In between work this last few weeks, we’ve been playing around with disco, funk and swing in my singing group, which has been a whole lot of fun. Between swing and also working on musical songs at the same time, half the fun is in getting back into the archetypal 1930’s energy and the later character energies of the Marilyn Monroe’s/Nicole Kidman’s/Christina Aguilera’s in either the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes/Moulin Rouge/Burlesque "Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend" sense. With the occasional, or slightly frequent (either or) moments of awkwardness in the consideration of what exactly does getting my sexy on (and being all siren) at 39 look and feel like, as opposed to when I was doing the same thing in musicals at 19? Loaded question?
This got me thinking a whole bunch about our concept of femininity and sexuality, and how it changes over time, relative to what feels authentic for us at any given time. I’ve been discussing that a lot lately too with Women in their late 30’s to early 50’s. Given that feminine sexual identity and expression changes A LOT, as our reproductive capacity and function begins to shift in your mid to late reproductive years, and as a host of health problems and physical changes kick in, there is A LOT to talk about. Much of which is rarely the same between two people, and then sometimes it is. Then add on the complexities for some of adjusting to being a Mother, or being in the almost now 50% who aren’t, and or the complexity of sexual identities across the LGBTIQA spectrum today, and female sensuality and sexuality is a whole lot more openly multidimensional than just trying to hook some high achieving guy and charm your way to receiving a bunch of money and stuff, or than the urge to have sex.
Plus across the lifespan, actually, there are many different kinds of desire. The prevalence of any particular one of them changes over time. So our continued feminine sensual and sexual evolution is ever evolving. And there are times at which we may have to be bravely willing to let go of parts of us that we once were, to make way for the reality of both who we are now, and what aspects of us are trying to emerge now, to be able to enjoy our femininity and sexuality in new ways. Off the top of my head, I just thought of 8 forms of desire. (Not including the dark ones, that’s a whole other blog!)
Let’s start with the instinctive, biological kind.
Research has taught us about the power of hormones, pheromones and genetics in creating sexual chemistry between some and not between others.
Tantra also talks about the polarity (and therefore attraction) that can exist between “masculine” and “feminine” energies, no matter what gender or sexual orientation you identify with. Polarities in reality aren’t tied only to the genetic gender of the person embodying the energy. But the order in which they are showing up in each party does need to be wanted, in order for there to be attraction.
For the length of the life cycle for which it emerges and continues, before eventually ceasing, ovulation deserves a whole section of its own. When I was first in the relationship and sexuality coaching realms in private practice, talking to a lot of PhD holding, University educated Specialists, Coaches and Tantra practitioners about ‘female’ and ‘male’ desire, I had a lot of interesting discussions with 30-60 something aged men about their perception of the nature of female desire.
They said it’s not just pheromones, hormones, genetics or polarities working on you: with enough self awareness, they could also feel where it’s also her will, the urge of a Woman of reproductive age, who’s body wants to be impregnated, that they can feel the force from within her literally hooking into and pulling, willing his ‘seed’ out of him and into her. And that too is massively powerful. The biological drive of each (genetic) sex is a force of its own to learn to wield, enjoy, at times managing responsibly, for either genetic gender, over letting its urges run your life.
Every person who identifies as a Woman is different. So trying to categorise or map the consistent developmental milestones of femininity, relative to the early to mid 20th Century developmental stage models of the white picket fence success era and picture, now seem somewhat redundant in a paradigm where, in Western countries, almost 50% of the female population of reproductive age now DON’T have children and aren’t all heteronormative.
No matter what your life goals or what path you’ve lived, or what illnesses or peri menopausal or menopausal symptoms we might face in the meantime, the one inevitability of this is that, for those who have functional ovaries, at some point, through evolution or surgery, ovulation will cease. And if your sexual chemistry is highly reliant upon that type of desire for chemistry when it does, then a deep concern in hookup or long term relationship of “why am I not feeling it anymore?” and or “are we still attracted to each other anymore?” may well shortly follow.
As my 60 something female Tantra Teacher friends once described it, one day, as the menstrual cycle ends, a more even energy and different kinds of desire energy, and a different expression of femininity and female sexuality can actually emerge as dominant instead. It’s not a matter of IF it still exists, but HOW do you connect and unleash it in new or other ways?
What other forms of desire exist?
The power of the Seductress
Ovulation may well check out at some point, but the Seductress archetype, with her bag of siren tricks doesn’t have to. Her playfulness and magnetism remains available across the decades, anywhere that you may choose to make room to unleash her. You might also want to flirt with her sexy sister the Dominatrix, depending on whether you're feeling like running the show or receiving. (And by the way, F@#$ what the beauty industry has to say about what is “’age appropriately attractive” Or so say MY inner Dominatrix.) Ok, moving on...
