Sex After …Women Share how Intimacy Changes after Life Changes is a new book by journalist and author Iris Krasnow, who interviewed over 150 women ages 20 to 88 to get the skinny on sex after pregnancy, divorce, infidelity, breast cancer, coming out, and menopause. It’s the last category that’s generating the buzz, with eyebrow-raising all around at the possibility that women in their 70s and 80s could be having the best sex of their lives. Takes on the finding range from progressive to retrograde.
Buzzfeed’s title is straightforward: These Confessions from Women in Their Eighties Will Challenge Your Views on Sexuality. The post consists mainly of excerpts from two interviews. An 81-year-old says that “love my eighties is like opening another world I never knew could exist.” Another, 88, hasn’t dated since her husband of 60 years passed away, but masturbates a lot, “nice and slow, like my husband did.” She’d often said to herself, “Maybe I should sit down with other older women and tell them, ‘Here are some of the tricks you can try. You don’t have to dry up.’” That’s an important reminder that masturbating is a way of remaining sexually active and fully operational. But does Buzzfeed really need to refer to Krasnow’s older subjects as “Ladies in their golden years?”
Slate went for a painful pun in the title of an essay adapted by Krasnow: Widow’s Peak: Why 70-year-old women are having the best sex of their lives. Semi-racy stories and anecdotes convey lots of good information for women interested in exploring their sexuality way past midlife. But with language like this description of Dr. Marilyn Charwat, a “79-year-old, sexily married” sex therapist in Boca Raton, Krasnow reinforces rather than confronts the ageism older women face. “With long black Cher hair and a yoga-toned frame, Charwat is ageless and unfailingly provocative.” In other words, the way to keep having sex is to not look old.
Jezebel’s Lindy West read the Slate piece, and I was glad to see her point out that there’s no such thing as normal, and that “if you’re just not feeling sex anymore (at any age), that’s okay too!” Her opening about Jane Fonda is hilarious, but, like Krasnow, West focuses on appearance. “(The woman kills a pantsuit, is what I’m saying.) And women—like, say, famous movie stars from famous movie star dynasties—who spend their lives professionally doomsday-prepping for old age really can see incredible results.” As in going to extraordinary efforts to not look old, aka “agelessness.” West condescends when she describes octogenarians’ anecdotes about fellatio and lubrication as “darling.” And Jezebel’s title—Women in Their 70s Say They’re Having Way Hotter Sex Than You—presumes that none of their readers are that old. Probably because they’re too busy having great sex.