Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Over The Hill?

There are many myths and misconceptions in the area of sexuality, but one of the most persistent is that menopause marks the end of a woman's sexual interest and desirability. Since the average age of menopause is fifty-one, it is around that age that she sees herself and fears that she is seen as "over the hill," sexually speaking.This misconception has been reinforced by our current society's message that sex is only for the young and beautiful, and young is being defined as younger and younger, and beautiful is being defined as more and more beautiful (and thinner and thinner). There is a frantic pursuit on the part of many women and men, too, for maintaining and recapturing youth and beauty.Anti-wrinkle creams, and who hasn't used them, fill shelves even in supermarkets. The newest is the promise of a stem cell product that will keep skin eternally young. There is a staggering increase in the demand for plastic surgery for every part of the body (the most recent in popularity is the reconstruction of the belly button).It is not only women who beat a path to the surgeon's operating table, but men too want to restore their youthful look and even improve on the original model. A popular procedure is "enhancing" and lengthening their penis, thus reinforcing another myth that "bigger is better."Although some motive for pushing back the clock to achieve a more youthful look may be that youth and beauty are valued in the workplace as well, much of the motivation seems to be to preserve and enhance a sexual image.Yet, there is no solid evidence that sexual interest and activity ceases and declines markedly as women and men reach fifty and beyond. As a matter of fact, evidence points to the contrary.In the 1950's, Alfred Kinsey, in his groundbreaking book, The Sexual Behavior of the Human Female, was the first to publish a survey of sexuality in older women. The findings revealed that women retain sexual capacity and sexual interest The most most recent study reported in The New York Times a short time ago found that most Americans remain sexually active into their early sixties, and nearly half continue to have sex into their early seventies.Of course, sexual interest and activity during the menopausal period and beyond is extremely variable, depending on many psychological and physiological factors, even on whether there is an available partner. There was a time at the beginning of the Twentieth Century when women died at an average age of forty-eight and did not even live long enough to experience menopause. It is not long since menopause was a word never mentioned until the feminist movement brought it out of the closet. With the Boomers now reaching fifty in large numbers, maybe they won't need to feel over the hill, but rather will climb mountains to a new definition of sex and beauty.

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