Peri/Menopause & SEXUALITY – what’s True?

Dear Natural Healing for Women Community;

Here’s my question: is the stereotype of the sexless peri/menopausal woman true…? If there’s ever been a moment to question this long-held cultural view, it’s now! Especially because there’s not an age-related correlate for men – it’s understood that a healthy man’s sexuality persists pretty much till the grave.

The truth is, there’s no consensus on why, or even if a woman’s sexuality wanes at menopause, accompanying her falling hormones. Isn’t it interesting that we’re getting close to colonizing Mars, but still in the great mystery around the most elemental aspects of a woman’s being.

I haven’t cracked the code on this issue, but I want to share a few pieces of wisdom I’ve gathered along the way, both personally and professionally. This is a topic that has long intrigued me because I’ve known, somewhere in my heart of hearts, that the common wisdom was wrong.

As women, sexuality is so much more than a physiological phenomenon, right? It lives in the realm of the emotional, psychological, spiritual and potentially in the realm of the sacred. Western culture may attempt to medicalize a woman’s sexuality, but it doesn’t work. Perhaps easier when it comes to male sexuality, as evidenced by the popularity of the drug Viagra…but not for us women.

Decreasing hormones. Hot flashes. Dry vagina. Feeling old and unattractive. Does all of this add up to a death of your sexuality? Or does your sexuality just go underground for other reasons?

Far and away, I think the biggest issues around women and sexuality are relational — meaning the relationship with your significant other, but even more importantly, the relationship you have with yourself. Because if you’ve spent most of your life taking care other people and neglecting to nurture this most vital aspect of your self, you may well feel unsure if it exists.

When I was in my 30s and practicing gynecology in NYC, I was always interested to hear about sexual activity from my patients who were in their menopausal years. And the truth is, many of these stories weren’t hopeful. So many menopausal women reported being in sexless marriages, or happily single but feeling “dead down there.” 

However, there were definitely the exceptions which gave me hope! I was captivated by the women in later years who reported having a robust sex life. I remember one such gorgeous woman close to 70 – with long black & silver hair, straight spine and aquiline nose. When I asked about sexual activity, she said, “yup, I never lost that.” And then we exchanged a knowing smile.

I remember another glowing woman in her 60’s. She told me thatshe’d recently fell in love for the first time in her life. And she actually became so juicy, so hormonal, that she got a period!This is a true story! That’s the hormonal/emotional link I’m always talking about.

But here’s what I really want to say. Yes, we all know that biologically speaking, sexuality is about procreation. And the common wisdom states that once our bodies no longer have this potential –to bare young– this part of ourself…our sexuality, quietly withers. Interestingly, this belief also fuels a certain “pass” that men receive around roving sexuality in their later years — because they can still procreate.

After working in reproductive women’s health for over 20 years, I still had questions about all of this myself. But then, something really interesting happened for me. Quite unexpectedly, my long-term marriage came to a screeching halt at age 53 — when I was post-menopausal. And the most amazing thing happened — my libido shot through the roof! Here’s what I’ve learned through this journey, and have now come to believe about sexuality in menopause.

That even more than procreation, even more than the aspect of pleasure that sex brings… the most vital aspect of sexuality is about the need for connection. It’s about the most basic human need for intimacy and the need to be revealed, seen and loved.

As humans, we are wired for connection and love. And this part of ourselves never grows old. It’s always present, even if we dis-acknowledge it. Even if we feel too unattractive for it. Even when our partner feels too far away for it. It is always there. Waiting…

Until the day we die, we have the need for connection with other humans, deep connection, intimate connection. As women, this is the most fundamental aspect of sexuality in our menopausal years. The deep sense of connection, pleasure and joy with another human being that our bodies yearn for.

So, if you’ve been questioning if you’re just too old for sex, or feeling that you’re sexuality’s dead…think again. Spend some time with your body and ask her what she needs, what she craves. Maybe she needs some self-love and self-pleasuring. Maybe she needs the touch of another. Deep listening will bring you to places that may be long buried.

Here are some practical tips I share with my clients in their postmenopausal years:

1) Moisturize your vulva and vagina every single day. That’s right ladies – it’s not just the face and neck area that needs moisturizing. Here are a couple of my favorite products that are so pure…you can eat them.

Avena Botanicals : Yoni cream
Woodland Essence: Love Butter Balm

They also make great lubricants during sex.

2) Green Jasper gem essence from Alaskan EssencesThis remedy will help you get back in touch with your inner “wild woman” and with your natural rhythms.

3) Replenish Compound by Herbalist and Alchemist This herbal formula is chock-full of herbs to help with lubrication and juiciness.

And I love to share my feelings and outlook on vaginal dryness in the menopausal years. The common wisdom of vaginal dryness feeds into the metaphor of the menopausal woman as “dried up.” But I like to think of my vagina in this phase of life as reverting back to what it was like as a girl, before entering the reproductive years, before my vagina was primed with estrogen. This takes it out of the realm of “crusty”, and into the realm of “perfect.”

4) Exercise – so important to stay limber, keep pain levels low and to remain embodied.

5) Beauty/feeling attractive – this depends on not only appearance, but those activities that bring joy. There is no woman as beautiful as the one who is genuinely in her joy. This may involve gardening, spending time with a close friend, singing on stage or nurturing a child.

These are my thoughts for today. And for now, wishing you a beautiful and fulfilling relationship with your sexuality, no matter what age you happen to be.

Sending blessings for health, healing & peace – today and always,

Carla


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