Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Man's View: Women not on HRT don't want sex


I just received a thoughtful and provocative email from a Peter, a handsome, fit, intelligent man of 59 who recently attended my Ask Me, I’ll Tell You workshop at Good Vibrations in Berkeley. He raises a stimulating issue – are women past menopause disinterested in sex if they’re not on hormone replacement therapy? Here’s what he told me:



…I think you should have this input from a man who is a sincere feminist, appreciates your work, and is an incurable romantic and irrespressible horndog to boot.

I look young for my age, keep myself in great shape, have youthful ideas and spirit, but am a month shy of sixty. In our sexist and ageist culture, most women with whom I should have something in common seek a younger man. I’m open to a relationship with any woman who is fit, youthful, and hasn’t lost her sex drive.

It’s the latter that always poses the problem. My experience is that post-menopausal women fall into two categories regarding sex: those who take hormone replacement drugs (few, as the statistical association with breast cancer becomes known) and those who don’t. The former have sex; the latter don’t. I have been with close to a hundred women who are post menopausal in sexual situations and the results have never varied.

I fully understand the issues you discussed about changing arousal patterns, lubrication, patience, etc. I’ve explained – in a general and restrained manner – my understanding of this, but have only made it to bed a few times with those who don’t take hormone supplements, only to find a freeze up once I get there.

I notice many laments from women over forty who characterize themselves as “old,” laments from women over fifty who claim to be “sexually active” while no man their age is (defying biological reality), and laments from both that all men want is sex.

But when I date them, write them, talk to them, embrace them, always respectfully, the response is always the same if they are past menopause. This even holds true after lengthy dating and what seems to be an emotional connection.

I want what you preach, but my experience is that it’s women who block it. Most men my age I know who would be a good catch have given up because they think no one wants them any more. It sounds like the women say the same. They need to accept that men want to communicate and connect with them, and if refusing to do so governs their actions, that is the problem – one that they must face and overcome.

I think your workshop was well prepared and taught, and you have an important issue. I’ve taken several classes at GV and thought yours was outstanding. Please stick with your message. You’re doing it right and you’re appreciated. Thank you.

I would love to read your reactions to Peter’s comments. In my experience, both personally and through interviewing women for my book and afterwards, I have not found this kind of clear division between women who choose to have hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and those who do not.

Certainly the lack of estrogen does affect sexual comfort and pleasure, and some of us who say no to full HRT still use estrogen vaginally, which is thought to be safe and effective. (Disclaimer: I’m not giving medical advice. Please consult your medical professional to make your health decisions.)

But is Peter right that women post-menopause who don’t go on HRT just aren’t interested in sex? Here’s a good guy, attractive, sensitive to women, and romantic – the kind of man so many of you have said you’re looking for. What’s your experience?

18 comments:

  1. I'm 55 and staying attractive is very important to me, so I too work out and generally take good care of myself. I still love sex, in fact I think sex is better since I have passed menopause. (I define menopause as the day one year after my last period.)

    I don't take estrogen or any prescribed HRT. I do use herbs and progesterone cream. For vaginal dryness I have used a prescription compounded estrogen cream but don't anymore and usually have no problems with lubrication. I think it helps to stay sexually active and to give the vaginal walls regular "massage" with either intercourse, a dildo, or good old hands.

    I am married to a man I love dearly, but our sexual appetites, which were once very similar, are nowadays very different. So I am great at self pleasuring. We also have an agreement that I can have other lovers if I do this discreetly and the other men respect my husband and my marriage, but I don't do this a lot. I love my husband, so mostly I have sex with him when he's into it, and pleasure myself a lot, which I find very satisfying.

    As an aside, we need to expand our definition of sex to include sex with just ourselves!!! Mostly when you say "sex" people think sex with a partner, but there are lots of kinds of sex. Lately I've been calling myself "poly-erotic." There are so many ways to have great orgasms.

    I think it would be wonderful to meet a man my age with whom I could have a discreet affair. Many of the people we know are a lot are younger, so the men I've been attracted to are always younger. But younger men are not always as hot as some might think. Often they don't know what they're doing, and often their egos prevent them from learning. Or if they do know what they're doing they have dozens of girlfriends. Looking back on my years of dating before I was married I've known a lot of younger men who had little or no ejaculatory control. Older men have just had more practice and are in my opinion much better in bed.

