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Weird Meno: Why Am I So Horny in Perimenopause?

Dec 07, 2022

Weird Meno: Why Am I So Horny in Perimenopause?

 At what age did you most feel like a total hornball?

  1. When you were 24 (or whatever age you were when you thought 2-for-1 drink specials and cutting your own bangs were good ideas).
  2. When you were in your 30s, an age pegged as a “woman’s sexual peak” by some recent studies and media.
  3. When you were in perimenopause — aka now

If you picked “C,” you may not be in the majority, but you’re not alone, either. While perimenopause is famous for its libido-dampening qualities, some women feel quite the opposite — they find themselves ready to get down to business with an urgency they may not have felt in years. One small 2018 survey of women ages 45-60 found that some were having sex more often than they were when they were younger, or that the sex they were having was more satisfying.

Of course, one survey and a few anecdotes do not a trend make. “Very few women experience a rise in sex drive during perimenopause,” says Susan Hardwick-Smith, MD, a board-certified gynecologist, founder of Complete Midlife Wellness Center, and author of Sexually Woke. “The great majority experience a decrease.” Of the 1,000-plus women between the ages of 40 and 65 she interviewed for her book, only 7 percent reported an increase in desire; the vast majority reported a libido downturn.

Even if you’re not wildly horny at the moment, there’s good news. Libido at midlife is complex, with a lot of factors in the mix — which means if you’d like to introduce a bit more sex into your life, there are many ways to go about it.

Why do some women get hornier during perimenopause?

If you are one of the lucky/horny, what gives?

According to Hardwick-Smith, when she has seen libido increases among perimenopausal women in her practice, it’s usually due to a new relationship or partner — not surprising, considering that 29 percent of U.S. women ages 50-64 are single, and 25 percent of all divorces involve people over the age of 50.

Comfort with one’s body can play a role, too. “When we do feel more comfortable and confident about our body, we are more likely to want to be seen naked and touched,” says Hardwick-Smith. Becoming more confident in your physical self — whether because you’ve taken up a new exercise routine, started dressing or presenting in a way that feels truer to who you are, or have just hit a greater point of self-acceptance and love — can lead to an increased feeling of sexiness.

Comfort with one’s relationship is also a factor. Resentment, and “all the different ways that we are not speaking our truth or feeling seen in relationships — all those things that lead to lack of connection,” says Hardwick-Smith. So if you’ve recently increased your sense of connection with your partner — by working through long-standing issues, improving communication (sexual or otherwise), or just having more time to spend together on your own because your kids are older — it could result in an increased fire in the loins.

Women also might feel a jump in desire if they’re utilizing hormone replacement therapy. Though estrogen levels drop later on, testosterone levels begin to drop in our 40s, which, Hardwick-Smith notes, can make us “completely lose the desire to have sex, even if we want to.”

Women in perimenopause who use HRT may feel, in addition to other effects, an increase in libido.

Why do some women not feel horny during perimenopause?

If you’re currently not feeling horny, though, there’s probably a good reason. There are hormonal factors; there are also a lot of situational issues. “This particular time of life is incredibly ripe with different types of stressful things,” says Hardwick-Smith. “Maybe we’ve got teenagers leaving home, we’ve got parents that are getting sick and dying. We’ve got jobs that are changing and relationships that are ending, and everything all happens at once.

“And so that doesn’t set things up very well to want to spend an hour being intimate in bed. You just want to go to sleep.”

How can we feel hornier in perimenopause?

If you’re looking to bring more horniness into your life, it probably won’t change spontaneously. But there are steps you can take. You can start by looking at what Hardwick-Smith calls “the big three” factors that can impact libido: body image, relationship resentment, and hormones.

Working with your body image might sound overwhelming, but it could start with something as small as “buying a new dress or getting a new haircut [that] makes you feel sexier,” says Hardwick-Smith. Dealing with relationship resentment could involve seriously committing, along with your partner, to working through your issues, and putting the time and energy into increasing your connection — or admitting that you’d be happier apart. Your gynecologist can help you figure out if hormones are the reason your libido has dropped, and talk you through your options.

It’s just as important to remember that you’re still connected to your sexuality, even if you currently don’t feel very in touch with it. A lot of us have absorbed messages, both from the culture at large and older women in our lives, that there’s a point in time when sex just ends. Many women who are experiencing a lowered libido in perimenopause, in Hardwick-Smith’s experience, think that “‘that part of my life is just over. It’s just hopeless. Never coming back.’… It isn’t true. Our sexual being is always there, it’s never gone. It’s just sometimes not being nurtured as it needs.

“We always say it’s not dead. It’s just taking a nap. And you can wake it up.”

 

By Gabrielle Moss 

Gabrielle Moss is the editor at Stripes. She's the author of Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Slate, GQ, Buzzfeed, Marie Claire and elsewhere.

 

Photo by Ron Lach/ Pexels
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Menopause affects each of us differently, which is why we designed Stripes to be inclusive of all people who experience it. When we make space for each of our unique journeys and needs, we create a collective wisdom that strengthens, empowers, and unites us all.

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Menopause affects each of us differently, which is why we designed Stripes to be inclusive of all people who experience it. When we make space for each of our unique journeys and needs, we create a collective wisdom that strengthens, empowers, and unites us all.