You write and speak about sex in the hopes of educating your audiences. You also counsel midlife women (and men) about sexual issues. What have you found are the most common challenges when it comes to sex for women in midlife?
The biggest challenge I see for women, partnered or single, is adjusting to their aging bodies—menopause, body image, life stressors and their impact on our bodies and our sexual desire. I speak to women who seem to have shut down at some point and they want to figure out a way to enjoy sex again but often don’t know how to begin. How do women find the answers to deeply personal questions? I think that’s one of the biggest challenges given our reluctance to talk about female sexuality in an open and positive way.
On the flip side, are there opportunities related to sex that are unique to women in midlife?
Oh, absolutely. Post-menopause, there is tremendous freedom once we’re past that phase of monthly periods and worries about pregnancy. As women become more confident in themselves, it’s a time when sexual expression can be a lot of fun.
What messages do you seek to share with women in midlife about their sexuality?
I want women to feel they can talk about their sexuality comfortably, without feelings of shame or awkwardness. We’re not given many positive messages about female sexuality or aging and I want to change that.
We can admit that we don’t know how things will change as we age and that’s OK, as long as there are resources designed for this demographic. That’s part of why I wrote my book—to help women explore and embrace their sexuality.
You have just released your new book, Inviting Desire. Tell us more about this book and how it helps women in midlife.
Inviting Desire: A guide for women who want to enhance their sex life was written for those midlife women who want a better sex life, a better understanding of their sexuality. As I say in the intro, it is a book about self-love and self-respect. It is about finding enjoyment in your body—physically and emotionally. Inviting Desire is not about reversing the aging process, dieting, or getting a new makeup regime. No need to ‘reinvent’ yourself or contemplate plastic surgery to become more in touch with your sexuality; you already have the necessary ingredients—a rich map of your abundant life of gifts and talents. We will explore and discover those as we begin this journey together.
This is a time when many women find themselves in a tired, stale relationship, or maybe struggling with menopause and life stress. And many of these women want sex; they want to feel sexual desire but don’t know how to go about figuring it out. So I wrote the book based on my work with women and my own experiences. I use a series of approaches—writings, images, exercises, and other resources—to deepen awareness of the body and senses and teach women how to embrace themselves as sexual individuals.
This is a quote from the book: “To think of yourself as a sexual being is first and foremost a state of mind. At any age and at any point in our lives we can become, we are, sexual beings. We do not need a partner to make us sexual. Learning to awaken your sexual desire is about you as an individual. “
Besides your own writing, what resources do you recommend to women in midlife who wish to become better educated about their sexual wellbeing?
- Middlesex MD is a great resource for women, written by a gynecologist. “We believe that as we age, women, whatever their lifestyle or preferences, have the right to fully enjoy their sexuality.”
- Our Better Half is a podcast hosted by Laura Collins Lyster-Mensch, a writer and public speaker, who decided to learn more about sexuality during midlife. She interviews a wide range of individuals with grace and humor.
- Lauren Streicher is a gynecologist with a focus on female sexuality. She writes a regular column for Everyday Health on women’s health.
- Em and Lo, two women who offer sex advice and curated content about sexuality offer a reasonably mild portrayal of sex in our culture.
- Books: Joan Price, is a speaker and author with a focus on aging sexuality—while her target audience is slightly older, her book, Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex, and blog of the same name, offer information of benefit to women and men of all a
- Healthy Sex Drive, Healthy You : What Your Libido Reveals about Your Life by Diana Hoppe, M.D.
- There is a new The Joy of Sex, by Alex Comfort—always a good standard and enhanced with nice pictures.
Contact Walker Thornton at email@example.com
Walker Thornton is a sex educator, speaker, and sexual health writer. A former executive director of sexual assault crisis centers, in Alabama and Virginia, with many years of nonprofit board experience at the local and state level, Walker now works to educate and support older women with sexuality-related issues.
Walker offers straight-talk about sex, occasionally mixing in personal stories to emphasize her point. Her mission is to help women embrace their sexuality in a way that feels comfortable at each stage of life. Her writing has appeared on the American Sexual Health Association website, Huffington Post, Better After 50, Senior Planet, and other sites. She is the Sexual Health Columnist for Midlife Boulevard and writes about midlife sexuality at Kinkly.com. Walker currently serves on the Sexuality and Aging Consortium of Widener University’s Leadership Committee. She has presented at the Sexuality and Aging Symposium, CatalystCon, and in other venues across the country.