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According to Statistics Canada, the older a single person is, the less likely he or she is to use a condom when having sex. What's more, between 1997 and 2007, sexually transmitted infection rates rose faster for middle-aged Canadians than for their younger peers.

Dr. Robin Milhausen, associate professor of family relations and human sexuality at the University of Guelph in Ontario, studies these, and other, issues.

Dr. Milhausen completed her PhD in Applied Health Science at Indiana University. Her dissertation research focused on factors that inhibit and enhance sexual arousal in men and women. Her current research interests include gender and sexuality, sexual problems and the experience of sexual pleasure, sexual and relationship satisfaction in couples, and condom use errors and problems. She edits the newsletter Sexual Science and was a co-host on the Life Network's Sex, Toys & Chocolate show. The following is a transcript of our live chat with her.


Niamh O'Doherty - Hi, my name is Niamh O'Doherty and I'll be hosting the chat today with Dr. Robin Milhausen. We'll be starting in ten minutes. Please feel free to submit your questions now.


[Comment From Robin Milhausen ]

Hi Niamh! And welcome to the discussion, everyone!


Niamh O'Doherty - Come on readers, don't be shy!


Niamh O'Doherty - Okay Robin, I'll start the ball rolling. Do you think mature adults get embarrassed buying condoms?


[Comment From Robin Milhausen]

I think people of all ages get a little embarrassed buying condoms. I had to buy 10 packages at once for a study I was doing and I was a little mortified in the lineup at the drugstore!


[Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Buying condoms is an admission that you are sexually active and planning to have sex, and that's not an admission that many of us make publicly.


[Comment From Robin Milhausen]

It can be harder for older, and younger (adolescent), persons because our society doesn't like to think of these groups as sexually active.


Niamh O'Doherty - While we're waiting for live questions, here's one from the comments: reader private1117 says: "My wife and I are in our early 40s, fit with two children under 10. We are still in love and good friends and live a happy but busy life. My wife feels that sexual intimacy once per month is normal and enough for us, however I would prefer a higher frequency of intimacy (even if it did not always lead to intercourse) - am I way off base? any suggestions?"


[Comment From Robin Milhausen]

This issue is actually the one that is raised with me the most often, and it's a hard one.


[Comment From Robin Milhausen]

It's hard to imagine two people having the same appetite for anything (say, food for example) at the same time, in the same amount. Yet we assume that our sex drives should be perfectly in sync with our partners'.


[Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Often this isn't the case.


[Comment From Robin Milhausen]

I look at sexuality from a holistic perspective, so I ask couples and individuals to think about the factors which are negatively impacting their desire. Are they physical (e.g., illness, health status)?


[Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Are they emotional (e.g., mood issues, depression)?


[Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Are they relational (e.g., conflict or misunderstandings with partner)?


[Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Are they situational (e.g., young kids at home, caring for aging parents, tough times at work, financial issues)? 1:40

[Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Or even are they structural/social - perhaps one member of the couple has ideas about sex or gender that they grew up with which are getting in the way of having desire. Or they didn't receive adequate sex education.

1:07 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

The task is to answer these questions for yourself to see where your roadblocks to desire lie, and then to discuss them with your partner to find a way to over come them.

1:08 Niamh O'Doherty - Thanks Robin. Readers, please feel free to submit any questions or comments you might have.

1:08 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Often people hope for a magic pill or other medical solution - but very often, the desire problem is not medical in nature. The real solution is likely to be harder work, relying on communication, compromise, self-analysis.

1:09 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

There were a lot of comments to the reader who posted this question online.

1:09 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

One person wrote: take out the garbage more!

1:10 Niamh O'Doherty - A question from Dave in Toronto: My doctor says my testosterone levels seem low, and he has offered me a prescription for a topical cream, but only if he thinks I need it. I'm not sure I do. How do I tell?

1:10 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

That's a simple solution, but for some people, women especially, it can be difficult to feel desire if your head is cluttered with a million different tasks, chores, responsibilities and stressors. If a woman's partner can relieve some of those stressors (i.e. taking out the garbage), she may be opened up to feel more desire.

1:11 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Good question, Dave. I'm not a medical doctor so can't comment on the specifics of your situation. I'd want to know why the doctor wants to prescribe testosterone. Have you talked with him about low desire or erectile problems?

1:12 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

If you think you can solve those issues without medication, it may be good to try that route first to avoid any side effects of testosterone.

1:14 [Comment From Peggy ]

I'm just wondering, what would be a great product to add in the boudoir that would really help increase sexual enjoyment for women?

1:14 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Great question!

1:14 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

After we've been in relationships for a long time, we can get into the habit of doing the same thing sexually every time (we know what works, so we keep doing it!).

1:15 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

But there are lots of great products you can buy, inexpensive, without a prescription, which can add a little spice.

1:16 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

The best selling sex toy in Canada and the US is called the We-Vibe. It's a c-shaped vibrator made of medical grade silicone, which is worn during intercourse.

Comment From Robin Milhausen]

The woman can wear it, and it stimulates her clitoris and her g-spot while she is having sex.

1:16 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

There are all kinds of other options, though.

