Blame Alfred Kinsey.
The infamous sex researcher was the first to float the idea that men hit their sexual peak in their late teens and women in their early 30s.
In the 1940s and 50s, Kinsey asked men and women how frequently they experienced orgasm and found men in their late teens had more orgasms than older men and that women in their early thirties had more orgasms than women in their teens.
He presumed it was because women feel more comfortable about sex at this age: we get less ‘people-pleasing’ as we move out of our 20s, know more about what we need to orgasm and have the confidence to ask for it.
Sexpert Tracey Cox has revealed that there is no such thing as a set sexual peak as we are all different (stock image)
WHEN WAS YOUR PERSONAL ‘SEXUAL PEAK’?
‘I don’t think any man will argue that your teens are when men are obsessed with sex. All I thought about was how to get some, how to get to second base; I watched porn whenever I thought I could get away with it. Looking back, the sex I actually had was pretty bad. God help the girls I did it with: I was a pretty lousy lover. But the excitement surrounding sex is unequalled. I was in awe of it. That was definitely the best time for me.’
‘Mine’s the cliché – it was when I was a student in my 20s. I wasn’t sleeping around, but I wasn’t scared of new experiences. I had a couple of threesomes, had sex high on drugs – we all did. A big part of it was that I was young and felt beautiful. I loved my body and liked showing it off. I loved being admired. After two kids and ten years of marriage, that’s no longer happening!’
‘I’d left a long-term relationship where there was lots of love but very little sex. It hurt when we split but I was curious to see what sex was like with other people: I’d had little experience. I ended up in a poly relationship with a guy who lived with another woman who knew about us. The situation was completely different to the staid, ‘respectable’ relationship I’d left. It really aroused me. Plenty judged me for it – even though nothing was done without enthusiastic consent – but I liked how it made me feel. Like a temptress. Someone desired rather than someone’s girlfriend who didn’t feel seen.’
‘Definitely in my early 40s. I can’t have children so I didn’t have any of the angst of worrying about meeting the right person in time. I was a busy career girl, travelling the world and loving my sexual freedom. I get my kicks from having power. I’d make men wait to have sex with me: it drives the sexual tension through the roof. I’d let men stay the night but only allow light foreplay, even though I’d put on sexy lingerie to sleep in. They’d wait up to six weeks to have full sex with me and when it happened, it was amazing. At one point I had three guys on the go: one I was tired of and about to dump, one I had just started sleeping with and another I was flirting with. I have never felt so powerful in my life.’
‘My husband was the one who had the affair but he was absolutely useless at sex. I was sexually naïve and had never had an orgasm, but I ended up in a relationship with a highly sexual man who gave me my first climax at 49. We did things that made my daughter’s hair curl. (I’d insist on telling her – she didn’t know whether to be impressed or horrified). We’d eat food off each other’s bodies, we used all sorts of toys in all sorts of places and did a whole heap of stuff I can’t even admit to. I loved it. It was the best time of my life sexually. When all my friends seemed to be stopping having sex, I was having the best sex of my life.’
Men were presumed to peak in their late teens because they can get an erection in the blink of an eye – and be ready to go again with the wink of another.
There’s some truth to both of these assumptions – but that doesn’t make it true.
In reality, there is no such thing as a set sexual peak because we’re all different.
Like most things in sex, it’s not a one-size-fits-all thing.
How do you measure the best sex of your life?
Kinsey measured our sexual peak by the number of orgasms the participants reported.
Is that a good measure of your enjoyment of sex?
Not in my book.
Great sex isn’t just about climaxing – some of the best sex I’ve had in my life didn’t even involve an orgasm.
Connection, intimacy, risk, adventure, eroticism, lust, feeling desired, feeling highly aroused and sexy – these are all factors that people cite when describing the best sex of their lives.
The answer is rarely, ‘When I had three orgasms in one session’.
It’s not just about when our bodies are most physically capable of climaxing many times.
Our ‘peak’ can happen at any stage
A sexual peak is simply a period of time in your life, when you are enjoying sex to the full and feeling highly satisfied.
It can happen at any stage of your life.
