Let’s talk a little bit about midlife women’s sexuality. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing author Walker J. Thornton‘s new book, “Inviting Desire -A guide for women who want to enhance their sex life.” It was an eye-opening, riveting experience and a book which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I invited Walker into my virtual living room for a chat. Here, for Midlife-A-Go-Go readers, Walker opens up and speaks candidly with me about her approach to sexuality, her motivation to write, where her inspiration comes from, her life as a women’s sexuality educator and, of course, what’s between the pages of Inviting Desire.
So sit back, put your feet up, relax with your favorite beverage and enjoy getting to know Walker J. Thornton.
Tell me, Walker . . . why do you write? midlife women’s sexuality
I’ve been writing in some form since I was very young. I write every day, a continuation of my morning pages practice from back in the early 90’s—it’s as much a compulsion as it is a useful tool for understanding myself. There’s nothing I love better than sitting down to write an article and having the words flow—to know that I captured what I want to say. Well, maybe second to those times when my writing resonates with readers. midlife women’s sexuality
You’ve been a long-time advocate of women’s sexuality education. What drew you to this subject?
It was a combination of my experiences in working in the field of sexual violence, at a local and state level, and my personal journey post-divorce. I was looking at the intersection of sexuality and sexual violence in our society at the same time as I was writing anonymously about my dating adventures. I couldn’t find many resources on sexuality that supported and enabled women to explore their own sexual agency. On a personal level I was experiencing my own challenges and hearing from other older adults who had questions about sex, dating and relationships. The idea to focus on midlife adults grew from those experiences.
I love that Inviting Desire is written in a format that encourages women to examine one aspect of their sexuality each day. What inspired you to write the book in this manner?
I knew who I wanted to write for and was aware of the challenges many women face. I wanted a format that was accessible and non-threatening. I also felt that talking about sex as just something we do with a partner is part of the problem for women. It’s all too easy to view sex as an act—something we do when the lights go out. Some kissing, a little foreplay, and then right to penetration…and instant orgasm. It’s the traditional story we see in books and on the screen and it’s not realistic for most women. midlife women’s sexuality
I set out to write a book that covers all the ways a woman views herself as a sensuous individual, on her own. We’re not sexual because we have sex with a person—we’re sexual because it’s how our body was made and how we choose to feel. It’s more than just “doing the act”. Presenting the materials in small chunks and looking at all the aspects of what makes one sexual feels more natural and makes the “work” of bringing desire into our lives easier to accomplish. We already have too much pressure in our surroundings to “look, feel, act sexy” and plenty of censure and shaming when we don’t. There’s a pill for that, or a “device” or a 1000 cheesy articles telling us what to eat, what to wear, or how to fix our libido in order to be sexy for our partner. I chose instead to help women appreciate themselves and their bodies for their own personal satisfaction.
So which is your favorite “day” (chapter) in Inviting Desire? midlife women’s sexuality
That’s a hard question, but I narrowed it down to three. I love Day 3, The Power of Words because it draws on a personal story—one that still resonates for me, as does the memories of the man involved (a former lover). I think Day 11 reflects a common struggle for many of us—the stories we make up about who we are, how we look, and how we’re supposed to act. Part of that day’s exercises arose from work I’ve been doing on getting clarity on my truth(s) and letting go of stories I made up. And then Day 22, Learning to Ask for What You Want—so many women lack the courage, or the comfort, to ask for what they want during sex. We are still fighting those old teachings that say guys are in charge when it comes to sex. It’s their “job” to make the sexual encounter pleasurable. Which is as unfair to the men as it is to women. Sex is much better when we can have conversations about what gives us pleasure and what doesn’t. I wanted to make the ability to ask something that becomes natural and accepted and even sexy.
In “Inviting Desire,” did you draw from experience or did you conduct lots of research?
A little of both. I read lots of content from other sexuality experts as well as the latest research and I regularly attend webinars and lectures. In my work and my personal life I am constantly having conversations about sex—I often forget that those around us may not be as comfortable hearing me talk about vaginal dryness or why organic coconut oil makes a great lube. What I do is not scientific research but more a gathering of real stories.
Are there any authors/writers who have inspired you throughout your life? If so, how did they influence the way you write, what you write about, etc.?
I first encountered Anais Nin as a teen and I keep reading her work. Her writing has pushed me to live a little more boldly. I can’t write the way she does, nor do I have the depth of experiences she has but I’m inspired by her willingness to write so freely about life as an independent sexual woman.
Rae Francoeur’s erotic memoir, Free Fall, gave me inspiration to write about my own romantic sexual journey.
These days I’m searching for good literary works written by women in their post-50 years—sexual or not. I want to read, and write, about the juiciness and vibrancy of women who are engaged in the world, not just sitting in a corner full of regrets.
What are some frequent questions that your audience tend to ask you about women’s sexuality?
From other educators and general audiences I get the question about where to find age-specific resources and how to train care providers to be more informed about sexuality and aging. In mixed audiences particularly women ask very few questions. I’m more likely to get questions via email and in one-on-one conversations—and they tend to be from women who have challenges with orgasms. The next most frequent topic or comment is from women who say they no longer find sex enjoyable, either due to age-related issues or relationship challenges. I had a fun conversation with a group of women in their 70’s and up about condoms and why it was still important to use them at that age. It ended with me pulling out a condom from my purse and showing them how to unroll it. Not on the agenda, but probably the most helpful tip those women got that evening.
Any funny anecdotes you’d care to share? midlife women’s sexuality
My funniest sexual moment came when I tried, for the first time, to put on a condom. There I was in semi-darkness, straddling my boyfriend, trying to act sexy as I opened the condom to put it on him. I didn’t have my glasses on, so I couldn’t see if I had it right side out or not. I had to abandon the first one and open a second one—when that failed and I was lying there on the bed laughing, he took over. I don’t think he ever let me try again.
Do you have a favorite quote that speaks to your life and mindset?
This quote by Nelson Mandela is one that speaks to my current journey.
What advice would you give to 20-year old Walker? What about 40-year old Walker?
To my 20-year old self I would have told her to have more confidence in herself. To pay more attention to what she wanted, not what she felt was expected, to understand that marriage was not the ultimate goal for all women.
By the time I turned 40 it would have been a similar advice, but more specifically to trust that she could take care of herself, by ending a marriage that didn’t bring her any joy. She didn’t have to wait for permission or approval to look out for her own needs.
Can we look forward to a follow-up to Inviting Desire and, if so, when?
I’m not sure there’s another book right now, but I am planning to expand the idea of inviting desire into our lives—it may be that a webinar is how I choose to do that. I’d like to be able to interact more intimately with women who are exploring their relationship with sexuality. When? By January at the latest.
Is there anything else you would like to add for your readers and fans?
I want people to know that at age 62 I am more sexual at this point in my life than at any other time. I’ve always been a bit of a flirt but now I bring confidence and an awareness of what I want and what I don’t want. It’s pretty heady. I don’t see age as this looming, fearful time of life to be endured—it’s certainly not the case for me, in part because I choose to be positive.
They say that finding a partner should be approached like looking for a house or a new job—tell people so they can assist if the right match appears. So, I’m in the market. Intellect is good, so is a willingness to partner with a strong, confident woman. Living near Virginia, or having the time and means to travel is good.
Now that you know a little about Walker, here’s your chance to win a copy of her book. One lucky reader selected at random will receive a copy of Inviting Desire and read for herself why there’s so much buzz about this book. Enter below for your chance to win, and be sure to read my review.