30s
WHAT REALLY HAPPENS TO YOUR SEX LIFE IN YOUR 30S
Testosterone begins to slowly decline (it peaked in your 20s), says sex researcher Laura Berman, Ph.D., director of the Berman Center in Chicago. Yet women in their 30s tend to have heightened orgasms. TIP: If you didn't experiment with self-touch in your 20s, do it now. "This is key for keeping your sex drive going," says Barbara Keesling, Ph.D., author of Sexual Healing. Try inserting a finger and slowly rubbing at the top of the front wall of your vagina (the "A-spot," which helps you produce lubrication) for about 10 minutes.

"SEX ISN'T ABOUT IMPRESSING SOMEONE." -Neena, 32

I definitely have more fun with sex now and am less concerned about impressing someone. I know what feels better for me alone, and how to get the guy to get it right, too. I still have moments when I worry a little bit after sex and wonder, Was that OK? But I think about that much less frequently than I used to.

Being sexy is about being confident, and my sex life has improved now that I've tried to stop comparing myself with other women. Women need to focus more on themselves and less on how fat a bottom her ex's new girlfriend has .Being competitive with other women is ugly, not sexy. I will compliment a woman's dress at a bar, because her beauty does not detract from mine. You're at your sexiest when you can say another woman is also sexy.

I also used to think I was lucky if a guy was showing interest in me. Now that I'm older, I think less about "lucky me" and more "lucky him." Imagine the best sex of your life. Now imagine it getting better. According to our exclusive report, sex never has to stop becoming hotter. These women reveal how to make sure it happens

40s
WHAT REALLY HAPPENS TO YOUR SEX LIFE IN YOUR 40S

Women in their 40s want to have sex more often than younger women do, according to a survey by The Oxygen Network for its new show, Campus Ladies. That said, your vagina begins to lose elasticity and your pelvic floor weakens, so arousal happens more slowly and women may jump to the conclusion that something's wrong when it's not, says Monica Rodriguez of the Sexuality and Education Council of the United States.

TIPS: Lubricants can help you reach orgasm faster, says OB/GYN Jean C. Hundley, M.D. Exercises such as yoga and Pilates can also help boost desire and orgasm.

"SEX IS PEACEFUL AND COMPLETE." -Jodi, 42

When I was younger, I had an insecure, twisted idea of who of your life. Now imagine I was and who I was supposed to be as a woman. As a baby, an accident left me blind and deaf for two years and left permanent scar tissue by my scalp. Other kids teased me and told me I was ugly. Being beautiful, loved, and desirable became really important. I went into modeling and hid the scars with my hair, because I thought it would make me feel more secure if I could prove I was attractive. But I still lacked confidence. Then I thought the perfect relationship would make everything right--I stopped like a deer in headlights for any seemingly interested man. In my late 30s, I married a physically beautiful man. We were very attracted to each other and had great sex. But when I told him I was pregnant, he walked out on me, and he took my money with him. I decided to step up to the plate. I looked up a job contact I had met only once and threw myself into designing a gym for his company. It was a success, and by the time I turned 40, I finally felt financially and emotionally secure. I'd proved that I could care for my daughter and myself on my own. I validated myself, and that was sexy. Now, my sexuality isn't based on some one else's approval or my looks.

My confidence makes me feel so much more sexual today than I was five years ago. My ex-husband and I had intense and unbelievable sex, but we didn't communicate properly or spend quality time together. Now, I understand that being with someone who understands you changes sex drastically.

The sex isn't that ravenous, animalistic kind; it's on a deeper level, and it is more peaceful and complete. Don't get me wrong: I still like insane, rip-off-your-clothes sex. But I don't think it lasts; it's a fantasy you create. What's important to me now is waking up next to someone I really like, not someone who just looks good.

50s
WHAT REALLY HAPPENS TO YOUR SEX LIFE IN YOUR 50S

At menopause, the lining of the vagina thins and you have less natural lubrication. But many women find sex after menopause liberating, since the chance of pregnancy is eliminated. They're also more likely to engage in masturbation and sexual experimentation, says Susan Kellogg, Ph.D., of the Graduate Hospital Pelvic & Sexual Health Institute in Philadelphia. Just be careful: Women over 55 are in the top three groups of people most prone to HIV infection, says Rodriguez. TIP: Use the woman-on-top position for the most physical arousal, says Keesling. Also, plan to spend more time on foreplay. Older guys aren't necessarily going to get a spontaneous erection the way younger guys do.

"OLDER WOMEN AREN'T GOING TO JUST LIE THERE IF THEY'RE NOT ENJOYING IT." -Beverly, 57

I've felt very sexy for most of my life, and I'd always gotten interest from men. But in 1997, cancer forced me to have a hysterectomy, and I felt like I disappeared sexually. I was hunched over, I was in pain, and I felt as if I was becoming a "ma'am." When I was a child, a woman in our neighborhood had a hysterectomy, and I heard other women whispering, "Her husband is cheating on her, and why wouldn't he? They've taken her insides out." All those old wives' tales I had heard growing up forced themselves into my head, and I felt as if I had suddenly lost my spark.

So I decided to focus on healing myself, physically and emotionally. As I was getting my life together, gettingfit, and getting back to work, I noticed I felt sexier. To me, the sexiest women are approachable and interesting. It isn't that sexy women are the prettiest or have the best bodies, but they have the greatest sense of self. Men became interested in me once I started owning myself again.

