Thursday, August 28, 2014

Aging through Changes: Sexual Intimacy and Function

Explore how age related changes, faked orgasms, false beliefs about sex and failed communications can cause a sexual disconnect in an aging marriage.   

James and Yelena have been married for 22 years and have three grown children who have left the house.  As James has aged his ability to maintain an erection has changed and he saw a decline in sexual ability. James thinks “a real man” should receive any “help” from his wife to get an erection. Thus, even when his erections became less firm and less predictable he did not tell his wife. James has recently seen an increase in his sexual vigor after the use of the medication Viagra that he obtained on the internet.  For Yelena, Sex was never particularly enjoyable. Mostly 
because James was uninterested in much foreplay and Yelena felt it was unfeminine to make any sexual demands of her husband. However, Yelena’s body has also changed and this has significantly impacted her function, pleasure and desire. Yelena has been faking orgasms and silently been experiencing discomfort during sex due to age and her husbands lack of foreplay. The discomforts she feels during sex are contributing to the decline of their sexual intimacy because Yelena painful experiences lowers her overall desire for and the amount of pleasure she finds in sexual encounters with her husband. 

These changes in James function are likely due to normal changes in how his body responds to stimulation. However, erectile dysfunction can be caused by numerous things such as physical such as “blocked coronary arteries preventing adequate blood flow to the penis”, a psychological issue “such as anxiety or depression” and even “social factors” such as “relationships problems or cultural issues” (Roger, 2009, 244). Viagra is used to treat erectile dysfunction. Viagra itself does not cause an erection or increase desire, but rather is a medication that increases the organs ability to respond to sexual stimulation through increasing the blood flow to the genitals (Roger, 2009, 244). The increased blood flow can increase sensitivity and function of James erection. Because ED can be a sign of a bigger problem James should attempt to get his medication from physician who can seek the underlying cause of his dysfunction, rather than or before buying these drugs than the internet.

James’ responsibility in the sexual communication and relationship difficulties in his marriage largely stem from false beliefs such as “a real man does not help from his wife to get an erection”. Second, to this was actual his failure to disclose to his wife how his body was responding to his stimulation as he aged. It is possible that the sexual dysfunction he is experiencing could be treated just as effectively by changing the type of stimulations he is receiving. The only way for James to enhance or change the way his wife is stimulating him during their interactions is to discuss how her stimulations and interactions feel to him and how his body responds to them. Furthermore, it is very possible that if James had revealed how his body was responding as he aged maybe Yelena would have opened up about her issues and/or vice versa. 

Many of Yelena’s physical problems during sex are likely related to normal hormonal changes that occur during perimenopause such as drops in estrogen and progesterone. As the woman body ages and hormonal changes occur there is less blood engorgement of the genitals, vaginal lubrication may take longer to occur or may be reduced in amount, as well as vaginal elasticity may decrease (Roger, 2009, p.471). Collectively these problems can contribute to discomfort and avoidance. Yelena should seek medical attention for the discomfort she feels during sex as most sexual problems can be treated. Treatment for this can be as simple over the counter lubrication or hormone replacements creams or tablets (Roger, 2009, p. 471). 

Yelena has also made some communication errors that have contributed to the sexual and intimacy problems in their marriage. Just as much as her beliefs that is “unfeminine to make any sexual demands of her husband” when she desired more forplay, Yelena’s constant “faking of orgasms” has contributed to the decline in Yelena’s and James sexual relationship by inhibiting their relationships sexual development. Both her silence about her needs and faked orgasms indicated to her partner that she liked and enjoyed things that she was not actually pleased with. Therefore, her silence and faking of orgasms has contributed to her husband’s ignorance of her needs and cripples his overall ability to satisfy her needs. If Yelena hopes to rekindle the romance with her husband she needs to communicate to help him understand her needs and desires.

As we can see, James false beliefs about sexual communication and failure to communicate with his wife about his own sexual response contributed to overall sexual and intimacy problem as much as Yelena’s false beliefs about sexual communication and lack of communication about her body responds to her husband. James and Yelena both also failed to seek help from each other when experiencing sexual and intimacy problems which contributed to a decline in their sexual intimacy and current relationship problems. Both James and Yelena equally were unaware of the changes in their aging body and their partner’s bodies. Not having a proper understanding of how their bodies were changing and responding contributed to them not seeking medical help sooner or making changes that helped each other. While James has found Viagra to help him with his sexual changes, Yelena’s not getting help or speaking up sooner has contributed to sexual discomfort, decreased desire and avoidance. Many sexual relationship problems are rooted and exacerbated by a basic lack of understanding of sexual anatomy and sexual response as well individual failures to communicate and respond to needs, desires, arousal patterns and sexual response of one another (Roger, 2009).

Effective communication regarding sex often requires each partner to understand his or her own anatomy and their partners as well as develop an overall awareness and understanding of how you each respond to each other sexually (Roger, 2009, p. 93). Partner communication is a fundamental component in any healthy sexual relationship because only you can tell your lover how your body really responds to his or her stimulation and interactions. Seeking professional help when experiencing sexual problems can help educate people experiencing sexual function problems on what is normal function for their individual stage in life, including physical, psychological and social health (Roger, 2009). A professional can also help guide patients in ways open up communication pathways between partners that can enhance intimacy (Roger, 2009). Most importantly professionals can explain and present effective ways to overcome the physical sexual challenges that aging presents and give medical treatment for types of sexual dysfunction that can be better treated with medical interventions (Roger, 2009).


Roger R. H. (2009). Sexual Problems and Solutions. Human Sexuality, 2nd Edition. Retrieved from Pearson Learning Solutions. VitalBook file.