[Guest Blog] The Thirst of “Femmes d’un Certain Age” by Evelyn Archer

When I started out on this quest to publish a select few guest bloggers on my site (and pay them for it, of course!) part of my mission was to share the stories I cannot tell. The experiences I have not had. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited by this piece by Evelyn Archer. Here, we’re talking Sex After 40! I’m in my late 20s. The myths about sex stopping is one of the things I’m very afraid of about growing older. But here, Evelyn tells us that not only can sex after 40 be amazing – it might just be the best ever. She’s also sharing some wisdom she’s learned along the way. Over to her…

Amy x

A 40th birthday cake, for a guest post on sex after 40 by Evelyn ArcherThe Thirst of “Femmes d’un Certain Age” by Evelyn Archer

Some doctors call it “The Surge”. I call it “The Going Out of Business Sale”.

Here’s the truth: in my late 30s through mid-40s, I’d done without sex for a long time. In a long, otherwise happy marriage – between medication side effects, interpersonal issues and plain old fear – we’d been Not Having Sex for longer than I like to admit. I told myself that everyone gets to define these things for themselves (still true), but there was also another message that I was getting and internalizing without really realizing it. A woman over 40 with a sex drive is a joke. A grotesque joke. Either played for laughs or an object of scorn and pity – we’re Stifler’s Mom from American Pie, Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company (Google it, my sweet babies).

I had no model for what my sex life after 40 was “supposed” to look like. It was “supposed” to Go Away. In fact, cursory Googling revealed a stark, depressing story of “sexless marriages”, of couples living with resentment and disappointment, or at best as friendly roommates, co-owners in the Business of Our Life. A sexual life was something I used to have, someone I used to be, and it looked like I would have to find a way to live without it.

But through hard work in therapy and a bunch of other stuff we came together again.

And now we can’t stop boning each other. But as an essentially cishet (I mean, het-ish, but that’s another post) monogamous couple, in order to truly get back on track, we had to take our cues from outside the cishet community (which is unsurprisingly UNHELPFUL in terms of sex positive information). Instead we turned to queer folks and trans folks and polyamorous folks.

If my partner and I were struggling, for whatever reason, with penetrative P-in-V sex, why was this the “end of sex” for us? Would we say that what our queer friends, our trans pals did in bed wasn’t “really sex”? Of course not! That doesn’t even make sense! So why did it have to be that way for us? Once we stopped putting P-in-V sex at the center of our sex lives, once we stopped seeing “everything else” (oral and manual and toys and everything) as a “lead up to the main event” our entire sex lives transformed. All of a sudden, “fucking” was whatever we decided it was.

So we started fucking all the time.

We can’t seem to stop. He comes home early from work just for banging. We send dirty gifs to each other. We keep a Sex Toy Wish List on Lovehoney. And we haven’t seen our friends on a Saturday night in months because we’re so tired from banging all afternoon, all we can do is eat spaghetti and watch cartoons.
And it was from polyamorous folks writing about relationships and intimacy that we learned that we have to TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME. We have to find ways to talk about stuff we don’t want to talk about. How to sit in uncomfortable feelings like disappointment and jealousy, and still hold space for each other.

It never occurred to us to actually have a conversation about what we WANTED to do
specifically, only what we DIDN’T want to do. From the BDSM community that we learned that we can just talk out whatever is “on the table” for fucky stuff and instead of all that talking “ruining the moment” (or whatever) it leads to a more fun and satisfying play-time.

The power of just listening

But let me be clear: all these terrific queer, trans, poly sex positive folks (bloggers, Twitterers, Instagram folks) are not giving this information to US. Their work is not necessarily FOR us, it’s for themselves and for each other. But by shutting up, and by watching and listening closely, I learned a new way to look at and talk about sex. As these folks process and manage their own sex positive liberation, it shows me a different way of inhabiting my own sexuality, shows me ways to question and ways to talk. It’s not one person in particular, but this chorus of voices, and quietly immersing myself in what they have to say has utterly changed my marriage, my relationship to sex, and the way I see myself.

But still, my high levels of desire seemed to be out of sync with public opinion and popular culture. There’s still the Google-able stuff about The End of Sex, but dig a little deeper and there’s something called “The Surge”. The way I understand it (and I am a writer not a doctor, so do your own research!) is that here at the End of my Childbearing Years my body knows that each egg it releases could be its last. So it releases a surge of hormones telling me “YOU BETTER BANG EVERYTHING BECAUSE THIS COULD BE YOUR LAST CHANCE”. But there’s SO little information on this (and most of it anecdotal) it reminds me of how monstrous our culture sees Femmes d’un Certain Age whose sex drives are still strong. We’re still a joke, still grotesque. Still Mrs. Roper, still Stifler’s mom.

Dawn Sera and Tristan Taoromino have talked about it on their podcasts a couple of times, but there’s little in popular culture for me to look to. Even looking for women over forty in romance novels came up thin, even thinner if you want something a little hotter than “sweet” and “tender”.

So…where ARE we?

WHY is no one talking about this? Why is the only talk of women and
middle age and desire about our thinning hair, our drying and atrophying vaginas, our hormone therapy, our inevitable march to a dry and sexless grave?

Well, I’m not having it. I’ve decided to embrace my monstrousness (if indeed that’s what it is). And I’m leaving you with some resources that really helped me. (These may Old News to you Sex Positive Veterans, but they were news to me).

