It was 2006 when my first book, ‘The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker’ was published to great acclaim. The story of my erotic journey from celibate wife to prolific swinger, within a month it was on the bestseller list and for a brief period I became a minor celebrity. Men I didn’t know emailed begging me for a date, documentary makers wooed me in the hope of filming my life story and lots of journalists (mainly middle-aged men) contacted me hoping for an interview (and sometimes more).
I was forty-five and having the time of my life. I had a stable of highly experienced lovers whom I rotated on a bi-monthly basis. If I was a little bored I would drive to a ‘naturist club’ in Kentish Town during my lunchtime, pick up the guy with the biggest dick, and shag him.
Some friends worried that I was turning into a sex addict but I knew it was a phase. After an unhappy marriage and the death of a partner, I wanted nothing more than to distance myself from my own emotions and immerse myself in the world of erotic pleasure. If you’re going to be a total hedonist, there’s no better time to go for it then in your forties.
Free of the drama that often surrounds relationships in their twenties and thirties, the forties are the perfect time to have no-strings sex and, thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to find someone who knows how to fuck. London may not have the romance of Paris or a fetish scene like Berlin but I found no shortage of men in London whose entire aim in life appeared to be to make a woman feel more pleasure than she ever thought possible.
During the ten years I was on the swinging scene I tried most things including BDSM, threesomes, foursomes and a lot more that I’ve long since forgotten. For two years I only had threesomes because, by then, I knew what I liked and it was that. I couldn’t see the point of having 1-on-1 sex when being filled up by two men felt so much better. They were all nice guys too. Not the most handsome to look at but they were fun and funny and when it came to sex they all had put in their 10,000 hours. Sometimes I felt so much pleasure coming from so many different erogenous zones that I didn’t even know who was doing what and where.
It was 2007 and I was 46 when the broadcaster and writer Jenni Murray contacted me to ask if she could pick my brains over lunch for a book she was writing. Of course I agreed (who wouldn’t?) and so we arranged to meet at Delanceys in Camden Town. A good ten years older than me and past the menopausal stage of life, I remember her saying, “I’d be interested to see if you’re still as sexually vociferous during your menopause as you are now. That should be interesting.”
At the time I brushed off her remark. I was at least five years off worrying about the menopause and so caught up in the moment; it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t always be up for it.
Then I turned 52. I had started dating a younger guy two years earlier after I came to the conclusion that if I didn’t attempt to reengage with intimacy, I’d probably end up as a pro. Others I knew on the swinging scene were making money from sex work and I’d had no shortage of offers to do the same but always declined. Thanks but no thanks. I could never see the point of mixing that kind of business with pleasure. My boyfriend was handsome and funny and so I made the decision to cut my ties with the scene and try monogamy for a change.
At the beginning it was great but then the menopause caught up with me. I no longer could sleep through the night and I was sweating all the time. For the first time, sex wasn’t the first thing on my mind when I woke up in the morning. If my boyfriend was lying next to me, I was horny but if he wasn’t, I never thought about it. That was weird too because throughout my forties I was so horny that I’d sometimes have to escape to the company toilet to get myself off. So it took a while to get used to the new person that I was becoming and it wasn’t all smooth sailing. My sex drive had been such an integral part of my life; I spent a year grieving over its loss.
Over that year I noticed that men stopped looking at me in the streets and I stopped wearing no knickers. The high heels collected dust and I bought brogues and cowboy boots and traded in my tight skirts for jeans. My boyfriend stuck by because he loved me but I felt guilty at denying a young guy sex when I’d spent the previous ten years shagging every man in sight. Eventually we broke up. It hardly seemed fair that he should have to go without just because I couldn’t be bothered.
Menopause isn’t something that comes and then goes; it’s a slow burn and it takes a while to get used to. I now feel, at 55, like I’m coming out the other side and I’ve not only come to terms with the loss of my libido, I’m actually liking the new, not-so-sexual me. I’m calmer than I used to be, more confident in my decision-making and more relaxed. I’m no longer thinking about the next time I’m going to get laid or worried that it might never happen again. I still have a great black book, I just don’t have the urge to open it up as much as I used to.
If my forties were all about ignoring my girlfriends in favour of shagging a stranger, my fifties are about reconnecting and enjoying the time I spend with my female friends.
And I’m loving work in a way that I didn’t during my swinging years when my job always took second place to getting laid. I’m more focused, more determined to succeed and free of constant sexual urges, there’s far less distraction in my life.
Losing one’s libido isn’t the end of the world, especially when one has had the kind of sex life I have had. I certainly don’t regret spending my forties with my skirt up and my knickers off most of the time. It was great fun – a real roller coaster ride of pleasure and pain. I’m looking forward to the next ten years and beyond as a time for travel, for good food and wine, for work and for spending times with friends. Sex will always be in my life just not in the same way it was before and, you know what, I couldn’t be happier.