5/5 What sex advice would you give at all ages?

Part 5 of our ultimate guide on how to have the best sex possible, from your 20s to your 70s and beyond.

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Part 5 of our ultimate guide on how to have the best sex possible, from your 20s to your 70s and beyond. We want to arm readers with practical advice that they can implement to have a satisfying and healthy sex life regardless of their age. 

What sex advice would you give at all ages?

There is no one size fits all mantra, or “three top tips” message that will work for everyone. What is most important is actually quite simple and starts with you as the focus: simply to be curious, and to allow, explore and know your own needs and wants, including being aware that these will be fluid over time.

Good sex has simple ingredients. To touch, or be touched in ways we enjoy – either by a partner who understands what we like most, or by gifting that touch to ourselves. It helps to keep our bodies as healthy as we can, so they can respond as well as possible to that touch with pleasure or arousal. We need to be in the context and frame of mind that works best for us – doing the things we find exciting either alone, or with a partner we find desirable and feel safe to explore with. We also need to stay mentally present – to tune in to our physical sensations and stay focussed on what is turning us on. Our ability to focus is a very important thing, especially in a world that celebrates multitasking – functional MRI scans show that at the point of orgasm, the thinking and hearing parts of our brains shut down. We quite literally have to shut the world out to hit that peak.

Being able to achieve good sex means having a toolkit to facilitate it. Here are some of the most important tools (and note that you will find none of these in a sex shop):

The confidence and self-permission to explore your own erotic palette.

Be curious about your sexual scripts – where they came from, and whether they are serving you now. Be mindful of where trauma may be restricting your sense of safety or self expression and where you might benefit from seeking some support to find ways of processing this. Understand that the picture will change over time, and that this is a natural part of maintaining interest and desire. Above all, be open to remapping your body and mind after major changes. Start with knowing what works best for you on your own – and then share this with whoever you share your sexual self with.

The ability to communicate what you need to a sexual partner, whatever your age.

Sexual literacy is not something that is generally explicitly taught, but it is something we can work on. Most of us are already using our skills of negotiation and communication quite comfortably in other parts of our relationship – sexual communication builds on exactly the same ideas. And in the same way as you wouldn’t let your partner order every meal for you in a restaurant, it is important to speak up about your preferences. Don’t fall into the trap of putting up with pain, or be tempted to fake pleasure. Instead, think about how you usually communicate most successfully with a partner about other things that are bothering you. Draw on this for conversations about sex, too,

Chances are you will notice it works best when you choose your moment carefully, and when you make statements that don’t invite defensive reactions. In couples work, we encourage the use of “I” statements, especially positively reinforcing ones. Think “I love it when…”, or “I miss….”. This is much easier to hear than sentences starting with “you never…” or “you always…”. There is also a place for showing, not telling – either guide a hand, or take your cue from something you can watch or read together.

Being willing to adapt

Being willing and able to adjust your footing when an age or stage shifts the ground beneath your feet helps enormously. Sex should never be about just one thing – whether that’s penetration, or any other act. If it is, you will quickly lose all intimacy when that “one thing” is taken off the menu.

Instead, see intimacy as a broad brush, and all types of erotic connection as valuable in their own right. Studies show that being able to do this safeguards your erotic connection when one or more of your favourite activities goes off the menu for a while (for example, shifting to breast play, or mutual masturbation if penetration becomes painful for a while).

Being curious, and asking questions – lots of them!

Stay curious – and when something changes, ask questions. Try not to attach a value judgement or meaning to what you notice, but instead employ mindfulness technique of just noticing what is happening, and being curious.

Ask:

  • Yourself: what is coming up for me? Does something feel different in my body? Does this happen all the time, or just with a certain partner/position/activity/timing? What’s happening in my brain? Where is my attention when this happens? Is this making me anxious/reminding me of something else? What do I need in terms of context/help from my partner to make things better?
  • Your partner: What is going on for you? What can I do to help you? What has changed for you? What is going on in your mind/body that feels different? Do you need something different from me now? What do you need more of/less of?
  • Your health care professional: How are the changes in my body likely to affect my sex life? What impact can medications have on my desire/arousal/climax? Who do I need to speak to for help with this aspect of my health?  
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