Good to know I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way before. I mean, trying to process and make sense of what just happened — not out loud, but quietly in my head: “So… that was sex.”
But, what IS sex?
According to Marilyn Monroe: “Sex is a part of nature. I go along with nature.”
Mae West, on the other hand, says: “Sex is an emotion in motion.”
For Grace Jones, it’s the ultimate panacea: “Forget health clinics and gyms. Sex is the best cure. One good night of sex and your problems are gone.”
Hipdict, our favourite hip dictionary, as usual has a different take on things. “Sex is like math: You add the bed, subtract the clothes, divide the legs and pray you don’t multiply.”
But perhaps the most profound definition of sex comes from none other than Sigmund Freud: “The behaviour of a human being in sexual matters
is often a prototype for the whole of his other modes of reaction in life.”
I wish I had thought more critically about my sexual life and identity sooner. It isn’t until now that the awareness that sex is never just about the act of sex has hit me. Whatever it means for you, one thing is for sure: There’s still much to learn when it comes to better navigating a territory that is still rife with stereotypes, myths, taboo and even ignorance.
If you have read our interview with sexual wellness advocate and Spark Fest founder Erin Chen, where she sets the record straight about some things we thought we knew about sex, and others we didn’t — like why we should stop trying to have “perfect sex” — you might appreciate (if you don’t already) that sex is, at the heart of it, deeply related to our overall wellness — emotional, physical and relational well-being.
While we had Erin with us, we asked her for a quickie CliffsNotes guide to everything we (and you) need to know about sex — having it, anticipating it, talking about it, asking questions about it and keeping it interesting — whether you’re a first-timer or a veteran, 18 or 58. Are you ready to take your pleasure seriously? Let’s go.
First time and wondering what to expect, how to prepare and what precautions to take?
Erin: For precautions like protection against STIs and birth control, find a doctor that you feel comfortable and safe with to discuss your options. Always remember that you have a choice. If you are made to feel uncomfortable or ashamed about your choice to engage in sexual activities, then switch doctors! Having sex for the first time and having sex in general require similar elements: Trust, communication, mutual consent. How that might look is different for everyone. Remember to be responsible for your own pleasure — if it doesn’t feel good for you, work with your partner until it feels good for you.
IN YOUR 30S
Marriage is on the cards — that means your sexual fate is about to be sealed. How does one stay interested and excited about sex with the same person for the rest of their lives?
Erin: If that is what you both want (not everyone wants to be interested in one sexual partner for the rest of their lives) — then it requires a team effort! Think of this area of your relationship like any other team project (it might not sound so sexy, but the basic principles are the same.) How one can stay interested is very different from one relationship to another. The key is to discuss and be in communication with your partner and together, cultivate a sexual relationship that fulfils both of you. And remember, what worked five years ago might not work now — your lifestyle, work life, health, life stage is constantly changing and so will your sexual relationship. Fulfilling sex with another person is a team sport. 🙂
IN YOUR 40S
Is this the moment when your libido decides to take things slow?
Erin: It depends. For some, libido goes up, and for others, their libido goes down. There is this general belief that keeping the sexual energy up is necessary and better. It really depends on what you want. In general, overall health and wellness — such as your quality of sleep, nutrition, exercise, level of stress — is important. If you are in a relationship, the quality of your relationship could also impact your libido. Some women start to experience the changes that come with menopause. At this milestone, I highly recommend having an OBGYN with whom you feel comfortable discussing the symptoms that you experience. There are OBGYNs who avoid talking about sex, and there are those who understand the impact menopause has on a woman’s sexual experiences and can work with you to find ways to mitigate those impacts. One of the panels that we have curated at SPARK Fest touches on this area.
The earlier you start learning to stay in tune with your body, be responsible for your own pleasure, and shed the societal pressures on how sex should look like and find your own sexual expression, the better the foundation you will have built.
50S AND ABOVE
What happens now? (Or not?)
Erin: Expect to still feel sexual! We don’t see or hear a lot about third-age sex (aka sex when you are older) in the media or growing up. We tend to desexualise older people. But expect that intimacy, sexual desire will still be around when you are past 50. What will have changed may be your body, your lifestyle and your relationship. Some women experience a newfound sense of sexual freedom at this stage. Some experience anxiety because they feel that they should be having more sex. It really depends on the individual.
Some studies show that couples who have a broader view of what sex is tend to be more satisfied sexually when they are older. Meaning, sex is not routinely just intercourse and penetration for them. They spend time exploring other ways to feel good sexually with each other and understand that could also be very satisfying. With a more flexible and broad view and practice of sex, they are more prepared to be creative when they get older.
So what I would say is, the earlier you can start learning to stay in tune with your body, learning to be responsible for your own pleasure, learning to shed the societal pressures on how sex should look like and find your own sexual expression, learning to communicate with your partner and work together to create fulfilling sexual experiences — the earlier you start to do these things, the better the foundation you will have built for when you are past 50!