Now, I get adrenaline rushes that make me feel sexy when I make a good business deal or try something I've never done before, like going across a zip line in Costa Rica.

To me, sex gets better with age. I think older women become a little more selfish, in a positive way: They're not going to lie there if they're not going to get some pleasure. They know you need to tell a man what turns you on and what he's doing right. If he's not turning you on at all, you get rid of him. I would never have done that as a younger woman. And I think many young women won't do that today, either: Some of them have sex just for the "fun" of it, but they get nothing out of it. If you're not getting paid for it, and you're saying it turns you on when it doesn't, you have low self-esteem. And it's difficult to have good sex when you have low self-esteem. I think most of us are very insecure for a long time, not just about our sexuality, but also what we're all about as people. But we get to a point where we can say, "Either you like me or you don't. It works or it doesn't." Older women tend to feel that if we've come this far in life, we're not going to do anything that doesn't make us feel good about ourselves.

How Good Can Your Sex Life Get?

Isn't there an age at which you've done it all, and sex stops getting better?

Scientists--and real women--say no. Here are the facts:

"LIMITING YOURSELF IS NEVER SEXY." -GOLDA, 68

Right now, I'm feeling incredibly sexy after not having felt that way for a while. It comes down to self-acceptance. For instance, I've always had fat legs. But it's only now that I realize there are a lot of people out there who don't mind that I have fat legs. With people, it's like chicken. You might have a preference for which part of the bird you like. But will you eat another part if it's cooked well? Of course! When you limit yourself, you're missing out, and that's not sexy. Sex has changed for me over the years.

My dad died when I was 12, and I was having sex at 13. Not satisfying sex--I was looking for a father substitute. It wasn't until the loosening of the social girdle in the 1960s that I felt that it was OK to have sex and be freer about it. I didn't have to make apologies for having a healthy sexual appetite.

Today, I'm still learning about my own sexuality every day. I'm more open now than I was two weeks ago. You can be sexy when you're not having sex (although I am having sex regularly now--and getting great satisfaction from it). It's a part of fully living, and having all systems be go! The advent of AIDS also helped me be more articulate about sex and sexuality, because I had to say to men, "I will get an AIDS test, will you?" I knew instantly who wasn't worth my time. If I could carry on an intimate dialogue with someone, I knew they would also "get" the important things about me. My relationships that included intimacy and safe sex made me feel safe in more than one way. And that's sexy.

"PERFECT SEX IS AS IMPOSSIBLE AS 'PERFECT' ANYTHING ELSE." --LYNN, 73

I was raised with the idea that sexuality was not supposed to exist: Femininity could be expressed through being maternal. But being a woman isn't just about being maternal; it's about being sexual. Now is my most fully realized time: I feel very free, and being sexy means being turned on by having the power to achieve my goals. In my 20s, I married a man who turned out to be a bully. I divorced him after 25 years and felt I was saving my life. I finally felt complete as an individual, and that made me feel strong and sexy. After our separation, I felt as if I was back in my teens--kind of scared and intimidated, but curious about other men. I've learned a lot about sex over time: It can be exotic, fun, erotic, beautiful, dirty, colorful, comforting, and satisfying. It can also be ordinary, repetitive, boring, uninteresting, and uncomfortable. Now, I just try to be who I am at the moment. Perfect sex all the time is just as impossible as "perfect" anything else. To keep sex great, one needs to do the necessary work, meaning using imagination, variety, spontaneity, and anything else that might work.

"WOMEN NEED TO LEARN TO SATISFY THEMSELVES." --FRANCESCA, 84

Sex appeal is a mind job. Women now have their bosoms in full swing and their belly buttons out there with rings on them. There's no more intrigue. Mystery was part of the sexiness in my time. Older women can be appealing without all that. Women without partners need to realize they can still have sexuality, and that their sexual desires are normal. I feel fortunate I that learned to enjoy sexual freedom when I was married. My husband made me feel very important, which made me confident. He taught me that masturbation is healthy and helped me understand my body and how I'd respond. The idea of women masturbating has always been considered kind of subversive in our culture. But to be confident, happy, and healthy, women have to really understand their female parts and what arouses them.

A lot of my peers have given up on their sexuality; you can tell by the way they dress. Staying in your sweatpants and not doing anything to lose weight detracts from your self-esteem. I think women can discover that they're sexy later in life, but they have to shoot down the belief that there's no sexuality for the elderly. I'm in my 80s, and I can still look at a man who's well built and think, He can put his shoes under my bed anytime! The bottom line for a lot of older women, I think, is fear of rejection. But an older woman today has a lot more freedom, and there's no physical reason she needs to end her sex life after 60. Really, the only difficulty is finding a man her age who is still attractive and able.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENS TO YOUR SEX LIFE IN YOUR 60S AND BEYOND

Health problems can take a toll on sexual response. Diabetes can unfavorably change your hormone levels, medications can reduce arousal, and arthritis can even decrease your ability to have maximal clitoral stimulation, says Berman. TIPS: Regular exercise can bump up your sex life if you find your libido sagging. "Women who do weight bearing exercises, have good muscle tone, and have good cardiovascular health are not only more likely to be in the physical condition to have sex, but they may be more likely to be in the hormonal condition to do so, too," says Berman. It's not too late for women who haven't made sex a priority to change that now. Keep your pelvic floor alive, says Berman, by exercising your vagina with a partner or through self-stimulation.

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