Sex Through the Years: The Fascinating Ways Desire Changes Through a Lifetime
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Your body is full of surprises.
I don’t mean yhe hilarious sounds it makes at inopportune moments or the series of yawns you can’t stifle at staff meetings. There are other little evolutions happening all the time -- the horrible wonder of the first loose tooth; the weird, unbidden hairs that erupt during puberty; and the day you notice one of them has turned gray.
There are other evolutions that go on within us all the time, in our interests, our desires and the company we keep. As kids we love Twinkies; as adults we gravitate toward martinis. We may keep a baseline of certain friends, beliefs and loves, but most things about us evolve.
So why wouldn’t our sexuality evolve as well?
It may have already happened to you in smaller or larger ways: you might become more or less amorous at different times; your desires and interests get more or less varied, athletic or kinky; or you become more or less generous with your sexual favors. Some people, to their surprise, might develop an interest in someone from the same or the opposite sex.
Psychologist Lisa Diamond’s book Sexual Fluidity details the mutable sexuality of women, some of whom find their sexual orientation is not fixed but changes based on a variety of things, including a love of the person, not the parts. If you and your friends have ever discussed experimenting with BDSM, shifting from a player’s mentality to a monogamous one (or vice versa) or any number of variations, you’ve experienced the idea that desires transform.
What we’re talking about here is the natural evolution of our sexual natures, changes that can upend our personal narrative in discomfitting ways. When something as intimate as your sexual identity changes -- going from, “I’m a horny young man” to “I’m an older guy with a low sex drive,” or “I’m a conventional married lady” to “I’m a wild cougar” -- it can knock us for a loop. “What am I turning into?” can be a scary question -- or a thrilling one -- depending on how you deal with change.
Jaiya is a sexual wellness educator and the founder of New World Sex Education. What she calls the Five Stages of Sexuality -- resting, healing, curious, adventurous and transformative -- illuminate how changeable our sex lives are. The people she sees are often not having an easy time with sexual changes, especially men contending with age and erectile dysfunction.
“There’s definitely a resistance and a lack of education,” about sexual changes in our bodies, she says, from postpartum and menopausal changes to loss of virginity or age-related erectile dysfunction. Because sex is still such a taboo topic people often feel like something’s wrong when the only problem is perspective.
“Our definition of sex is so limited. But sex can happen in our mind, not just our bodies. It can be a look, a touch, a kiss, it doesn’t have to be a penis inside a vagina,” Jaiya says.
Thomas Ellis, a San Francisco-based clinical psychologist who specializes in health sexuality, agrees that poor education is a common problem contributing to a lack of understanding of our own sexuality.
“Let's face it,” Ellis writes in an email, “people don’t typically receive thorough sex education other than the basic human reproduction units taught in elementary school and/or high school biology class. If the instructor does branch out beyond reproduction, the information usually focuses on the negative consequences of sex: potential disease and unwanted pregnancy. Much of what people know about sexuality is based on culturally fear-based myths and stereotypes. As such, it’s understandable that many people don’t have the sexual intelligence to understand that desire, functioning, pleasure, and motivation will change and evolve over time.”