When it comes to sex, I’ve always felt like a French woman or probably more like a Scandinavian woman, trapped in a British woman’s body.
At university, I didn’t sleep around (much) but I enjoyed sex with my boyfriends, wasn’t afraid to experiment, was happy to walk around naked even though my body is littered with imperfections and wobbly bits.
When I got married, all of that gradually faded away with time. Sex with my husband petered out to the point where I couldn’t stand to be in the same bed as him (yes, I know that makes me sound awful. Perhaps I am). My sexual being hid behind being a mother, a wife, a cleaner, cook, agony aunt and all the other 1001 things that we wives end up being.
After 12 years of marriage a man approached me. He wanted an affair. I can still taste – taste – the feeling that his words, his look gave me. It was a feeling of excitement, anxiety, relief, disbelief. Just thinking about it now, I can feel my chest tightening. It was a physical reaction to someone wanting me. After all those years.
I embarked on an affair. Due to problems in the willy department, we didn’t have sex for a while (until viagra was secretly introduced in a very surprising session) but nevertheless, he led me down pathways that believe me, I’ve never been before.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bragging. Having an affair is a bad idea, and it ultimately led to the death of my marriage (which, to be honest, was on its last legs anyway). But the sex thing was a revelation to me. It’s a cliche, but it made me feel like I was living again. It was somehow a metaphor for regaining what I’d lost through years of an empty marriage and, I suppose, for the piece of me that had been lost to motherhood.
When my marriage came to a full stop, so did the affair. But I internet dated for a short time and, by jimminy, I found I was getting that same feeling when a man said he wanted to take me to bed. I was back in the game!
There was a sense of freedom I got when I met someone in a bar that I didn’t know from Adam. I was completely anonymous. I had been brave enough to meet him and, good grief, if I fancied him then I’d sodding well go to bed with him. All the historic farcical name-calling of women – ‘slut’, ‘whore’ etc – meant nothing. It didn’t even cross my mind. I just wanted to feel again.
However, all is not rosy in the garden of sexual fulfilment. One of the mums at school is a doctor who specialises in STDs. She told me that the largest proportion of her patients are not the 18-25 carefree students anymore, but they are the 40+ divorcees; people like me who are flinging common sense to the wind in the pursuit of regaining a sense of free spirit.
Or gaining gonorrhoea and chlamydia, more like.
We may think that, because we’re older and are less likely to get pregnant, we don’t have to use protection. Our sexual partners might claim “it’s ok! I’ve had the snip!” as happened to me once. Yes, but what about those 240 women you slept with last year? Were they all fresh as a daisy? Or had one or two of them picked something up along the way?
Perhaps it’s to do with the Fifty Shades of Grey effect, as this article suggests. Or maybe it’s more to do with, as Susan Quilliam writes, that women no longer have to be afraid when they find themselves divorced in middle age. They can grab life by the scruff of the neck and say, “let’s do this.”
So, having been around the block a bit my advice is this. Ladies – be brave, do what you want, and enjoy it but be discrete, and most important of all, take precautions. You never quite know where he’s been.