Written by Lisa Etherson


Why I’m writing a book about sex over 50

Sex therapist Lisa Etherson swore off shagging in her 40s. When she was 20. Now 44, she’s somewhat changed her tune and is looking forward to many more decades of good, sexy times.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

I can remember telling my mother there was no way I was having sex after I reached 40. My 20-year-old self was convinced that my sex life would be over, as was everyone else’s who hit that ripe old age.

I’m sure my mother was secretly amused by this announcement as she was 44, recently married and quite obviously at it like a rabbit.

I know that my 20-year-old thinking was not unusual, and why should it have been? Sex sells and what I saw, and still see, is that young, body-beautiful men and women are favoured by advertising companies over those in their older years; and yet we know that baby boomers are currently the largest consumers.

How often do we see a sex scene involving people who are getting on a bit on TV or in a film? And if it is there, it’s to be made fun of (think Meet the Fockers or Dirty Grandpa). Was it any wonder I would make this ludicrous assumption?

We need to change how we talk about and portray sex over 50. I still feel it’s taboo, and although a small few would argue there has been a recent shift, I would say it’s still not enough. I’m 44 and my husband is 54, so I’m having ‘senior sex’ by default and I want to be able to talk about it. I want to be able to celebrate it as I did in my 20s and 30s.

When I see couples in my sex therapy practice who are older in years, one of their biggest complaints is that sex isn’t like it used to be, and they truly believe it should be. Some of us have unrealistic expectations of what our sex lives should be like, and I believe it’s because we are simply not talking enough about what it’s like when we get beyond 40.

Sex as we grow older will not be the same, but this doesn’t mean it can’t be as good, or indeed better. In 2016, a brilliant piece of research was carried out by Manchester University, considering the sex lives of older people. What made this research unique is that it was the first-time people over 80 had been included in anything like this.

While the researchers are to be applauded, the question must be why has this only happened now? Did people think that 70 was the limit for sexual experience? Just because we don’t have the bodies of our youth, doesn’t mean we lose interest in intimacy and connection. To suggest such a thing is to suggest we become less human, or that we don’t have the same human needs as we age.

“It’s not so unusual to become single in our 60s or 70s, or beyond. We can take up new lovers easily, and we should be able to have as much or as little sex as we want.”

We know from research that most health professionals tend to ignore the sexual needs of their over-50 patients, and I want this to change.

Are women being informed that the vagina is a muscle that needs to be exercised? Use it or lose it, as they say. Or the more we stimulate our clitoris, the more we ensure our nerve endings remain engaged? Are health professionals talking to women about solo sex? About using a dildo with lots of lube to help us ward off vaginal atrophy and ensure we can have penetrative sex, if we so wish?

The world is changing for women. It’s not so unusual to become single in our 60s or 70s (or beyond). We can take up new lovers easily, and we should be able to have as much or as little sex as we want.

I want to open up the dialogue and get this conversation started, so I’m writing a book; and in order to make my book the best it can be, I need your help.

I would love to know what your thoughts and experiences are on sex over 50, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. What have the complications and frustrations been and what are the things to be celebrated? Even if you are nowhere near 50, or are not currently having sex, it would still be great to know what your views are.

All responses will be treated as confidential but quotes may be used in the book anonymously. If you feel you would like to share your experience with me, please contact [email protected].


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Written by Lisa Etherson

Lisa is a Geordie sex therapist and soon to be author. She has at least five books floating around in her imagination but has opted to start with Sex Over 50 as she is currently hurtling towards that age and wants to know what the hell to do.