Who says a woman’s sex drive slows down after 60?
In 2002, my mother was 61 years old and fresh off her second divorce. She wanted to begin dating again, but as a busy gynecologist and obstetrician, she didn’t even know where to start. It was her cousin who told her about online dating, but she’d also seen in The New York Times Living section that many of those engaged had found one another online. As a doctor, my mother wasn’t a Luddite by any stretch of the imagination. She performed laparoscopic surgeries using advanced computer-based technologies. Later, she’d be learning robotic surgery. She used email regularly. She owned a cell phone. But engaging with the Internet in this way was new for her.
She created a profile, which she revised a few times based on the kinds of attention she received. She described herself as a “cute, vivacious, fun-loving female.” She made some guidelines: at least a college degree, an income somewhere near her own. And, she said she was 53.
“Why?” I asked her recently on the phone when I interviewed her for the story.
“People see over 60 and they assume things that aren’t true,” she replied.
“Well, for one, almost everyone I ran into on those sites my age or older was planning to retire soon, and they assumed anyone their age was in that same spot. That wasn’t interesting to me.”
“They also assume a woman over 60 isn’t interested in sex,” she said.
“And, you definitely were,” I said.
“Oh, yes,” she told me, “Usually way more than they were.”
She proceeded to tell me about what she called her “sexual adventures,” which started after she and my father divorced. She was in her early 40s. She and my father had not been having sex. Weekends when my sister and I were with my father, she had lots of sex with lots of men. She visited her cousin, and the two of them brought a bartender back to the cousin’s complex’s pool where they proceeded to take turns doing shots of tequila off his dick. She was safe for the most part, but she regrets too much sex while intoxicated, and more so, too much sex when she wasn’t really sure what she was after. She was finally having sex without hoping for a relationship all the time. She was finally allowing her body—not the shadow of her parents, not cultural restrictions, not the desire for marriage and children—to guide her way. But, she was also reeling from her divorce. All of her estimations of what her life would be had been crushed. Her life had been torn open. And so some of her behavior was the result of feeling lost and out of control.
Fast forward to the years after her second divorce. This time, she knew who she was. She had a career, a damn good one. Even though her second marriage had failed, this time she wasn’t quite so disillusioned. She believed it could work with someone, and, hell, if it didn’t that would be OK too.
So, she had sex. Lots and lots more sex. During the three years she spent on the online networks, she dated approximately 50 men. She had some sort of sex with about half of them—that’s an average of about eight dudes per year. Only once, she said, was she sleeping with two at once, “And never more than two at a time,” she added. I say “some sort of sex” because she faced a lot of erectile dysfunction. Many, she noted, had made up for this with mad skills in the oral sex arena. Others, she said, just led to some really bad sex. More often than not, she was the one leading the way sexually. She didn’t ask herself whether she should have sex with someone. She asked herself whether she felt safe. If she did, she thought, well why not have sex? She couldn’t get pregnant anymore. She used condoms. Also, sex is good for you. In a talk she gives at various events about how to live a long life she includes the simple fact that two orgasms per week adds five years to your life. If she decided she didn’t feel like having sex with that particular person, she often went home and used her vibrator instead.
There’s that old belief that men think about sex an average of 100 times per day. “Plenty of women do, too,” my mother told me, “As long as they aren’t shutting themselves down with all the cultural expectations about who they’re supposed to be.”
“Would you say that’s true even when you hit your 60s?” I asked her.
“Probably more so,” she said. “Sex just keeps getting better.”
I couldn’t help but wonder, though, if that felt intimidating for all those men struggling with E.D. A friend of mine looked over her profile page, which my mother sent me as research for this article. The friend said, “Two languages? A doctor? Read the 9-11 Commission Report cover to cover? I don’t even have to add in her sexual appetite to start stacking my cock back in my pants.”
But not all guys agreed. In 2005, she met HBS (standing for “Harvard Business School”) on Match.com. He’s a couple months older than she is. He has a thriving career and a heart as big as that 9-11 report. And let’s just say he rose to the challenge—see what I did there? They’ve been happily married for seven years.
Kerry Cohen is the author of six books, including the acclaimed Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity. She’s been featured on Dr. Phil, Good Morning America, and the BBC, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Psychology Today, and many others. Learn more at www.kerry-cohen.com.