Man-opause: Decreases in Men’s Sex Drive with Age
As we all know, the human body and our behavior change with age, and this is no different within the context of a sexual relationship. At the onset of puberty, boys are thinking about sex much more than girls, while girls are thinking of maybe getting a boyfriend or even a kiss, and worrying about getting their period. As we age, women’s interest in sex rises to become more compatible with men’s libido, but often, on average, doesn’t quite reach it, as men and women simply think about sex differently.
As men and women age, testosterone, which is the hormone responsible for sex drive, gradually decreases. For men, after age 40, testosterone levels decreases 1% per year on average. In addition, sex drive starts by testosterone triggering a part of the brain, and with age, the brain becomes less sensitive to these signals from testosterone. This decrease in testosterone and sexual interest, which is superficially similar to menopause in some ways, has been called andropause, or more colloquially, man-opause. While most men continue to produce enough testosterone to function sexually, this decrease in libido sometimes causes problems in the relationship, especially when the woman blames herself.
Throughout our lives, women learn and are essentially told by society that men are often more interested in sex than women. Ladies learn this from experience (think of all those first dates when men wanted to seal the deal and you had to fend them off) and the media, as well as other social influences. So, in general, in our young lives, when we are interested in sex, our boyfriends or husbands almost always reciprocate. However, past age 40, when men’s testosterone begins to decrease and they may not reciprocate 100% of the time, many women take it personally—assuming they’re no longer desirable or sexy enough for their man. Men on the other hand, it influences their view of themselves as men, as they too have experienced always wanting sex. They start to feel like “less of a man,” which may yield feelings of insecurity and thus less attempts to initiate sex with their woman.
It is important for couples to communicate these concerns to one another openly and to validate one another. Communication plus awareness of organic factors reducing libido are key to addressing sexual issues in any relationship. Beyond normal decreases in age, it’s also important to note that decreases in sex drive can be associated with abnormally low levels of testosterone, drug or alcohol abuse, use of selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs, medications often used to treat depression or anxiety), and some psychological conditions (e.g., mood disorders).
Fortunately, because we are able to test hormone levels, men are able to replace their hormones, and therefore can regain their libido, feelings of masculinity, and overall sense of well-being.