1:17 [Comment From LookingLongTerm ]

I'm not 40, but thinking about what my relationships might look like 10, 20, 30 years later. I've seen fictional stories on television where couples apparently love each other, but are candid with each other about having sex with others. This is a plot device, of course, but does this happen often successfully in reality?

1:18 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Experimenting with different lubricants can be fun, especially as women age they may have more problems with vaginal dryness. There are lots of different environmentally friendly, vegan, biodegradable lubricants available now too. And you can buy them at the drug store, you don't have to go into a sex shop if you aren't comfortable.

1:18 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Lookingforlongterm - hold that thought for a second.

1:19 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

I would also recommend couples or individuals look into having "boudoir" photos taken to share with their partner. More and more photographers are offering these kinds of services. Just make sure you go to someone reputable (check their portfolio, and references).

1:20 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Lookinglongterm: couples are are not sexually exclusive do exist in the real world.

1:20 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

They have usually made agreements with eachother about what kinds of sex and with who is acceptable.

1:21 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Sometimes they swap partners, or bring new partners into their bedroom, sometimes they just see other people.

1:21 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

It's not easy to navigate these kinds of relationships. Jealousy is often an issue. But those who are polyamorous (means "loving more than one") say it gives them pleasure knowing their partner is happy being loved by someone else.

1:22 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

The idea that one person can meet all of our needs, sexually, emotionally, intellectually etc. etc. etc. may be unrealistic. It's a lot of pressure to put on one person.

1:24 [Comment From k ]

i am a 34 yr old women who is mentally very attracted to her husband but can not seem to get things going as far as libido these days... I love him and I want him but I can't seem to get things started in the bedroom - the desire is just not there, even for self pleasuring... any suggestions? I need a long term solution, perhaps a natural libido enhancer?

1:25 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

I hear you, K. This is a really common problem for women in their mid-thirties. We used to think this was a time for a sexual peak for women. However, now, this time often coincides with having young children, increasing responsibilities are work, caring for aging parents. Low desire is EXTREMELY common in women in their mid-thirties.

1:27 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Unfortunately, there's not a quick fix. You can go to your family doctor and ask him/her to rule out medical issues (e.g., hormonal issues). If there aren't any, then I'd ask yourself the questions I posed above in the chat. What physical, emotional, relational factors are getting in the way of you having desire? Are you just too tired? Are you feeling unhappy with the way your body looks? Are you a little bored with your partner? Or frustrated at him for something (or a lot of little things)? These things really eat away at desire. If you can resolve those issues, you can experience desire again.

1:29 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

I would say that likely this situation will change over time. Your life situation will evolve, your kids will grow up, you'll (hopefully) feel closer to your partner, and (hopefully) stop holding your body up to unrealistic media standards - and the desire will come back. You just need to nurture your relationship and your partner in the mean time. It can be hurtful to be rejected all the time (for men and women).

1:30 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

If you want to be proactive, take steps to spice things up yourself. What kind of sex would motivate you to be sexually active? Would it have to be passionate? Exciting? Risky? - Create that kind of sex. It can be hard to get excited about doing the same old thing.

1:30 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Other questions?

1:30 Niamh O'Doherty - Robin, considering your research in this area, what do you think is the most common cause of low libido?

1:32 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

What I've learned from my research is that desire is multi-faceted. There are over 200 things which can turn us on or off at any given time. This is why it's important to communicate with our partners, how could they ever guess what's going on for us amidst all those competing factors?

1:32 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

I think the biggest drain on libido is Life. The daily hassles, stresses, irritations that bog us down, exhaust us. That's why vacation sex is so exciting! :) We've been able to escape our responsibilities, come to a new location...

1:33 [Comment From Amy ]

I am also mid-thirties have two young kids (one toddler, one baby) and often too tired for sex at night even though I want to have sex more often. Any suggestions?

1:34 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Couples' sexual and relational satisfaction is at the lowest point when they have preschool aged children. From that point on, it gets better. When men and women are in their senior years, they often feel more fulfilled sexually than ever before. They are more in sync sexually and more comfortable in their bodies and relationships. But you don't want to wait that long, Amy!

1:36 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

My advice to women with young kids is to first, give themselves a break. It's not surprising that you have low desire if you are caring for babies all day long (and often all night). You feel like your body is giving to others all day long and your only purpose in life is keeping the little ones safe, happy and healthy. You often don't have anything left for yourself, or your partner.

1:37 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Can you find a way to give yourself a break, get yourself some help? If you can relieve some of your responsibilities and get some rest, you may feel more like sex. How do you feel when you do have sex? If you don't really look forward to sex in advance, but once you have it you feel more relaxed, more connected to your partner, it may be worth "going there" even if your desire isn't through the roof.

1:38 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

I'd also advise NOT waiting until nighttime to have sex. We're all exhausted then. Try and sneak in a quick encounter earlier in the day when you have more energy. Also, communicate with your partner about this. Keep them in the loop, otherwise they may feel hurt and confused about what's going on.

