Does good sex get harder as you get older?
This week, our resident sexpert, Olivia Petter, answers the question: ‘I spent my twenties hooking up a lot. Now I’m in my thirties, I’m finding casual sex harder – any advice?’
Friday 25 November 2022 By Olivia Petter Illustration by Guillaume Kashima
Of all the myths we’re told about dating and relationships, the most insidious is that sex can ever be casual. I know what you’re thinking: ‘Don’t be daft, Olivia, I’ve had plenty of casual sex. It’s been great, hot, and sexy as hell – maybe you should try it.’
All of this could be true – but let me ask you some questions. Would the person you were having this sex with agree? What’s your relationship like with them now? And how many stories have you heard about two people who had incredible, no-strings attached sex for a specific, mutually agreed amount of time before amicably parting ways and wishing each other the best?
Look, I get it. It’s 2022 – we should all feel sexually liberated enough to have the kind of sex we want whenever we want it. And that includes those sporadic hookups we have outside of romantic relationships, the ones we would call ‘casual’. But the reality is not that simple. Because the chances of finding someone who wants and expects exactly the same things you do in any kind of so-called ‘casual’ arrangement are very slim.
On top of that, having a successful casual sex dynamic relies on both partners being crystal-clear communicators. What are you hoping to get out of this? How long will it last? Why are you so sure you don’t want to be seriously involved with this person? And what happens if and when one of you meets someone you do want to be seriously involved with?
I’m sure you’ve all seen the almost identical films No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits, right? Well, there’s a reason that in both of those movies the two people who set out to have a ‘casual sex’ relationship wind up falling in love with one another. Your ending might not be quite so cinematic, but the point is that it’s likely that any sort of casual situation you embark upon isn’t going to stay casual. At least not for long.
That said, as your question suggests, timing here is everything. It’s arguably a lot easier to maintain a laissez-faire approach to life in all aspects when you’re in your twenties compared to your thirties. Life expects less of you, particularly if you’re a woman. There are fewer conversations around marriage and mortgages. So, yes, in theory it might have been easier to have casual sex when you were younger, even if it all ended in tears.
But the truth is that it’s never going to be a walk in the park, regardless of your age. We are human beings with beating hearts and overthinking brains. Even the idea of dating someone casually is hard to fathom, let alone having sex with them. My advice is to avoid labelling your sexual encounters altogether.
Don’t go into anything – or anyone – expecting it to be casual, serious or otherwise. Keep an open mind, be kind to yourself, and remember that life will never imitate two terrible rom-coms with strikingly similar-looking stars.
The quick-fire round
My partner and I have mis-matched libidos – will I ever be satisfied?
When one partner has a higher sex drive than the other, it can make sex feel as if you’re doing someone a favour. In the (kind of) words of Paris Hilton: that’s not hot. But libidos are constantly changing. I take it you’re the hornier of the two, hence the understandably frustrated tone of your question. Talk to your partner about what could be causing this – it’s likely there’s something deeper going on.
What does it mean when someone tells me ‘you’re too good for me’
Run. I mean it. Run for the hills. This is classic softboi speak, regardless of the gender of this person. Sorry to break it to you, but they’re not interested. And instead of telling you that, because they’re a coward, they’re trying to fluff your ego so that you won’t ever think poorly of them for dumping you. It’s narcissism 101; keep running.
If you want to get in touch, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions will remain anonymous.
Olivia Petter is the relationships writer at The Independent and author of Millennial Love, which is out now in paperback with 4th Estate