The pursuit of all things you love
The kind where first and foremost, personally or professionally, you pursue what it is that you love and the activities you love to fill up your own cup. Not only does that feel good for you. But it has it’s own kind of attractiveness in people being drawn to you and wanting to be near you and share in the experience with you when your cup runneth over with the energy of passion and doing what you love. And It’s attractive without you ever even trying to be sexy.
Goal driven desire (going after what you want)
That’s when the drive to achieve something kicks in. For example, you’re working towards an event or sales target, or the launch of a product or service. Or fundraising for a cause. You’ve done 70% of your daily target and the desire to get to 101% kicks in. Or there is that sense of fulfilment as you launch this creation or cause of yours out into the world, that you feel more and more driven by, the closer it gets to realisation. Whereas initially, it was the thoughts and the feelings about how it would one day be that drove you. The desire of purpose.
The desire for things
Just like Marilyn with her diamonds in Gentlemen prefer Blondes so aptly point out, there has often been the drive to want to obtain certain material things and the dopamine hits that go with that, across the ages. If these days, Women are more able to buy them for themselves now, and the hits may be from sustainably sourced, ethical online purchases, rather than having to bat their eyelids and “charms” in just the right way at some guy somewhere to manipulate your way to receiving what they want. But the love language of giving the (sustainable?) material very much remains a thing. So this one makes the list.
The drive TO love
Then there is the part that is about longing to love and take care of the people we care about, without actually requiring anything of them (people pleasing or doing it with your own agenda feels different.) Oxytocin bonding driven love. Whether to partners or family or friends. Or the people we work with. To varying degrees between each. But no matter which type, it’s about the drive TO love and take care of others. (Whether we genetically benefit from doing so or not.)
The desire to BE loved
The human desire to want to feel loved and feel emotionally safe and secure in relationships of all kinds is one of the most basic of all human needs and desires. (But as Esther Perel speaks of, if you want to maintain sexual attraction, we may need to strike a balance between the part of us that can get emotionally needy and needs to feel the safety of constant connection, and the part of us that needs enough space and distance to be able to miss our partner from a slight distance, to be able to see what it is that we love and are attracted to about them. Granted that the pandemic and no travel might have made this one a little more difficult.)
Physical touch, Intimacy and skin hunger
Then there is the drive for either physical affection and touch. Or, in more intimate relationships, the desire for physical intimacy or ‘skin younger’; the literal drive to just want to be in close physical contact with another human, skin to skin, and just be held, heart to heart. Research shows that, beyond infanthood, this continues to be one of our greatest human needs and our mental health, cardiovascular and several aspects of physical health definitely does suffer without physical touch and intimacy. Apparently we even age faster without human physical connection. So owning (and in pandemic times, reclaiming) our love of this one, is important in the desire equation too.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but my point is, desire is multidimensional. Across the lifespan, actually, there are many different kinds of desire and our interest in them may well change over time. Plus, part of our continued feminine sensual and sexual evolution may well depend on our willingness to open up to and explore new aspects of ourselves and new experiences over time, so that we can continue to enjoy and express ourselves in ways that we want to, and in ways that benefit our short term or long term intimate relationships too. That’s about as much prescriptiveness as I’m prepared to give. The rest is each of our journey’s to explore.
Fibroids, fertility and functionality issues or not, if we hadn’t already, this time in life is also another golden opportunity to put down all of societies expectations, everyone around you’s expectations, especially to put down your OWN expectations of decades past…and connect anew with who you are, what you want, what you love, what you enjoy and want to share NOW. Which is kind of an exciting thought?
Until next time….
Find out more about my support pathways to help Women of mid to late reproductive age live healthy, empowered and on purpose, despite reproductive health, relationship and life challenges.
This one is for all the women out there having a slightly a-typical or unconventional relationship with all things Motherhood and creativity in this lifetime, and who may or may not be having a rough time on this day of feeling alone and wishing they could talk to someone about why, on a day where we can feel like we do fit into any category. For you, I thought I would grow a pair of ovaries and share some of my more personal experience of the last year. Not just for my own benefit, but because I want to create a space, where talking about such things is welcome and the version of any of us going through the kinds of things I’m about to talk about is welcome, when you happen to be, whether through circumstance or choice, a
Women (of reproductive age)
Childfree (& exploring)
Expression and Empowerment
And I say welcome, because sometimes, when you’ve found yourself on this journey, where you don’t fit IN any of the other boxes neatly, that’s the last thing you feel, when you realise that who you’ve become at this age, is not what you thought you would be and everything inside you and outside of you has to start rearranging like a Rubik’s cube, trying another way to work out where your pieces now fit, in a reality you didn’t expect. You’ve got to find a new way to welcome yourself into a new kind of life, with a slightly different kind of purpose, that you now have to create anew..
