The theme for SheSpark’s August issue is #KeepingItHot. The magazine explores sex appeal when entering (and surpassing) middle age. Sex educator and author Walker Thornton took time to answer questions on the topic. Below is the full interview. Enjoy!
THEA: Your book Inviting Desire is written for midlife women who want to enhance their sex lives. It starts with visualizing yourself as a sexual being. How do we do that?
WALKER: We start by realizing sexual pleasure is something we control—we have a choice to intentionally create a sense of desire. It starts in our brain and can take many forms—we do not need to have sex with another person in order to feel sexual. Once we understand that, we can then think about how we want to feel pleasure. It’s a gradual thing—each of us varies in what we like and the degree to which we feel ‘turned on’. We can increase our level of desire and then decide how we want to play with it!
A desire for pleasure, in many forms, is innate—we want to feel nice, to experience tastes and sights and sounds that make us feel a certain way. When we touch our arm in a light caress it gives us pleasure. When we dress ourselves in something that delights—whether it’s a lacy bra or a freshly pressed linen blouse, we are actively giving ourselves permission to feel sexy—sexual.
THEA: Society creates derogatory names for older women who “own” their sexuality like MILF and Cougar. How does that affect our ability to embrace our sexuality?
WALKER: I think sexuality is still controlled by men in this country, any woman who embraces her sexuality is viewed as dangerous to the status quo. These labels perpetuate the idea that women are objects to be conquered, not individuals acting out their own sexual agency. The labels give men that power to say “I’d like to (blank) her,” distancing themselves from consideration of that woman as a more nuanced individual.
The term “cougar” is one that bothers me—it portrays older women as predators, looking for weaker men they can coerce in some way. Women of all ages are entitled to the kind of sexuality they want, without labels or guidelines. We can refuse to give into the idea that we must show up in a certain way. Yet, there are women who seem to love playing the Cougar—it gives them a sense of power and control over their sexuality they lacked in their marriage. Each of us gets to define how we show up as a sexual being.
THEA: I, for one, look in the mirror and compare my midlife/post-pregnancy body to my 28 year-old physical prime. It’s demoralizing and almost impossible to feel desirable from that perspective. How do you overcome it?
WALKER: I wish there were a simple answer to that. I look at my fuller, rounder body and occasionally feel uncomfortable—but I know that my sense of myself as a sexual being doesn’t stem from how my body looks. What’s important is how we feel and act, how we think about our sexuality. It is more than just our body. We don’t give up on our work or exercise or other hobbies because our body has changed, why should we use that as a measure of our sexuality?
I might have looked “hotter” in my younger body, but the person I am today is much hotter—sexier, more knowledgeable, and capable of sustaining a great relationship or a great afternoon of wanton pleasures.
THEA: Your book talks about The Sexy Toolkit. Which important tool are most women missing and why?
WALKER: As we touched on in the last question, that confidence about our bodies gets in our way. Women lack self-confidence about their looks and knowledge about how their bodies respond to pleasure. To make things even harder most women have difficulty asking for what they want when it comes to sexual pleasure. So many women don’t feel comfortable enough to help direct a partner during sex—“a little less pressure”, “could you go faster/slower”, “I love it when you touch me right here.” It’s partly reticence about suggesting a partner isn’t doing it right. And partly that we aren’t familiar with our own body’s arousal pattern, which is why one of the skills I talk about is self-pleasuring. If we know how to bring ourselves to orgasm we then have the skills and knowledge to help a partner assist us.
THEA: One last question… What is a man’s role in all of this? If I sent this article to my guy and said “Read this!” — what would you want him to know and do?
WALKER: I’ve written the book for women—and the exercises are primarily solo. I think women need to learn to embrace their sexuality apart from a man. It is who we are—not simply something we experience as one of a couple. And, partners are important. It’s important for our partners, male or female, to understand that women’s desire is different. They need to try and see sex from our point of view sometimes and be willing to give us a little more of what we need.
Men aren’t always comfortable communicating about sex but it can be one of the key factors in a strong intimate relationship. In and out of bed, communicating is good practice. Tell us what you like-ask us what we want. Play, tease, talk, encourage, seduce….