On a recent first time visit to a new gynecologist I was given the usual sheaf of papers to fill out on personal habits and health history. One of the questions caught my full attention. The questions was “Are you sexually active?” and the choices of boxes to check were Yes, No, and “No, but I would like to be.”

I pondered all the possible reasons why a woman might check that last box. A woman without a partner? A woman with a partner who was unwilling or unable? A woman with some vaginal condition preventing her having intercourse and that’s why she was visiting the doctor? My guess is that there would be many women who fit in all of these categories and that including the question on the intake form was an excellent way for the doctor to begin a discussion about sexual habits.

There are so many erroneous beliefs about the sexual practices of older women – not only recently post-menopausal but women in their70’s and older. Let’s look at a few of them:

Women of that age (whatever the age is) aren’t interested in sex. While it’s very true that many post-menopausal women have a sharp or gradual drop in their libido, not all do. Less interest in sex does not mean none at all and a loving and patient partner can create a blaze out of a few glowing embers.

Also, drying of the vagina does happen with a loss of estrogen and an uneducated man might take this as a sign that since she’s not moist she’s not interested. There are many commercial lubricants available and applying them with a gentle hand can solve two problems in one.

When the woman is in a relationship she doesn’t have to be as eager as she once might have been, simply willing, out of affection if not desire.

Intercourse is uncomfortable or painful so sex is impossible. While lubricant and an internal application of estrogen cream prescribed by a doctor can take care of some vaginal discomfort, so can creative sex. There are several other pleasure producing, even orgasm producing, sexual activities one or two people can do that are not at all painful. It’s important for women and their partners to educate themselves on what is still possible. Having sex does not have to equal vaginal intercourse.

Who wants to have sex with an old lady? While a statement like this might well reflect a woman’s self esteem about the ravages of age on her body, there is also the fact that women outnumber men more as they all age. If a woman holds to the same standards in looking for a mate that she did as a young girl (e.g. man must be older, taller, richer, etc.) the choice may well be limited. Many younger men enjoy the company of a well-seasoned sexual partner. If future marriage and family making are eliminated from the equation any man might make a suitable companion for pleasure.

Please remember that many women of any age can be interested in a healthy sex life that can be quite different than they might have imagined years earlier but just as enjoyable.

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