By Noelle Faulkner
A COLLECTIVE MOOD OF EMPOWERMENT, EMPATHY AND DE-STIGMATISATION IS DRIVING A NEW ERA OF SEX POSITIVITY AND SELF-CARE AMONG WOMEN, BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO REWRITE YOUR SEXUAL NARRATIVE AS YOU AGE?
Where the centre point of pleasure was once linked to a partner, women around the world are declaring a mode of return-to-self. The eras of repression, slut-shaming and even sex being sold to us under a white-washed wellness lens (think: the Goop-era of clinical-esque aesthetics) are over and importantly, so is the fetishisation of youth. As women age, so too does our sexual prime; the new era of pleasure is about self-serving hedonism and sexual prowess. Once conquered, this form of empowerment can unleash a new era and literal lust for life.
“Who I am as a sexual being has completely evolved in every decade,” says Bahar Etminan, founder of Ageless, reflecting on her sexual timeline. “In my twenties, I was still insecure and reflected what I thought my partner wanted in me. I was coquettish and played a role. In my thirties, I became a wife and mother, which had its own sexual filter and strange censorship around desire and self-expression. It wasn’t until my forties that I trusted myself and my body enough to surrender to a new experience of me as a sexual being.” As Etminan exhibits, with sexual expression and empowerment, confidence and self-esteem flow.
“A large thing we’re seeing at the moment is a rise in not just body-positivity, but body-love,” says Tammi Sue, a sex therapist and founder of Bare Therapy (@bare_therapy on Instagram). “There’s a nice flow state that goes both ways when somebody is feeling well in their sexual self, particularly around the endorphins that flow from pleasure, be it a small sensation of touch or a climax that leads to you walking a little bit taller. There is a nice, circular effect.” For many women, the path of sensual discovery can be an intimidating one, particularly as our bodies, lives and values change over the years. It’s in this instance where self-exploration can play a key role. “As women, we’re so often taught that our youth and our sexuality was only something we could offer, not something we should own,” says Ashley Peignoir, a 36-year-old Sydney woman. “I had so much bad sex in my twenties, and I’m convinced this is why. I was too worried about my body and my looks, plus I thought my pleasure was directly linked to a man’s. It wasn’t until my thirties that I realised what I actually enjoyed and desired. I found that, too, made sex better with others and then, I was able to remove the self-consciousness I felt around pleasure.”
We’re taught that our sexuality was only something we could offer, not something we should own
Just as you would with your personal style, self-exploration is a process of trial, error and discovery. Sue recommends carving out at least 20 minutes to play. “It’s almost a meditation,” she says. “Play with your hands to see what sparks something in you; take notice of what’s happening in your body. Then you can draw on top of that — do you like hard or soft touch? Cold or warm touch? Eyes covered or eyes open?” All these questions will help to start building an empowered sensual identity.”
“It’s important for women to rediscover their sensuality as it’s directly linked to our self-esteem,” offers Alina Rose, a cognitive coach and sensuality mentor. “Perceiving our body — and our pleasure — through the five senses, rather than the critical gaze of the mind, opens up a domain of sensitivity, perceptiveness and responsiveness within our being that allows us to remember our power as women, no matter the age and stage of life.”
Unlike the sexual revolutions we’ve seen in the past, what women are experiencing right now isn’t about how we’re seen; it’s about how we see ourselves and our place in the world. More than just feeling ourselves, sexual self-actualisation is about confidence, empowerment and rewriting the narratives we assign to ourselves.” The ability to delight and heal her body and emotions through sensory pleasure is the right of any woman.” says Rose. “In this way, sensuality becomes a defiant, feminist act.”