The myth that's ruining your sex life.

Sexual peaks are a myth. No, women do not ‘peak’ later than men, and men do not reach ‘prime’ before they’re 20.

The data on the different sexual primes of males and females vary. Some sources say it’s near 40 for women and early 20s for men. Other sources say it’s ages 28 and 33 respectively. The most prevailing myth however, is that male sexuality peaks in the late teens, while females must wait till their mi-30s to enjoy toe-curling pleasure.

We’ve all heard this at least once – maybe with girlfriends over lunch, talking about why you’re not satisfied sexually, or maybe within a relationship, where your partner is having a hard time making you reach orgasm – but your dissatisfaction likely has nothing to do with sexual ‘peaking’. (It might just be bad sex).

Back in 1953, an American scientist and sexologist Alfred Kinsey found 18-year-old men and 35-year-old women were having the most frequent orgasms. Believe it or not, this finding started the myth and fuelled the belief that men and women are decades apart when it comes to sex drives and satisfaction.

“What the data doesn’t reflect well, is why are 18-year-old men having orgasms so frequently? They’re masturbating all the time,” Lori Brotto, a Canadian psychologist specializing in female sexuality, told the Huffington Post. “And for the women? Well, in 1953 when this book was published — they were likely married, in a stable relationship and knew who they were. We know that orgasmic ability becomes more frequent with age and relationship security.”

So why did we latch onto these findings published in a book 60 years ago?

Maybe we’ve seen it as an excuse for mismatching needs in the bedroom?

Maybe young men have used it as a justification when they’ve been the only ones to reach orgasm during sex?

Maybe it’s another example of how women’s sexuality in particular is misunderstood – the 30 year old women, with raging hormones, who is confident enough to have the sex she’s always dreamed of, etc. etc. (Maybe it’s got nothing to do with the hormones, and more to do with the fact the ones who came before were just hopeless in bed?)


Since the 1950’s book – and despite the widely held myth – there has been extensive research into what makes men and women tick when it comes to sexual preferences.

Sex drive has been linked to testosterone levels in both men and women. In females, levels of testosterone peak in the middle of the menstrual cycle, around the same time as ovulation – this is thought to be nature’s way of encouraging coupling and increasing the chances of pregnancy.

Levels of testosterone decline with age for both genders. While this can lead to a decline in sex drive, other social factors come into play.

Psychologist and author David Schnarch believes the “hormonal model is not an accurate framework for human sexual fulfilment,” and links sex drive and pleasure to confidence, experience and circumstance. He says sexual peaks can be created throughout life – regardless or our hormones or peak reproductive ages – extending well into our 60s.

Opportunity can also play a part in this, as one women, aged 62, describes in Bella Ellwood-Clayton’s book Sex Drive.

“Believe it or not, I am experiencing a sexual peak now at the age of 62 — but I am on hormone replacement therapy,” she told Ellwood-Clayton. “I am very attuned to my sexuality at the moment because I have sexual opportunity. When I was married with two children there was no opportunity for strong sexual expression.”

Watch: Women from the Mamamia office reveal how much sex they are currently having. Post continues below video:

Factors such as stress, sleep, mental health and physical well-being all affect the drive we have for sex, as well as the satisfaction we attain from it. Experience is certainly a factor, as well as understanding your body and having a partner that is as concerned about your own satisfaction as he / she is about her own.

The fact sexuality – both male and female – is not bound be specific ages, or a singular ‘peak’ in life is liberating. It means there are no ‘downhills from here’ and (underlying ebbs and flows aside) sexuality in both genders can be just as powerful at 18 as it is at 55. (READ: there’re no excuses).