The Truth About Women’s Sexuality

There’s a line in a song I wrote as a theme song called “Red Hot Mama” for the Red Hot Mama’s menopause organization Ė “Just because I’m in the ‘Pause doesn’t mean I’m dead.” Yes, a number of studies show that sexual activity is alive and well as women age. But here is the whole truth about women’s sexuality.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project provided a baseline of information on women’s sexuality everyone should know.

In that 2007 survey of 1,500 women aged 57 to 85, sexual activity was shown to decline as age increases. Below is the sexual activity level in the past year among women who had a partner:

  • 62 percent among those aged 57 to 64 years
  • 39 percent among those aged 64 to 74 years
  • 17 percent among those aged 75 to 85 years

Of course, not everyone has a partner or spouse, but if they did have a partner and they were sexually active, no matter the age group:

  • 50 percent were active 2-3 times per month
  • 23 percent of the oldest group was active at least once per week

The study also showed that about half of both men and women have at least one bothersome sexual problem. For women, the most common were:

  • 43 percent had low desire
  • 39 percent had poor vaginal lubrication
  • 34 percent were unable to have an orgasm

So now you know that sex can decline with age and sexual problems can increase with age. But here is what I want you realize that can change your life: only 22 percent of women over the age of 50 have had a discussion with a physician about this problem. That’s only 1 in 5. The rest of you aren’t getting the help you need.

The following year another study shed more light on women’s sexuality. The authors surveyed 50,000 U.S. households that included some 31,000 women over the age of 18 and found that 43 percent of women had some type of sexual problem, but it distressed only 12 percent of them. Interestingly, although the older women had more sexual problems than the younger ones, they distressed older women less. The most common distress occurred in women aged 45 to 64. In other words, it’s the women in and around menopause that have the most distressing sexual lives.

Often women with sexual problems were also struggling with another problem such as poor health, depression, anxiety or urinary problems. But as it was in the first study I told you about, only about one third of women had a conversation with their doctor about this problem and when they did, the woman rather than the doctor started the conversation 80 percent of the time. This tells you women have to speak up about sexual problems and be more assertive with their health care providers.

Going through menopause affects sexual activity in many women due to painful intercourse, or decreased sexual desire, frequency or arousal. When some 3,000 women in and around menopause ages 42 to 52 were asked what affected their sex lives the most, the answers came back as:

  • Their relationship with their partner or not having a partner
  • The importance of sex to them
  • Their attitude towards aging
  • Vaginal dryness

In another report of sexual activity in menopausal women ages 41 to 68, 68 percent were sexually active within the past 6 months. The largest reason for not being active was not having a partner. Those women who were sexually active and who had the most enjoyment with sex were more likely to:

  • Have less medical illnesses
  • Be physically active
  • Have a lower body mass index (thinner)
  • Have better social support
  • Sleep well
  • Not have vaginal pain

Other studies of women aged 40 to 65 have shown that vaginal pain and thinning of the vaginal tissues called vaginal atrophy or atrophic vaginitis are very strong causes of sexual problems. This is a very treatable problem if you discuss it with your doctor. I’ve made a video about painful sex if you’d like to hear more about it. Just a few months ago in the journal Menopause, 27,000 women aged 50-79 were studied for 6 years and they were evaluated for vaginal atrophy. Older age, health problems and loss of a partner were the main reason many of the women were less sexually active. Women who were on hormone therapy (HT) improved their vaginal atrophy symptoms significantly.

I’ll talk more about sexual function in other articles. But for now, here is what I hope you will take with you. Intimate relationships remain important to women and sexual activity is a natural part of aging, even to age 99. Those women with a partner and who are healthy enough to be sexually active continue to enjoy sexual relationships. But sexual problems are common, especially among women with other health issues. The good news is that most can be treated. But most patients don’t ask their doctors and most doctors don’t ask their patients about sexual problems.

So when you go to your doctor, ask him or her about your sexual problems. They will either help you or refer you to another person who can. Sexual problems are common and treatable. Don’t be afraid to discuss them.


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Past Member 3 years ago

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Dimitris Dallis
Past Member 4 years ago

Interesting. Thanks :)

Neill Abayon
Neill Abayon4 years ago

Interesting. Thanks.

Edo R.
Edo R4 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Samantha Shira
Samantha Shira5 years ago


Patricia H.
Patricia H.5 years ago

interesting, thanks for sharing

Ra Sc
Ra S6 years ago

It is normal for women to have more difficulty lubricating as they get older, but there is a very easy fix to this problem - use lube. You can buy it and use it, and it can make sex less painful and more enjoyable. Some people think it's a failure in a woman if she can't lubricate sufficiently, but that's really rather ridiculous. Plus, it's worth noting that a large percentage of males are circumcised. Circumcision prevents males from producing as much lubrication as they normally would. So, women are expected to make up the slack, and the older they get, the more difficult that becomes. People rarely talk about whether a man is lubricating enough to help a woman along. Regardless, it makes no sense to blame anyone, when you can just fix the problem.

Chief M.
Chief M6 years ago


Joanne M.
Joanne M6 years ago

Thanks for the info!

Nancy Black
Nancy Black6 years ago

I think women are more sensitive as they get older because they are more critical of their bodies than men are. I also believe that our sexual identity is tied in with our culture and the time we grew up. Back in the day, sex was a duty. Good women didn't necessary enjoy sex; that was for the bad girls. As a result, there was and is a lot of guilt for women who do enjoy sex. Once they lose their partner; they also have no one that they trust. The one good thing I see is we did have the 60's and for those of us who went to college, our views changed, and we realized the biggest sex organ was between the ears.