But why is it so? What makes us see this woman's quest as illegitimate? What sends those shivers of disgust throughout our young bodies? Is it the fact that she's 65 and her body looks, well, old? Is it the fact that beauty means firm, cellulite-less and wrinkle-less? Is it the fact that at her age, women should be decent grandmas, where decency means 'no sexual allusions whatsoever'?
I was told I'm twisting everything. Do you think it's natural to see an old woman making sex on tv, I was asked. I'm puzzled as to why I shouldn't see it as 'natural'. I'm not a big fan of sex on tv or of any type of porn whatsoever. In fact, I'm quite against it. But this does not mean I cannot question the underlying assumptions and worldviews that make us mock the woman in this story. A while ago, the Globe and Mail ran a series of articles about elders and their life, including their sexual life. The articles did raise the issue of society's expectations and norms for 'proper old age behavior' - and those norms do not include either nudity or sex.
Andrews (2003), writing on the 'calendar ladies' phenomenon, argued that:
"the notion of middle-aged woman as sexless is a 20th century one; the origins of domestic, middle-class womanhood as a negation of sexuality can be traced to constructions of class in the emerging bourgeois culture (as opposed to a working-class or aristocratic culture) in the first half of the 19th century" (2003: 387)
This process consisted in creating a 'class' of 'proper women', differentiated from the 'improper ones', associated with sexuality and promiscuity. Needless to say, this bore heavy racist tones: white-decent women were the respectable mistresses of the house, of the domestic, while black-sexual women were the temptation of the flesh, of lust and of carnal sins. While many of the themes of this discourse of feminity and sexuality have been displaced, sexuality and nudity remain seen as the privilege of the young.
In her analysis, Andrews (2003) believes that the discourse of sexuality has been dislodged throughout the various public culture sites pushing the boundaries of our acceptability. While my theoretical self agrees with her macro view, my everyday life self, confronted with the story above, wonders about the long way from acceptance of (what may be perceived as) alternative art (think the calendar women, for instance) to everyday understanding and evaluation of our own subjectivities and of the others.
References: Andrews, M. (2003) "Calendar Ladies: Popular Culture, Sexuality and the Middle-Class, Middle-Aged Domestic Woman," Sexualities 6(3-4): 385-403
Photo credits: Sukanto Debnath