Like all Ladies of a Certain Age, I've been inundated with the message that female sexuality and desire meet their inevitable deaths sometime around 35. (I'm 31.) Not only that, but my dang uterus is probably going to dry up around the same time, denying me the opportunity to conceive and birth a tiny, monstrous poop machine. Men don't have it much better—they supposedly hit their sexual peak at 18. Great! Let us cover our sexless legs with musty afghans and await our elderly doom.
Well, don't sign up for that competitive pinochle league just yet—it turns out the conventional wisdom surrounding sexual peaks is actually outdated nonsense. (Also, your uterus is probably fine.) Over at Salon, Lisa Wade explains that the sexual peak myth took hold at least in part because we equate "good sex" with "penis performance." THE BROKEN PENIS STRIKES AGAIN.
As Wade points out, an 18-year-old penis may get erections more easily than an old one, but this shouldn't be confused with reaching a sexual peak or with having good sex. Teenagers are idiots, and many of them are terrible at intimacy and real partnership. The ability of an 18-year-old kid to achieve an orgasm tells us nothing about that 18-year-old's prowess. So you have a functional dong and you had an orgasm. Big deal! Did your partner have one? Did you even care? Wade hits the wiener on the head when she asks, "When we say men reach their peak at 18, it's worth asking: 'peak for who!?' A man with a few more decades may be a much better sexual partner than one on the brink of adolescence and adulthood." D-doy!
On the other hand, women may actually be late bloomers—but not because of some "natural" imperative. Wade argues that most, if not all, sex education programs in schools focus on reproduction rather than pleasure. The male orgasm fits naturally in a discussion surrounding reproduction and conception, but female pleasure does not. As Wade notes:
For boys, the idea that sex is natural and pleasurable is part of the lesson.
Not so for girls. Girls are unlikely to learn anything about their own sexualities in sex education. Again, this is partly because we use reproduction instead of pleasure as the excuse for talking about sex; they learn about the other "o": ovulation. There's almost never any discussion of girls’ sexual desires or pleasure. Often, however, there's plenty of talk about how sex can get girls “into trouble”: pregnancy, emotional harm, sexually transmitted infections, ruined reputations and sexual assault. So, essentially, girls learn the same lesson that boys learn—sex is natural and pleasurable for boys—so watch out. It may take decades for them to understand that sex is natural and pleasurable for them too.
If women do actually peak later in life, it's only because we've got a whole shitload of baggage we need unload before we don't see nothing wrong with a little bump 'n grind. Thanks again, patriarchy.
But what's really problematic about all of this is how easily we link female sexuality and satisfaction with male performance. This may come as a surprise, but not all women have sex with men. The myth of the "sexual peak" essentially erases the concept of LGBTQ sex and intimacy—penile vigor becomes less of a problem when penises aren't invited to the party. Besides, there are plenty of gals who don't need a partner at all. As long as the batteries are charged they may never hit a "peak" or experience a decline as they age. (Get it, sisters.) Good sex can continue well into your twilight years, irrespective of the various organs (or equipment) involved.
So, forget this sexual peak nonsense. Just do all the old lady sex you want, with whomever you want. You're only as old as your sexy bits feel!
Meagan Hatcher-Mays is a recent graduate of Washington University Law School in Saint Louis. She does a significant amount of yelling on Twitter.
Image via Ammit Jack/Shutterstock.