For too long, conversations around women and sex have either been shamed, discouraged, or frowned upon so much that there was a time when women had no clue what sex was or that it could result in a child. A lot of that has changed now, but what has lingered or transformed are the myths and misconceptions that shroud the topic of older women and sex.
While older women are often deemed undesirable by men, it’s essential to acknowledge that women also contribute to this perception, despite being victims of it. The roots of this issue trace back to a societal narrative perpetuated by men, labelling fifteen-year-olds as brides and 26-year-olds as maids. In contemporary times, the trend has shifted, with men in their 40s and beyond, actively pursuing relationships with women in their late teens and early twenties, deeming them the ideal women.
Of course, it shows that over time women started to internalise this. If the entire world called you ugly and not one person said otherwise, wouldn’t you think you were? We adopted this mindset and felt compelled to marry quickly before reaching our mid-20s, as finding a partner became challenging beyond that age. The pressure to have children before turning 30 came from the belief that no man would desire us afterwards and failure to do so would bring shame. This internalised sort of hate for ourselves has hurt way too many women, largely because most of these things are a lie.
Patriarchy was built to oppress. How can we remain oppressed if we know the truth? Radical sex education is one of the ways to empower women, and I stand on that. Older women are far from undesirable; they have enduring sex appeal and are anything but boring or lacking excitement in the bedroom. They are not a compromise or someone to settle for; instead, they exude pure, undiluted magic. The more we younger women in our twenties get this, the more we’re excited about evolving in sync with our sexual needs and desires.
To help bring this movement forward, we spoke with Yeside Olayinka-Agbola, widely known as Olori Coitus, a certified sexual and reproductive health specialist, educator, advocate, intimacy and pleasure expert, and host of the Olori Coitus podcast. She is also a director for TV and film. Yeside clearly wears many fascinating hats and has a diverse range of knowledge, but we were particularly interested in her thoughts on navigating intimacy as an older woman.
Keep reading to dive into her thoughts.
P.S. Anyone who criticises older women as less sexual than younger women, likely hasn’t experienced them.
Can You Tell Us a Bit About Yourself and Your Background Including Insights Into Your Journey as a Sexual and Reproductive Health Specialist?
My name is Yeside and I have worked in the field of sexual and reproductive health for over 10 years now- actually, it’s been about 13 years. I was a pre-med major at the University of Florida in the US and was very involved with student health initiatives on campus. As a pre-medical student, I did a lot of work with reproductive health. I also volunteered by helping to give out condoms on campus and things like that but what really solidified my foray into sexual and reproductive health was an internship I did with the Florida Health Department. There, I worked with the community on Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV.
Working with them really opened my eyes to see that you can’t really talk about trying to prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections if you only focus on the disease and the prevention. Coming from Nigeria, I already knew that we didn’t have enough sex ed, but I further realized that it’s super important for people to take action over their sexual health proactively and to do that, you need to have comprehensive sex education. That’s how I got started with sexual health. I have a lot of certifications in it, and I have been working in that field ever since.
Wow. It sounds like a whole journey, and I completely agree; sex education doesn’t stop at just disease and infection. There’s so much more to it.
Why Do You Think Conversations About Women and Sex are Still Largely Taboo in Our World Today?
Cultural norms. Not just in Nigeria- as you said, the world. Typically and historically, you can see that culture has played a big role in restricting women, especially when it comes to sex. So, women talking about women and sex in public forums was frowned upon back in the day, and even till now. There’s a lot of stigma and judgment that police women’s sexuality. Then when you think about gender stereotypes and the patriarchal societies we live in, it’s not that hard to figure out why women are still shamed today!
You and I can agree that talking about women’s sexuality is like giving more power to women. So society is going to want to suppress that as a way to maintain social norms, which is why when you think about the concept of purity or the purity culture, it doesn’t focus on men being pure and saving themselves for marriage. It’s always talking about women saving themselves for marriage, amongst other things. For me, I think it’s a way of control. And so because of that control, women then tend to be subjugated and less empowered. When men hold more power, women suffer.
We are historically disenfranchised and disempowered and women have had it. So we’re seeing more women in this day and age talking about sex and other things relating to them in forums. The simple truth is, the more sex education men and women have, the more we’re able to bring it to the forefront to make it something that just is because sex is a part of our lives just like we eat food and sleep.
