What happens to women’s sexual desire at 40?

All women go through different physical, emotional, and hormonal changes when they reach their midlife. One of the main changes results in a decrease in sexual desire. This is a natural process in both men and women at this age. With the drop in libido, come doubts, boredom, worry and insecurity in the couple.

A study published in the “Journal of Sexual Medicine” points out that after 40 years, there is a decrease in sexual appetite in women. This decline in desire does not happen overnight, about 70% of the women who participated in the study said that they had felt a gradual decline in sexual desire over the years.

In large part, this effect is due to hormonal changes. In other words, the menstrual cycle generates fatigue that accumulates, possible pain due to a drop in lubrication, which in one way or another affects the interest in sex. In addition, hormones such as estrogen and testosterone (also present in women, but in small quantities) decrease, sexual appetite is affected. Other more psychological factors such as couple routines, daily activities, combined with a stressful work routine, negatively affect sexual appetite in midlife.

Recovering sexual desire in women over 40

Psychology professor Barry McCarthy of American University (Washington), proposes a new therapeutic approach in the journal “Sexual and Relation Therapy”. With two simple ideas:

– 1: consider the situation as a couple’s problem and not just that of the partner.

– 2: opt for GES, “Good Enough Sex”, in other words a more human sexuality, of high relational quality.

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It is a sexuality inspired by the desire/pleasure/eroticism/satisfaction mantra. The GES accepts variations in desire and pleasure as an inevitable component of a couple’s sexuality. Contrary to what we see in the movies, the rule of three thirds roughly applies in couples in sexual harmony: 1/3 very satisfying sexual intercourse for both, 1/3 more satisfying intercourse for the one than for the other, 1/3 of the reports unsatisfactory for both.

This does not prevent the pleasure of connecting and sharing intimate moments. It is not a question of looking for the maximum of intimacy at all costs because the desire is also nourished by a certain distance (autonomy of the partners) but of reaching a sufficient level not to have the impression of being judged by the other. On the contrary, we must feel confident, secure, and be able to express our desires (or not!) without fear, shame or guilt. Also free to be creative and experiment. As such, “failing” in a new erotic experience is rather a sign of the couple’s vitality. Those who no longer take “risks” slip insidiously into the sexual routine.

Sexuality is a “team sport”, so the couple’s challenge is to develop a sexual style that nourishes a solid and resilient desire. In other words, find sexual scenarios and practices that satisfy both partners. Sexual desire is surprisingly easy to subvert and destroy”, everyone must show sincerity and goodwill.

Read also:

What changes in the sex life of men from the age of 40


Sheryl A. Kingsberg, Female Sexual Dysfunction—Medical and Psychological Treatments, Committee 14. Journal of Sexual Medicine

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Ashley Macleod, How Well Do Measurement Scales Reflect the Actual Experience of Sexuality in Mid-Life and Beyond? Journal of Sexual Medicine

Barry McCarthy: A psychobiosocial model for assessment, treatment, and relapse prevention for female sexual interest/arousal disorder. Sexual and Relationship Therapy Journal.


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