Of course yesterday’s New England Journal of Medicine report on senior sexuality prompted not only a respectful and informative media blast, but also the kind of stereotypical response we’ve come to expect, such as “Senior Sex Study Shows Nana and Papa Still Getting It On“
by Ted Gay. An excerpt from Gay’s satirical site:
Jane Stacy, a ninety-four-year-old paraplegic who is cared for by her husband, Van, said that their love life was sparked after she showered and he placed her in her chair to dry and fell face down in her twat.“I said, ‘as long as you’re down there, Van, tend to the clitoris,’ which I was most happy to say he did,” Jane said.When he was asked what Jane tasted like, Van shrugged his shoulders and said, “Depends.”
Is this funny? I know, Postcards is a satirical site, and it even says, “the editorial content on this page is fictional. It is presented for entertainment purposes only. We cannot be held responsible for the actions of anyone who takes this sort of thing seriously.” What I’m bothered by is that the elderly seem be fair game for ridicule, and that’s what I don’t like.
Am I oversensitive when I say this is the kind of senior sex stereotyping and putdown that I resent? Should I just laugh, as I’m sure Gay intended? Or is this just one more example of our society’s view of elders as pathetic and ludicrous if they enjoy and/or desire sex?
What do you think? Please tell me.
I love this! A group of women in their 70s and 80s decided to pose nearly nude for a calendar to raise money for their historical society in Monongahela, a small community near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Associated Press picked up the story, which is why you’ll read it in your newspaper and hear it on the radio. The most interesting part of this story is the reactions from the media. Just what you’d expect — the newspapers label it “weird news” and newspeople comment, “I don’t think I’ll want to look at that.”
Why not? At what age does a woman cease to be sexy or attractive? 39? 45? 50? Personally, I think we get sexier and more attractive as we age, because we radiate who we are, our vigor and experience, our self-knowledge, our capacity for loving and living. We “earn” our wrinkles — they are our badges of experience. Anyone who would dismiss the twinkle in our eye because of the wrinkles in our neck deserves to miss out on what we can offer!
I haven’t seen the calendar, but I understand the props — poinsettia, umbrella, piano — are strategically placed so that nothing shows except face, neck, and maybe a bare shoulder. But it’s still cool that these women had the gumption and self-confidence to say, hey, let’s shake things up a bit!
I was recently interviewed by Karen Rayne, Ph.D., a sex educator for teenagers and their parents who has a blog about adolescent sexuality . I’d like to repeat that interview here and get your comments:
Karen Rayne: Why do you think senior sexuality is important?
Joan Price: It’s important because we’ve been seen by society and by the media (and sometimes by ourselves!) as asexual, unsexy, and altogether icky if we are sexually active and enthusiastic about it. We need to change that, not just for those of us who are already in our golden years, but for all ages. I offer this plea to young people: Help us change our society’s view of older people as either sexless or ludicrous and disgusting for wanting sex. Realize that our bodies change, but we’re still the same lusty and loving people that we were when we were your age.
Karen Rayne: What do you see as the life-long path that can lead to healthy senior sexuality?
Joan Price: Acceptance of our own sexuality and open-mindedness about any consensual sex taking place between people of age to give consent — and by that I mean emotional age, not legal age of consent necessarily. I know that at age 17, I was fully ready to engage in sex with my 19-year-old boyfriend. We had been dating for two years, and only waited that long because we were scared to death that either my parents would find out or I’d get pregnant. (The first happened; the second didn’t.) I fear for girls who become sexually active before they’re emotionally ready, though — to please a boyfriend, or because “everyone’s doing it.” I encourage teens to talk to older, trusted adults before becoming sexually active, and definitely to use barrier protection (condoms) every time.
Karen Rayne: How can parents and teachers best help children and teenagers start down that road?
Joan Price: I was a high school English teacher for 22 years before I switched to a writing career, and I still have a great love for and enjoyment of teenagers. When I was teaching, many students talked to me or wrote in their journals about their relationships. Sometimes they confided intimate details that they didn’t feel they could tell their parents. I encourage teachers to make themselves accessible and safe, letting their students know they’re available, opening up topics in class that let the teenagers know that the teachers understand and have useful perspectives to share. I encourage parents to do the same thing, but realize — and please accept this — that as open-minded, accessible, and loving as they are, their teenaged sons and daughters might feel more comfortable talking to a different adult. (I’d love to hear from teenagers about how they feel about this topic.)
Also, see your body as a lifelong source of sexual pleasure, and see the beauty in older people. I know it’s difficult, when our society and especially the media stresses that beauty and sexuality are the domain of the young. For your own sake, please reject this notion. As you age, welcome the new image of sexuality that you’ll see in yourself and in your peers.
I also invited Karen’s readers to visit this blog:
As young people (and I’m talking to both teens and parents!), you may resist reading about people who are 60 or 70 or older talking so openly about their sexual attitudes and experiences, but I think it’s very important that we talk and you hear us, just as you want us to hear you.
I look forward to reading the comments of the teens and their parents who visit us here.