Below: the book's cover.
Photo provided by Lee Hershfield
By Paula Detwiller
A few years ago, while recuperating from surgery on a broken leg, I visited a naturopathic medicine practitioner who had suffered a similar injury. She gave me a lot of practical advice — including a line I will never forget.
“You will heal well if you eat nutritious food and get plenty of sleep and sex,” she said.
Hmm! I’d never had a doctor prescribe sex before. Maybe Marvin Gaye was on to something when he wrote the lyrics to Sexual Healing:
And when I get that feeling
I want sexual healing
Sexual healing is good for me
Makes me feel so fine, it’s such a rush
Helps to relieve the mind, and it’s good for us
At the time, though, I just didn’t have “that feeling.” My libido was stuck in neutral.
Thanks to a new book, Kiss and Tell: Secrets of Sexual Desire from Women 15 to 97, I have been reassured that “neutral” is a natural state of being for women, especially those who’ve been with the same partner for many years.
“It’s not because we don’t like sex. It’s because we have about one-tenth the amount of testosterone (the sex-drive-producing hormone) men do,” says Anne Rodgers, a former Palm Beach Post editor who wrote the book along with Wellington gynecologist Dr. Maureen Whelihan. “So our partners need to learn ways to shift us into drive.”
The book is based on a survey of 1,300 women — all patients of Dr. Whelihan’s — and follow-up interviews with 100 of those patients. The women were asked questions such as what stimulates their desire, what they think about during sex, and what is their quickest route to orgasm.
Kiss and Tell is part social history (with first-person accounts of the impact of the 1960s sexual revolution) and part Penthouse Forum (it appeals to the voyeur in all of us). We meet Alexa, a self-described bisexual who enjoyed the swinger lifestyle for 16 years; 55-year-old Marie, who says she could go without sex and be fine with it; and Catherine, who had her first orgasm at 82. The survey includes women who are single, married, divorced, widowed, straight, lesbian and bisexual.
“There are a million things that stimulate women’s desire,” Rodgers says. “One woman wrote, ‘the smell of suntan lotion.’ Another wrote, ‘wearing tight thong underwear.’ But for women of all ages, kissing ranked very high as the No. 1 trigger.”
I have to agree. A good kiss can launch a very good lovemaking session.
And as the book makes clear, women who have satisfying sex lives are happier. But I wondered: Are they healthier? Why exactly is sex “good for us,” as Marvin Gaye put it?
Whelihan, who is a founding partner of the Center for Sexual Health and Education in West Palm Beach, was happy to address my question in an email.
“Sex is an integral part of both physical and emotional wellness,” she wrote. “There is an innate need to be touched. Human contact stimulates the natural transmitters in the brain like dopamine and norepinephrine that give us drive and energy.
“Sexual activity burns calories and increases the heart rate and blood pressure,” she continued. “Stimulating the pelvic floor with thrusting and orgasm help maintain pelvic support as well as bladder function well into a woman’s 80s. Regular intercourse keeps the vagina supple and lubricated without the need for estrogen creams.
“Statistically,” she concluded, “women who have sex three times a week live seven years longer!”
All the more reason to discover the secrets of desire.
Kiss and Tell is available for sale online at kissandtellbook.com or Amazon.com.
Paula Detwiller is a freelance writer and lifelong fitness junkie. Find her at www.pdwrites.com.