When a woman tells me a partner is ‘really good in bed’, I always wonder what that actually means for her, especially as this often changes after menopause.
Sex After Menopause – What constitutes good sex is so subjective and varied. From a straw poll of my friends, ‘good in bed’ can mean anything from ‘I had an orgasm’, to ‘he seemed interested in what pleased me’, to ‘we had a connection’. All agree that mutual satisfaction is key: it’s not necessarily about tallying up who did or didn’t come, but more about feeling good about the whole experience.
I’ve had what I consider to be good sex when I haven’t had an orgasm. And I’ve had a mind-bogglingly good time with guys that I didn’t really fancy but who got me so excited, with my endorphins going off in all directions, that I literally had no idea what was going in where (and if you’re expecting me to go into detail about that, sorry, you’re going to have to use your imagination!).
Some women can have off-the-scale sex with a guy that wouldn’t even begin to make another woman tremble. Menstrual cycles or the lack of them can be another contributing factor. Back when I was still menstruating there were definitely times during my cycle I would have been up for it with most of the UK’s male population over 35 years. Now, at 58, only being with my partner turns me on.
Crap sex, on the other hand, is pretty easy to recognise. In my own history, there were the guys who made absolutely no attempt to turn me on. Others who clearly didn’t understand boundaries or that no really meant no. Not too long ago, I literally had to stop mid-intercourse when it became clear we had very different ideas about what constitutes consent.
The ones that shot their load in 30 seconds without any explanation I would define as being in the crap category too, even the one who said, ‘you were so hot, I just couldn’t help it’. Sorry, fella, compliments don’t give you a hall pass.
I suspect that lots of women define good sex on the basis of whether they come, and that orgasms have become some kind of baseline for what constitutes ‘good in bed’. As a younger woman, orgasms were certainly a barometer of someone’s sexual prowess that I used, but, as I learned much later in life, orgasms were just one course, not the entire menu.
Back in my twenties and thirties, orgasms were much easier to have: it felt like climbing a little slope and not the post-menopausal Mount Everest in which my body currently operates. I could orgasm in a variety of positions, on top, sitting facing my partner, from oral sex. Just the very thought of a man’s tongue on my clit got me close to climaxing.
At 58, it’s a whole different ballgame. I may orgasm, if I’m feeling especially horny. Mostly I’m happy just being intimate with my partner, even if the orgasms are one-sided.
Saving them up is kind of fun. A little game I play with myself in a somewhat submissive way is that I’ll wait until I see my partner rather than masturbate. Can one be both one’s own dominatrix and submissive? I like to dominate myself by telling myself not to come until I see my partner, even if he doesn’t really care whether I hold off or not (and he doesn’t).
I know that holding off definitely feels better and, although I’m not a doctor, I suspect that has something to do with my libido not raging as much as it used to so that the longer I go without, the more exciting the build-up. Foreplay has become much more important as I’ve gotten older. My body requires more time to become aroused.
Menopause impacts women in many different ways. For lots of women, the ‘change’ can play havoc with their hormones and can take all the pleasure out of sex. It’s not much fun breaking out in a hot flush during intercourse. I spent many years in my early 50s sleeping alone because I didn’t enjoy spooning and sweating, my partner hugging my back, sticky with perspiration. And while my libido didn’t disappear completely it took a while to adjust to the menopausal me who wasn’t it up for it all the time.
Women’s sexuality may be a mystery for lots of men but fundamentally it’s not that hard to work out and there’s lots of reference material available on the internet (aside from mainstream porn, which is nearly always representing a version of sex that is 100% penis focused).
Maybe it’s because I’m older now, but my days of bad sex are over. I’d rather have none at all than a partner who doesn’t consider or isn’t interested in my pleasure and learning what I like. And just like it’s our right as women to ask for a pay rise if we think we’ve earned one, I believe it’s our right to ask for the kind of sex we want. Let’s make it our mission to eradicate the world of bad lovers by being vocal about what we like. I’ve started, now over to you.
Suzanne Portnoy is the author of the bestseller, ‘The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker: An Erotic Memoir.. Now 57, she can occasionally be found writing about sex and relationships for Advantagesofage.com.