by Good Clean Love Staff February 10, 2016
I was out recently with a friend, and we started talking about sex. She told me about how, in her current relationship, she wants sex more often than her boyfriend does. We laughed about how this never would have happened when we were in our twenties. “We’re in our sexual prime now,” she said, and we laughed again.
I’ve heard this a lot: that a woman’s “sexual prime” — or sometimes the term is “sexual peak” — happens during her thirties. That night when my friend and I were talking, the idea was so familiar to me, I didn’t think to question it. But really, what does it mean? When I imagine my sexual life as a line that rises as I approach my third decade, briefly pauses at its highest point, then turns downward into a decline, I think of the grossly simple graphs we were encouraged to plot in third grade math class.
Mountain climbers, if they are lucky, reach peaks; I’m not sure we gain anything by putting sexuality on a similar trajectory as alpinists. Yet I do happen to find sex more satisfying now than ever — is it because I’m in my sexual prime, at my sexual peak? What does that even mean? Does it mean that I’m standing at the top of my sexual mountain, more fertile now than I ever will be? Or that I’ve supposedly had years of sexual experience by now, and have refined my tactics so that they’re certain to lead me to pleasure each time? Does it have something to do with that mysterious force, “the female libido”? Does it mean that my clitoris is more sensitive than it ever has been, or ever will be again? Or…my “g-spot”?
Also, there can be different kinds of peaks — a woman may have more sex in her late teens and early twenties than she does in her thirties, but enjoy sex much more during her late thirties and early forties. Or she might have a child and experience sex so differently after, it doesn’t make sense to evaluate it by the same criteria as before. And so on. The more I break down the idea of a “sexual peak” or “prime,” the less sense it makes to me.
Looking around online for help, I found that while nobody seems to know just where the idea of a woman’s sexual prime comes from, everyone seems to know it. According to this article, the idea comes from Kinsey’s 1953 work Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. However, reading the page cited here as responsible for the notion of “peak performance,” I find what Kinsey is actually describing to be more complex. He says that while women tend to have sex less frequently as they get older, “these declines … do not provide any evidence that the female ages in her sexual capacities.” In fact, according to Kinsey, women masturbate and have fantasies more and more until they’re about 55 or 60 (menopause). Kinsey claims that women having less sex — interestingly, he distinguishes between “pre-marital” and “marital” sex — as they age is due mostly to men’s waning sexual desires, since (Kinsey claims) men’s sexual desire tends to control whether or not sex happens.
Kinsey’s research found that the highest incidence of orgasm for married women was between ages 31 and 40, when 90% of the women in his sample were reaching orgasm at least some of the time; after 41, the number reaching orgasm began to decline. (And only 71% of 16 to 20 year-old married women reached orgasm). Maybe the idea of a “sexual peak” derives from this data?
That we tend to embrace ideas like “sexual peak” and “sexual prime” owes a lot to our culture right now — we love the promise of reaching pinnacles, performance peaks, and we also love the challenge of “getting back” our youth and all its charms, of achieving the impossible. Certainly, having a lot of sex hasn’t always been culturally sanctioned. Kinsey quotes early medical books warning of the ailments women and men will suffer if they have sex too frequently. According to an early Italian text, women who have sex too often will suffer from “a loss of mental grip, backache, lassitude, giddiness, dimness of sight, noises in the ears, numbness of fingers, loss of memory, and paralysis.” Another early text advises men “no man of average health … can exceed the bounds of once a week without … danger of having entered upon a life of excess both for himself and for his wife.”
In any case, there’s a plethora of articles online attempting to debunk the notion of a sexual peak. This one discusses the complexity of a woman’s libido. According to this one, people tend to say that the sex they’re having right now is the best sex of their lives, even though they might not be having the most sex they’ve ever had. That makes sense to me — in my early twenties I rarely had an orgasm during sex, but I still found sex thrilling (the new sensations were interesting, and masturbation was better when I could re-play what had happened). Now, I rarely have sex without having an orgasm, and that’s thrilling, too.
by Kaylee Dye October 11, 2018
by Meghan Morgavan September 27, 2018
When our friends at Dame recently appeared on “Megyn Kelly TODAY” to talk about the pleasure gap, we knew the term had officially gone mainstream. And for good reason. The statistics on how often women reach orgasm compared to men are striking, especially in heterosexual relationships. And yet, to many women this news isn't all that surprising. Why is that? And what can we do to elevate and validate women's pleasure?
by Good Clean Love Staff August 23, 2018