A year and a month ago, I had not long had a chat with my doctor I hadn’t really been expecting. She’d told me that there was a possibility that, with the positioning of my now 3 year old fibroids and the consequences of removing them, there was a substantial chance I wouldn’t be able to have kids anymore. After 2 decades of the almost constant reality of having to account for the fact that I could pretty much get pregnant if a man looked at me the right way from across the street, the possibility of not being able to because my uterus was now broken had honestly never occurred to me as being even remotely close in my future…because I always still had more time, and I’ve got this.
A couple of days later, standing alone in the shower, the grief hit. And what I can only describe as the blackest, deepest sense of emptiness I have ever felt, since the day I was 2 days short of 9 years old, standing at the foot of a hospital bed, 5 minutes after my Mother had just died in it. I died in that shower in that moment, my life force, seemingly dropped out and ran down the drain, along with (temporarily) any sense of purpose or seeming certainty about anything.
For much of the last 2 decades of work, especially the last decade, I’d been so clear about my global work purpose in wanting to help more Women become Leaders and people full stop own their voices and create change in a world in so many ways gone toxic and needing a sustainability redirect. And in my material purpose, it had always secretly been the motivation; “get your shit together, buy the house on your own this time, where the imaginary kids you’ve spent a decade waking up to the imaginary sound of running down the hallway (that on two occasions, for brief periods, I had felt as clear as day growing inside me) might one day actually live.”
I mistakingly, arrogantly maybe, was so overconfident in my ability to be able to fix, to heal, to create anything that my intuition had shown me was a genuine possibility, I had refused to acknowledge all possibility of this future ever NOT being my destiny from my mental existence.
And I say destiny, because one part of me has always been such a nurturer in life in other ways, from the moment I was adopting baby lambs as a kid and reintegrating them into the heard, to the many cabbage patch babies I’d had (pre Mum getting sick), to the years I spent trying (as a big sister) to create some degree of normality for my little Brother in my Mother’s absence, to the moment I felt the man I thought I would marry’s child growing inside me, to the moments I’d been in relationship with a man with a primary aged child, and dating more men with primary to teenage & later young adult children, to the countless work roles and business capacities in which I’d been the emotional support person, the nurturer, the person that many people told me showed them a depth of caring they’d never felt from a Woman in quite that way before…..how the hell could it have NOT been my destiny?
Plus maybe I thought I was free of some level of Karma once I outlived my Mother. Or at least I prayed I would be. If I could be wrong about this, then what else could I have been wrong about? Could I believe in anything anymore? My trust in myself took a massive punch in the gut.
But I realised since, why it hit so hard, was not just the reconsideration of Motherhood, it was decades of my sense of true North, of the certainty of a genetic blueprint to Grandparenthood, of the trajectory of a life path, having been Mentored by so many amazing Women who taught me to value the Mother and the Maga and the Krone and the gifts of those female life stages, by the rite of passage of birth, too, wiped out in one 10 second statement from a medical professional.
Who I thought I would be, everything my “Second Mumma’s had raised or guided me to be, seemingly GONE, if I could no longer grow a life and birth babies. My capacity to engage in a world of women’s workshops that ask you to tap into your womb and the mother archetype, as a vehicle for exploring our relationship with creativity and femininity, completely changed. Not gone, just, like a Rubix cube, getting completely reconfigured by the second. And what was I now meant to tell men on dating websites who’ve got the “want kids?” option set to “someday?” Do I now just by default swipe left on all them? For their sake, and because honestly, do I think I could handle opening to falling in love with someone again, only to get ditched for someone else, in 2 years if my uterus fails to deliver an heir? (All of a sudden I felt like it’s 1743 and I’m back in the high court France. Or back amongst the clans of highlands of Scotland. Either will do in this instance.)
Do you remember that metaphor I talked about recently, of being in the depths of an emotional process, and it’s inevitable, we instinctively know HOW to come out the other side, but while you’re down there at the bottom, while it’s stirred and dark, you don’t feel like you can see or navigate for a moment where on earth you are? It was like that. A couple of months of up and down to the bottom, up and down to the bottom, up and down to the bottom. Then back up again for air. Back up to the medicine of dance and art and writing and creating events and interview series’. All while meanwhile, while the world journeyed a freaking pandemic and various lengths of lockdowns and bigger life and business crises.
