Tag Archives: media

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.

 

Links Return Again

It would be great if this image of Karlesha Thurman had gone viral for better reasons (like because it’s beautiful) …

Karlesha Danae breastfeeding

Thurman posted this photo on the Black Women Do Breastfeed Facebook page. Although she never posted it on Instagram or Twitter, NewsOne reports that Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook went ablaze with men and women, mostly Black, calling her a wide-range of unprintable profanities. (I would need to see some data before I was convinced about “mostly Black.”)

However, Thurman also has some amazing supporters, including Ashley Wright, also quoted in the NewsOne article:

Every time I get a chance, I try to cheer everyone on in that post to get them to see that this is OK, that this is awesome, and we need to support this Mother,” she said. “We just don’t see it often. A lot of people believe that African-American women don’t breastfeed their children because, during slavery, we were wet nurses to the quote unquote White man; therefore, we do not breastfeed. I think that can’t be further from the truth as of right now. I do believe that may have played a part way back then; however, now, I do not see that as a barrier.

I imagine Thurman appreciating this excellent article by Tamara Winfrey Harris:

Strong. Black. Woman.

The words fit together like blue oil, sizzling hot combs, and Sunday afternoon. They embody the idea of African American women as perpetually tough and uniquely indestructible. …

But in a society that finds little to praise in black women, other groups’ appreciation for perceived black female strength can feel like a reductive appreciation. Strength becomes one of few positive adjectives black women can own.

***

If you ever wondered why the Catholic Church is so opposed to birth control (I know I have), here’s some history which will make you wonder even more.  In 1968, Pope Paul VI convened a commission to examine the Church’s position:

The commission voted overwhelmingly to recommend that the ban against artificial means of birth control be lifted. …

Unhappy with the direction of the commission, the Vatican packed the last commission meetings with fifteen bishops to formulate the final recommendation to the pope. But even the bishops voted nine to three (three abstained from voting) to change the teaching, concluding that the popes’ previous teaching on birth control were not infallible and that the traditional theological basis for the prohibition of contraception was invalid. They declared that responsible parenthood was an essential part of modern marriage .

Despite the commission’s years of work and theologically unassailable conclusion that the church’s teaching on birth control was neither infallible nor irreversible, Pope Paul VI stunned the world on July 29, 1968, when he reaffirmed the church’s ban on modern contraceptives in Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life).

His reason? He based it on a dissenting opinion which said, in part, The Church could not have erred through so many centuries, even though one century, by imposing under serious obligation very grave burdens in the name of Jesus Christ, if Jesus Christ did not actually impose those burdens.”

So, we can’t be wrong because that would mean we had always been wrong. Way to reason!

***

Surprise! Certain opera reviewers have not outgrown fat-shaming. [NOTE: I should not have said “opera” has not outgrown fat-shaming. That was hyperbole.]

… a pile of weekend reviews arrived from London, courtesy of five older male critics writing about an emerging Irish mezzo-soprano named Tara Erraught. Erraught is singing Octavian in the Strauss opera Der Rosenkavalier at the , which opened Saturday night. What is stunningly apparent is just how much a woman’s body matters onstage — way more, if these five critics are to be believed, than her voice, her technique, her musicality or any other quality. …

I find it astounding that across five widely read publications, not a single editor saw fit to go back to the writer and challenge what he had written. Yes, visuals matter — even more now, in the age of live broadcasts — but these critics have seized this as license to forget why anybody shows up at an opera house to begin with.

Neither have the streets of Seattle, as Courtney Meaker relates in an excellent long essay, much of it about why she doesn’t (most of us don’t) respond to street harassment …

Last night, I was walking across a crosswalk while fat and female. Two guys in a white SUV rolled down their window to say. “Hey, cunt. Cunt. Hey. You’re fat. Fat, fat cunt. Fat. Fat. Cunt. ” I didn’t even realize they were talking to me at first. By the time I’d made it past their car, the guy in the passenger seat had rolled down his window to continue yelling at me. Changing it slightly to make it very clear, yes they were talking to me, and yes, they wanted a reaction. I didn’t have one. I was in my time. My time to walk, to think, to decompress after a long day. I just kept walking.

Juliana at Feministing has at least somewhat of an antidote (with lots of great links) …

In the year since [my dad] and I last talked about health and weight, I’ve begun actively seeking out social media that reminds me that I am not alone. Relatively speaking, my body does conform to many normative standards of beauty, but like many of us, I — and people I love — have been trained to believe that it will always fall short. This reaction makes sense when all we have to work with are the narrow standards for an “attractive” or “fit” or “healthy” body that society provides us. We talk a lot about how we need to call out mainstream media for celebrating only thin, white, cis, traditionally feminine women as beautiful and making us hate ourselves. What we don’t hear enough about is where we can find alternatives. If we are going to do the difficult and never-ending work of unlearning normative beauty standards, we have to be as persistent and consistent as mainstream media is with us. Luckily, there are people out there creating media that showcases different bodies wearing different clothing and doing different things than we get to see in mainstream media.

***

The World Health Organization and the American Medical Association are moving into the 21st century.

Both groups issued similar statements this month: here’s a quote from WHO:

Requiring surgery as a prerequisite for obtaining legal documents is often a coerced sterilization: “Some groups, such as transgender and intersex persons, [have] a long history of discrimination and abuse related to sterilization, which continues to this day. Such violations are reflected, for example, in the various legal and medical requirements, including for sterilization, to which transgender and intersex persons have been subjected in order to obtain birth certificates and other legal documents that match their preferred gender.”

This has no legal standing, but both groups are prestigious, and it should be at least a step in the right direction.

***

Fashion isn’t exactly body image, but it’s close.

Clothing of the past has a rep for being toxic and/or deadly, but clothing of the present is less examined.

The green of the shimmering silk, now slightly faded, was one of the Victorian era’s most fashionable hues; people, mostly women, wore it even after it was widely known that the arsenic-based dye responsible for the colour could lead to horrible physical suffering and early death.

The article is especially rich because the exhibit curator Elizabeth Semmelhack is both very smart and very informed:

Semmelhack refuses to see fashion extremes and the risks people took to remain in vogue as ridiculous. Not following fashion was equally perilous, she says: “If idealized femininity is about women’s participation in fashion, and if femininity or beauty is the major thing you are judged and valued by, then, if you reject it, trust me, all hell breaks loose.”

It’s impossible to look at the exhibit and not draw contemporary analogies—narrow footwear replaced by vertiginous heels, corsets by sausage-casing Spanx, Dickensian factories by offshore sweatshops. Our forebears were willing to burn for fashion. We’re too evolved for that: We let others burn for us.

The future of clothing is here, and one of the forms it’s taking is this NYU student project where how much of your life you reveal online is reflected in how your dress changes.

​​​​This 3D-Printed Dress Reveals More Skin As You Reveal More Data

Co-creator Xuedi Chen says:

In the physical realm we can deliberately control which portions our bodies are exposed to the world by covering it with clothing. In the digital realm, we have much less control of what personal aspects we share with the services that connect us. In the digital realm we are naked and vulnerable.

By participating in this hyper-connected society while having little to no control of my digital data production, how much of myself do I unknowingly reveal? To what degree does the aggregated metadata collected from me paint an accurate portrait of who I am as a person? What aspects of my individuality are reflected in this portrait?

I love the project and I would like to see a less gendered version, which perhaps Chen and co-creator Pedro Oliviera are working on now.

Most usual sources: Feministe, Feministing, io9, and Shakesville, plus assorted other blogs I read. Thanks to Deena for the opera link, Lizzy for the walking in Seattle link, and Lisa for the historical clothing article.