven’t lost it. It’s still there.
It’s all in the mind
If you’ve had a partner for a long period of time, then you need to figure out how to get that spark back. It could be with toys. I always say that your largest sexual organ is your brain. It’s your mind.
How do you engage your mind again? How do you make that interesting? How do you get going again? Focus on what turns you on, what interests you talking to your partner. Usually, your partner has some interests that you may not even know about and you two have not shared before, so that’s kind of a fun thing to find as well.
I love combining my life coach skills with my sexual counselling skills because it’s about the mind. I go back to the thoughts with my clients and I’m focused on to what are you thinking about sex? If they’re thinking that sex is really boring with their partner, the odds are, they’re not going to be interested in it or not as often.
We go back to the thoughts: how can we make this more interesting? What kind of thought can you think of to shift you into a more curious or more open state of mind?
Sometimes I’ll ask them, what do you want to feel about it? Then we come up with a thought that might help us to engage in that and to get to a place where we’re more interested in sexual intimacy or more interested in exploring different things or adding in toys or whatever it is.
The wonders of lube
There are some physiological issues that can impact midlife sex, like the issue of vaginal atrophy dryness, but there are ways to get around. The easiest one is to add lubrication, but I also advocate for my clients to self-pleasure or masturbate because you need to make sure the blood supply goes to your vulval region.
There are some physiological issues in midlife like the issue of vaginal atrophy dryness, but there are ways to get around. The easiest one is to add lubrication, but I also advocate for my clients to self-pleasure or masturbate because you need to make sure the blood supply goes to your vulval region.
When I talk about your vulval region, that’s anything between your legs. They come together to make your sexual organs and they are very important. You want to make sure that you have a good blood supply. The best way to get a good blood supply to that area is to masturbate and to make sure the blood gets there.
It gets engorged. It keeps everything functioning well, but also at the same time, add on lubrication, if you want to because you do not want to be in a situation where it hurts to have sex.
I have always liked a Silicon type of lube. Uberlube is a very good lube to use. Put that on your nightstand. Sometimes there are a lot of negative connotations associated with masturbation. I prefer the use of the word self-pleasure and then lubricants.
Contact and check in with your gynecologist to see if you do need some hormone replacement. All those things combined together can help you have a fabulous sex life.
The importance of self-pleasure
I always say your best sexual partner is yourself and that should be your first sexual partner because you need to have an intimate relationship with yourself. You need to understand about your body and what stimulation you enjoy and where your pleasure comes from.
Your clitoris is your pleasure organ. It’s got over 8,000 nerve endings and the only function is for pleasure. It’s made for your pleasure. You need to figure out, do you like to touch the tip? People tend to think that it’s just this little tip because this is the part, the gland or the head at the clitoris is the part that most people are aware of.
You need to recognize that you have these four legs that go down the side of your vulva that go down the side of your inner and outer lips. These are part of your clitoris. This is your entire structure. You need to understand that it’s not just this tip. This tip might be sensitive.
Maybe it wasn’t sensitive in the past, but now it’s more sensitive. Then try stroking down the legs of the clitoris and see if there’s some other area that gives you pleasure, but understands your structure and understand what stimulation you enjoy in your body. Be aware of what the clitoris looks like. It is fabulous.
I used to work in a sex toy shop during my doctorate. I really wanted to be able to give my clients the whole package. To have a good understanding of the medical, the physiological side of things, but also what’s going on in our mind and what’s going on in our body, and then how we can utilize different toys to enhance our pleasure.
I wanted to get an idea of what type of toys are out there and how to use them and how they can help us. I used to work and I still have an association with the Smitten Kitten. It’s out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It’s a fabulous place. It’s like a boutique. If you go in there, it’s not sleazy in any way. It’s a beautiful, calm, and peaceful place.
It’s a wonderful place and they have a focus on safe toys that are non-toxic. Anything you purchase there is going to be safe for your body. They also have a little library so you could actually educate yourself on different information.
Every one of the employees has to go through a 6 to 12-week training program so they have a better understanding of how to answer your questions, in addition to showing you the different sex toys. They are all educated sex educators as well. It’s a fabulous place.
