Sex is “just another chore” says journalist Sarah Vine
In the Daily Mail yesterday, Sarah Vine responded to the results of a study which found that one in four middle aged women said that their sex life “was virtually non-existent” by admitting that she views sex as “just another chore”.
The study that triggered Vine’s outpouring certainly painted a grim picture of mid life for women. It declared that over a third of the women in the survey had become perimenopausal in their early forties and were spending, on average, “ten to 20 years suffering from a range of symptoms such as hot flushes, insomnia, mood swings, anxiety, depression, sore joints and a weak bladder.”
The women were “plagued by weight-gain, and exhaustion” and “61 per cent were suffering with anxiety due to the symptoms of the perimenopause”.
Nearly half of the women said they “no longer feel attractive”. Over 50 per cent said they had “no libido anymore” and nearly three quarters admitted that the “perimenopause is affecting their relationships”.
Vine explained these findings by suggesting that because professional women tend to delay having children until they are in their thirties, they now spend their forties juggling the multiple demands of young children, aging parents, jobs and housekeeping and the ‘something’ that invariably ‘has to give’, is sex.
I understand that Vine is married to Michael Gove and so it might be different for her, but I would like to speak out for all the other middle aged women – like me – who have kids, parents, jobs and tidy (ish) homes and yet we manage to eat well, keep fit and have sex too.
We actually want sex. We enjoy it. It makes us feel desired and connected to our partners. We also recognise that sexual intimacy is fundamental to our primary relationship because it is virtually the only thing that distinguishes the connection we have with our husbands, or wives, from the connections we have with everyone else.
Although I understand where Sarah Vine is coming from, too many journalists are happy to hang a story on a press release without scrutinising the validity of the information. I say that because even the most rudimentary inspection of this particular study would have revealed it’s obvious bias and gaping flaws.
Firstly, the study was carried out by Healthspan, a company who describe themselves as the UK’s leading online vitamin brand and needless to say, Healthspan produces a range of vitamins and supplements that help to treat all those nasty perimenopausal symptoms.
Now, I’m no stats genius, but the Healthspan press release declares that nearly half of the women in their study “didn’t even know what the perimenopause is”, and yet a couple of paragraphs later they say that nearly three quarters of the women in the study admitted that the “perimenopause is affecting their relationships”.
I might be missing something here, but how could 75 per cent of the women in the study say that the “perimenopause is affecting their relationships” if half of them didn’t know what perimenopause is?
Presenting perimenopause in a negative light serves Healthspan’s purpose – which is to sell more vitamins and supplements – but it doesn’t do women any favours because it primes them to anticipate sexual problems in mid life. Research carried out in 2013 by Virginie Ringa at the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health in Paris found that the biological and hormonal changes that characterise menopause do not negatively affect female sexuality. Instead, negative representations of sexuality around menopause and the ‘anticipation’ of a decline in sexual activity make women believe that it is “normal” to have less sex as they get older.