Age ain’t nothing but a number, especially when it comes to having truly satisfying sex.
According to Match.com’s annual Singles in America report, it’s not Tinder- and Grindr-using millennials who are having the best sex of their lives. It’s their parents: On average, single women reported having their best sex at age 66. For single men, the sweet spot was 64.
The findings, based on a survey of 5,000 singles of all ages, ethnicities, and income levels across the U.S, come as no surprise to sex therapists. Sex tends to improve once you’ve learned that your sex appeal isn’t based entirely on your physical appearance. Unfortunately, that’s a lesson that takes most people years to learn, said Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and the creator of Finishing School, an online orgasm course for women.
“With my clients in their 20s and 30s, self-consciousness is a huge factor in why they aren’t able to enjoy sex: Younger people are too in their heads about what their bodies look like, how they’re performing and what their partner is thinking. Eventually, that wears off,” Marin told HuffPost. “Even between the 20s and the 30s, there’s already a significant decrease in self-consciousness.”
The survey finding is a welcome counterpoint to commonly held beliefs about sex in our 50s and beyond. Why do we worry it’s all downhill once we hit a certain age?
In part, it’s because our bodies do change as we age, and as a result, so does sex, said Celeste Hirschman, a sex therapist who co-authored the book Making Love Real: The Intelligent Couple’s Guide to Lasting Intimacy and Passion with her business partner Danielle Harel.
Come mid-life, our bodies may not be as taut as they once were. Sex itself may be full of new challenges: Women may grapple with pain or dryness brought on by menopause, and many older men have problems with premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction.
Still, there are workarounds that, in many cases, make sex just as enjoyable, if not more than, it was before, Hirschman said.
“Yes, some kinds of sex become more difficult, but the plus is that these changes generally make communication and creativity much more essential,” Hirschman said. “When we’re young, sex is often a swift race to penetrative sex without much foreplay or fantasy added in. When penetrative sex is less of a goal, people can become more creative and sex can actually get a lot better.”
Realizing that an orgasm and penetration isn’t the be-all-end-all-of sex can be a game changer, regardless of age. In fact, Hirschman said a client once boasted that the best sex she’d ever had was with a partner with erectile dysfunction.
“They were together for a year and she said she had the best orgasms of her life, and he had great ones, too, just not from penetration.”
Another reason post-50 sex may be so fulfilling? The older you get, the less compelled you feel to put up with rigid sexual expectations and roles, said Kimberly Resnick Anderson, a sex therapist in Los Angeles.
That’s especially true of older women, many of whom spent their 20s and 30s searching for a partner to start a family with some day.
“That search often shapes what women in their 20s and 30s are willing to do and tolerate with their partners,” Resnick Anderson said. “As women age, they become more selfish, in a good way: No more worries about getting pregnant, no more worries about their kids barging in on them. Plus, many have an increased comfort with their bodies and a healthy sense of entitlement to sexual satisfaction.”
“Sex at 65 or 70 can feel carefree and easy because it is more about pleasure and connection and less about performance and ‘selling yourself.’” Kimberly Resnick Anderson, a sex therapist in Los Angeles
As Resnick Anderson explained, post-50 women (and men) are finally “taking ownership of their sexuality” and reaping the benefits. More modern and progressive views about sex allow women to celebrate their sexuality in a way that they couldn’t 30 or 40 years ago, the therapist added, pointing to one of her clients as an example.
“After 40 years of faking orgasms, a 63-year-old client of mine actually got to know her body and what genuinely felt good to her,” Resnick Anderson said. “Sex at 65 or 70 can feel carefree and easy because it’s more about pleasure and connection and less about performance and ‘selling yourself.’”
Younger people would be wise to adopt the same sexual confidence, Hirshman added.
“As a sex therapist, I hope people start to get to know themselves sexually at a younger age and feel comfortable asking for what they want from their partners,” Hirshman said. “Lowering shame and judgement around sex will mean more people having great sex at every age!”