The conversation around sex is so taboo, and it’s so hush-hush that you realize that when these things are in the dark, it helps perpetuate a lot of myths and stereotypes. This always ends up being very dangerous and the effects are so far-reaching as opposed to when we are able to have these conversations openly.
I cannot stress enough how important informed sex education is for everyone of every age.
What Are Some Common Misconceptions or Stereotypes You’ve Encountered Regarding Older Women and Their Sexuality?
I think the biggest misconception about older women is that as they grow older, women tend to become less sexual. People even state medical reasons because of menopause. There’s this idea that because menopause is the end of our reproductive years, that means that when we get there, we get to the end of our sexual experiences, which is not necessarily true. Yes, as a woman gets older, her reproductive ability is reduced, just like men are but women actually can become more sexual as they age.
Older women have higher sexual desires than younger women. They enjoy sex more. Of course, as you age, the physical things you can do are not the same as when you’re younger. I mean, if you had Meghan Thee Stallion’s knees in your twenties and thirties, they probably wouldn’t be the same in your 50s.
Then there’s the idea that the younger the woman, the better. People think the older a woman gets, the less attractive or less desirable she is, which is not necessarily true because it doesn’t also take into account that people have different things that they’re attracted to. So those are some of the things.
I think it’s the opposite. Women get more attractive as we age.
Exactly! I’m in my late thirties now, and I can say that the more you know yourself and come into your own person, the less (excuse my French) f-cks you give. And the less f-cks you give, the more empowered you are. So the more you’re able to say, ‘Oh, this is what I like. This is what I don’t like. This is what I desire’; the more you know your desires and wants, the better.
Honestly, I tell people that by the time a woman is hitting her fifties, she no longer has to worry about getting pregnant. At that point, she probably is no longer on birth control. This means all those things that come with the hormones, and your period (you’re literally going up and down with your hormones throughout the month) is no longer there. If she has kids, her kids are most likely at an age where they don’t need her as keenly, right? They’re probably older. If she doesn’t have kids, it’s better. My point is that by the time a woman ages, she becomes the main character of her life.
As a young woman, you are guided by your parents, friends, romantic partners, kids, work, and other things. But as women age, we can flourish in the confidence of being who we are. While there’s an advantage to that, many people still look at women in their fifties as grandmas because they are slightly older. Trust me these modern fifties – grandmas, if you will – look amazing., I mean, have you seen them?
I know! Some of them are nearing their seventies.
I aspire! Look at Angela Bassett. Look at Mo Abudu. This clearly shows how the media portrays older women also comes into play. In the past, they were not seen as romantic interests. However, recently, we’ve seen a shift towards seeing older women in romantic roles and similar contexts.
How Has Your Perception of Your Own Sexuality and Body Image Evolved as You’ve Gotten Older?
Honestly, I cannot believe my age. I still think of myself as someone in my early 30s and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m 36? Oh, wow’. But at the same time, I am really thankful for where I am now. I am less anxious. I am less eager to please. I’m more confident in accepting and receiving pleasure. And I think not just sexual pleasure but in all spaces of my life.
As a Nigerian woman or growing up in a Nigerian household, as a firstborn, especially, I have been programmed to give. Part of it might be my nature, but I think I have also been programmed to always look out for others. What do people want? I have always put people’s needs before mine, but as I’ve gotten older, I have become more comfortable putting my needs first. And that is not necessarily selfish. It is self-fulfilment.
Oh, yes. I agree.
Are There Specific Challenges or Considerations About Sex for Women in Their 40s and Beyond You Feel Should Be More Common Knowledge?
As a society, we prioritize youth. There’s a lot of self-stigma, even within ourselves, about getting older. I think part of why society views people this way is also because older people tend to view themselves that way. Like, “Oh, I’m too old for that. Don’t you know at that age I don’t do those kinds of things? I’m too old!”.
So I think we first have to understand that it is a blessing to get old and then understand that some of the limitations we think come with age are a thing of the mind. Of course, there are going to be physical changes. There will be hormonal shifts. As women are getting older and entering perimenopause and menopause, changes like a decrease in the lubrication of the vagina and other things concerning your genitals can and do occur.