    While we're discussing HRT, I've just heard the news story about the FDA refusing to approve the "sex patch" due to concerns about safety. This is a testosterone patch for use by women past reproductive life, whether through nature or surgery, who want to revive their sexual lives. I'm looking for a place on line where we older women can get organized and demand en masse that the FDA approve the patch. Perhaps this blog could do a post about this. I know there are millions of women like me who are pretty angry about this sexist and ageist attitude on the part of the FDA. The patch is already being used with no major side effects in both Germany and France. (And since when is the FDA so worried about the safety of drugs? Anyone remember Vioxx?)

    Well I wish this guy lived in my city! Hope this is enlightening.

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  2. This statement troubles me:
    "I have been with close to a hundred women who are post menopausal in sexual situations and the results have never varied..."

    100 women? If the writer has failed so often and so consistently, or (maybe I'm being uncharitable) tried too often, perhaps the fault has more to do with him personally or with his foreplay approach, than with the women's postmenopausal status.

    I and many other postmenopausal women I know who are not taking HRT still enjoy active sex lives. Having a caring, patient, compatible partner definitely helps conquer postmenopausal impediments to good sex.

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  3. You know the comment following mine makes a good point. I was thinking of an ex from way back who was also a self proclaimed feminist and was always very eager to tell everyone that, almost like he was trying to convince someone. I left this man after two years because he constantly undermined me when I wanted to do something which was not about his agenda and just for me. Looking back I think he was very covetous of my femaleness.

    This ex also insisted that we have an "open marriage" which meant that he could do any female who crossed his path, and often in the next room when I was home. I was in my 20's then and very insecure, so even though I had my flings on the side too, this was not a good situation for me. Ironic that I would come to a point in my own life, after years of swearing by fidelity, where I want and have a similar arrangement. Well, similar on the surface only. I keep my extracurriculars very private and never bring a lover to our house.

    Most of the men I know who I would call sympathetic to feminism don't announce that so readily, and none of them have been with close to a hundred women. I started wondering if maybe the women this man dates aren't just telling him they aren't interested in sex to politely get him to go away. Maybe it's a good thing after all that he's somewhere in or near Cali.

    (Ah yes, this is what Clarissa Pinlola Estes is talking about when she discusses the dual nature of women which must be understood before a true sexual partnership can exist!)

    Though I sometimes have more than one partner, it's always one at a time, and I would prefer that it be just one guy who I'm with over a long period of time. It's difficult if not impossible for me as a woman to trust a man who's into bed hopping, and without trust sex with a man is not much fun for me no matter how much sensitivity, endurance, and skill he might have.

    Talk is cheap. In my experience some men will tell a woman almost anything to get her to have sex with him.

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  4. Hey, wait! This isn't about Peter -- he's a good guy, and he's willing to "talk straight" about his attitudes and experiences regarding sex and aging, which is what I invite you all to do. Let's not bludgeon the messenger when he's asking us to address the message.

    When I listened to Peter express a myriad of interesting ideas in my workshop -- always respectful of and sensitive to women -- I thought about the single women who keep telling me they wish they could meet good men their age. I was tempted to create a match-making opportunity to get the good men I meet -- like Peter -- together with the good women I meet!

    Yes, you're free to say what you want here (though I do delete comments with obscenities, vile suggestions, nasty rants, and obvious advertisements). But why accuse someone you don't know -- who has dared to bare his soul here -- of duplicity, bed hopping and inadequate foreplay?

    -- Joan

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  5. Frankly, I feel burned. What I meant using the term "sexual situation" was a time when the issue was on the agenda. Typically this is when I have dated a woman for a while, we have been affectionate, and then the affection takes its natural course, the situation allows for sex, and then... the question does not have to be asked. The reaction tells the story.

    My point was that when it becomes plain that the brakes are being applied, either an explanation follows or I assume the desire isn't there. I don't always know that a woman is post or pre menopausal, or whether she is taking hormone replacements, but every time this issue has come up, and I mean every time, I have never had full sex with a woman who is post menopausal and not taking hormone replacements.

    It's time for women to stop throwing the "sexist" accusation everywhere. It's time to stop making assumptions about what men mean and accuse someone of "bed hopping" without even asking for an explanation.

    I divorced twelve years ago and sought permanent companionship ever since. I've had a couple of false starts, almost remarried with one, and have finally reached an age where I am dating post menopausal women. I suspect that the vast majority of them are kidding their friends and themselves about their continued interest. They are victims of a sexist and ageist society that tells them they aren't attractive any more, and when the opposite is staring them in the face they panic and run.