For a midlife woman who has never experienced a toy, I suggest starting with a basic vibrator. I love the Fun Factory vibrators. They’re very good quality. They’ve got a lot of different shapes and sizes. I like the We-Vibe brand.
Then, the Sano, a clitoral stimulator, which is a little different from a vibrator. I suggest starting with a basic vibrator that has multiple speeds on it.
If you have a vibrator from the eighties or nineties, that has one speed and if it goes on batteries, it’s time to get a new one! Now they’re chargeable on USB ports. You just plug it in and charge it. You can have it always charged and ready for use.
They have many different vibration patterns on them usually and they have higher and lower speeds. You’ll figure out where you like your vibration and then the different patterns that you would choose as well.
There are so many different things that you can get in terms of a vibrator, but a basic vibrator would be one that you could put on your vulval region and you can explore and get an idea if you like it. There are other things you can add in as well but that would be the basic, and I like the Volta if we’re talking about the Fun Factory brand.
I also advocate using it with a partner. I was talking about the pleasure gap, how to get around the pleasure gap very often is about making sure you have clitoral stimulation when you’re having penetrative sex.
Men are so interested in penis in vagina sex. If I had a penis, I’d probably be very interested in penis in vagina sex. There’s nothing wrong with that but the thing is, make sure you know where a woman’s clitoris is or how she likes it stimulated and do not take any type of offense at all if she brings a vibrator into the bed, for added stimulation.
She’s helping you out because she’s going to get pleasure. You’re going to get pleasure. She’s going to enjoy herself. She’s going to want to do it again. If she doesn’t bring that vibrator in and she really doesn’t get a chance to stimulate her clitoris the way she likes it stimulated, then she might not be as interested in having sex again with you. Think this over men and decide, is that your ego or are we going to focus here on pleasure?
Men are wonderful. They care a lot about their partner. They see it as a reflection upon themselves as a man how well they are in the bedroom and can they provide that pleasure to their partner. But they also have this concept that they alone are the only ones that can provide this pleasure.
I advocate that women need to take responsibility for their own pleasure and then come together and work on this together. It does not necessarily need to reflect on how good a person or a man is if the partner gets off or not.
That kind of raises stakes that don’t need to be there, right? And that adds to a stressful situation instead of just enjoying yourself and everybody having fun.
There are lots of things that influence your libido. One of them being aroused. If you stimulate yourself, get to a place of arousal, then you notice your libido kicks in. Then you’re like, oh, I think I’m interested in sex right now. In terms of self-pleasure and masturbation, it’s about priming the pump.
It’s not using it or lose it. That if you masturbate too often, then you’re not going to be interested in sex. It’s just the opposite. You’re reminding your body, this is pleasurable.
I like doing this and then you’re thinking, oh, I’d like to do this with a partner. This is a different kind of experience, so it primes the pump and it gets you more interested in it.
When you’re not having any midlife sex with your partner
For a woman for whom midlife sex has gone completely off the agenda, the first thing to ask is, what is the relationship like? Is it a loving, kind, giving relationship? But there’s just no sex there because if that’s the case, then it’s easier to build the communication and then the overall intimacy and then add on the sexual intimacy to it.
But if you’re starting with a relationship where you’re resentful or you don’t like the person, then that part needs to be fixed because it doesn’t matter how much I work with you and how much I get you interested.
I can get you to the place where you’re having lovely sex with yourself, a great relationship with yourself, but you’re still not going to want to share that sexual intimacy with your partner if you’re not in a loving, kind relationship.
Sometimes I will talk to my clients and advocate for them to also get relationship counselling if they need that. The first thing is to look at the relationship. Is it just that somehow the sexual intimacy has been lost, or is there a lot more going on there?
It also depends on what is the reason behind sexual intimacy. A lot of people think it’s the women, where their libido is gone and so now they’re not having sex. But actually, a higher percentage of the time where relationships no longer have sexual intimacy, may have to do with male sexual dysfunction.
If we’re talking about a heterosexual relationship and there’s some sort of sexual dysfunction, they either have an erectile issue or premature ejaculation.