As I said, you also might not be as flexible as you were as you get older, but with the correct diet, exercise, and lifestyle, you can keep up and change that. I also mentioned that women become more attuned to their sexual desires.
The good thing is that technology has come so far that there are ways and means around almost any limitations, like sexual lubricants, sex toys, and a lot more. It’s just understanding that with age comes certain restrictions, but they don’t necessarily have to change your life. It’s a change, but it doesn’t have to be bad. It doesn’t have to end anything, especially when we’re talking about sex. Your libido can vary and change over time; it can get better or worse.
We must continue to have these conversations. Open conversations will help make them feel less gargantuan and more like everyday experiences. Instead of viewing it with a lens of, ‘Oh, I can’t believe that this is happening to me,’ let’s approach it with an attitude of ‘I get to enjoy and experience this.’
I also strongly believe that we need to appreciate it more. Ageing. It is a blessing to get to 50. It’s a blessing to get to 40. I mean, I’m at an age where people I grew up with have passed. These people didn’t get to live to 40 years old.
I always find it interesting that society prioritizes youth and believes that a 20-something-year-old woman’s body is probably the pique of a woman’s beauty. Still, those 20-something-year-old women have the most insecurities about their bodies. And yet, solder women whose bodies are thought to be older, therefore less attractive, have a lot more self-confidence.
How Crucial Is a Holistic Approach to Sexual Health, Incorporating Psychological, Emotional, and Relational Aspects? Can Lifestyle Factors Positively Impact Sexual Well-being in Older Age?
It’s important. As a human being, there are different aspects of your makeup. So you’re not just your physical self; you are also an emotional self and the mental self. All these facets make up the totality of you, so you must understand that a holistic approach to sexual health carries all those facets and understand that each of them is very important in making you a complete being.
We must look at the emotional, the psychological, the communication, attitude, and exploration. We must put all that together and try to help ourselves. Be who we want to be, especially as women age and get older, and even for men, because it’s not just your physical self changing. What are the psychological and mental health challenges that you might be experiencing at that point? Having support for that is also super important.
How Do You Think the Media and Cultural Representations Influence Perceptions of Older Women and Their Sexuality?
Creating and representing older characters and individuals in their authentic selves paints a more realistic picture of what ageing is. This means doing away with the one-dimensional characters who are just the mum, grandma, or wicked boss and having a more 3D picture of older people, showing they’re capable of desire and physical intimacy. Let’s see them desire emotional connections realistically. Things like that will greatly help change and shift the consciousness around how we perceive older women and their wants.
And not just the actors! Older writers and creators as well. I’ve been on TikTok recently, discovering and seeing older content creators. It’s fantastic to see because, unlike a young person writing about what they think ageing is all about, the perspective is more real and poignant when someone who has lived these experiences does that.
If you could offer advice to younger women about embracing and celebrating their sexuality as they age, what would it be?
I would say that it gets better. When you’re much younger, you’re in a rush to get older, and then you hit a stage where you’re now in a hurry to slow down ageing. The best thing I can say is to be in the moment. Don’t be too much in a rush to get older, and don’t be too much in a hurry to fight aging. Enjoy the moment as it is, love yourself, and discover your body and what your body likes and wants. Just be true to that as much as you can. Try to live as your most authentic self in whatever state of mind you’re in because once you do that, you can communicate well with a partner and own and be true to yourself.
There’s something we didn’t even talk about which I had in mind when I saw your email about older women.
Research suggests that women in their 50s and beyond are more prone to seek divorce. In Nigeria, while they may not overtly request it through legal means, women in this age bracket often make decisions as if they are single, their husbands become less significant to them.
It’s often a cultural norm to see couples appearing happily together at events, but they lead separate lives behind closed doors. I even have aunties who literally said, ‘My kids are grown, and I don’t need to stay in this relationship. I don’t need to keep doing this.’ What quickly follows is a divorce or a separation. That’s because they get to a point where they can walk away from relationships that aren’t serving them and become the main characters of their lives again. Many of us eventually understand that living for external factors like children or societal expectations isn’t fulfilling enough.
It’s good to keep that in mind. It’s a blessing to get to that age where your internal validation is what means the most. I truly believe that that is something to look forward to. Even for younger women who may be feeling anxious and weighed down by all these external burdens, you can look forward to getting older and to the point where you can throw all these things away and be just fine.
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