The one universal finding in my nine years of research for The Magic of Middle-Aged Women is that women’s sexual satisfaction (though not always their satisfaction with their romantic situations)–is greater in middle age than earlier in life. Because my sample was biased (all single women still pursuing romance and sex; and all willing to talk to me about it) I cannot offer scientific conclusions (though I came to my own).
As your blogger, it is my duty to pursue Truth. In this pursuit I came across a very interesting article: Placebo effect significantly improves women’s sexual satisfaction.
A study at the University of Texas at Austin and Baylor College of Medicine measured the effectiveness of drug treatment for 200 women, aged 35-55, seeking help for feeling low sexual arousal and response. The surprise finding was not about the drug; it was about the placebo. There is often a measurable value to a placebo; thinking a drug will work improves the chances that it will. But in this case, the bump was huge–33%.
The author of the study said, “Expecting to get better and trying to find a solution to a sexual problem by participating in a study seems to make couples feel closer, communicate more and even act differently towards each other during sexual encounters.”
It is reasonable that someone who does research for a living would conclude that the hero was the study itself. It did give many women hope that they would feel more amorous. But the author was also suggesting that knowing they were in the study would inspire their partners to be more communicative and more responsive. But would all, or even most, tell their partners about their participation (“Honey, I don’t feel any desire for you, so I’m going to see if drugs will ignite my interest”)? Would all think the problem lay in themselves, and not in their relationships?
In other words, might the matter be simpler: if many women feel their sexual feelings can be awakened, they will be? I’m wondering about a bigger picture: the sexual benefit of middle age. While I was writing the book, I told a few women in their thirties what I had found. They were deeply skeptical. Then I realized if someone had told me the same while I was in my thirties I would have thought the same: Old people are hotter than I am? Hah! Toddle on, old man!
Perhaps there is no way around this. Just as every generation believe they invented sex, maybe no one will know about middle age until they get there.
All the more reason to broadcast the facts about middle-age sexuality. If women whose sexual feelings are languishing in their 20s and 30s expect better times ahead, that very expectation might be a powerful tonic.