I Have A Perpetual Headache.

When I was 17, everyone in my high school repeated the seemingly-sophisticated wisdom that boys’ sexual drive peaks at 17, women’s at 45.  Having obsessed about sex since 13 or 14, I could not fathom having a stronger sex drive 30 years into the future.  And boys my age could not possibly have fantasized about sex more than I did.  Even in first period math class, I thought about sex constantly, to the detriment of derivative curves and everything else.  But I kept the news about my wet panties to myself, since all of society seemed to be telling girls my age that we were sluts for thinking about sex at all.


Now, pushing 45, I can attest that the common wisdom about women’s sex drives peaking in our 40s was way wrong.  My sex drive, always healthy, soared in my late teen years and it’s gradually declined since then. Kind of the way people describe a normal curve of men’s sex drives, sans Viagra.  Except that mine plummeted during the intense childbirthing and breastfeeding years, as I discovered that sex is not so compatible with leaky breasts, episiotomy scars, pathologic sleep deprivation, and Powerpoint presentations prepared at 2 am between feedings.
But try telling that to husbands, Viagra marketers, the medical establishment, authors and heaven forbid, preachers.  They all seem unnaturally obsessed with telling 40-something married women that there is something wrong with us that we don’t want sex all the time.


On November 16, a minister at the Fellowship Church in Texas instructed his flock to have sex every day through November 22.  Books about having sex for 365 days straight have gotten a lot of attention from sites ranging from The New York Times to Mommy Trackd’s own Risa Green.
Yuck, yuck and 365 yucks.  


My idea of “normal” is better reflected in a new anthology tackling sex in longterm relationships. The collection of essays, Behind the Bedroom Door, is edited by a savvy Self Magazine editor named Paula Derrow. An excerpt appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times Modern Love column, titled "Deeply, Truly (but Not Physically) in Love,"  by a wife and mother named Lauren Slater who loves her husband passionately and has a life of so-called “tepid” sex that strikes me as pretty normal.  According to Slater:  A University of Chicago study published in 1999 found that 40 percent of women suffer from some form of sexual dysfunction, usually low libido. There are treatments for this sort of thing: Viagra or a prescription for testosterone. But the real issue for me is that I’m not sure I have a dysfunction.



Amen. I think it's just a myth about women's sexual peak at 45, perpetrated by men who aren't getting enough. Think about it, biologically, your sexual peak should occur when you are the most fertile and able to carry and raise children. That certainly isn't in your mid-40s!

leslie morgan s...

Leslie Morgan Steiner

This is a tricky subject. I'm usually reluctant to talk about it because it seems so private. But I hear from a lot of moms, often in tears, about the pressures they are under to have sex when they don't feel up to it. My position (hahaha) is that you always have the right to say no, and that in fact saying no when you don't feel like sex helps your sex drive stay healthier over time.


Hey, Leslie -- you know, for once, I don't really see some big conspiracy. Back when we were teenagers, most people got married and had kids a lot younger; a 45-year-old woman in 1980 most likely had kids who were in high school, not kindergarten! And older kids = lots more time (and energy!) for other interests. It doesn't really surprise me that more free time/less drudgery might go hand-in-hand with a vastly-improved libido -- heck, all I have to do is compare my own "everyday" libido to my "kid-free vacation" libido. :-)

Alas, when I hit 45, my youngest will just be going to kindergarten; by the time he's out of the house, both my husband and I are going to need Viagra. . . .


Thank you Leslie! I have been one of those low libido gals since about 2 weeks into my pregnancy with my daughter (now 2.5), and its only in the last month or so that I have had much interest in anything physical. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and learning to be a work outside the home mommy really took it out of me. Glad to know I'm not alone. This is one of those long term side effects of pregnancy that none of the pregnancy or post-pregnancy books really talk about.....