“Hot flash sex” sounds like some new technique that the young people are doing.
But if you are a menopausal woman or someone you know is or has been ravaged by the super-neat! experience that is menopause, you know that’s not true.
Hot flashes are not sexy.
Hot flash sex is hot, yes, but in a very literal, very unsexy way.
Here’s the Hot Flash Sex Scenario
You’re having a great time with your partner. You just executed a quick and graceful position change and you’re on top now, when all of sudden: the hot flash hits you. Your body temperature spikes to what feels like 117℉. Your skin is on fire from the inside out.
The back of your head is steaming. Are you breathing? Doesn’t feel like it; your lungs are twin furnaces, burning off the oxygen.
Your blood might be actually boiling. The cute little glimmer of sweat you had going becomes literal rivers of sweat running down your face, your back, your upper arms. You didn’t even know that your upper arms could sweat. You can’t hold on to anything. You’re sliding off. The touch of skin on skin goes from pleasurable to painful — it’s so fucking hot, your molecules are jittering like popcorn in a skillet — just like that.
Sexy? I don’t think so.
Maybe the hot flash lasts for 30 seconds or maybe it lasts for 5 minutes. Hot as it is, that’s long enough to cool things off. Once your body temperature has normalized, you’ll need to towel off the sweat.
What a turn on.
Based entirely on my own experience, here are five ways that you can navigate the hot-flash-sex era with your menopausal lover. Hopefully, you’ll both come out of it with only minor burns.
1: Try to Understand What She’s Experiencing
Hot flashes are one aspect in a terrifying list of menopausal fun. Not every woman will experience all of these symptoms. Every woman’s experience is going to be different.
We all get to enjoy our own customized little ride through hot flash hell, don’t we? How nice.
What can help — a lot — is for you to understand and empathize with her experience. She may or may not be good at communicating how she’s feeling and what’s going on in her body. She may not be able to communicate. Sometimes when you’re in the middle of an experience, the last thing you can do is articulate what it’s like. You’re trying to survive. There’s no energy left for explanations.
Here’s a short list of possibilities:
So. Much. Sweating.
I think I’ve gone over these in enough detail.
Also, know what tends to trigger hot flashes? Alcohol. That’s right. So when we want to relax on our menopausal journey, and pour up that lovely chilled glass of white or grab an ice-cold beer: well, it’s a short-lived pleasure.
In 45 seconds the hot-flash-herd will come thundering through. We’ll be fanning, sweating, swearing, and setting everything around us on fire.
Goodbye to that luscious and welcoming, self-lubricated cave of wonders.
Hello to a bone-dry, sand-blown, friction-filled empty well.
Get to know all the KY Jelly varieties available at your local pharmacy. Pro tip: there aren’t very many, and they all suck.
Like regular emotions, but 10x the power and at 100x the speed.
Pro tip for the people who love us: please don’t mention our “little mood swings.”
The truth is, we’re as frustrated, exhausted, and overwhelmed by the emotional rollercoaster as you are.
We’d make it stop, if only we could figure out how.
Hormones are already tricky to deal with.
They ebb, they flow, they change without warning, and they affect us in all sorts of ways. Menopause causes whatever hormonal balance we might have had to go away. Far away.
Generally, the hormone we get on overload during menopause is not the one that makes us feel good.
Disappearing Sex Drive
Maybe our sex drive is less than it used to be. Maybe it disappears altogether, for who knows how long.
This is a really scary experience, by the way. It doesn’t feel good to suddenly not want something that used to be pleasurable, relaxing, and important in a lot of ways.
2: Eliminate Sexual Goals
Honestly, sex without goals is great all the time.
It’s especially great when your partner’s sex drive is hiding, her body is not responding as it used to, and her emotions and hormones are making everything feel much worse than it has to.
Sometimes, though, we don’t communicate our sexual goals. We may not consciously think about them, so of course, we don’t share them.
Often, we have unspoken goals, like these:
- We take turns pleasuring each other.
- You know what I want without me saying it.
- I know what you want without you saying it.
- I don’t have to work at this.
- You don’t have to work at this.
- Oral only!
- Penetration only!
- Lots of foreplay!
- WTF is foreplay?
- All the positions!
- Only one position!
- I come first.
- You come first.
- You (or I) orgasm multiple times.
- We come together.
- Your orgasm is amazing.
- My orgasm is amazing.
- We spend a long time having sex.
- We spend a short time having sex.
- We don’t fall asleep while having sex.
Listen. This may shock you, but… sex is about fun. (Also procreation, I guess, but if we’re in menopause land, that’s in the past.)
So, sex is about play and pleasure and connection. It’s about expression and intimacy and sensations.
You know what is not fun? A long list of goals, communicated or not, burdening both of you. Or even one goal. One goal can feel overwhelming. I think the most common unspoken goal in sex is: we’re both going to come, and it’s going to be good for both of us.
