No, menopause does not mean the end of sex life

A new stage in a woman's life, menopause does not spell the end of sexuality. Approaching it differently, this period can prove to be an opportunity to reinvent oneself sexually, much more freely.

On June 6, director Olympe de G., former X performer and committed pornographer, unveiled her first porn-erotic feature film, broadcast on Canal +. One last time showcases the sexuality of Salomé, 69, embodied by the legend of erotic cinema Brigitte Lahaie, who wants to organize the last time she will make love before disappearing. A daring, inclusive and anti-ageist project that lifts the veil on the taboo surrounding the senior sexuality. According to the Oui Care Survey carried out in September 2020, many over 60s have an active and uninhibited sex life: 72% of them say they are sexually fulfilled. But then who decreed that the sexiest part of our lives was over after a certain age?

On the occasion of our dossier devoted to menopause, in partnership with Liza Azuelos, director and author of Life in dare, on the empty nest syndrome, we wanted to know why the sexuality of postmenopausal women was so taboo.

Mature women, desexualized

Mature women are absent from sexual discourse, as if past the fifties, we found ourselves in an interstellar void. Invisible and deexualized, women over 50 nevertheless represent more than 41% of the female population in 2020 *. "Do we have the right to assign 14 million women to sexual retirement? "Psychoanalyst Catherine Grangeard rightly questions in her essay There is no age to cum, published in October 2020 (Editions Larousse). Even more taboo than the rules, menopause frightens both women and men and is often synonymous with shame. "Menopause is not seen as a stage in women's lives like puberty with periods, it's not something that 'opens' but, on the contrary, will close," the author analyzes. She adds: “The taboo of menopause remains one of ageism, of not being proud of aging. The anti-aging rules our society ". Sex scenes on TV or in the movies depict characters with often thin and, above all, young bodies. “There is a very ingrained idea which is that sexuality = reproduction. So would people only have sex for the purpose of procreating? Confusing reproduction and sexual attraction is completely absurd, ”says the specialist. Because while menopause is the death knell for fertility, it does not mean an end to a fulfilling sex life full of pleasure.

The taboo of menopause remains that of ageism. Anti-aging rules our society.

What if that was ultimately the crux of the matter? For Catherine Grangeard, the question of male domination arises. If menopausal women are scary, it's because they are no longer submissive to their bodies. “There is something even more hidden in the psyche which is the differentiation between men and women. Women who can no longer procreate and can have sex as many times as they want without risking fertilization, they are like a man! They become unmanageable, uncontrollable, and of that, men have always been very, very afraid ”.

A new adolescence?

The milestone of menopause in a woman’s life is often the time when children are becoming independent. The empty nest syndrome may affect her if her only investments were her children. “You don't have to wait for this separation to think about yourself and your desires,” says Lisa Azuelos, who also addresses this feeling of lack and this heartbreak in her film My baby. Despite everything, this period of transition can also be an opportunity to reinvent yourself and offer a springboard to a new start. "Who are we, what is the point of no longer being someone's wife or mother? "Asks the director. When the nest empties, it is also a moment of truth for the couple. It is not uncommon for sexual difficulties to worsen if the situation was already tense, and sex less present. In ten years, the number of divorces of people in their sixties and over has increased by 75% (Ministry of Justice, 2016). “It’s very difficult for a couple to desire each other when they’ve been sharing the same bed for 25 years. At the beginning, there are all these games of seduction … ”admits Lisa Azuelos. This transition can precipitate separation, and sometimes encourage a new romantic encounter.

Some women even surprise themselves to find the passion and the first love feelings with a new partner. A bit like teenage girls. Within the couple too, menopause and the departure of the children sometimes cause a second honeymoon. "I have a lot of friends for whom it's a new honeymoon, precisely because the children are no longer there, because they are rid of what I call the“ management ”side of life (is there anything to eat, where are we going on vacation…). I didn't understand why all of a sudden I started to breathe, but it's actually because my children started to work! »Confides the director. Who adds, “There are a lot of last times in that moment and it's true that often what's exciting about sex is the first time. How do we ensure that sexuality is not arousing only through the unknown? ". This is the question posed by G.'s Olympe feature film: "Isn't every end also a beginning?" ".

The age when you feel sexually free

For psychologist Catherine Grangeard, a more positive discourse on menopause would help women enjoy the freedom (sexual, but not only) that this period can offer. "Everything is done so that we have introjected deep within ourselves that it is a disaster, that we are less of a woman," she regrets. We live with the received idea that menopause is horrible to go through, between hot flashes, vaginal dryness, low libido … "Menopause is frightfully too often presented from the angle of symptoms, ailments", emphasizes the psychoanalyst. Menopause is not an illness. Of course these unpleasant side effects exist, but they are not systematic. "I know a lot of women who don't have the slightest symptoms of menopause," she continues. "This is another stage in your life." Because this period can be a rediscovered freedom, a sex life that reinvents itself … "There is plenty to discover on sexuality, tantrism, Taoism, mindfulness, meditation (which does not boil down to staying sitting cross-legged)… Feeding desire involves creation ”recalls Lisa Azuelos. "Yes it slips less, the man is less erectile, it is much less the party of the panties at home than expected. There's a whole new sexuality to be put in place, ”she says. How to make love together, and reclaim this new body?

I'm starting to be a lot freer to be fully me, sexually speaking

Sexual stimuli may be less powerful and the body a little slower. So what ? The era is slow sex to discover new sensations, new areas of pleasure and increase the excitement crescendo. It is also an opportunity to break away from the imperative of performance and orgasm. Take the time for caresses and massages, to make love without penetration. At 50, Stéphanie finally says she is at peace with her body and her sex. “I'm starting to be much more free to be fully myself, sexually speaking,” she tells us. “I am learning to refine my feelings by working with the yoni egg, by self-massage, by intuitive dance. And suddenly I'm more able to define what I like and want. In my relationship I can communicate very freely, laugh, dance and cry and be welcomed in these different emotional states. I understood that sexuality is not limited to the penetration and enjoyment of the man. That sexuality is a state, feelings and very broad sensations that it can start and stop when it feels right to me without having to report to anyone. That I can verbalize what I like to be done and what I don't like. That I can change my mind to say yes …. then no … then maybe and that everything is ok ”. However, the way to live your menopause serenely does not appear without obstacles. "I'm like everyone else, I also have my blues, my pains, my mood swings, my changing body, my wrinkles … but I decided to live them differently", admits Stéphanie . And to conclude: "It is a question of looking at our body and its seasons".

* Source: Insee, population estimates (provisional data stopped at the end of 2019).

For further :
There is no age to enjoy, Catherine Grangeard, Larousse editions
Is it me or is it hot? Menopause without taboos, Caroline Michel, I have read editions
The factory of menopause, Cécile Chartap, Cnrs editions

See also: Study shows women's desire is not dead after 40

Video by Sarah polak