Do women peak sexually at an older age than men? I have discovered that it depends what one means by peak. Generally speaking, sexually peaking for women is defined by satisfaction as opposed to libido. For men, sexually peaking is defined by libido as opposed to satisfaction. If one defined sexually peaking purely by libido, then men and women would both be peaking in their twenties. “Testosterone levels decline with age across the reproductive years; by the time women reach their late 40’s, their blood testosterone levels are approximately half what they were in their 20’s.” Davis, S (2012) This means that the real drop in desire that many women feel in their 40’s, may be primarily due to hormonal shifts. There are certainly other things that make ones desire drop: stress, fatigue, work, relationship or financial problems, children, etc. However, a very real cause can also be a drop in testosterone. Testosterone is the hormone that drives libido. For most women as they age their testosterone is dropping; if they are not experiencing other stressors and are in good sexual patterns, their desire may remain intact and their satisfaction with the sex they are having might grow. Of course, satisfaction is a much more complex thing to gauge. And generally what makes sex better as we age is wisdom, comfort with one’s self and body, possibly comfort with one’s partner and possibly feeling more confident about what to do sexually. All these aspects really improve one’s sexual self either alone or with a partner. So though the hormones drop, these other factors hopefully improve.
The same is actually true for men. “As men age, serum testosterone declines gradually after age 40 between 0.4 and 2.6 % per year. This decline has been associated with parallel age declines in bone mass, muscle mass/strength, physical function/frailty, and sexual function.” (Araujo, A. et al, 2007) Men are often aware of this drop in testosterone in terms of fatigue, moodiness, feeling achy and less strong, and possibly having weaker erections. They frequently are not as aware that they are losing the intensity of the desire they once had. But in reality, they may be experiencing it too. As testosterone drops in men, desire may drop in them as well.
I think it might help everyone if these facts about testosterone were more widely known. Women tend to feel bad about themselves if they do not have a high libido in their 40’s because they had the idea that they should. In fact, we most often see low desire in women in their late 30’s and early 40’s. Men might also feel a bit of relief in understanding why the changes in their bodies are taking place.
Both genders may feel a bit of a drop in the intensity of their desire, however, men and women cope with this differently. Everyone, male and female, make and use testosterone differently. Both men and women make and need high levels to feel their desire is adequate. Some can manage with very little and have satisfying sex lives. The truth is that the research is still inconclusive as to what levels men and women need to be “normal.” In terms of sexual desire, women always ask me what is normal. I say there is no normal. What each person needs to figure out is if they are having the amount and quality of sex that they want individually and in their relationship.
Some individuals want to have sex every day and some are happy with once a week, once a month or never. On average we strive to help couples have sexual activity 1-2x a week. An imbalance in desire between you and your partner can certainly cause difficulties and there are many ways to find solutions to that issue. What I want to be clear about is that nothing is wrong with a woman if they don’t feel they are peaking sexually in their 40’s. We help women and men understand why their desire might be faltering and what they can do to make it better.