Sexologist Shares The Secret To A Fulfilling Sex Life After 50 - Exclusive

Aging has plenty of benefits — stronger social skills, more emotional resilience, and the ability to lean into happiness (via Smithsonian Magazine). But for a great number of women who've hit middle age, sex can feel more like a duty and less like a joy (via Cleveland Clinic). The physical changes around menopause can impede your sex life in a number of dimensions.


Jess O'Reilly, sexologist and host of the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast, tells The List that this doesn't have to be the case. Although a decline in sexual fulfillment is completely commonplace for women over 50, deeply considering what sex means to you can refresh your desires and provide more satisfaction. Among other tips, Dr. O'Reilly recommends "tuning into pleasure" in other parts of your life. Finding sensuousness in food, music, and art, she adds, "can improve your sex life and help you to broaden your sexual repertoire." With a more expansive view of delight, you can keep your sex life vibrant at every age.

Figure out what sex is for you

Dr. Jess O'Reilly recommends that both individuals and couples assess how they define sex. After all, sex can encompass so much more than just heteronormative penetration (via Go Ask Alice!). Accounting for the fluidity of sexual orientation and gender, the act of sex could be defined more accurately as touch involving sexual body parts taking place between one, two, or more consenting parties. More importantly, all of these acts are equally sex, defying the myth that sex has a hierarchy.


Also vital to this exploration, says Dr. O'Reilly, is acknowledging how negative associations or experiences with sex can shape your sexual preferences and wants. She encourages everyone to consider a couple of fundamental questions: "How important is sex to you? What are the benefits you derive from sex?" Truly understanding the answers can help you find the most pleasure in sex in your life at this moment and beyond. Plus, "the more you know about what you want and what you enjoy," advises Dr. O'Reilly, "the more likely you are to enjoy sex — solo or partnered."

Take the Sexual Values Questionnaire

If Dr. Jess O'Reilly's initial inquiries about sex started something simmering inside of you, consider taking her Sexual Values Questionnaire, which inquiries about your beliefs around sex both now and growing up; your desired sexual frequency; your expectations about sex over time; the intersection of sex and the emotional, spiritual, and physical parts of your life; and the strategies you've got in place to keep your sex life prospering. Laughter, too, can foster intimacy (via Cleveland Clinic), so dive in to the quiz and don't forget to smile.


Exploring in-depth ideas about sexual satisfaction and discovery can help you clarify your needs, boundaries, and feelings around sex, Dr. O'Reilly tells The List. You don't need a partner to complete this exercise, but if you choose to share it, the questionnaire offers couples and other sexual pairings the perfect opportunity to learn what the other person (or people) values in sex, facilitating greater communication between all parties. This kind of open dialogue can enable you to articulate your needs and set healthy perimeters for sexual pleasure (via American Sexual Health Association).

Expand your pleasure horizons

Especially as you get older, you should embrace whatever feels good to you feels good, Dr. Jess O'Reilly explains to The List. "The world is your sexual oyster," she adds. "Don't get hung up on having one type of sex." She also advises folks not to let limiting cultural beliefs about what constitutes "real" sex (i.e. penis-in-vagina) stop you from finding your own unique path to pleasure — however you define it.


By broadening your definition of sex to turn the spotlight on pleasure, you can find sexual enjoyment in a number of forms, says Dr. O'Reilly. She explains that these completely individual preferences can be "physical, spiritual, practical, sensual, emotional, relational and/or erotic." Sexual experiences can range from kissing, to erotic massage, from sex toys to oral sex, and even from sexual fantasies to BDSM. To discover what exactly makes you tick, especially after 50, Dr. O'Reilly recommends exploring your body from head to toe and tuning into the sensations without judgment. It's your sex life, and you get to decide what feels sexy for you.

Don't be ashamed to reach out for help

Sometimes the reason for your diminished libido is the result of a legitimate health issue (via Cleveland Clinic). With midlife comes other physical realities — weight gain, dry or painful sex, chronic diseases like diabetes — all of which can disrupt your sexual pleasure. It may be embarrassing, but "if you experience changes, concerns, or symptoms that interfere with your enjoyment of sex," Dr. Jess O'Reilly advises The List, you can speak openly with your primary care doctor or gynecologist about your sexual health concerns. For women experiencing common symptoms of vaginal dryness or atrophy, silicone-based lubricants and other moisturizers are generally recommended as over-the-counter solutions to spice up your sex life.


Should those not do the trick, medical treatments including low-dose estrogen creams applied to the vagina are often prescribed for post-menopausal women. O'Reilly also suggests experimenting with external pleasure, "which for many is more likely to lead to orgasm than penetration anyway," she adds. Your physical concerns addressed and your sexual values clarified, sex after 50 can be reborn, transforming into an era of self-empowered enjoyment.