I’m a 40+ woman and, as I mentioned at the outset, I don’t feel the same. I turned 40 last summer. Perhaps it’s just a common side effect of reaching one of these round numbers, but I’ve been reflecting on how much I’ve changed since a decade ago. In particular, I’m feeling the pressure to restrict my sexuality due to being older.
On Being Rational & Sensible
Before I go into the reasons why I’m feeling this type of pressure, I want to say that I know; I shouldn’t. There is no need to feel less sexual, less confident or less liberated in any part of my life, including kink and sex, just because of age. It’s only a number anyway, right? I can rationalise and think sensibly and tell myself straight and be reasonable about it – I’m a 40-year-old woman after all. In case I hadn’t mentioned that.
Being rational and sensible doesn’t seem to help. The feeling is still there, lurking in the background. A dark mass with a just as dark a voice, in the back of my consciousness, telling me sternly, “You shouldn’t.” “Be sensible”. “Who do you think you are?” “What do you think you are?” “Stop being so silly.”
And so I’ve been sensible. I’ve curtailed my wantonness and I’ve clipped my own wings. I’ve been the responsible mother, the attentive partner, the conscientious worker, practical, down-to-earth. No longer shouted from the rooftops, my kink, my sexuality is whispered echoes of what feels like the distant past. My sex life is purely the type of sex familiar to those of us who are parents, restricted to the bedroom, when we’re both exhausted from the stresses of everyday life, a reassuring connection in the dark, maintaining that bond. Screaming orgasms, sex elsewhere, sex outside, bondage and punishment and filthy taboo played out in the shower, on fluidproof sheets, in the garden, sex toys and a collar worn in public, being the exhibitionist performers to a voyeur audience… all of this now just fond memories.
Why I Feel This Way
Where does this feeling, this pressure to restrict my sexuality, come from? I believe there are both external and internal elements. I’m certainly not going to blanket-blame obvious targets like ‘the media’ or ‘the patriarchy’ -although they are both constantly there, with their demands and ideals and an already shockingly low amount of respect for women which dwindles with every year and every grey hair and every wrinkle and every fresh bloom of cellulite. They’ve certainly left their mark on my consciousness, which I certainly regret but which also felt inevitable in the society and culture I’ve been living in.
As for the rest of the pressure I’m feeling? It feels like it comes from within myself, although I realise that we’re all a product of our childhoods, of our surrounds, our peers, our particular culture and society and the sum of our life experience. And so I am not trying to lay blame upon anyone or anything here, really I’m not. It’s just the way it is, and the purpose of this outpouring is simply to explore and share how I am feeling and what I plan –or at least hope- to do, going forwards, to remedy what I see as an unwelcome situation and mental state. Perhaps I’m totally alone in feeling the way I do, and I will have just shared all of this with you, my readers, for my own cathartic purposes –but maybe there are other people out there who feel the same, or at least similar, and you will know that you’re not alone.
I realise I haven’t explained exactly how the pressure from within myself to restrict my sexuality manifests. It’s a really difficult thing to describe. There has been a growing sense, and a feeling of expectation from both inside myself and outside, that women of a certain age simply do not act in certain ways. I absolutely swear to you that I have not just stepped off a train from the 1800s, I do not subscribe to any Victorian expectations of women nor do I agree with the historical, sexist views of women’s roles in society. It’s much more insidious than that.
The Way Things Are
They say older is wiser, and with age this has meant, for me, a curtailing of wildness and the arrival of inhibition. For a start, my body is aging. It lets me know on the daily, in performance and appearance, that I’m not 25 any more. But beyond that, there is a notable absence of the reckless abandon of youth. Thoughts of consequences and the heavy weight of responsibilities are ever-present. I am a mother. Along with my partner, we have a home to keep. We have jobs to work hard at, to earn our wages. Living in a small village community we have friends and acquaintances –yes, a reputation to think of. I find myself living quite contentedly in suburbia, another middle-aged mum juggling school runs and a teenager and working from home and cutting down on the booze while I work on banishing my cellulite and improving my core strength.
The ‘current situation’, a phrase which remains optimistic that this situation is only temporary, certainly isn’t helping. I turned 40 in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, so it’s difficult to know whether everything I’m feeling lately is down to the Big Four Oh or because of the spirit-crushing restrictions in place due to COVID-19. Perhaps the way I’m feeling right now is largely due to being unable to be free in the many usual, non-sexual ways. Events large and small to look forward to, meeting up with friends. Maybe once the restrictions are lifted and we go back to living our normal lives, I’ll be suddenly filled with wildness and wantonness once again?
It is important to me to recognise how I’m feeling about my sexuality, to take ownership of this feeling, to be totally aware of it. To share, as best I can, how I’m feeling here, on my blog of 12 years, which remains a sex diary of sorts, although it’s largely something else these days.
My hope is that by identifying my current lack of recklessness and sexual abandon, I’ll be taking the first step towards correcting my mental state and therefore be able to welcome that fiery passion back into my life at some point. I need to heal – as we all do because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated anguish – and prepare to luxuriate in and celebrate my sexuality anew once I’ve worked through my issues.
I will certainly not be surrendering to the feeling that I should be less, sexually or in any other way, now that I’m 40-plus; I’m not resigned to be only a ‘sensible mum’ type with no spark or kink or eroticism. Even if I have to battle against the external and internal pressure for some time yet, I’m determined to conquer it and rediscover the unfettered sexual wildness I so enjoyed in my youth.