On Dating, Desire, and Sex In Your 40s

I am a 40-year-old Black woman and I am as single as a dollar bill.

Don’t feel bad for me, because I’m not at all lamenting being single. I’ve been married, divorced, and I’ve had a couple of long-term relationships. Now, I choose to be single and am actively navigating the dating scene as an older, wiser, more focused woman. Admittedly, in the past, I’ve been discouraged by the idea that a woman’s value relies on her relationship status. And like many others, I’ve been especially overwhelmed by all of the research and data suggesting nearly half of Black women will struggle way into their older ages to find equal partners to settle down with unless they date outside of their race. I’m happy to say that I’ve finally reached a point when I don’t feel any pressure to compromise or sacrifice what’s important to me in order to be in a relationship. It’s been an eye-opening experience and, dare I say, empowering.

For many women in their forties, having an intimate connection with someone we can share ourselves with, have great fun, and have amazing sex would be cool, but it doesn’t seem to be a top priority. The biggest difference I’ve noticed in dating now versus dating in our twenties is in how we approach dating and how we go about actually doing it. For many of us older women, there is a combination of learning from past experiences, feeling confident about creating different standards, valuing the independence, and being unwilling to settle for anything less than we feel we deserve.

So how can a woman in her forties successfully venture out into the modern dating scene without feeling weighed down and burdened by the obstacles and downsides? It takes an effort to unlearn “tradition,” honest introspection, an open mind, and a willingness to think and act outside of the box. We can’t expect to apply old rules to a new game, so it’s time to get hip to what it’s like out there for women of a certain age.

First, we have to acknowledge that ageism against older women is prevalent in the dating scene.  Women being with older men has long been the accepted “norm” in our society, so ageism is an obstacle for many women in their forties who are seeking men in their age group. In same-sex relationships, the age issue doesn’t seem to be as prominent, but aging queer women may struggle with finding someone compatible in their age group, too. Interestingly enough, lesbians have higher divorce rates than gay men, so the tide may be turning as more older women-seeking-women become available and reenter the dating world.

Open your mind about the age range you’re willing to date and explore your options. Have you considered dating younger? Younger beaux are often more “enlightened” about social issues like racism and gender equality, having been exposed to more progressive community and social media conversations around these matters. They tend to have the sexual drive and capacity to meet the needs of women our age as we reach our sexual peak. And men, especially, are less likely to feel threatened by our intelligence, careers, and accomplishments, or feel like they’re in competition with us, mainly because they expect us to be more advanced than they are, and they generally respect it.

Update your preferred age range on Tinder and Hinge, and chat up someone younger. A number of women I’ve spoken to say dating younger was the best decision they made and they couldn’t be happier. Keep in mind that there are some younger people out there looking to take advantage of older women because they assume we’re desperate. Play things close to the chest until you’re comfortable opening up and sharing more of yourself and your material possessions.

Older women are more interested in exploring fantasies and enjoying sex, even more casual sex, once they age past the increased risk of pregnancy.

When it comes to sex, there’s no better time to take charge of your sexual pleasure than when you reach your forties. We often joke about older women’s libidos being in overdrive, but unless you’re asexual, or have had experiences with trauma, illness, or medications that impact your sex drive, you can probably relate! Older women who have moved beyond the “typical” age for childbearing, but are not-quite-menopausal, desire to and have more sex, whether married or single.

One explanation is that women are more comfortable with their sexuality and their bodies at older ages, so they let their guard down and go for theirs. Another reason is that older women are more interested in exploring fantasies and enjoying sex, even more casual sex, once they age past the increased risk of pregnancy. We’re also less likely to accept being sexually shamed or mistreated for wanting to have sex and taking the lead on having it. If you find yourself in any situation where you encounter sexist or archaic ideas about women and sex, run! The more in control you feel, the more likely you are to be active and enjoy the sex you have.

There’s nothing wrong with having sex for pleasure’s sake; I strongly encourage it! Keeping it light with someone you primarily want to have sex with isn’t wrong. It’s important, though, to be honest with yourself and your partners about your true intentions. These days, it seems more people are looking for casual connections and maybe that’s all you need right now, especially if you’re still moving past a divorce or end of a serious relationship.

Just make sure you’re not settling for terrible sex, that you’re honest with your partners about your wants and needs, and you’re assertive and enthusiastic about consent. Use protection, insist upon it. Beware of any person who hesitates or puts up a fight when you proactively introduce barrier protections or suggest getting tested for STDs/STIs. Challenge yourself to explore beyond your comfort zone to try things you were too afraid of or nervous about when you were younger.

Finally, change up the ways you go about meeting potential partners. If you’ve never tried online dating, there are several options for you. Gather up your best selfies, inject your humor, and show the fullness of your personality. People often assume women over 40 aren’t as energetic or interested in having fun, but that simply isn’t true. Put on that sexy new outfit, go out dancing, buy someone a drink at the bar, and live your best life.

See someone attractive on an app? Send the first message. Join your local 40-plus Meetup group and try some new activities. Don’t sit around waiting for the perfect person to find you on your couch watching Netflix; you may be older, but you’re not dead yet! Just make sure you let at least one friend know where you’re going and who you’re meeting up with; there are still some sketchy people out there and you don’t want to jeopardize your safety.

Turning 40 opened my eyes and changed my perspective on a lot of things. I’m taking the lessons I’ve learned from past relationships and prioritizing my wants and needs over those of others. You probably won’t meet the perfect person your first time out, but keep trying. It takes practice, so you might as well enjoy it while you’re figuring out what’s best for you in this new phase in your life.


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