The Queen of My Self

When I began this journey toward my Self, I was an innocent in many respects. Responsible beyond my years, yet repressed, compressed, regressed, like the tightest pussy willow — the one with the hardest shell — protection for my fuzzy, fertile possibility. Eventually, the storms of change and loss that I faced during my tumultuous maternal years had weathered my once-sumptuous bloom. Like many women of a certain age, I had gradually, imperceptibly almost, let myself go, like an overblown rose clinging inside out to the vine in the fall, my petals ratty, and my rose hips growing ever rounder. Of all that we stand to lose in the aging process, the waning our sexual attraction and appeal is perhaps for many of us, the scariest prospect of all.

But this assumption goes against all evidence of the actual midlife experiences of many women, my own included. “It’s funny,” my fifty-three-year old friend Judith confided to me over coffee. “I am making peace with my appearance these days and I find that I don’t really care about what people might think or say about the way I look. I am confident of myself for the first time in my life. Sometimes I catch myself making eye contact — even flirting — with men, something I would never have done when I was younger. Men often look at me with appreciation, too, when I least expect it. I know I feel good in myself and I have fun and flaunt it. I guess I must look fine too, but in a different way.”

According to sexuality experts, women in our forties are just coming into the ascendancy of our sexual powers, with decades of pleasures to look forward to. In a recent survey conducted by Living Fit magazine, fifty percent of women declared that menopause increased their sexual desire and thirty-five percent were pleased to announce that their orgasms had become more intense. “All I have to say,” gushed Luz, a high school teacher, in one of my Queen workshops, “is that it just gets better and better for me. I am forty-four-years old and I feel like I am just getting going.” The noted sexuality educator Betty Dodson agrees. “I’ve been postmenopausal for two decades and I’m having spectacular orgasms alone and with a partner,” she writes.

After five decades of rather modest, but satisfyingly enjoyable sex appeal ratings, I found that when I reached my fifties, I was suddenly turning heads wherever I went. The Queen that I had become began to attract super-charged affection and lustful admiration from friends and strangers alike. Like bees to a hive, an electric attention buzzed around me, tickling my Self-perceived image, stroking my Sex Goddess ego.

Lush with lust, supreme in my creative powers of seduction and fulfillment, I identified with the great lineage of Love and Fertility Goddesses who have been revered throughout time and culture. Their power, raw and electric, was their Self-knowledge, their exquisite access to ecstasy. Their generative heat, their sex, the seat of their strength. The vitality, the powerful intensity of their sheer desire, their boundless energy, was potent enough to produce generations, poetry, agriculture, science, art, and craft. The same fire, the same hot love that ignites to spark the beginning of babies, also kindles the creation of culture. Their primal hunger was the force that fashioned all life, and their love, the fuel that maintained it.

Their sexuality was imbued with spiritual significance. Sex, especially the female experience of it, has been all but universally invoked in myth and ritual as symbolic of the primary force, the fiery source of life. For the Goddesses of Love and Life, unabashed and bold, sex was an authentic religious expression. Sex as energy. Sex as celebration. Sex as creation. Sex as abundance. Sex as unification. Sex as divine spirit. Sex as sympathetic magic. In my newly recovered sensuality, I was the Queen Bee, Aphrodite, Nefertiti, Cleopatra, the beautiful black Queen of Sheba. Honey, I was the Queen of Hearts.

My vulva, the horn.
The Boat of Heaven
Is full of eagerness like the moon
My untilled land lies fallow
As for me, Inanna,
Who will plow my vulva?
Who will plow my high field?
Who will plow my wet ground?

-Inscription on a Sumerian clay tablet
2000 BC

I first noticed this startling new effect when I began to get wolf whistles from construction crews and guys in passing cars. Each time it happened, it shocked me deeply. What in the world? I am old enough to be these guys’ mother. I thought that those kinds of experiences were long over for me. “Wow!” I would secretly marvel, “I never thought I would hear that again.” Whereas in the past, I would react with the rage of a scorned Amazon at such macho street behavior, I suddenly found it to be flattering. I felt terrifically gratified in a totally guilt-ridden unfeminist sort of way.

One night I was in my car, stopped at a traffic light on my way home from an evening with friends. It had been a wonderful occasion and I was bathed in mellow pleasure. When I happened to turn my head to the left, I saw that the extremely handsome thirty-something-year old man in the car next to me was trying to get my eye. He flirted with me in a rather sophisticated and urbane Cary Grantish style, and I burst out laughing at the absurdity. He laughed then. And for that moment we made a real connection, direct and human, person-to-person, soul-to-soul, across the artificial barriers of age, gender, and race. Attraction is simply energy sent and received. Good energy is the spice of life.

How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.
-Zora Neale Hurston, American writer and folklorist

Many women now entering midlife have always been pleasure seekers. Our generation created and experienced the Sexual Revolution, after all. And we are not likely to stop now, thank you very much. The time for loving has never been better. By midlife, those of us who have had kids are liberated from the constraints of child rearing and can now afford the uninterrupted time and energy to attend unabashedly to our sex lives. Heterosexual sex, finally divorced from any worries or pressures of pregnancy, free of the rigors of birth control, is now simply for its own sake, pleasure rather than procreation at its source. We are free to indulge ourselves in the joys of seduction, intimacy, sensuality, passion, and satisfaction. As Virginia Wolfe observed, “The older one grows the more one likes indecency.”

“I feel sexier than ever,” confided Margie, a fifty-one-year old financial consultant, to the other women in a recent Queen workshop. “But even though I have been having more opportunities than usual, I am not looking for a partner. I just feel hot and happy all over with the excitement of starting a new phase of my life. And the weird thing is that it’s better than sex. You know?” “Ooh, yeah, I know just what you mean,” piped in Laurie, a painter who is fifty-eight. “Being alone in my studio, creating work that consumes me, is such a turn on. I masturbate all the time these days. It is fantastic. I haven’t been at it like this since I was in my teens and just discovering the pleasure. But it is so much more powerful now. Such a charge.” When the Queen takes responsibility for Her life, She controls Her own sexual experience whether it is solo, with another woman, or a man. We are the Queens of Fire, after all. Our fervor is reaching the boiling point and our inhibitions are melting away in the heat of our rekindled passion for life. We are asizzle with ourselves.

A positive attitude is a Self-fulfilling prophecy cycle. When we look good, we feel good and when we feel good, we look great. The brain, the mind, is said to be our most sensitive sexual organ. Time after time, I have seen that being in possession of a vivacious, fully engaged, energized personality is much more enticing and erotic than having an outwardly pretty face or perfectly honed physique. It seems to me that the popular misperception that midlife marks the end of a woman’s sexuality, her attention and appeal, has less to do with her losing her looks than her losing her way, her sense of adventure, her enthusiasm, her spirit, her relationship with her Self. Allure is visceral and shines from within.

Our emotional maturity and depth of character make women in our middle years extraordinarily and vitally attractive. We are substantial and robust, heady with the flavor of all that we have seen and done so far. We are pungent with profound experience, with pain and loss, exploration and transformation, glory and joy. The myriad lessons learned from lives intensely lived are reflected in our palate, which has become sophisticated, subtle, firm, and complex. Like fine wine and good cheese, women ripen and improve with age. Our essence becomes stronger, clearer, and infinitely more powerful. What could be more sexy?

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to