Elder Sexuality Is Funny or Gross Because It’s Transgressive

Laurie and Debbie say:

aging sex

The extraordinary s.e. smith has a predictably excellent post on elder sexuality:

… what is so gross about older adults being sexually active? And what’s so funny about it? Because I don’t see anything particularly remarkable in it, and thus I’m either missing something — or my cohort is. The frankly juvenile attitude towards older adult sexuality doesn’t do us any credit, and if anything is gross in this conversation, it’s the disdain for sexually active elders. As long as everyone is consenting and enjoying themselves, who cares? Why are we so fixated on this?

Smith elaborates on this at some length, and as with everything on this ain’t livin’, you should read the whole thing.

However, Smith does not answer the title question, and we thought it was worth examining.

The media, and particularly the advertising industry, spend an inordinate amount of time and money convincing us that we can stay youthful-looking and youthful-feeling forever. If we take the right drugs, we can play with our grandchildren as athletically as we want, and everyone will think we are their parents, not their grandparents. If we use the right skin products, we can keep the wrinkles at bay. If we have the right medical procedures, no one will ever know that we are (*gasp* *choke*) over 50.

But that is all a lot of work. It’s also expensive, so you can’t have it all unless you have economic privilege. It’s time-consuming, so you can’t have it all unless you don’t have to work two jobs, or work 9 hours a day, or raise kids with insufficient support. People have to be afraid of getting–and looking–older or they won’t do the work or make the financial sacrifices. Along with the “stick” of fear of aging, there also has to be a reward–a carrot–for all the time and money and effort. And the reward is that you get to stay attractive. And “attractive” means “sexually attractive.”

So if you can’t pull together the time, money and effort to keep yourself youthful or–and they don’t ever even hint at this part–when it stops working, then the carrot of being sexually attractive gets yanked away, and you are thrown out of the sexuality sweepstakes. You just don’t get to be a person who has sex any more.

When anyone shows that, by having a good time in bed with a wrinkled, spotty body (or having a good time in bed while disabled, for that matter), they pop the balloon. They confuse the simplistic message. They break the illusion. And the Good Consumer might, just might, notice that she or he is spending time and money for not much. So elder sexuality must be mocked, or the advertising, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical industries could suffer.

Like everything else about appearance, this happens sooner and more dramatically for women than for men–a woman with mild signs of aging is as far out of the acceptable age range as a man who is unmistakably elderly; also, an older man having sex with a younger woman is way less funny or gross than an older woman having sex with a younger man. This is why the whole concept of predatory “cougars” was born.

Shining a light on sexuality among older adults is yet another way of making the invisible visible, showing (and telling) us what’s really true, rather than what the corporatized culture wants us to believe.