The narrative is old news. The women aren’t. It’s time to rebrand talk and action around perimenopause and menopause.
Like so many elements of womanhood, we don’t talk about menopause. We certainly don’t talk about perimenopause. God no, why would we?! Women over 45 – what’s there to talk about? At least that’s the message the world blares from its age-old megaphone of ‘Ladies, We Don’t Want to Hear About Your Lady Stuff’. And so women suffer (largely in silence, of course) through a seismic shift in their physical and emotional state. They endure sketchy access to relevant and reliable information about what’s happening, how to handle it, and what kind of help and treatment options are available.
And sex? Well, society would have us believe that part of a woman's life disappears in a puff of dust.
Daily life, sex, relationships and work, perimenopause and menopause can affect them all; but it’s not all de-sexualised doom, gloom and vaginal dryness from there on out – no, ma’am. While menopause signals the end of a woman's fertility, it also signals that she’s approximately two-thirds of the way through life. That’s a whole lot of life left to live. To live it fully, we need to nurture our physical, mental and sexual health. We need to rebrand the experience of perimenopause and menopause.
Lucy Lube has called on women’s health advocate and all-round industry leader of health and sexual wellness, Jodie West, to share her multitudes of wisdom when it comes to perimenopause and menopause. A natural, as-inevitable-as-puberty hormonal change that every cisgender woman will experience.
“It’s important to know that perimenopause and menopause do not belong exclusively to women in their 40s and 50s. I myself went through it [perimenopause] at 35. Some women go through it even younger, for a variety of reasons. There was little to no information available that I could identify with, and even less about how to maintain a healthy sex life,” tells Jodie.
Unable to find information that spoke to her reality, Jodie decided to research and write it herself. She became a sexologist, with a mission to overhaul how we see, think and talk about perimenopause, menopause and women’s sexuality as they experience this transition. And she’s clear on what needs to change around the much-hushed subjects.
We need to fight the de-sexualisation of older women.
Jodie: “I honestly believe this begins with quality sex education, where we teach about hormone health across the human lifespan. We teach about respectful relationships, inclusivity, consent, reproduction, safe sex, pleasure – the list goes on. It’s about age-appropriate sex education; because across our life span, our sexuality, sexual interests and levels of desire change.”
The aim is to rewrite how women are represented in the media.
How often do we see a sexually empowered older woman taking centre stage in TV or film? The formidable Claire Underwood springs to mind, but few (any?!) others. Media would have us believe that young and flawless women are sexy; mature-age women with desires are not. Once we address this, says Jodie, “only then will we be able to move past the idea that there is an age limit on a person’s sexuality.”
Educate healthcare professionals on the many, many layers of sexual health and wellness.
Let’s be real: most of what we know about sex we’ve cobbled together from basic school sex ed, Dr. Google, and our own experiences in the sack over the years. It may sound strange, but according to Jodie, healthcare professionals (HCPs) are in the same boat, with knowledge that doesn’t extend far beyond anatomy and physiology. Mental health, age, gender, sexual orientation and the influence of each across a person’s lifespan – well, these don’t get much of a look-in when clinicians talk to women about perimenopause and menopause. Jodie: “We need to improve education and support HCPs to be able to have better conversations with patients so that the brick wall that exists around this topic becomes easier to scale.
We’ve got so much more to say and share on this hugely important subject – stay tuned.
~Words by: Olivia Finlayson