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  6. Oops! so sorry. Thank you for the feedback. My last comment is indeed an unfair comparison and too critical, not to mention off topic. I sincerely apologize.

    That being said, what is at the heart of my comments -- and perhaps those of others -- is I’m offering feedback which would ultimately help Peter and other men in his situation be more successful at the love dance. As I said before I generally prefer the company of men closer to my own age, both as friends and lovers, so I appreciate the effort and curiosity about what makes us tick.

    We need to remember that the love dance is rarely easy. That humans are incredibly complex. That as intricate as the human endocrine system is, not everything is hormone driven, and hormones at any age are influenced by lots of factors. That post menopausal women are in an awesome part of our lives the expression of which is varied, not easily categorized, and will no doubt confound scholars for years to come. That this state is reflected in all other humans.

    Older men take on a new status too, but it’s a more gradual transition and more acceptable to the dominant culture.

    okay my last unsolicited advice: i think Peter is maybe trying too hard and could maybe just relax and explore other aspects of himself. If you have a lot of sexual energy women will be drawn to you without you putting out much effort. We humans are attractive when we’re in our bliss and not particularly focused on needing or wanting a sexual partner, even as we’re open to that when it happens.

    Sorry about the misperceptions. As the younger folks would say, "It's all good." Hope so.

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  7. Gratitude, thank you for taking a deeper look and for adding such a thoughtful repsonse. You've added another level of insight for all of us here.

    -- Joan

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  8. I don't take any of this personally, as none of these responders know me and none of them understood what I meant. I must admit that as a man who truly believes in feminist principles it saddens me to hear the constant drumbeat of anti-male gender bias that permeates our local culture, almost as much as it saddens me to hear of the horrible sexism that is perpetrated against women in all ways overseas, and economically, politically, and in some respects, culturally here at home. Being human, I grate in a disproportionate way when I get the flak, but being socially conscious, I keep a level head about it and don't use someone's remarks to justify a prejudice of my own. I'm a political leftie, a refugee of the sixties. But these issues are much bigger than any feelings I might have.


    I know it's naive to expect the victims of oppression to be better and more humane once they have a crack at power. Just look at the evening news to learn that lesson. Still, relations between men and women are more important on some levels than anything else, at least if we're straight. The person I want to have my closest relationship with - other than my son - is my lover, and she must be a woman. If I have to fight a sociological battle with my lover, that puts a damper on my happiness. I want any woman with whom I share love to be past that issue with me, at least for the most part. We can never escape it completely, but trust is paramount in a relationship. How could I even begin a relationship with someone who held a grudge against me because of my gender? Sadly, far too many have that grudge here in the Babylon of political correctness. San Francisco and Berkeley have that reputation, and deserve it. So when I'm reminded of it from the responses to what I wrote, I'm saddened. It takes a lot more than those responses to make me angry, though.

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  9. I'm 72 and haven't had sex in nearly 40 years--my husband found and kept someone he liked more. This leaves me terrified of caring, untrusting of compliments, in dire need of similar views and interests, and horny as all get out. And I can't take hormone treatments because of a family and personal cancer history. This suggests what direction? Darned if I know! Just thank heavens for a wonderful child (grown) and for emotional support from a few very good female friends. And for my cat -- at least she's soft, warm and purrs at night.

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  10. Okay I’m way off of our original topic. (And my short answer to the original question is similar to Joan’s: Not all p. m. women who don’t use hrt are disinterested in sex, although for many women hrt may be very helpful for keeping up sexual interest and keeping intercourse comfortable.) Anyway this is all so thought provoking -- thank you Peter! -- so here goes comment no. 4.

    It is indeed unfortunate that some women interpret our hard won freedom by becoming even more greedy, mean, and power hungry than some men in similar positions. It is also very unfortunate that so many feminist women get into politically correct camps which are antagonistic to men as individuals. It is not men who are the "enemy," it's the culture. Most of our institutions in the U.S. are both sexist and ageist, but this is not the fault of every individual man.

    I like the classic 70’s definition of feminism: “the radical notion that women are people too.” I read somewhere that there are feminist groups now who are stringently anti male and anti sex. I thought, well here’s one feminist who’s not going along for that ride! We could remember that feminism has also given us legal contraception for single women, which has the side benefit of giving us lots more sexual opportunities, and it is from feminist research and writings that I know all I do about my pussy. I’ve always liked men, as friends and lovers and partners, and I was also raised to be myself as a whole person. I’ve lived with this conflict for decades. My feminist aunt was always saying “you don’t need a man.” I knew I didn’t need a man, but what about just wanting a man?