If you’ve given up work or study for a year to back-pack around Europe, experimenting with drugs and having several ‘first time experiences’ a day, it’s highly likely the sex you’re having will be pretty damn mind-blowing, too.
You’re in that zone.
If you’re trying for a baby and forcing yourself to have sex at times dictated by fertility not passion, it’s unlikely to rate as the best sex of your life.
‘Baby-making sex is the dreariest, most boring, unsatisfying sex you will ever have,’ the mother of a six-month-old baby told me. ‘It’s the pits.’
When do lots of couples try for a child? In their mid thirties: when women are supposed to have their sexual peak.
It can happen at any age
The truth is, some women will have the best sex of their life in their early 20s. Others – like some of the women I interviewed for my book Great Sex Starts at 50 – say post-menopausal sex is the best because it’s less penetration focused and more foreplay based.
One survey of 1000 women found 89 per cent of women between the ages of 45 and 55 were at the most experimental sexual phase of their lives. (Kids leave home, meaning more privacy, and there’s usually less work pressure and financial stress.)
Sexual peaks are way more about circumstances than age.
If you’ve been stuck in a sexless marriage for two decades and finally blissfully free, that may be the start of a period where you explore sex that’s on your terms (always the best kind).
There is no one age when nature says ‘Right, strap yourself in love, you’re about to have the hottest sex of your life!’.
So if you’re in your 40s and panicking about not having experienced a sexual peak, you aren’t now destined for a lifetime of mediocre sex.
(Though I would say, if you are over 40 and can’t put your finger on a time in your life when you have had very good sex, it is time to look at the sex you are having and have an honest chat with your partner – or yourself – about what’s working and what isn’t.)
Tracey (pictured) has also given and range of hints and tips to achieve great sex
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO HAVE GREAT SEX?
Great sex happens when…
You’re educated about sex. You understand your sexual arousal system and know how your body works.
You’re comfortable in your body. You’re body confident and aren’t ashamed of how it looks, smells or functions.
You feel comfortable with your sexuality and aren’t afraid to explore your natural desires.
You have experience. Practise makes perfect in most things and sex is no exception.
You communicate well with your partner and are able to explain clearly what you need and want in order to enjoy sex to the full.
You trust your partner. Even if it’s casual sex and taking a risk is the turn-on, you still need a level of trust. If it’s a long-term partner, you need to know you won’t be judged for suggesting something a little out there.
There’s novelty and adventure. Routine, predictable sex kills desire. Exploration fuels it.
Your ‘peak’ could be driven by hormones
There is no doubt that hormone levels significantly affect desire and our enjoyment of sex.
One reason why our early 20s are also often cited as our sexual peak is because that’s when we have prime production of oestrogen and testosterone.
But pregnancy can have the same result: more than a few pregnant women are more insatiable and lust-driven than they’ve ever been – or will ever be – because of the change in their hormones.
Menopause is frequently thought of as the time when desire drops sharply but ‘midlife wanderlust’ – experiencing a strong surge in sexual desire late in life – also happens.
There’s no set-in-stone time for the best hormone driven sex either.
It can happen more than once
Here’s the best news: even if you’ve clocked up several sexual ‘peaks’ already in your life, it doesn’t mean you can’t have more.
A new sex partner nearly always brings with it a mini sexual high as you enjoy that all-too-brief lusty beginning bit.
But even if you’re been with the same partner you’ve had for years, simply pushing out of your comfort zones can have extraordinary results.
‘My wife and I are quite conservative people but agreed to go to a fetish club with some of our racier friends, as a bit of a laugh,’ one 45-year-old man confessed.
‘You had to dress the part or you weren’t let in. We spent weeks organising the outfits – with a mix of terror (we’d look like old, unattractive idiots) and excitement. I’ve never fancied my wife more than I did that night.
‘She looked great and it was brave what we did. We didn’t do anything other than watch everyone else but the sex we had for months afterward was the best we’ve ever had.
‘We’d talk about what we saw and what we would do if we went back. We didn’t need to return though – that experience was enough.’
Science and biology don’t decide your sexual peak. You do.
Has yours really been and gone?
You’ll find more sex and relationships advice on traceycox.com along with her product ranges and books.