Sex & Relationships

Ask an expert: A new start

I got married young and had a very predictable sex life with my husband. Now I'm getting divorced at 40. I want to date, but I'm ashamed to be so sexually inexperienced at my age. I'm almost paralysed by embarrassment. What can I do?

It’s normal to feel afraid about starting something new and unfamiliar. However, with a bit of sex-ed, some self-knowledge and a playful attitude, you can learn to relax and feel more confident about sex. Here are a few tricks to keep you feeling comfortable with new lovers:

Have it your way

Focus on your physical comfort: go to your place, not his. Eat a delicious meal and enjoy a relaxing drink. Play music that is familiar and makes you feel good. When you’re undressing, go slowly and breathe deeply. This will calm your mind and connect you to your body. If you find yourself panicking, you’re progressing too quickly. Don’t blame yourself if you’re not sure what to do. Men are notoriously hard to read, so ask!

Try to work with – not against – your fears and shyness. Be honest with the men you date, letting them know that you’re still learning about sex and are nervous about it. They will probably find your candour charming and captivating. Shyness can be quite sexy.

Do your homework

Expand your sexual knowledge by reading up on the female orgasm, your G-spot, toys and so on. There’s so much misinformation about sex out there that you’ll feel as if you have a PhD after doing a bit of research. What Your Mother Never Told You About S-e-x (Perigee) by Hilda Hutcherson and The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex (Cleis) are great sources to start with. You’ll pick up a handful of fun sex tips as well, but try not to get too hung up on “perfect” technique.

Every sexually active woman should definitely know about sexually transmitted infections (stis), but you shouldn’t be missing out on a healthy sex life because you’re worried about catching something. You can find the most up-to-date information by consulting a sexual health nurse or an informed physician or by visiting

Play with him

Have fun with the surprises sex throws your way. Be playful: focus on the process, not your performance. Sometimes, when I’ve felt in the dark sexually, I treat my lover as a test model. Rather than trying to be super sexy, I just park myself down between his legs and try out different techniques while asking: “Does this feel good? What does this part do? Show me how you touch yourself.” Men don’t mind eager students, and any man who does isn’t worth your time. Trust your instincts, take a risk and give the unfamiliar a try. Then do what feels right and you’ll get all the experience you need.

Know yourself

You might think that young women know more about sex than you do, but I’ve found that older women, including those with limited experience, often have more knowledge about their own bodies and orgasms. Build on your experience by learning about and expressing your sexual likes and dislikes to your lover. Tell him what turns you on, what aspects of sex you’re willing to consider and what is out of the question. This is your body and your heart we’re talking about, so it’s good to know your boundaries. Whatever you do, don’t let your embarrassment lead you to do things that aren’t right for you.