Do you have to have sex to be sexually satisfied? Apparently not... if you’re a woman over 40.
Sixty percent of the women who responded to a survey reported in the January issue of the American Journal of Medicine said that they are satisfied with their sex lives—regardless of their level of current sexual activity, their level of sexual desire, or their partner status.
In a survey of more than 800 California women, ages 40-99, researchers found that 50 percent were sexually active, despite low or no sexual desire. The youngest and the oldest women had the highest levels of sexual satisfaction, although recent sexual activity decreased with age with 83% of the women under 55 and 13% of those over 80 years reporting sexual activity in the past 4 weeks.
Not only were the oldest women the most satisfied, those who were recently sexually active experienced orgasm satisfaction rates similar to the youngest participants.
“In this study, sexual activity was not always necessary for sexual satisfaction. Those who were not sexually active may have achieved sexual satisfaction through touching, caressing, or other intimacies developed over the course of a long relationship,” says first author Susan Trompeter, MD, of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
“Emotional and physical closeness to the partner may be more important than experiencing orgasm,” Trompeter concludes.
In fact, in this study, nearly 80 percent of the sexually active women were living with a spouse or partner, and 78 percent of them reported that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the emotional closeness they felt with their partners during sex.
Looking at all respondents, 64% said they were moderately or very satisfied with the sexual relationships they had with their partners. Interestingly enough, the youngest women—those who were having the most sex—were less likely to say that they were very satisfied with their sexual relationships with their partners. (A case of quantity vs quality?)
Historically, research studies have used measures of male sexuality—frequency of intercourse, orgasm, and physical functioning (or not)—to judge women’s experiences. Prior studies of female sexuality often focused on sexual dysfunction—usually pointing to low libido and/or lack of arousal, lubrication and orgasm as signs of female sexual dysfunction. Approximately two-thirds of the sexually active women in this study reported no problems with arousal, lubrication, or orgasm.
“A more positive approach to female sexual health focusing on sexual satisfaction may be more beneficial to women than a focus limited to female sexual activity or dysfunction,” Trompeter says.