Is There An Expiration Date On Women’s Sexual Pleasure?


Is it just me or is menopause everywhere? Finally, a period (or not, I guess, as the case may be) in every woman’s life that has been whispered about, if not outright ignored, used as a representation of uselessness—if you can’t have babies what are you good for anyway?—and feared because of the lack of clear, accessible information, is filling feeds, podcasts, and even has its own fundraising focus. Women are claiming this period (there’s that word again!) in their lives and they’re not letting anyone tell them how to live it. This is most definitely not your mama’s menopause.

As the conversation around perimenopause and menopause gradually becomes less stigmatized, women have been demanding some straight talk and accurate information.

Various groups and sources have been popping up to help dispel myths and get women the facts about this very normal part of life and their bodies. 

Brands like Joylux, State of Menopause, Womaness, and Kindra have raced into the game as the category is expected to be $600 Billion and like Maria Velissaris, of SteekSky Ventures, said, “Six hundred billion dollars is not ‘niche.’” There are 34 common symptoms of menopause (and God knows how many uncommon ones), but one of the main ones that strikes fear in the hearts of women everywhere is vaginal atrophy and painful sex.

When I attended a Sexual Pleasure Workshop for women over 40, I was confident I knew exactly what to expect.

After all, I’m a woman who owns and runs an ad agency focused on elevating what’s important to women, with a particular interest in connecting brands and women over 40. I have a few sex toy clients, have worked in the menopause space and other “adult” categories. Plus, I’ve been around the sun 57 times. I’ve even been to my fair share of info sessions and group conversations about women’s sexual wellness at 40+ and absorbed quite a bit of information from various sources, websites, books and podcasts. Let’s just say, I’ve done my homework. 

I was sure there would be plenty of talk about what is physiologically happening as women enter menopause. Underscore: vaginas. Likely lots of advice about lubes and erotic toys, bundled with confidence-building pep talks. After all, the majority of the women in this group were over 50 and so I buckled down for another depressing menopause chat. 

I could not have been more wrong.

To my surprise, what took place was the most sexually satisfied group discussion I’ve ever experienced. No one was complaining, or miserable, because of some little thing like—ha!—vaginal atrophy. In fact, that subject never even came up. What struck me about this group was the self-understanding, knowledge, and experience (sexual and otherwise) these women had. They all seemed to truly enjoy being sexual beings. They felt sexy and good about their bodies. There was no talk of longing for the pert breasts and perpetually moist vaginas of bygone times. And only a battle-weary relief when discussing the insecure days spent hoping to be desirable, yet aware of every bodily “flaw”, their younger selves obsessed over. 

These women knew what gave them sexual pleasure, how to get it, and they seemed really happy with that life achievement.

There were some dating tips and an expected number of women who were dealing with the conclusion of long, mostly unsatisfying, marriages. But this talk had an authentically cheery take on their sexual path forward. It seemed to me like any glitches or adjustments these women had faced with their bodies/emotions during peri and full-on menopause had been dealt with a while ago. Really, those insecurities were pushed aside to just boring old news now.

This made me think about all the misinformation or lack of information we get about sex and the over 40 woman. My agency, Fancy, conducted a survey confirming women in this age group feel misrepresented and for the most part, totally ignored by brands. The survey also revealed these women are feeling pretty great about themselves: happier, more confident, and sexier than they thought they’d be at their age.

Seems the world’s been trying to dupe women, and everyone else, into believing we will hit some “older” age wall and our physical and mental well-being will all go to shit. 

The truth is a relief! In fact, as sex toy companies revel in their COVID time profits, a big part of the gain is directly attributable to those sexy women. They are looking for new ways to claim the pleasure they deserve. Ducky Doolittle, sex educator and former Marketing Director at Blush Novelties and a firecracker 50-year-old herself, attributes much of this to the digital world.  “[Menopausal women] have a legacy of being oppressed and gas lit and unlistened to and had a lack of places to find each other and share these things. That's all changed,” she told me. “The Internet has smashed through all of those communication barriers. Now we’re talking to each other and we're finding, oh, I don't have to age like that.” 

Other sexual wellness brands agree. Beth Leibling, a love, sex and relationship coach and the owner of Darling Way in Houston, says that about 40+% of her clients are women, like her, over the age of 50. And that when it comes to exploring new sexy adventures, with or without a partner, these mature women are significantly more confident, daring and excited than her younger clients.

Interestingly, the only big challenge brought up by the women in the workshop was how to help the men in their lives. It seems men’s insecurity about their changing bodies, including but not at all limited to erectile dysfunction, is bringing a lot of men, shall we say...down. The typical myth of male bravado, stamina, and potency into old age, as women retreat into celibate spinsterhood, was turned on its head with this group. That revelation got me thinking about how fortunate we are as women to have these great support networks where we can talk about things that used to be so hush-hush and deal with our changing bodies as the changes happen. And, move on. I feel a bit sorry for men that don’t have those resources. They are lucky, however, to have all these kind women concerned about them and trying to help them.

Only one person was more surprised about the session than I was. 

The sexual pleasure coach, who usually coaches a younger crowd, ended the discussion by saying that this group of women was much more advanced and had less need for advice than any other group she’d ever run. 

Personally, I can’t wait to see what the group has going on when they’re in their 60s!

Erica Fite

Erica grew up running around the mountains and islands near Seattle before trading one coast for the other. 

First she moved to Los Angeles where she graduated from UCLA and pursued acting. Eventually she settled in New York switching from a life in front of the camera to behind it when she found a new career in advertising. In New York, Erica found success as an art director and global creative director for agencies big and small on accounts such as Milk, Clinique, Bahamas, L'Oreal, Pantene, Johnson's and many more. 

At Fancy, Erica and her team have been trusted to create social, digital, video and traditional campaigns for a variety of emerging and established brands. Today, Erica still lives in downtown Manhattan with her two children, escaping to mountain and islands whenever she can.

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