Things I’d Like Sexuality to Value: Aging.

Source: Dove Pro-Age campaign.

After I wrote that entry kicking off the (potential) series of “things I’d like to see desexualized,” I started musing about whether there’s anything I would like to see sexualized, if only because I’m a fan of balance.  I honestly don’t know that I would like to see anything sexualized in the way that I most immediately think of sexualization, as a means of commodifying people’s bodies and harnessing (other) people’s desires for the sake of marketing.  I did start to think, however, about the possibility that in our culture sexualization is semi-equivalent to value, in that what we don’t sexualize, we don’t particularly value.  In the scheme, then, of expanding and redefining sexuality so that it is more inclusive and less off-putting, I’ve been thinking lately of “things I would like sexuality to value” as the counterpoint to things from which I’d like to see (the assumption of) sexuality removed.

First installment?  — Aging.  Particularly aging as it relates to women since men (not surprisingly) seem to have the long end of this double-standard-stick, in that our culture characterizes older men as “distinguished” and “accomplished” while lamenting the crow’s feet appearing on its “haggard” old women.  The flip-side of our desire to halt the sexualization of young girls is to value the physical reality — and even the “sex appeal” — of aging women.  When we define the “sexy” female as small, smooth-skinned, et cetera, we set ourselves up for so-called cultural pedophilia, and while I firmly believe that there are people and forces at work in the world that are choosing to sexualize young girls for other reasons, I stand by the “croning” of older women as part of the fallout from that.

Furthermore, since we live in a culture that has apparently decided that individuals turn in their sexuality when they start receiving their social security paycheks, and that (all) older people are fundamentally asexual and should stay that way, — (Viagra aside, the most common response to “old people having sex” remains “ewww!”)  —  the decision to value aging in sexuality could result in the necessary understanding that sexuality continues (in various forms), even after it moves past the point where the media willingly plays voyeur, to the point where we insist we’d rather not think about it. 

Valuing aging, to the point we view it as having sex appeal, also takes a step toward valuing health.  Rather than striving in our seventies to look as we did in our teens, we could look forward in our teens to how we would be viewed in our seventies.  Rather than pumping our skin full of botox and replacing our organic bodies with increased amounts of silicone and plastic, we could see the glamour in our real physical selves.  I understand why the marketing industry won’t get on board with that (Dove somewhat accepted), but I don’t understand why actual people refuse.  I read an interview once with Cybil Shepard in which she said one of her main reasons for taking a role on The L Word was that it offered her a chance to continue exploring the sexuality of a character, an unheard of opportunity in mainstream (i.e. non-cable/ hetero) media.  Is there no such thing as a wrinkle fetish, in a culture that’s willing to fetishize so much else?  If we’re willing to speak up for the value of freckles, why not age spots?  Who decided what was sexy, and who (else) isn’t willing to leave it at that?


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One Response to “Things I’d Like Sexuality to Value: Aging.”

  1. Sassy Sexpert Says:

    I have recently started reading a book called “Still Doing It: The Intimate Lives of Women over 60” (there’s also a corresponding documentary of the same title…). So far, I’m really enjoying the book and it has been allowing me the chance to confront the stereotypes around female sexuality and aging I have blindly accepted (as a sex-positive feminist I find it embarrassing to admit my own biases but there they are).

    It has been a joy to read about these older women who are experiencing rich and varied sexual lives. In all honesty, it makes me fear the aging process less which I thought would somehow rob me, in part, of my sexuality that is so vital to me.

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