Resources

  • Tristan Taoromino’s podcast “Sex Out Loud” (available wherever fine podcasts are uploaded). She has more talk of kink and gender and queer politics so this was right up my alley.
  • Dawn Serra’s “Sex Gets Real” (available wherever fine podcasts are uploaded). She has a softer, more relationshippy slant. There’s also lots of good stuff about the intersection of fat positivity and sex positivity. (Be prepared to hear the word “yummy” a lot.
  • Oh Joy, Sex Toy is a web comic by husband and wife team Erika Moen and Matt Nolan. I went there just for sex toy reviews and what I got was SO much more. The illustrations are really sweet, with lots and lots of body diversity (which I don’t see everywhere).
  • Come As You Are: the Surprising New Science that will Transform your Sex Life, by Emily Nagoski. The research here on how desire can work for some folks was a revelation to me. (Also Erika Moen does the illustrations!) Not so science-y that it’s dry, yet doesn’t read like a self-help manual. She is a scientist and a sex educator and this book is great.

Author photo of Evelyn ArcherEvelyn Archer is an author living in New England. You can find her books here and you can sign up for her super fun newsletter, “The Strange Files” here. She also writes erotic shorts as “Madeline Moon”. You can find them here, or here.

 

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What I Wish I’d Known When I Was Nineteen

Nineteen was a pivotal age for me – in a lot of ways, vastly more significant then eighteen. Among other milestones, it’s the year I started university, met my best friend, came out as bi and poly, went to my first BiCon, experienced my first group sex, and realised kink was ‘A Thing’ and not just me being a freak.

Last night, at a play party, I chatted with a young woman who is currently nineteen. She is also so incredibly brave, smart, self-aware, sensible and fearless that I am a little in awe of her. This started me thinking about what I wish I’d known at that age that I know now, in the hopes that it might help some other young person who stumbles across this site and is as lost and confused as teenage CK was.

So some notes to my younger self…

Everything you’re experiencing now is real. Everything will also change. Both of these things are okay.

I know you think this man is the love of your life, and right now that might be true. What you don’t know yet is that there is so much more love still waiting out there in the world for you; love vastly more rich and complex and beautiful than you can even imagine right now. What you want right now is real and valid. What you want in ten years will be different, I promise – and that will be real and valid too.

Your value is not in your innocence.

There are men out there who will trip over themselves to get a piece of you before too many people have had you. You’re beautiful, you’re very young, you’re somewhat naive and when they look at you, they see a certain wide-eyed innocence that they can’t resist. Run from these men. They will use you and spit you out when they’ve had all your ‘first times.’ (They lack imagination and don’t see that there is a whole lifetime of exploration to do!) They’ll call you a whore the moment you act less than virginal. They want innocent little girls because they can’t handle a fully grown woman who knows her worth well enough to demand that they treat her like a goddamn human being and not a trophy.

Equally, your value is not in your sexual availability.

You will get invited to a lot of parties. You may then stop getting invited when you don’t fuck the host or their friends. People will hit on you constantly. You will go on some dates with some guys you really, really like… and then never hear from them again if they reach for the condom on the first night and you say, ‘no, I want to move slower than that.’ You should say yes to the invitations you wholeheartedly WANT to say yes to, and no to the rest. The people who are worth your time, energy and affection will value you just the same. Your body does not need to be your ticket to acceptance and community.

Sex is morally neutral.

You’re not better than ‘other girls’ if you wait a while before having sex with someone. You’re not a prude, frigid or broken either! And you’re not cooler than ‘other girls’ if you have a lot of casual sex. You’re not a whore, damaged goods or broken either! The only sex you should be having is the sex you want to have, with partners who want to have it too. Whether this is a kinky orgy with twenty strangers every night of the week, or only with your husband once you’re married, or anything in between. I promise it’s okay and it says nothing either way about your morals or character.

Love is abundance, not sacrifice. Love should not hurt.

Right now, you may believe that the more it hurts, the more you love the person. Remember that night your new boyfriend stood you up and you came home, makeup all cried away, to tell your fiancé, “I know I really love him because of how much this hurts?” Love, generally, shouldn’t hurt. Of course it hurts when you argue, if something goes wrong, and that’s normal. But every day shouldn’t be pain and self sacrifice. Love should bring you vastly more joy than hurt. Love should expand your world, not shrink it. And speaking of which…

Nobody is worth changing yourself for. 

It’s a truism that the only constant in life is change. You will change, your partners will change, and relationships do change us in profound ways. But any changes you make should be on YOUR terms and because YOU want to make them. No-one who loves you will demand you change. Someone who values you will not make you contort yourself into a little box you don’t fit in. No-one who deserves you will belittle you or put you down for all the wondrous little things that make you you.

You have a right to walk away.

If someone treats you badly, you can leave. If someone makes you cry at least as much as much as they make you smile, you can put an end to it. When someone fucks with your head, you can choose to stop letting them in. If someone abuses you, you have the right – and you owe it to yourself – to tell them to take a running jump off a cliff and get the fuck out of there. You don’t need anyone’s permission to protect yourself from abuse and mistreatment.

Your body is normal.

If you come from clitoral stimulation only but penetration does nothing for you, you’re normal. If you love being fucked but oral sex doesn’t get you off, you’re normal. If you’re multi orgasmic you’re normal. If you’re anorgasmic, you’re normal (though, if you WANT to change this, there are resources!) If you squirt, you’re normal. If you don’t, you’re normal. Whatever you like and however your body works, it’s okay, I promise – meet yourself where you’re at, give yourself permission to experience ecstasy however it works for you, and accept that bodies, just like everything else, change. Your pleasure may look very different in ten years – and you’ll be normal then too!

And some bonus tips to finish:

  • Life is too short to buy shitty vibrators from Ann Summers.
  • The word ‘no’ is both a complete sentence and your best friend.
  • Get some goddamn lube. (Water based and body safe, please and thank you!)
  • Ask the cute girl out.
  • If someone kink-shames or body-shames you, DTMFA.
  • Getting older is nothing to be afraid of. The power and strength you will come into will blow your mind.