Do We Define Ourselves By Our Sexuality?
Are we sexual beings all our life? Some people have a narrow definition of sexuality, defining it in the physical sense—as an act between two people. For me it encompasses not only the sexual act but what the Oxford Dictionary calls, “a capacity for sexual feelings.” Sensuality, defined by the Oxford Dictionary as the “enjoyment, expression, or pursuit of physical, especially sexual pleasure,” is a major component of our sexuality.
Sensuality is all about the senses. Through the senses we expand and deepen our capacity for connection, as I’ve talked about in this article, Exploring Touch. We open up to the sights, smells, touches and sounds that bring us pleasure. Living a sensual life helps enhance sexual awareness, enriching our sexual interactions.
Just as there are no rigid definitions for these two words, there are no limits to the way we define our sexuality in midlife. But, is our level of sexual activity a valid criterion for self-definition? Do menopausal women need to reassure themselves and the world of their vitality and youthfulness by claiming an active sex life? Isn’t that what Suzanne Somers was doing when she spoke on The View about having sex twice a day? Of course she attributed that to hormones—probably causing the pharmaceutical companies to jump up and down in excitement.
There is a diversity of opinion on how we define our sexuality. Some would have sexuality removed from the equation completely. Others view themselves as sexual, proclaiming that to all who will listen. And there is the quiet majority.
I define myself as many things: writer, cook, listener, public speaker, nonprofit board member, mother, grandmother, rabble-rouser, lover… Does the sexy me take precedence over the other? I just ended a relationship—there is no (partner) sex in the picture for my immediate future. Does that render me an inadequate role model as a sex expert? Am I now incomplete as a woman?Does the loss of desire, or the absence of sex, for some women make them less whole?
The level of your sexual desire is yours alone, not to be compared to others. Each of us is different. I have been actively exploring and expanding my sense of self as a sexual being over the last ten years. A little late to that game but it has been the ideal time and place for me to explore my sexuality as a midlife woman. Some of you had wonderful and varied sexual experiences as younger women. Some of you never cared all that much for sex. Some of you have given it up—frustrated, in a loveless marriage, low libido, shut down by illness. All are acceptable—as long as you are content with the sex life you’ve chosen.
When I nudge or dangle sexy tidbits in front of you the intention is to inform, share and educate. I think having great sex is a wonderful addition to a well-lived life. It’s a delight to be engaged in something that makes us feel good. Plus, there are health-related benefits to remaining sexually active. And, I understand that you might not feel that way. But, my job as a Sex Expert is to give you the tools to explore, if and when you become interested.
With that goal in mind, I designed the Essentials of a Sexy Life Shop —a place where you can read about sex toys, accessories and books (with more to come), then shop directly from websites I’ve linked to. I am bringing all these yummy items together as a way of supporting and encouraging women who want to lead a sexy life.
What I ask of you is to be open to the possibility of a different way of viewing your sexuality. If you’re reading The Sex Expert column regularly then you’re already seeking and exploring. Keep reading. Keep being open to the delights of the mind, and the flesh.
Next week: A reader’s question about living with a chronic illness and its impact on her sex life.