If these types of issues are going on and it has shut down the sexual side of things, that’s something that needs to be addressed as well. I mainly work with women but there are urologists, sexual counsellors, sex coaches and sex therapists who can help men deal with the issues they have to deal with.
It’s also important to not just assume that the problem is on the side of the woman, because most of the time when the sexual intimacy completely ends, then it has to do a lot with a men’s concept of the performance and how they are as a man.
Having said that, I need to make sure people are aware that you can have wonderful sexual intimacy even if you don’t have an erection. A man can still have an orgasm even without an erection.
I often deal with clients who are having sex maybe once a year or have not had sex for a really long time. If that’s the case, then we have to go back to this place where we start talking about their concepts of sex? What do you think is going on?
And we work on that side. We work on the mind, but while we’re working on the mind, we’re also trying to prime the pump and get the body back to being used to having sexual pleasure.
In that case, I’m working with them to start masturbating and to start enjoying themselves and to find general pleasure and then move that over to sexual pleasure. That is another thing that I work on with my clients.
Then, we bring it to the next level. If it’s the case that sexual intimacy ended because there’s pain, now that’s another issue and that needs to be discussed with your gynaecologist.
Sometimes women will come to me and they’ve been bearing the pain and they’re just like, I have sex once a month. They don’t enjoy it. It’s very painful and I just kind of get through it. I ask them to stop because right now, they’re having a lot of negative connotations associated with sex.
There are a lot of things that you can do that are sexual intimacy, but not specifically penetration. While you’re having the intimacy side, the sexual intimacy things, then you can go to the gynaecologist and work on what might be causing the pain side of things.
We have physical therapists as well if you’re having pelvic floor dysfunction and vaginismus or your muscles are too tight. There could be a lot of different reasons for this pain. Is it vaginal atrophy associated with menopause?
I work with my clients on the mental side of things while they’re working on getting the physiological side of things sorted. If you’ve had this experience where you had pain with sex, now you don’t want to have sex. Let me help you shift your concept of sex and let’s start to see it in a more positive light.
Can we take the penetrative sex off the table, but keep the cuddling and the making out and the mutual masturbation? Let’s keep those things there and make sure we can build sexual intimacy and then go from there.
Rethinking what’s sexy
Women can lose so much confidence too. You have to look at society’s concept of what is a sexy woman or a sexual person. Very often, it’s somebody in their twenties or thirties, a woman, tall and she has a size four dress in American size. There’s a concept of what’s sexy.
Very often midlife women don’t necessarily look like that in the United States. The average model is about 5’10” and wears a size two or a size four in a dress. The average American is 5’4” and wears a size 14 dress. This is disconnected.
If you’re using the standards of beauty and sexiness that society would like to impose, then it’s hard for you to get this concept that you are a sexual being and that you deserve sexual pleasure.
I work a lot with my clients on body image and that’s something very important. I really work on them that they are sexual being. We look at valuing our bodies, seeing the beauty that is our bodies, recognizing the strength of our bodies and that we are in fact sexual beings.
We have to shift our thinking – if you’re in the middle of having sexual intercourse and you’re thinking about your roll of fat, you’re not enjoying yourself. You’re thinking, does he notice my roll of fat? If I do this angle, is this better for my roll of fat?
Who cares about your roll of fat? He’s probably thinking, I really like this roll of fat because it’s really nice and I like to hold onto it. We’re just wasting time and energy, and not enjoying ourselves.
You are going to be the one that determines if you’re going to be a sexual being from now, from this point on. The wonderful thing about being a woman in midlife is that you’re not defined by anybody. You are the person that gets to define yourself, which is what I love about being in midlife.
You get to decide, are you going to be a sexual person. Are you going to enjoy your 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and be sexual throughout that time and have a good time? And I say, yes. And I’m hoping you say yes too. If you need any help with that, I am definitely here to help you.
Listen to Dr Sonia Wright on the Magnificent Midlife Podcast
You can find out more about Dr Sonia:
Dr Sonia’s websites: www.themidlifesexcoach.com and www.soniawrightmd.com
Dr Sonia’s Free Intimacy Guide
Book your FREE Consultation with Dr Sonia here.
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Last Updated on February 2, 2023 by Editorial Staff