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Changing how we see aging

Cougar Sex

Sexual arousal for women peaks at older ages while men peak during their teen

David M Buss has been writing about older women’s sexual adventures for some time. He notes in “Why Women Have Sex” that women use sex as a defensive tactic against a mate’s infidelity (protection), as a ploy to boost self-confidence (status), as a barter for gifts or household chores (resource acquisition), or as a cure for a migraine headache (medication). Like most interpretations evaluating women’s sexuality, pleasure is not one of the reasons given.

Using Craigslist to enlist three quarters of their volunteers Buss and his colleagues found that women aged 27 through 45 years of age report having more sexual fantasies, more intensely and having more sex than their younger cohorts. Marriage and having children were not found to be as important as age was. Only age had a strong affect on women's reported sexual interest and behavior. Women’s sexual awakening seems to be formidable.

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Women’s sexual interest was believed to peak and then fall precipitously after menopause. But this drop might be a misinterpretation by some researchers.

Susan E. Trompeter, and her colleagues from the University of California San Diego looked at women 25 years after their menopause. Half (49.8%) reported sexual activity within the past month with or without a partner. Sexual activity included arousal (64.5%), lubrication (69%), and orgasm (67.1%) at least most of the time. Only a third reported low, very low, or no sexual desire. Although frequency of sexual activity decreased with age, they all reported increased satisfaction when they did have an orgasm.

Having the brain as one of the largest sex organ—the skin being the largest—determines that emotional closeness is associated with more frequent arousal, lubrication, and orgasm during sex. Overall, two thirds of sexually active women were moderately or very satisfied with their sex life. With such statistics, the idea of peaking only before menopause seems a myth. For some women they keep on going.

Little is written about late life sexual activity except for educational purpose. What has been written is about marriage from public records. In a recent article in an unlikely journal of Review of Economics and Statistics, Hani Mansour and Terra McKinnish from the University of Colorado reported that couples with big age differences are typically less attractive, less educated and make less money than couples of similar ages. The more pronounced the age difference the less positive attributes they had.

Interestingly, they make a class issue (using education as a proxy for class.) More educated people tend to interact more with people their own age while those with lower formal education and who work in low-skill jobs are more likely to socialize with people of a wide range of ages. Poorer people have networks that are more age diverse. But this is about marriage, a social contract. Where is the Sex? You cannot be a cougar if you marry them.

Pleasure comes in many forms and sexual gratification is one of them. Marriage is not an indication of pleasure, but age is. Maurice Chevalier’s "never date anyone under half your age plus seven" might be appropriate for most people but it might not apply to some older women. Sexual arousal for older women matches those of younger men.

© USA Copyrighted 2013 Mario D. Garrett

Mario Garrett, Ph.D., is a professor at the school of social work, San Diego State University.

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