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Sex Through the Years: The Fascinating Ways Desire Changes Through a Lifetime

As people change, their sexual interests and desires can change as well, a process that should be embraced, not fought.

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Sometimes an alteration in sexuality even affects how people relate to their community of friends. If you’re the hypersexual party girl who suddenly becomes the reticent homebody, or if you try to talk to your friends about your new forays into BDSM, or if you are suddenly attracted to someone of the same or the opposite sex, your community might feel like they suddenly don’t know you, even though only one aspect of you has changed.

"I definitely have found that the desire to be accepted by a group is a determining factor that shapes people’s behaviors,” Ellis says. “This is true for so many areas -- not just sexuality. Think about all the factors that go into the simple act of choosing what outfit you’ll put on in the morning!” He’s got a point. Even getting dressed involves all kinds of choices about how we want to present ourselves to the world -- what we want them to see.

If a gay man suddenly finds himself attracted to or dating a member of the opposite sex “members of the gay community might feel betrayed if a comrade suddenly passes as straight and is able to take advantage of all the privileges that come with being heterosexual,” Thomas Ellis says. Or, friends who learn that you're exploring BDSM “become unnecessarily concerned for a friend’s safety and wellbeing, based on false information and negative stereotypes that are often sensationalized by the popular media.” 

Ellis says he wants people to feel empowered to make the choices that are right for them, but also to understand that their friends, family and community impact their choices and that their choices may be met with disapproval, should they choose to share their new sexual nature. Ellis might have a patient come to him, he says, who has gotten into BDSM and feels guilty about it and then realizes, through therapy, that it’s other people’s disapproval that has them feeling weird -- they themselves are fine with it.

Conversely if a person finds that a change in her sexuality is going to alienate her from friends or family she can choose not to act on that change (say, losing her virginity or leaving a marriage) in order to keep that family/community relationships intact. In our autonomous Western culture that might sound disempowering but for clients who come from cultures where family and community loyalty come before personal desires, the client needs someone to talk to who will take those cultural differences into account.

There’s also the question of “How important is this to share with your friends and family?” Ellis says. “If it’s important for you to be authentic with your friends and family let’s think through the consequences,” and consider whether everyone needs to know everything. Does grandma  have to know you’re digging BDSM these days? Maybe not.

How to Effect Cultural Change around Sex

As for helping our culture evolve sexually to open up to all these issues a bit more, Jaiya feels it’s as simple as talking to each other...without judgment.

“We have to stop demonizing sex and making sex dangerous. For me it’s really about the conversation and it’s about people saying 'This is what I do,' and 'What do you think of that?' because everyone is wondering if it’s normal and everyone thinks they’re so alone," she says. "Once people know 'Oh, Sally, hasn’t had sex with her husband for two years and I haven’t had sex with my husband for two years,' then suddenly we’re not alone."

We go from confused to connected, from embarrassed to embraced. Backing off the pointless criticisms (“Slut” anyone?) allows people to talk, which makes us all more comfortable, wiser and ultimately healthier.

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