A new survey of women aged between 35 and 55 has found that the cultural emphasis on being young and thin has a more significant influence on sexual functioning than menopause.
The findings seem to be a slap in the face for pharmaceutical companies who are planning libido enhancers for menopausal women. "The success of Viagra for men has created a heightened interest in marketing hormones and other medications to midlife women to insure sexual functioning and satisfaction. Our results suggest that 'treatment,' via medication, of menopausal effects for this purpose seems unwarranted in light of the findings that menopausal status did not have a significant impact on the sexual responding of the women in this study," said Penn State researcher and study leader Dr. Patricia Barthalow Koch.
So if menopause isn't the big contributor to low sexual response that we all thought it was; what is? Koch, president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, thinks body image could be the culprit. "There has been a dearth of research examining the relationship between body image and women's sexual response. These new results support a link between body image and sexual responding that needs further study," Koch explained.
The study, appearing in the current issue of The Journal of Sex Research, surveyed heterosexual Caucasian women of whom 21 percent said they were pre-menopausal, 63 percent said they were undergoing some menopausal changes (perimenopausal) and 16 percent were post-menopausal.
The results showed that, regardless of the woman's age or menopausal status, she was more likely to consider herself more attractive when she was 10 years younger. Nearly 21 percent of the respondents could not think of even one attractive feature and reported an overall sense of dissatisfaction with their bodies. The survey participants were most dissatisfied with their stomach, hips, thighs and legs - the parts of the body that gain weight with age. The researchers contend that the Western World's infatuation with youthful slender bodies creates anxiety about aging and pressure for older women to disguise what are otherwise normal changes.
Most interestingly, the more a woman perceived herself as less attractive, the more likely she was to report a decline in sexual desire or activity. Nearly 70 percent of the women reported one or more changes in their sexual response, usually desiring sex less and engaging in sex less often. Encouragingly, despite these changes in desire, the women reported that when they did have sex, there was a high level of enjoyment.
Source: Penn State University