“Using my camera to pry deeper into woman’s psyches, I started to photograph timeless beauty, trying to capture what lies beneath the skin, woman’s hidden desires, and hidden conflicts. I am motivated to help women overcome their inhibitions and insecurities about their bodies. I believed if I could persuade enough women to let themselves be photographed naked, I could prove to them and prove to the whole world, ageless beauty does exist. Women over 40 and 50 and 60 and even women in their 80’s and 90’s radiate from within and are beautiful at every age.”
— Angelika Buettner
I AM is a book of nude photographs of 121 women between the ages of 40 and 100, and it’s so much more. Photographer Angelika Buettner celebrates these women — their beauty, wisdom, humor, and audacity. From the first page, this book shines with a celebration of women’s beauty as they age. No makeovers, no retouching: these are women celebrating their time of life — their authenticity, self-acceptance, and joy. I AM kicks at our outdated notion that we age out of beauty and desirability. Quite the contrary, as Angelika Buettner and her 121 brave women illustrate.
Each page of photographs glows with images of the splendor of aging. The women proudly bare their wrinkles and loose skin; their large breasts, small breasts, breasts that droop, or maybe no breasts at all. But the point is that they are at home in their bodies, proud and courageous in their skin. What a lesson we can learn from them!
Buettner explains her mission:
It’s been my passion, my intuition, my vision, my desire, my obsession, and my quest to reveal and showcase ageless beauty of women over 40 to make us all more visible. Using my camera as a therapeutic tool and instrument of social commentary, I have attempted to capture, something raw and refined, edgy and elegant, honest and pure. Naked portraits of strong women who dare to step out of their comfort zone…
We, meaning, the women over 40, who are ready to own their sensuality without being sexualized, stand naked and bare it all. There is no judgement involved in how our bodies look when we see into each other’s souls. We accept we are all goddesses.
We are so much more than our bodies.
We can celebrate our pasts, nourish our present selves and relish what our futures will hold.
In Buettner’s words, “Each picture has a story to be told.” Lucky for us, we get glimpses of those stories. Each woman speaks in prose or poetry about what “I AM” means to her personally. For example, this from Ruth, age 100:
There is great power in this book. If you’re looking for a special Valentine’s gift for a lover or yourself, I urge you to splurge on I AM, a gorgeous book that you’ll be proud to display on your coffee table for all to see. Buettner put 7 years into making this project a reality, and she spared no expense making the finished product stunning — a big book (12″ x 9″ hardcover, weighing 4 pounds) on thick, glossy paper. Purchase it here.
Many assume that erotic writers are young people who write about young characters, but more and more people over 60 are discovering the joy of erotic writing and “old age sex”.
Why? When we write sexy stories, we recapture peak moments in our lives. We can conjure all kinds of sensory details that make the story vivid. Or we can imagine an encounter we never had and bring it to life as a fictional story. We realize our desires in a safe space. Anything is possible on the page!
Erotic writing reminds us that we are sexy at every age. As we play with words, we push back on social assumptions about older people and sex. The very act of creating a story is sexy.
Reading erotica created by others our age is also fun, and a great inspiration. Some examples I love:
- Dorothy Freed published her sexual memoir, Perfect Strangers, at age 75.
- Joan Price edited a collection called Ageless Erotica, featuring writers Dorothy’s age and older.
- Free Fall by Rae Padilla Francoeur is a fabulously well written erotic memoir with an older heroine.
You’ll find more examples on my website, www.stellafosse.com. These books are enjoyable, and you can even use favorite sentences from their stories as writing prompts for yours.
If you experiment with erotic writing — and please do! — it is important to keep a playful and relaxed attitude about what you write. Even for longtime authors, first drafts are just a place to try things out. So pat yourself on the back for being brave, and write without judging.
Now let’s give it a try!
Recall an especially sexy experience in your life. It could have happened yesterday or twenty years ago. Remember it with all your senses:
- What was the other person’s aroma?
- How did it feel to touch them and for them to touch you?
- What did you say to one another, and what other sounds did you make?
- What did you especially love about the other person’s appearance?
- What about the circumstances: What was going on in your lives that made this moment memorable?
On your first writing day, take just ten minutes and begin to write what you remember. If some aspect of the experience eludes you, feel free to make it up as you go.
The next day, write for ten more minutes about that experience. If you keep writing for ten minutes each day, soon you will have a complete draft of an erotic story that you can look back upon and savor.
I hope you will try writing erotica, and that it brings you much joy.
– Stella Fosse is an erotica writer, the author of Aphrodite’s Pen: The Power of Writing Erotica after Midlife, and a late bloomer whose erotic life blossomed in her late 50s. Access a free story writing course from Stella here.
The Vagina Bible: The Vulva and the Vagina—separating the Myth from the Medicine by gynecologist Jennifer Gunter is a lively, educational guide separating information from misinformation, presented in a clear, smart, sassy style.
