by meganannmetcalf

12 slides

Women's Sexuality, Aging, & Companionship

Published Jul 8, 2014 in Lifestyle
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A class presentation on the gendered stigma of aging.

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Presentation Slides & Transcript

Presentation Slides & Transcript

Women’s Sexuality, Aging, & Companionship

Cultural shift in representation of aging & sexuality through popular mediaWhat it was thenAbsence of later life sexuality in films, advertising, & TV.“During a study of prime-time TV., John Bell found that ‘sexuality is generally removed from the lives of elderly characters.’”Elderly sexuality is taboo for mainstream culture.What it is nowIncreased images of the “sexy oldie”Examples of increased elderly sexuality include Calendar Girls, Something’s Gotta Give, Sex & the City, Harold & Maud, The Mother, etc. * However, there’s a double standard of aging *

Gendered double standard of agingWomenOlder women’s bodies remain hidden from spectators ; not shown nude or semi-nudeRare to see an older woman with a younger man (few exceptions)But even if the double standard is broken the older woman is still seen as “unwatchable”MenShown to be competent & sexualMore common to see an older man with a younger woman

Sexually active women as repulsiveIt is the body of the elderly that should remain unseen to viewers. The image of sexually active aging person still remains taboo. “What happens when elder sexuality and, in particular, the sexual, semi-naked older woman’s body become increasingly visible in popular culture?”

Focus group interviews 17 women btw 52-82. 13 men btw 49-85. All heterosexual. Women’s ReactionsAcknowledge social construction of older women’s bodies as “saggy” and “unattractive” Aging associated with negative terms.Aging associated with loss of self esteem & includes increase of shame & discomfortMen’s ReactionsGeneral assumption that young women will still find them attractive.Explain social construction of how they have been “trained” to be “turned off” by older women’s bodies. Acknowledge double standard as older women being undesirable.

New RepresentationsStigma about Aging women & their sexuality is a huge problem that produces shame and disgust among women.Just because there is the “sexy oldie” in media doesn’t mean that the attitudes of aging women & their sexuality is changing.’s hear it from a primary source:

A Feminist Analysis of Companionship and Aging“Intimacy Beyond the Dreams of Youth” -- Betty Friedan

Current ideals of intimacy and companionship are preoccupied with youth based, heteronormative roles and behaviors. Intimacy and companionship do not have stable definitions. We must renegotiate and redefine these definitions throughout our lives.

Alternative forms of companionship There are many alternatives to the prescribed norms of abstinence or heterosexual relations. Some of these include same-sex partners or companions, non-sexual companions, open relationships, communal living, Civil partnerships…

Question Many older people of this current generation are concerned with the social and moral stigma attached to intimacy after a certain age, and especially the “alternative options.” Do you think that upcoming generations, who are seen as more sexually liberated, would embrace these alternatives more enthusiastically?