In pop culture and scientific research alike plenty of time has been devoted to the steady tick of women’s “biological clocks” — or in other words, a creeping awareness of the closing window for optimal fertility as we age. Yet apart from causing women to fret, it appears that waning fertility is also associated with a boost in sex drive — and sexual adventurousness. According to a new study from a team of psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin, compared with the most fertile women (those between the ages of 18 to 26) and menopausal women (roughly those older than 46), women facing diminishing fertility (those between the ages of 27 to 45) were more likely to have active sex lives and sexual fantasies.
For the study, researchers recruited 827 women ages 18 and older, and separated them into the three groups — high fertility, dwindling fertility, and menopausal. They then asked participants to complete questionnaires about their sexual activity, sexual desires and level of risk in their sexual interactions. They found that, women in the waning fertility category were consistently more likely to report having regular and high intensity sexual fantasies, as well as more active sex lives. Additionally, they were more likely to say they would be open to having casual sex or a one-night stand.
In a statement about the findings study author Judith Easton, a graduate student in psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, said the research suggests that the notion that women experience a sexual peak in their 30s isn’t exactly dead-on, but that across the board women whose fertility is waning may have greater sexual desire:
“Our findings suggest that women don’t need to necessarily go ‘baby crazy’ in their 30s or go around thinking they’re supposed to be having a ‘sexual peak… Our results suggest there is nothing special about the 30s, but that instead these behaviors manifest in all women with declining fertility. It may be more difficult to conceive past the age of 35, but our research suggests women’s psychology will continue to motivate them to try until menopause.”
Speaking with the Telegraph, Pam Spurr, a trained behavioral psychologist and prolific author of sex and self-help books, suggested that the spike in sexual desire may be influenced by both external and internal, subconscious forces:
“I often find it is women in their late thirties who seem to be having a lot of fun. There might be a subconscious level to this but also a conscious one — women are more informed about fertility levels falling after a certain age.”
Researchers are hopeful that the findings, published in the July issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences, will contribute to a better understanding of the evolutionary influences on reproductive behavior, and how those fit into a modern context in which more women are delaying childbearing.