The pressure to reach sexual “goals” is what leads to stupid shit like faking orgasms and feeling like a sexual failure and having performance anxiety.
Take the goals out of the bedroom. Or wherever you are. Have a conversation about it. Be honest and be kind. Agree to put all the goals away, and let your time together be whatever it turns out to be.
3: Communicate Your Desires and Expectations
Communicating your desires and expectations will help you to be honest about any lingering sexual goals. There’s no shame in having sexual goals, of course not. Who doesn’t want to have an amazing orgasm?
But you’re in new sexual territory, most likely one of these places:
- Sex used to be a regular feature of your relationship. It was good and satisfying for the most part. Maybe it wasn’t the best or the most exciting, but you both tried to please each other and have fun, and most of the time, you did.
- Sex has been a struggle in your relationship for a while. You already have some issues to work through, but it’s tough. Now there’s a whole new set of complications and you’re both overwhelmed.
- Sex with each other is fairly new; maybe the whole relationship is new. She’s probably feeling self-conscious because you’re not getting the “normal experience” of what she used to be, sexually. You’re probably trying to figure out wtf is going on without being an asshole.
Bringing a goal into this territory is not helpful. Best to be clear and ask for what you want and say what you expect. This will also help her to feel comfortable doing the same.
If you’re not used to doing this it can be weird and feel awkward. Feel free to modify these starter scripts:
- Can we spend some time together, being naked and touching and enjoying each other’s bodies? I would love that. I don’t expect any penetration or orgasm. I’d just like to have some physical closeness.
- I would love to have some 69 time. No lubrication needed, no pressure, no need to finish anything or make either of us come. Time to pleasure and enjoy each other.
- I really want to be inside of you. We can take it really slow. You can be in control of the angle and the speed. You tell me what feels good or what doesn’t feel good.
It’s helpful to ask: What do you want? What do you expect? Find where your desires overlap. Let as many expectations go as possible.
4: Help Her Manage the Symptoms
Menopausal symptoms are going to happen when you’re in menopause.
Don’t make them a big deal. If you do a little prep, you can make the symptoms much easier to manage.
Temperature Regulation Tools
A tuned-up air conditioner, a circulating fan to blast cool air when needed. A towel for sweaty times. Ice water on hand. Little things make a big difference.
New and better lubes, oils, and other aids for the lack of natural moisture.
There’s good stuff available. Do some research. Order some new shit. Try things out.
Find what feels good for both of you.
Willingness to Take a Break
From sex, for a while: maybe she needs to not think about it for a few days or weeks.
Also, a willingness to take a break during sex.
Maybe she needs to cry. Maybe she needs a cold shower. If you can roll with it, it’s easier for her to figure out what she does need and take care of herself.
Support for Lifestyle Changes
How can you support whatever she needs to do to achieve a better hormonal balance?
This might mean a new diet or eliminating things like caffeine, alcohol, sugar, etc. It might mean trying different treatments to see what helps.
Supporting doesn’t mean you have to change your diet with her; it does mean you won’t sneak her a beer or offer chocolate cake when she’s cutting out alcohol and sugar. Instead, help her find other, healthier options.
Grace for the Bigger Picture
Especially, grace for an unpredictable sex drive.
She’s probably feeling worse about it than you are.
Try not to take it personally. Don’t make it about you: it’s not.
Let her know that it’s okay, that you’re okay, and that it won’t last forever. (It won’t.)
5: Approach with Humor
Sometimes, there’s only one choice to make: laugh or cry. She’s probably done enough crying lately.
Go with laughter.
If you don’t already have humor in your sex life, good god: you need it. Get it in there, now.
Sex is hilarious. Sex is a circus. Sex is play and play thrives on joy, humor, and lots and lots of laughter.
Throw out the overly serious faux-sexy expressions for deep belly laughs.
Get rid of sexual goals and make jokes instead. Don’t make fun of each other; that can turn critical and cause hurt. Instead, take a deep breath, relax, and see the whole wonderful expression of our physicality and sexuality as the beautiful romp it is.
Laugh at yourself.
Laugh at the weird, awkward, messy, juicy (and occasionally dry) ways we choose to connect with each other. Laugh at the sounds.
Laugh at trying and failing. Laugh at performing, then stop performing.
Repeat to yourself: Sex is play. Sex is play. Sex is play.
Playing is not performing. Playing is being together, doing something you both enjoy, and having a good time doing it… just because.
Getting through menopause is a process. Sometimes it’s a very lengthy one. But the worst parts will mellow or resolve. Symptoms will lessen, or disappear, or become manageable. Menopause, as an experience, will fade.
Those great communication skills, that in-depth knowledge of fabulous new sex products, and the relaxed, no-goals, fun, gracious, and playful approach to sex you both develop in the meantime? Those will stay with you, long after menopause has done its hellacious worst.