I could not touch myself till I had a midlife crisis. It took that for me to learn that giving to myself was not a selfish thing.



An interview with Jessica.

Artwork by Noha Hesham.

Jessica | Age: 60 | Location: London, UK | Occupation: Art therapist | No. of sexual partners: undisclosed

Why did you take part?

I found the topic interesting and liked the challenge of sharing myself in this area. I like to think about things deeply and try to understand how other people can think or be different.


What events in your life shaped your sexuality? What’s your story?

I was born into a family of 3 girls. When I was 6 I overheard my mother saying - “her name is Jessica but she was made to be Jeremy.” She had longed to have a boy. To please her I started dressing like a boy and refused to wear dresses. When someone said “what a lovely little boy you have”, I would be so happy! When I was 8 my parents finally had a boy. I started to hate my name, feel unloved, and conflicted about being a girl or a boy. It got to me hating my name so much I couldn’t say it. I began to stutter so badly that I couldn't say any sentence that started with a vowel. I’d run out of the classroom when the teacher would check absences to not have to say my name. At 14 I met my first boyfriend and his name was Alex. If it wasn’t him answering when I called we wouldn’t speak since I couldn’t ask for him on the phone because of the stutter. I loved poetry and I’d change the first lines when I’d go up on stage so that they wouldn’t start with a vowel. Otherwise I couldn’t get anything out of my mouth. It’s been a big struggle in my life accepting myself as a woman. It would have helped to know that my parents really did love me for being a girl but my dad died when I was 16 and my mum when I was 25. I don’t remember her telling me she loved me. I could have just ended up with someone for security but I didn’t. I was lucky to attract lovely guys. 

Growing up with 4 sisters left its marks. I was the only one out of them to have big boobs and hips - which basically meant I was fat. Weight and hair were a huge thing. The straighter your hair and the thinner you were the prettier you were. Once in my late teens, I was petrified of quitting smoking in case I’d put on weight. I carried on thinking I was too big for a long time. When I was 18 I met my husband, left Alex and got married when I was 22. We had kids in South Africa and then came over to the UK. My husband always told me I’m sexy because I have the right bits in the right places. In Italy I tried a top and he said I looked curvy. To me he was saying fat; to him he was saying it’s sexy. I don’t see myself as men see me. 

The last 20 years have been my real growth. At 40 I discovered I was pregnant and had salmonella. I had a termination and tied my tubes. That took away my femininity completely. I questioned my purpose and had the worst self image. I shoved it all under the carpet for a while but these things, they come out. I hit my midlife crisis. That was the only time when I didn’t share about my experience with my husband - we separated for 2 years at the time. That’s when I started my self-love journey. I don’t regret anything but I went through really hard times. The biggest lesson was learning to love myself as I was, giving to myself and saying no instead of just giving giving and giving. 


What does sex mean to you?

You start off in lust and you can end up in love. It’s a huge difference. With love it feels more authentic and special because you’re there for the right reason, not just lust. 


What’s difficult about sex?

I went through menopause at 41 which is very young. Because of that I’ve become a bit dry. My skin has become a thinner so that can be a bit sore too. So we don’t always do it the conventional way as it sometimes hurts.


What do you most enjoy about sex?

The sharing of feelings I have for my partner. 


Do you orgasm?

I’m a very lucky woman. I reach orgasm every time.


How often do you have sex?

About once a week. A lot of people would say it’s amazing - for a lot of my friends it doesn’t enter their minds anymore. Sometimes it’s planned sometimes it’s not. It’s quite nice to have it planned sometimes. Gives you something to look forward to.


Do you masturbate?

I could not touch myself till I had a midlife crisis. Then during the crisis I learned that giving to myself was not a selfish thing


How do you see female sexuality portrayed in the society?

You can be sexy only if you are thin and wear the right clothes. If you’re like film stars. It’s all too external. Rather than looking at ourselves as sexy human beings we get a pin-up thing to constantly compare ourselves to


What’s your advice to women?

It’s all about loving who you are. Learning to do that is huge. You don’t understand what I went through to let my hair be curly. Curly hair meant ugly growing up. Only after my midlife crisis did I learn to accept my hair as curly. I used to straighten it 8 times a day and kept straightening my son’s hair too. It wasn’t until he was a teen that he finally discovered his curly beautiful hair! Can’t believe I did that. 

Make your relationship work for you. I made a pact with my husband before we got married that no matter what argument we had it needed to be resolved before we go to bed. I want to cuddle in bed. My bed is my happy place. Been very strong willed with that even if it means a 5am in the morning. I feel really lucky to still be with my husband - we’re very sexually compatible. We say what we want. We’ve known each other for 40 years and it’s still amazing. Even if it’s repetitive we’ve never said it’s boring. 


What’s your advice to men?

Flirting should stay alive in a relationship. A woman shouldn’t feel like she has to fight for your attention. Give to the woman. Be verbal and tell her she looks nice, or sexy, to compliment is very important.


Is there anything you want to explore?

Doing it in different places and different times. As you get older you can get into a rut and that’s when things get stale.