3.2.2 THE SEXUAL RESPONSE IN OLDER WOMEN
There are still many people who believe that women lose their sexual responsiveness after menopause. Still others feel that older women should refrain from sexual intercourse for the sake of dignity or propriety. Fortunately, today such prejudices are fast disappearing as the sexual myths of former ages are replaced with modern scientific knowledge. Neither women nor men have to forego satisfying sexual relationships because of advancing age. The sexual response described above remains essentially the same. Naturally, older people lose some of their former strength, and many of their reactions become slower.
In a woman, there are also certain changes in the sex organs that affect her response. The most noticeable of these changes concerns the functioning of the vagina. Vaginal lubrication, which may appear within fifteen to thirty seconds in younger women, may now take several minutes to develop and be much less profuse. In addition, the vaginal walls become thinner and lose their former elasticity as a result of hormone deprivation. However, hormone replacement can usually improve the condition. Insufficient lubrication can be overcome through the use of an artificial lubricant.
Since the uterus begins to shrink after menopause, uterine elevation during sexua! arousal gradually becomes less pronounced. As a result, there is now less of a "tenting" or "ballooning" effect in the inner two-thirds of the vagina. The contractions of orgasm are milder and fewer in number. The resolution phase is much shorter.
None of these possible physical changes have to prevent the enjoyment of sexual intercourse. Indeed, women who have been sexually active throughout their lives can expect to remain responsive well into their old age.
REFERENCE AND RECOMMENDED READING
The Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Our Bodies Ourselves. 2d ed. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1976 (cloth); 1976 (paper).
Brecher, Ruth and Edward, eds. Analysis of Human Sexual Response. New York: New American Library, 1974.
Lehrrnan, Nat. Masters and Johnson Explained Chicago: Playboy Press, 1971 (cloth); 1976 (paper).