Reflections on Identity

Midlife Sex Is the Best Sex

Overcoming shame and guilt to embrace sexuality in midlife

Laura Friedman Williams
Published in
8 min readJul 4, 2022

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Photo: Monika Kozub / Unsplash

One of the biggest surprises to me in the annals of “I didn’t see that coming” is how fiercely I own and celebrate my sexuality in midlife.

I am not alone. According to HealthDay News, women in midlife feel more confident and empowered when it comes to sex and thus report higher levels of satisfaction. Gynecologist Susan Hardwick-Smith writes in her book Sexually Woke that up to one in five women in midlife report feeling fulfilled sexually, a number that may seem discouraging but that she says negates the common trope about how our changing hormones and bodies make sexual satisfaction impossible after we hit a certain age.

My sex life at fifty-one is the best it’s ever been, mostly because I have been able to discard the negative emotions I associated with sex from the very first time I became sexually active.

My best friend and I were hellbent on losing our virginity the summer before we started our senior year of high school. We can’t be virgins anymore, it’s embarrassing, we said as we watched other girls parade around with a swagger that made us feel we would forever be confined to pastel childhood bedrooms with Raggedy Ann dolls.

My friend did the deed first. She was suddenly light years ahead of me, holding the secret to adulthood that remained elusive to me. She was my closest friend; we spent most of our waking hours together, but now there was a chasm between us that I could see in the surety of her steps. Would I ever have that commanding knowledge, the key to becoming a full-fledged woman?

A few weeks later, I found myself naked on the nubby fabric of the brown plaid sofa in the basement of my house, my parents asleep two flights above me, with a boy two years my senior. I was fairly desperate for him to take the burden of virginity from me. I recall pressure and pain, as well as fear that my parents would open the door at the top of the stairs to find us mid-act, this boy stealing my most precious commodity.

Losing virginity. The phrase implies a misplaced item that I might spend the rest of my life vainly attempting to find. Where did my virginity go…

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Laura Friedman Williams
Human Parts

Author of AVAILABLE: A Very Honest Account of Life After Divorce (Boro/HarperUK June ‘21; Harper360 May ‘21). Mom of three, diehard New Yorker.