    Well meaning men nowadays can’t give me a compliment about my looks without prefacing it with profuse apologies lest they offend me. (I tell them I’m old enough now not to be offended.) And men and women often can’t discuss what still needs working out between us without the men interpreting women’s criticisms as yet another unfair accusation of sexism. And who can blame them? They’ve been caught in our crossfire all too often. If this happens in Alabama (where I live) what must it be like in the SF Bay area? My decidedly feminist husband says he for one is definitely sick of it.

    Yes we do live in a sexist and ageist world, where institutions and the mainstream culture are constantly throwing fear and doubt at women, especially older women who are someone other than a cute little granny or a self sacrificing church lady. But dwelling in victim consciousness hurts us. Anger, no matter how justified, is not attractive and not good for our health. As Peter has illustrated, hetero women can’t stay in a state of antagonism if we want a satisfying sex life with a man, which is very good for our health.

    I can’t be alone is thinking that we can use these perhaps unavoidable negative emotions as motivation for positive transformation. Use them as fuel to create, learn, explore, express, improve ourselves. Ladies, when your tv parades yet anther impossibly thin fertile young blonde in your face, go do some strength training. (I mean that literally and as a metaphor.) Quit just complaining and “be the change (we) want to create.”

    One of the biggest issues that men and women together are struggling with these days is how do we relate, sexually and otherwise, now that it's pretty well understood that women are people too. The message that got filtered to the mainstream from the 70’s wave of feminism was (hetero) men need to be more sensitive. Is this what we want? I for one am often sexually attracted to men who are very masculine, chivalrous, and might have a few chauvinistic tendencies lurking in there somewhere. But I don’t want to be anyone’s “little woman” or be abused. So maybe we still, collectively, have some issues to work out? (We could start by looking at the fine distinction between chauvinism and chivalry.)

    I’m noticing more and more men these days who have synthesized their masculinity with sensitivity. As Peter has rightly pointed out, I don’t know him personally, but he seems like one of these men. My husband is another. And I have a lot of younger men friends who are managing this quite well.

    Women, who have often led the way in human evolution, could help our man/woman discourse along by being more friendly and kind about it. Maybe we’re the ones who need to be more sensitive now. Maybe some of us would find it a relief to come out of the trenches and simply enjoy the company of men. I think we’ve come far enough that we can do this and still stay grounded in the fullness of ourselves.

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  11. Thank you, Peter, Gratitude, and Anonymous, for keeping this discussion going in such interesting and enlightening directions!

    I love the interaction here and the way you're pondering each other's statements. Yes, change starts with us, and from here it goes one mind at a time.

    > Ladies, when your tv parades yet anther impossibly thin fertile young blonde in your face, go do some strength training. (I mean that literally and as a metaphor.) Quit just complaining and “be the change (we) want to create.”

    This statement resonates on many levels, Gratitude. On a physical and emotional level, there's a tremendous feeling of personal power that comes from strength training -- literally lifting weights and making our muscles stronger. And metaphorically, the mental and sociological strength training of which we're capable is empowering and exhilarating.

    Anonymous, you mentioned not having sex in 40 years and despite being distrustful, feeling "horny as all get out" -- I hope you'll read my book, because you'll learn a lot from the comments of other women in your situation!

    Speaking of "Anonymous," I believe we have two different people using that name here -- could you give yourself a distinctive name so we know who's talking? Just click "other" under "choose an identity" and you can use your own or a chosen name.

    Thank you again, everyone, for participating in this discussion!

    -- Joan

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  12. I want to throw in my thought again, for 72 year old anonymous, that self pleasuring is sex. You don't have to trust anyone but yourself. And I think a woman having sexual fun already is more likely to find a partner.

    Now I'm going to risk getting into trouble again by making the assumption that someone in her 70's might not know much about sex toys. Hey, I heard about the bullet vibrator several years ago from a much younger woman. There are all kinds of neat sex toys available these days, and you can order them on line. You might also need something like astroglide for lubricaton. Then there are things like the shower massager, which they can't outlaw here in Alabama, at least I hope not.

    If you can't use hrt have you thought about trying herbal and homeopathic products?

    Cats seem to love it when we have sex, solo or otherwise. My cats have, over the years, stayed on the bed with me when I'm doing myself, purring away. We now have two dogs and I usually have to kick them out. My flirtatious lab mix would jump right up there with me if I let him, he gets all excited.