“There’s a lot of money in vaginal shame,” writes Jen Gunter. She is known as the clever and outspoken OB/GYN on Twitter (@DrJenGunter—follow her!) who challenges celebrities and companies trying to sell us unneeded (and sometimes harmful) solutions for invented problems. She rips their claims and substitutes solid facts. All of this book is educational, revealing, and empowering. Examples:
- “[T]he other problem with doctors not asking about sex is women who have medical conditions that interfere with their sex life, typically conditions that cause pain with sex, end up minimized. Many women suffer for years not realizing they have a medical problem that has a diagnosis and treatment.”
- “It is hard to overestimate the damage done by Sigmund Freud in popularizing the myth of the vaginal orgasm. Only one third of women are capable of achieving orgasm with penile penetration alone…so the idea that everyone should be having orgasms this way results in two thirds of women believing there is something wrong with their sexual wiring when really they are perfect. Not orgasming with unassisted penile penetration is not a flaw, it’s a feature.”
- “MRI studies looking at anatomy during heterosexual sex reveal that the clitoris can be compressed by the penis, which is why some women can orgasm with penile penetration.”
- “Vulvar cleansing has never been studied. That is interesting, considering the array of products that claim to be gynecologist tested or approved…Some of these washes make claims they can reduce bacterial vaginosis (BV). They can’t. An external wash cannot possibly impact the inside of the vagina, and washing internally with one of these products (some women do that—please don’t) could definitely increase your risk of BV by killing good bacteria or irritating the vaginal mucosa.”
Parts of The Vagina Bible are so hilarious that you’ll want—as I did—to read them aloud to a companion:
- “Almost every woman has been told at least once…to wear white cotton underwear as a medical recommendation to prevent yeast infections and other vaginal mayhem. This makes it sound as if vaginas and vulvas are accidents waiting to happen. The vulva can handle urine, feces, and blood, and vaginas can handle blood, ejaculate, and a baby, so this idea that a black lace thong is the harbinger to a vaginal or vulvar apocalypse is absurd.”
- “I have read about plastic surgeons who do labiaplasty [surgical reduction of the labia minora] so women can look ‘sleeker in so-called athleisure wear.’ I know some people call this look ‘camel toe,’ but I prefer ‘labial cleavage,’ and the answer is not surgery—it is better-fitting athletic wear.”
- “I’ve stared at more male butt cracks (gluteal clefts) than I care to remember…What I never hear is that men should seek out plastic surgeons to get their gluteal clefts sewn shut. I also can’t imagine a similar industry for men that profits from surgically trimming penises so they look better in tight jeans.”
The second half of this book is a serious, comprehensive, scientific resource about infections, conditions, symptoms, and treatments. Dr. Gunter has been treating vulvar and vaginal diseases for nearly 30 years. If you have discomfort, pain, or other symptoms that might be a medical issue, read the relevant chapters of this book, then, armed with this information, take it to your doctor.
This guidebook to the care and functioning of the vulva and vagina by cheeky gynecologist Jen Gunter should be on your bookshelf. Thank you, Dr. Gunter, for this much-needed resource: The Vagina Bible.
Dorothy Freed‘s Perfect Strangers: A Memoir of the Swinging Seventies is both one woman’s personal story and the story of an era: the mid-1970s in San Francisco. Freed divorces a husband who cheated on her with her best friend and called her a “frigid bitch” because she didn’t have vaginal orgasms. She goes on to explore her sexuality with whomever she chooses during 4 years of self-described “wanton promiscuity.” She has plenty of sex with plenty of men, yes. But orgasms? Not so easy.
Whether you had a wild side in the 1970s, or you still do, or you didn’t, but wonder what that was like, Freed’s memoir is honest and insightful. She navigates not only hook-ups, but her sense of self as she searches to define her sexuality in her own way — not what her era taught or her ex-husband demanded.
Now 73, Freed looks back at this time of her life with candor and the perspective of a woman who gained much life wisdom and self-knowledge (and many orgasms) since that time. I asked Dorothy a few questions:
JP: What made you want to put this memoir into the world at this point, 40 years later?
|Dorothy Freed then|
DF: 1974 to 1978 was a seminal period in my life. For the first time, I was in charge of myself and my two sons. I loaded us in the station wagon, sat in the driver’s seat, and drove us across country to start over.
Later, when I examined how much I’d learned about myself in that four year span of time, I realized my story was a memoir of the swinging ’70s, with historical significance, and one that needed to be shared with a larger audience.
JP: What message do you want people of our age, particularly, to get from your memoir?
DF: My message is to look back on the ’70s as an era of unprecedented personal freedom, a time before AIDS colored our sexual world-view in dark hues.
By the end of the memoir, my erotic behavior changed, but not because of fear of disease. I changed it because I saw no future in it. What was missing from my life was love and affection from a male partner. To achieve that, I needed to back away from my casual sex lifestyle, and focus on earning my living by making and selling my artwork — and being open to the possibility of meeting a suitable man.
|Dorothy Freed now|
JP: Any advice to people of our age about exploring their sexuality, whether or not they did it the way you did?
DF: If there’s still a spark alive inside you, reach out to embrace the adventure.
JP: Do you have any regrets?
DF: No, I don’t. Events unfolded as they should.
The path I chose was right for me.