When we think about sex as it pertains to midlife, we tend to only ever consider married couples. Advice columns are filled with questions about how to reignite the fire after 20 years together, or what can be done to boost a pair of libidos as the big 5-0 approaches.
Yet there are lots of single middle-aged people, and they want to have more sex too.
They mightn't have husbands, wives, or even trusted partners, but that doesn't mean they have no sexuality. So here I want to discuss how single people can be physically and emotionally successful (and safe) during their 40s when facilitating their sex life without said regular partner.
I can already sense the judgement that surrounds this. A person is 45 and still having casual sex? Trolling bars, going on first dates, and using Tinder? What kind of life is that?
I'm here to tell you that we've moved on from this rhetoric. Being single at any age is an acceptable – and even desirable – life choice. Being coupled up doesn't mean you're happy and getting lots of sex; likewise, being single doesn't mean you're sad and getting none.
Society keeps telling us that the goal in life is to live happily ever after with someone else, but I think living happily ever after requires doing it on your own terms. If that means alone - by choice or by chance - so be it.
Those who are most successful in having a good sex life without a regular sexual partner are people who don't place too much importance on the physical appearance of their partners. This isn't to say the physical stuff isn't important, but rather, casual sex is much less daunting if your standards aren't sky-high. Do remember that we age, but the standards of beauty don't, so one must adjust one's own ideals.
Physical safety and success means many things for single people over 40. In terms of safety, the same rules apply for all ages: use protection every time. Some might need a reminder of this if they are newly-single and haven't needed to practice safe sex in some time, or if they think they're past the reasonable chance of pregnancy. A warning to you: there are a whole lot of rampant STIs out there that you must safeguard yourself from.
Staying physically safe for casual sex also means meeting new people in well-lit, public locations, telling at least one other person where you are, and having an exit plan if things go wrong.
As for physical success, both men and women go through hormonal changes in their 40s, and the following should be considered: confidence level changes (which relate directly to enjoyment levels), fluctuating sexual desire, changes in orgasm sensitivity, heart health, and – pardon the pun – erectile ups and downs.
Everything is highly individual: some people find they sexually peak in their 40s, others find it more of a struggle. Success will be if you can take all of these things into account and proceed without fear. Lastly, don't forget that lubricant/other third-party personal hygiene products are essential. As we age, we need them more than we once used to in order to enjoy sex.
Emotional success and safety are a bit trickier. Sex can be complicated, and casual sex doesn't get more straightforward as you get on. In terms of emotional safety, consider that mixed messages still apply, and you'll still have bad experiences. My advice is to be frugal with your trust. Don't actively distrust everyone you encounter, but it pays not to take anybody at face value.
This lends itself to emotional success. The fewer expectations you have of people, the better the outcomes you'll have. Keeping the "casual" in casual sex at middle-aged says you are dedicated to not taking things so seriously. As far as enjoying yourself goes, you'll only be successful in your midlife casual exploits if you accept that sex is as necessary as eating and drinking – it's not the sacred act we've historically construed.