    And yes, read Joan's book, written especially for older folks like us! It really helps me to read about other women's positive midlife experiences, I don't feel so alone.

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  13. AnonymousJuly 01, 2007

    Just wanted to let Peter know there are exceptions to the rule. I am 67 years old, have been post-menopausal for 17 years and never taken HRT but I still love sex. I have been a widow for 13 years and have had 3 lovers since that time. I am presently having what I consider to be the best sex of my life with a 67 year old man but he seems to marvel at my sexuality and says most women he has had relationships with have had very little interest in sex. I find this incredibly sad, we are a long way from our Victorian roots but they linger still. I think a lot of sexual repression is about personal attitude and social pressure, when my age-group was growing up, there were good girls and there were bad girls and somehow we still follow that in our gut, good girls don't and bad girls won't find love or respect. I was always a bit of a rebel particularly with my sexuality, so I was able to mostly escape the status quo, thankfully.

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  14. Hot Momma Fridgid LoverAugust 05, 2007

    Hi, I feel a little shy about participating in this conversation but this is a subject that I have given a lot of thought to...since I have been married to a wonderful man for 32 years and we have had nine beautiful children together. Obvious our sex life has been productive. However...

    I have never had that much pleasure in sex. I think my sexual drive has been ultimately attatched strictly to my 'fertile' times. My most pleasuable thoughts while having sex have been..."give me a baby" rather than give me pleasure.

    My husband, on the otherhand, has had a very healthy sexual drive and I had a mother who taught me to be sensitive to that drive and take care of his needs. So...well...we have had a good marriage for 32 years.

    The problem now is that we don't fit together in the position that I have most enjoyed. We both have large tummies now. Kinda sad but I, long ago, learned (very grudgingly at first) that my husband liked oral sex and that it was the fastest way to ('get it over with') give him what he needs. We sometimes use two other positions that 'work' for him but are too much work for me so I only suggest them when the mood seems appropriate for a little more time and interest on my part.

    What brought me to this site is that I am starting to resent his advances a little more. Not that I don't want to give him pleasure anymore but that he does so little to actually 'earn' it. He has always gone for my breasts as an 'invitation' to give him some sexual attention. Since I prefer sleep over sex, grabbing at my breasts is a rude awakening and definately does not awaken any sexual desire.
    I think I know what might help him to arouse me in a more romatic way but how can I tell this man (that I love so much) that he just doesn't turn me on!
    Here is what I wish he could learn from someone or somewhere else. If I am asleep (or if he thinks I am ...lots of times I am pretending hoping he will arouse me awake)...I would love a good back massage. Some kisses on the back of my neck, some full body hugs (that don't include his hand on any part of my sexual annatomy)some physical contact that says "I love you" before it says "I need sex". In fact I wouldn't mind hearing the words "I love you" that can be very inviting.
    How can I help him to 'learn' this stuff without me having to teach him. Most of the information I have found is for help with sex itself ... I am not interested in sexual pleasure...I just want a little physical love and attention before I give him the "sex" he needs. (He is 56)

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  15. Thank you for the comment above. I see it as very important, so I copied it to a new post, titled "Woman tolerates husband's sexual advances, how to tell him what she wants?" (August 5, 2007, http://betterthanieverexpected.blogspot.com/2007/08/woman-tolerates-husbands-sexual.html) Please read that post and let's keep the discussion going.

    -- Joan

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  16. I am 52 yrs. old. Had my last period in March and I have already noticed a difference in reaching orgasms. It takes longer. The desire and the motivation is still strong. I don't know if this is the loss of estrogen. So far the only think that ever diminished my sex drive was unexpressed anger. I took HRT from age 45 to 52 and I must say that my sex drive is more than most my girlfriends. They are very honest about their lack of motivation. Yes, I do think menopause is the reason for many women. I joke it is because I am Italian.

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  17. Joan I like your profile more than the controversy one can see somethings in blogs. Sex, love, and affectionate and more it.

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  18. It is a fact that the hormone drop of peri menopause can affect female libido.
    I think it is a disgrace that female hypogonadism isn't treated with respect by the medical profession and society.
    Women are expected to tolerate nature's castration without protest and any woman daring to use hormones gets finger wagging disapproval from society in general.
    Men with testicular failure are routinely treated with testosterone therapy.
    If HRT causes cancer then can someone please explain why so many non users get cancer.
    I'm 48 using bio identical hormones and I have no intention of tolerating the effects on an untreated menopause just because it is deemed cultually acceptable.

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