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.
Nat talks about Self Expression, Heart Centred Communication and Lifestyle for Leaders.