Emotional Aspects of Sex Important for Midlife Women

Emotional Aspects of Sex Important for Midlife Women

When it comes to sex, what do midlife women value most? And how do they think sexual problems should be treated?

A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Utah recently asked 39 women those questions and published their results in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Sexual problems are common in women, especially as they go through menopause. However, not much is known about midlife women’s priorities for their sexual relationships and treatments.

The women’s average age was 53, but they ranged in age from 45 to 59. They were given the choice to participate in individual interviews or one of three focus groups. In this way, the researchers hoped to get a full range of responses from women who preferred to talk privately and those who preferred sharing their ideas in a group.

All the women had been sexually active at least once during the previous year and were in varying stages of menopause. About 60% were married or cohabitating.

Desire, vaginal dryness, sexual pain, and orgasm were widely discussed. One 50-year-old woman said, “Desire . . . If I had desire, everything else would fall into place.”

When women were asked what aspects of sex were most important to them, many cited emotional concerns that involved intimacy and connection with their partner, pleasing their partner, and feeling that their partner loved and desired them:

  • The connection we get with each other . . . just the connection, like our souls or spirits . . . it’s a beautiful feeling for two people to be wrapped up with each other. (51-year-old woman)
  • But I get enjoyment out of knowing that I’m pleasing my partner, too. That’s satisfying to me. (55-year-old woman)
  • It makes me feel good to know that my partner is still interested in . . . wanting to have sex at this later time in our life. (58-year-old woman)

On the latter aspect, the authors added, “These women wanted to feel that their partners were not just interested in sex, but interested in sex with them specifically” [emphasis in the original].

What did women think about treatment for sexual problems? Most thought behavioral approaches, like talk therapy with a counselor or a support group, would be most beneficial, as long as participants felt comfortable talking about sex. Some thought that medication could be helpful, but worried about side effects. Combining therapy and medication could work as well, some said, if the approaches were tailored to a woman’s specific issue.

These findings could help doctors when treating women’s sexual health, the authors wrote, noting that clinical trials on pharmaceutical treatments have not fully addressed emotional aspects of sex for women. Research “emphasizes that women do not participate in sexual activity solely to fulfill physical needs; they also are filling emotional needs,” they said.

“Overall, women want options in treatments for female sexual dysfunction so they can make an informed choice based on their individual needs and values,” the authors added.


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Thomas, Holly N., MD, MS, et al.

“Patient-Centered Outcomes and Treatment Preferences Regarding Sexual Problems: A Qualitative Study Among Midlife Women”

(Full-text. First published online: June 21, 2017)


You may also be interested in...

Other Popular Articles

What Is Jelqing, and Does It Actually Work?

The term “jelqing” refers to a set of penis stretching exercises that some believe can make the penis bigger. Although the practice has gained attention and popularity in blogs and internet forums in recent years, there is no scientific evidence that it is an effective way to permanently increase the size of one’s penis. In fact, in some cases, jelqing may actually cause damage to the penis, so it is a good idea to get all the facts before setting off to try it.

What Is Sensate Focus and How Does It Work?

Sensate focus is a technique used to improve intimacy and communication between partners around sex, reduce sexual performance anxiety, and shift away from ingrained, goal-oriented sexual patterns that may not be serving a couple.

What Is the Average Penis Size?

If you have ever wondered how your penis compares to others in terms of size, you are not alone. Many men are curious to know how their penises stack up compared to the average. Unfortunately, general curiosity can sometimes give way to full-on obsession and anxiety about penis size. This can be an unhealthy and often unnecessary fixation, especially because most men who think their penises are too small have perfectly normal-sized penises.

What Is Edging and Why Do People Do It?

Edging is the practice of stopping sexual stimulation before reaching orgasm to prolong a sexual experience. The term stems from the concept of approaching the metaphorical “edge” of orgasm but stopping before going over the edge.

Can Sex Reduce Menstrual Cramps?

The SMSNA periodically receives and publishes ‘guest editorials.’ The current article was submitted by Mia Barnes, a freelance writer and researcher who specializes in women's health, wellness, and healthy living. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine.

Having sex while you experience menstrual cramps is healthy and can provide significant benefits. While it might not be the first activity that comes to mind when your PMS or period cramping begins, many people enjoy sex to reduce menstrual cramps, experience increased pleasure and benefit from other advantages. Learn more about having sex while menstrual cramps are happening and how it can help your body.

Can Sex Throw off Your Vaginal pH Balance?

The SMSNA periodically receives and publishes ‘guest editorials.’ The current article was submitted by Mia Barnes, a freelance writer and researcher who specializes in women's health, wellness, and healthy living. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine.

Your vagina is a pretty powerful organ. It is a pathway for menstrual blood and babies. It also is a main player in sexual intercourse. You might hear about your vagina’s pH and worry that yours is at risk. Here’s what to know about vaginal pH, including the impacts sex could have.

Find a Provider

Find a provider who specializes in sexual medicine in your area.