Should You Discuss Your Sex Life With Friends?
The answer may surprise you.
Who can forget Miranda, Carrie, Charlotte and Samantha eating brunch while sharing intimate details of their sex lives? From sex positions to smelly semen, no topic was off-limits or too taboo for this fierce foursome to discuss with each other.
Many women can remember having these types of conversations with their girlfriends when they were younger.
New Jersey-based therapist Beth Sonnenberg says, “Women in their 20s and 30s speak openly about their sex lives with their girlfriends, mostly about the type of sex they are having. It’s common to share intimate details such as where they are having sex, how many times a day, oral sex, or different positions they have tried.”
As women approach our 40s, 50s and 60s, discussions about sex may take on a different tone.
“Sex talk between older women usually tends to focus more on their insecurities related to sex,” Sonnenberg says. “They may feel less attractive, or they may be concerned about sexual frequency or a lack of desire.” And, that's assuming that these conversations continue at all. It’s not uncommon for women to stop talking about sex entirely as they get older. They may succumb to the misguided belief that desire or need for a healthy sex life diminishes with age.
As Stephanie Faubion, M.D., medical director for The North American Menopause Society points out, “People remain sexual into their 80s and beyond until they die.” Middle age can be a time of sexual renewal with children out of the house, birth control becoming obsolete, and more time to focus on a spouse, finding a new partner or self-gratification. Jennifer Silvershein, founder and psychotherapist at Manhattan Wellness, explains that women may put sex into a box thinking that because it's no longer the same as when we were younger, it's no longer essential or appropriate to desire.
“If we can get comfortable with seeing things as more fluid, we can give ourselves the freedom to debunk these myths,” Silvershein says. Women may become guarded or even lie about their sex lives as they age to avoid judgment from their peers. They may also feel protective of their relationship. After all, it’s one thing to discuss the sex occurring in a consensual booty call or with a new boyfriend, but in later life, sex partners tend to also be our spouses, significant others and/or the coparents of our children. It may feel wrong to break the inherent trust of these relationships by divulging secrets such as impotence issues or unsatisfying sex, even to close friends.
By not talking about sex, women may do themselves a disservice. Open, honest conversations with friends can enhance a woman’s sex life. Sonnenberg says, “Talking about sex honestly with friends can destigmatize things such as masturbation, going after what you want sexually, watching porn — all of which can all be a part of a healthy, satisfying sex life at any age.”
For example, Faubion remembers a situation where she had several new patients in a row, all from the same book group. “The conversation somehow strayed from the book plot to their sex lives,” she says. “A woman in the group confided that she was experiencing pain during sex and others in the room nodded in agreement. One of the members of the group was a patient of mine and she told them, ‘Sex shouldn't hurt. You should go to my doctor.’ And they took her advice. By sharing their issues, the women were able to improve their sex lives.”
So how do you start talking about S-E-X with friends? “Speaking open sexually with friends takes a large comfort level and the willingness to be vulnerable,” says Silvershein. Pick the right setting (not in line at the grocery store) and the right people (close friends who are trustworthy and nonjudgmental) for an intimate conversation. A little wine may help to get the conversation flowing.
From there, start with your own honest disclosure. Hopefully, this will make others feel safe to reciprocate and share their thoughts. “I believe that similar to our sex life, discussing sex is a use-it-or-lose-it policy,” says Silvershein. “If we can continue the conversation with our friends through the ages, women can realize their preferences, bodies and experiences are common and not shameful.”