People don’t always talk about it much outside the privacy of sacred Women’s Circles, or OB-GYN clinics and therapy rooms, or some TEDx talk on fertility somewhere. But a bigger percentage now than ever of the female population of child bearing age (in some countries, a bit under 50%) whether by choice or circumstance, are now silently coming to terms with some version of this reality, every day.
In reality, I still have one more surgery to go, that once I do, it’s the formal end. In the interim, my Gynaecologist had said 6 months ago, I still have a window if he doesn’t remove this thing for a little longer, but I better move my ass, because, at my age, it’s hard roads from here on in (ivf, potential miscarriages, not being able to carry a pregnancy full term and 6 monthly monitoring of the remaining fibroid either way, to check if it’s shrunk or grown or any more or less dead in middle and I’m any more or less symptomatic. And or is the window still open or has it now closed?) A year and a bit later, a year and one surgery that fixed one part of the problem (the part that was making me anaemic from insanely heavy, 12 day long periods and period pain every month that felt like labour) later, as we hit Mothers day, and I bleed in a much more NORMAL way in comparison, it hurts no less, and I cry no less adjusting to the reality of the new reality, ahead of sucking it up to go get the next update to that reality. BUT I had since come to the realisations that:
NO matter what life does or who does what, or who comes or goes, or what material milestones I do or do not reach, no one is EVER, EVER going to stop me being a tremendous carer and tremendous nurturer on some level. So many times when I’m sitting alone in public, little people just seem compelled to come and chat to me, to show me their ice cream, or their toy they just got, or the thing they just found that they think is really cool. And parents willing, I’m never more than, maybe 10 seconds away from chasing them around in some imaginary universe of magical possibilities of their creation, playing the kinds of games that, for the most part, only little humans open imaginations are quite so capable of playing with such reckless abandon in that way. (Grown up actor and performer types, we have a similar, but slightly different way.)
It may have been a decade since I was working and volunteering with kids in NFP and Community Service capacities, but I can STILL see myself stepping (back into) being one on the people who volunteers to take care of disadvantaged kids out there, in the way that some of my Mentors and neighbours who didn’t ever HAVE to but for some reason, chose to do for me (Big Brother, Big Sister style), in the absence of my Mother and in light of the pure struggle of my relationship with my Father. That too I think is fairly inevitable, and I’ve since come to realise from just how early it was apparent that my ability to nurture those who’s Mothers couldn’t be there, was the case. (That and there could be another short haired pointer somewhere in my not-too-distant future???)
But my point is that that it feels less like a vacant black hole of nothingness and failure to manifest my own and other peoples (past partners and family’s) broken dreams THEY hoped I’d live FOR THEM. And more like a birthing ground of new opportunities, that either still fit. Or may yet still be an even better fit.
That, and I’ve doubled down on having a whole new relationship with my creativity. A new depth of appreciation of and renewed commitment to dancing, to painting, to singing. And, pandemic or no pandemic, to feeling more ready to create more work spaces again. For Women in Leadership. For Women in Speaking. Where women are welcome to talk health and wellbeing and how the hell to navigate a life purpose involving other forms of expression and empowerment, beyond just the possibility of them birthing babies. And where whatever their experiences of Motherhood or nurturing have been, these too are acknowledged and honoured in their own way for their value and importance.
Everybody’s journey with this is I think a little different, depending on any number of life factors. Just as many people’s relationship with creativity in journeying and emerging from this will be something slightly different. And of course, not all creativity is birthing life, or art.
How many other forms can you think of? Craft? Woodwork? Metal work? Gardening and landscaping? Interior decorating? Cooking? Writing? Graphic design? Architecture? Writing code? Apps? Games? Creating Programs? Business offerings? Communities? Causes?
What are your creativity things that light you up with passion, creativity and a deep sense of purpose? That leave you feeling full of energy? And life and alive? What other forms does your expression of nurturing in the world take?
Beyond all painful moments, beyond all loss, there are always these things and an endless see of possibilities of creation. Even and especially in a pandemic world, especially in a time of climate change, especially in a time of humanity re-thinking in so many ways what it means to do life together. In fact now, it’s more important than ever that we use our creativity and our deep capacity for nurturing and caring to change the way things are for the better.
But to come back to the blog at hand, my hope is that, in me talking about my experience, maybe that makes it a little safer for some of you to open up and talk about yours too.
If you’d like to chat more, and or connect with other Women in the same boat:
Until next time....
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.