Sex sure gets people excited. They fuss and fret about every aspect of this human behavior.
Frequently readers of this column agonize over lack of sexual desire or inability to perform or enjoy the experience. But recently a woman contacted us to complain about a different kind of problem:
“I have been a widow for 10 years and am terribly annoyed by needs I cannot satisfy. Masturbation just increases my sexual desire.
“I am too embarrassed to talk to my doctor about this. I know it sounds ridiculous but I am desperate for something to take away my sexual desires.”
In our response we suggested that she consult a sympathetic physician about a medication that could dampen libido. Antidepressants like Prozac as well as the hormone progesterone may reduce sexual desire. Chaste tree berry extract is an herb traditionally used to lower libido.
We were unprepared for the outpouring of emotion we received in response to this answer. Many widows chastised us:
“When I read your answer, I came very close to bursting into tears or hurling the paper across the room. Would you have given that same advice to a man?
“Let me tell you about myself: I am a 63-year-old female widowed when I was 51. I was born in 1938 and raised by provincial parents who were very restrictive about sex. Coming from that background, I can well understand the feelings of a woman older than 60.
“I managed to overcome my upbringing and in the early 60’s I married the man who was my husband for the next 28 years. We were sublimely happy and sexually well-matched.
“After five years of mourning the loss of my husband and going through the first five years of menopause, during which my libido disappeared totally, I again had strong sexual urges. There are many older women who just need to realize we are human beings with natural urges until we die. We shouldn’t be scolded for relieving those urges the only way we can, by ourselves.”
Other widows wrote that they had similar sexual urges. For one woman, these feelings are a welcome reminder:
“My mate and I were exceptionally sexual during our joyous 47 year marriage. My sexual yearnings are stronger than ever, because I miss him so. I could not consider sex (or romance) with anyone else. I don’t want to lose my sexuality. It’s a validation.”
Another reader has a different approach:
“I was really surprised by your answer to the widow who wanted to dim her sexual desires with medication. Sex is good for you.
“I would have told her to find a sexual partner. Many men do not want the commitment and responsibility of marriage but I’ve never met one who didn’t want sex.
“I am a widow also, age 62, and I have a great man in my life with whom I have sex as often as possible–usually three or four times a week. I can’t imagine a life without passion.”
Our society has a hard time dealing with sexuality in older people. The death of a spouse does not banish sex drive.
We suggest, however, that those who find partners take the same precautions urged upon younger people. Sexually transmitted diseases can strike anyone, so using barrier contraceptives makes sense at any age.