1:39 [Comment From Guy ]

Robin, my wife and I are 50 years old. We have never enjoyed a better sex life than we do now. I have your show "Sex Toys and Chocolate" to thank in part for that. I learned a lot about what is 'normal' in a healthy sexual relationship. Unfortunately, the show was aimed at a much younger audience. What is the possibility of a show aimed at the rest of us - the married and/or older sexually active generation? Has anyone approached you about this?

1:40 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Hi Guy! I wish they had! I'm often a guest on the Steven and Chris show on CBC, which targets older persons. I hear that a lot, though. Any TV producers out there, look me up!

1:40 [Comment From looker ]

My wife and I 28 and 29, we have a two year old daughter, another one on the way and are building a house. What can we do to maintain a level of intimacy that is beneficial for both of us? And not necesarrily have sex, just intimate time together?

1:43 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

That's a wonderful question, looker. You are wise to realise that it's not all about sex. The sexual passion will come and go in a relationship, but you have to keep the intimacy bond strong in order to weather the tougher times. I can imagine with one child, one on the way, building a house, there are a lot of stresses on your relationship. But the fact that you are asking that question suggests to me that you will make it just fine. When I was pregnant with our first child, I used to say to myself, "We are the primary dyad! We are the primary dyad!" (a little nerdy, I know, but it meant to me that I have to take care of my couple relationship first - if my husband and I aren't strong, we aren't any good to the kids). So find ways to connect with your wife without the kids (especially before number two is born - believe me - we just had a second and it changes everything!!!!).

1:45 [Comment From whatsenough ]

Hi there... I know there is no right answer to this question, but I'm hoping I can get some guidance. How does one handle completely out of whack sex drives? For instance, I'm good with a couple times a week, whereas my partner is pretty much only satisfied with a couple times a day/night. It's too much, and I'm becoming to lose interest because it's "boring" - not so much the act, but this constant need that he seems to have. He also watches porn daily, which I think contributes to his high libido. It's difficult for me as well, because I feel its an expectation that I can't live up to, even though he tells me it's only me he desires, but looks at porn to "get the job done". HELP! This is really affecting our relationship.

1:49 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

I can imagine this is hard on your relationship, whatsenough. Having sex a couple times a day is hard to maintain! Finding the time, energy, interest.... Have you asked him where he things his desire comes from? Is he troubled by it? Is it getting in the way of his life (e.g., job, other relationships)? He may want to talk with someone (e.g., a therapist) about this if he feels like his desire and/or porn use is out of control. You have the right to set limits on your sexual activity and to not have sex when it is beyond your comfort level. Perhaps he can "get the job done" on his own a certain number of times per week and then have a lesser number of encounters with you. You want to feel special, cherished, and desired, not just that you are an object that is helping him to get his needs met. If you can communicate that - that quality, not quantity, is important to you, hopefully you can find some middle ground.

1:50 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

For anyone out there, if you are looking for a therapist with sexuality expertise and training - check this website in Ontario:

1:51 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

BESTCO has therapists in most areas across Ontario and you can be sure you are speaking with someone who will not judge you and will be knowledgeable about sexual issues.

1:52 [Comment From J ]

This is probably repetitive - my problem as a 50-yr old menopausal female is exactly the same as K's. Love my husband & we've resolved lots of the interpersonal things that used to get in the way, but even when I reduce stress and want to have more intimacy, the libido is not there and if I can climax at all it takes forever. We're probably in a bit of a rut in terms of doing the same old things, but we're both shy - so what's the easiest way to spice things up?

1:53 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Many, many women have difficulty having an orgasm. Did you know that only 23% of women regularly have orgasms during sex? So, I'd ask you if you are able to have orgasms more easily on your own. If so, what are elements of your self-play that you can bring into your partnered interaction? Were you more easily orgasmic in the past? If so, perhaps it's a physiological issue and you could benefit from hormone therapy or (more easily) adding a lubricant to your sexual activity. Check this out with your doctor (the hormone issue).

1:55 Niamh O'Doherty - Any last questions for Dr Robin readers?

1:55 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

I'd also say that you need to figure out what kind of sex will motivate you to be sexually active, and then create that. I'd recommend trying a little bullet or egg vibrator. These are small, inexpensive ($20), and can be used on the clitoris, or around the penis (between the testicles and the base of the penis especially). This little toy is not threatening, but can add a lot of extra stimulation and fun/spice.

1:57 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

For all of you out there, stores like "Come as You Are" and "Good for Her" based in Toronto have amazing websites with knowledgeable staff and quality products. You can order online and they will ship to you in discrete packaging.

1:58 Niamh O'Doherty - Thanks Robin! Any final words of advice for our readers?

2:00 [Comment From Robin Milhausen]

Our sex lives are always in flux, and will always be influenced by whatever is going on in other aspects of our lives. Also, your sex life will influence your relationship and other aspects of your mental health. Often what we see as "sexual problems" are not sexual at all, but issues from other spheres of life. Finding out what's causing the problem, and targeting that, can improve your sex life. Working with your partner to stay connected, and being honest about what's going on for you, will help you to stay intimate even when the sex isn't what you'd like it to be.

2:02 Niamh O'Doherty - Thanks Robin, and thanks everyone for your questions. Be safe and enjoy yourselves out there!


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