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“Sexual peaks” is a common term for the period during which a person reaches sexual maturity, competence, and desire. Basically, if you want to bonk, can bonk, and have a lot of experience in bonking.

Let’s cut straight through the fog: Sexual peaks exist. But they don’t, as has previously been suggested (more on this later), relate to sex, gender, or age as much as was thought.

There are some physical factors at play, no doubt. But your sexy, sexy brain is what keeps your sex life ticking over. If you’re looking for ways back to peak sexuality, it may well be your mind that holds the key. Or, y’know, the lube.

We peek (peak?) between the sheets of sexual energy and how to understand it. Read on for info on why this biological phenomenon is actually a myth, and how it affects how we think about gender and sexuality.

Conventional wisdom (and plenty of gossip magazines) claims that cisgender males reach their sexual peaks as young teenage whippersnappers (18 years, to be exact), while those with ovaries don’t hit this milestone until their 30s.

It’s easy to see why this myth has stuck around — early sexpert Alfred Kinsey himself proposed the theory on sexual peaks in his groundbreaking work Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, published way back in 1953.

Since Kinsey first reported on male and female sexuality, the idea that both sexes think about sex differently has remained the prevailing theory about sexual peaks.

But as shocking as Kinsey’s work was at the time, it didn’t encompass much of what we now understand about doin’ the deed. And, surprise surprise, people’s attitudes and approaches to sexy stuff have changed since the 1950s.

If Kinsey were looking at hormonal levels alone, he’d be largely correct about sexual peaks. In women, estrogen (and fertility) Easton J, et al. (2010). Reproduction expediting: Sexual motivations, fantasies, and the ticking biological clock. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232388035 hits a high water mark during the mid- to late-20s before a decline.

A 2012 study estimates that between 68 and 86.5 percent of people assigned female at birth develop sexual dysfunction after experiencing menopause.Ambler DR, et al. Sexual function in elderly women: A review of current literature. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3349920/

Another case in point: The levels of testosterone in the body of a person with a penis decline over time.Golan R, et al. (2015). Age-related testosterone decline is due to waning of both testicular and hypothalamic-pituitary function. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4816459/

Some refer to the hot-and-heavy stage of sexual maturity as the genital prime, because it’s when the body responds most quickly to arousal.

But a person’s genital or hormonal peak isn’t the same as their sexual peak. In fact, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to predict or claim that a person’s sexual peak relates to a specific age at all. It’s different for every adult.

Being at the top of your sexual game is much more complicated than the number of sperm in the tank or the ease with which pregnancy can occur. Your readiness for and enjoyment of sex is also psychological.

Several mental factors can impact how you feel about sex at any given time — it’s not a one-size-fits-all activity, and many facets of a healthy sexual peak take time and experience to blossom.

These might include:

  • body confidence
  • personal sexuality
  • intimacy, trust, and good communication with a partner
  • general libido
  • knowledge and understanding of sexual preferences

You can be 52 years of age, love your body, and get around just as much as anyone in their mid-20s.

Conversely, a person who would otherwise be considered at their “peak” sexually may have experienced trauma in their past that affects their trust and presents barriers to healthy sexuality.

They may also have low self-esteem that reduces their enjoyment of sex and limits their number of sexual partners.

If you’re one of those people that doesn’t explode with joy when looking in the mirror, here are 35 phrases you can repeat to yourself that may help.

The idea that men and women have specific, but different, sexual peaks is pretty outdated.

Regardless of hormonal maturity or concentrations, a 2002 review of three studies found several illuminating outcomes:Barr A, et al. (2002). Sexual peak: Socially shared cognitions about desire, frequency, and satisfaction in men and women. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1475-6811.09305

  • People thought the female sexual peak happened later than the male sexual peak.
  • Males defined their sexual peak by how much they wanted to have sex (sexual desire) and female participants by how much they enjoyed it (sexual satisfaction).

So when people talk about a “sexual peak,” they may well not even be on the same page as each other. And because hormones and relationships change throughout life, a so-called sexual peak can come at any time or age.

It seems pretty senseless to lump everyone into the same bed, no?

Also, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can have a significant impact on sexual pleasure and performance.Hsaio W, et al. (2010). Exercise is associated with better erectile function in men under 40 as evaluated by the International Index of Erectile Function. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22145804

Dr. James Hardeman, of the St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton California, seconds this. He maintains that the following may help people nurse their personal peak into lasting longer:

  • regular exercise
  • a balanced diet
  • not smoking

But before we dismiss the idea of different sexual peaks once and for all, it’s important to consider the social repercussions of Kinsey’s theory. Even in the present day, sexuality presents different social pressures and stigmas for people with different gender identities.

Many sources point out that people with vaginas may embrace their sexuality later than men because they’re pressured to appear “innocent” and “inexperienced” in comparison to people with penises.

(Cue the plot of most major romance novels.)

The perception that people who have vaginas also have lower sex drives than those with penises, and that they are consequently less interested in sex, is both old-fashioned and potentially harmful.

Expecting women to stay sexually inexperienced (via social pressures such as “slut shaming”) makes it difficult for them to control their own sexual development and become sexually fulfilled adults.

Sexual stereotypes pose difficulties and pressures across the board, for men as well as women. Many young, cisgender male adults also experience peer pressure around sexual experience.Duckson KD, et al. (2019). Gender goals: Defining masculinity and navigating peer pressure to engage in sexual activity. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0891243219863031?journalCode=gasa

People also have different sexual ground to navigate. There is a wider understanding of gender as a spectrum, as well as deeper and wider nuance in the discussion of sexuality. This means that what Kinsey understood to be the case for sexual peaks in terms of age is not as widely applicable as he claimed.

A person with a penis may not fully come out as gay, for example, until they are in their 40s. The best may well be yet to come (pun intended), even though Kinsey’s book would suggest that their prime is past them.

Using different types of contraceptive can also impact on female sexual desire and libido, although research does concede that it’s not easy to work out which contraceptive method is more likely to bring your horny down.de Castro Coelho F & Barros C. (2019). The potential of hormonal contraception to influence female Sexuality. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6421036/

So it’s best to abandon the idea of sexual peaks that work the same way for everyone, and instead, focus on maximizing your own enjoyment of life. Across the spectrum of gender and sexuality, buying into the idea of “sexual peaks” is a waste of time, if not outright damaging.

The best way for a person of any gender to develop their sexuality (and reach that confusing “sexual peak”) is to cultivate a positive relationship with their body, their sexuality, and their partner(s) — at any age.

Whether you call it a sexual peak, prime, or gold-star-worthy performance, everybody hits his or her stride in the bedroom department at some point.

Exactly when this golden age of rumpy-pumpy happens is less certain. It varies between people, and depends on factors like self-image, overall health, and confidence.

But while our bodies may be more primed for baby-making at certain points in our lives, sexual peaks are more dependent on being comfortable in your body than on hormonal timetables.