Wildflowers

Perfect Buds

The If-Busters

Late Bloomers

Early Bloomers

Living-Togethers

Sexual Explorers

Sexually Dissatisfied Wives

Overcoming Rejection

Why Sacrifice Pleasure?

A Way of Classifying Sexual Identity

How Pleasure-Claimers Get Better Orgasms

Some Observations from the Survey

The If Busters

"I am having the best sex of my life with a passionate Latino  who is twelve years younger than I am. I don't care what anybody says. Ten years ago I would have cared and thus missed out on this wonderful experience. With age comes greater wisdom-and greater horniness.'

-a forty-two-year-old physical therapist

            And, Alas, Fewer opportunities.

            Few women who have claimed pleasure, or especially reclaimed pleasure, did so in their twenties. The woman who is finally in charge of her sex life is probably at least  in her thirties. She may have overcome some negative experience to become sexually responsive, skilled, and confident, and is no longer influenced by what other people think she should do in her own  bed. She is truly in her prime.

            But prime time for women in a culture that worships youth and equates sex appeal with young, pouty mouths and upturned, perky breasts isn't without its drawbacks. The sexual dilemmas facing women over thirty-five have been thoroughly documented since the baby boom generation crested the hill at thirty about fifteen years ago. Suddenly many women were asking the same questions. How can she handle  her ripening sexuality without threatening a partner whose won libido is subsiding? Or how can she compete against younger women in the sexual marketplace to find a new partner? The scarcity of partners-particularly of the "suitable" kind who meet the requirements of age, occupation, net worth, and social class-begins in early bloom middle age, often before thirty-five, just as women begin to experience anxiety about their looks.

            Whether she has claimed or reclaimed pleasure, the woman at thirty-five and beyond is faced with another set of hurdles to overcome. They loom like huge wax birthday candles bent across what was only moments ago a clear path. Sometimes even  the most confident woman hesitates before leaping them.

            "The hardest part for me in becoming sexually active again following  my divorce was taking off my clothes," writes a forty-year-old photographer. "I am keenly aware of were my body fails-or should I make that  falls?-to meet the standards it once met. I took some advice I read in Cosmo and bought  wonderful lingerie, tap pants and camisoles, teddy, garter belts and stockings, which I felt on during sex. It helped my confidence tremendously."

            But, some younger women face the moment of unveiling with the same trepidation because they are overweight or have small breasts or heavy things or all of the above. And, if the forty-year-old white woman thinks finding a suitable partner isn't easy, she should talk to the successful young black woman or the lesbian woman of any age. Our bodies-their ages, sexual orientations, sizes, shapes, and colors-do limit our choices, at least to some extent.

            The woman who has busted the "ifs" and broken the "rules" knows all this, but she also knows her way around many of the restrictions. She understands her real needs, and she is a lot smarter about choosing partners who can meet them than she  was in her sexual ingenue period. Like the photographer who indulged in an orgy of lingerie  period. Like the photographer who indulged  in an orgy or lingerie shopping before her first post-divorce tryst, she knows how to make it  easier for herself, and she does. Other women's sexual performance concerns are seldom hers.

            "I know I'm a good lover," writes a thirty-three-year-old Seattle office manager. "When you aren't worried about whether or not you can come or  whether or not you'll do the  right  things for your man or what the  neighbors will think, you can make much better sexual choices for yourself. You relax and take care of yourself-not only by having orgasms, but by using condoms and setting the pace and tone of the relationship to meet your  requirements."

            The woman fully in charge of her own sex life shares these traits (previously listed as those of pleasure claimers):

  • Sexual confidence, in her ability to be orgasmic as well as to attract and please a partner.
  • Positive, nonpunitive, nonjudgmental attitudes  about sex.
  • Willingness to take  responsibility  for her own sacrifice pleasure-and her own protection against unwanted pregnancy and disease.
  • Ability to communicate sexually.
  • Ability to separate sex from everything  else.

            And, in addition, she:

  • Decides when, where, and with whom she will have sex-primarily based on her own needs and desires, but  not the  need to please.  She's open to a wider ranger of possibilities in her selection  of sexual  partners-and sometimes sexual practices -than she ever has been. For many women, this new freedom includes being comfortable with saying no to sex for the first time in their lives together.
  • No longer needs even minimal approval of her  sexual  lifestyle from anyone else. She doesn't consult with friends  on the wisdom of her  partner choices or spend long hours on the phone getting  them to validate her  romantic rationalizations about men. Social prohibitions against lesbianism or bisexuality, interracial sex, or sex with  younger men do not keep her from setting her own erotic course. While she doesn't need to flaunt her behavior, she doesn't need to flaunt her behavior, she doesn't feel shamed into hiding it either.
  • Has a positive attitude about sex and aging. She doesn't think sex will end with menopause. While she  realizes her body at forty isn't as taut as it was at twenty, she also knows how much more skilled an responsive she is now than she was then. She values her own sexual evolution.
  • Has outgrown the romantic illusions that often restricted her sexually. Adept at creating and using romantic fantasy to aide sexual arousal and orgasm, she is equally skilled at putting the pheromones and fantasy aside when the sex is over. She has found real men to be better than the larger-than-life cardboard characters she may have once created in her mind. Best of all, she's discovered sex is more exciting  and fulfilling when it takes place between adults, rather than between an aging ingénue and fantasy Prince.

            "I think of myself as a sexual survivor droughts," writes a forty-five-year-old Boston meeting planner.  "I've overcome most of the challenges to my sexuality that  a repressed  society and a female body can throw in the way: Italian Catholic childhood; workplace sexual harassment beginning when I was sixteen and working in the neighborhood bakery where the owner pinched fannies; marrying as a virgin; four full-term pregnancies and two miscarriages; being dumped for a woman my age, but half  my size.

            "Now, I'm in my second marriage, to a wonderful Jewish man, ten years younger than I am. The sex, my dears, is the best  I've ever had. I know Marla Maples supposedly said that about Donald Trump. But she hasn't lived long  enough to know what she's talking about, and I have."

            Even women who haven't lost pleasure will reach the point where they feel in some danger of having it snatched  away by  an aging body or a society in which people still have trouble imagining that older women do have sex. If-busting, then, is for all of us. Only in fairy tales does  the sleeping virgin awaken to the best  sexual experience of her life.

            In real life, overweight Italian mothers of four grown children find such joy with younger Jewish men.

Sexual Victims

Discarded Women

The Clock Women

Independent Women

Revirginized Women

Monogamous Women

Second-Chance Women

Surviving the Droughts

Wives Who Have Affairs

The Saboteurs of Pleasure

Conclusion: Your Sexual Turning Point?

The Women Who Doesn't "Need" an Orgasm

What Does She Know About Sex that You Don't?