A Brief, Patronizing History Of Elder-Sex!

Illustration for article titled A Brief, Patronizing History Of Elder-Sex!

If there's one thing all of Western culture can agree on, it's that old folks having sex is hilarious! Or cute! Or heartwarming! And today the Times of London reiterates that senior sex is awesome.

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But when did we start becoming so interested in geriatric lovemaking, even if only as a punchline? Why, really, do we care? Pop culture, thankfully, provides a road map.

In the good ol' days, old folks tended to be depicted as asexual grandparents, whether maternally sweet or comically domineering (See: Endora, Mrs. Howell, Granny Clampett.)

Enter the 60s: Beautiful at any age. Harold and Maude breaks barriers aggressively.

The 80's brought us The Randy Oldster. Who's the Boss's Mona and Golden Girls' Blanche are man-eating old women who want to have sex, constantly, with anyone in pants. Setup, punchline. For sitcom writers it never (pun intended) got old.

The 90's, meanwhile, gave us the male version: Grumpy Old Men.

In the modern age, "Old Love" tends to fall into two camps: Heartbreaking and Heartwarming (Valentine's Day, any life insurance ad) or "Funny and Embarrassing," (Everybody Loves Raymond.) Even seriously distressing stories like the bans on nursing-home sex to prevent the spread of STDs or studies on the sex lives of older people get snickers or headlines like this one: Sexed-Up Seniors Do It More Than You Think (to say nothing of the website Old People are Funny). Even when there's a dramatic impetus for not one, but two productions of Romeo and Juliet that reimagine the protagonists as geriatrics, it's rendered as gimmicky thanks to societal context and ingrained ageism. Even as one writer lets us know that sexy senior citizens have "never had it so good," there seems to be a bittersweet contradiction in place: Even as lifestyle and medicine allow sex to be a part of our lives for basically all of our lives, the reality might be that sex, despite being for "everyone," is still explicitly associated with youth. The fetishization of youth has grown apace, and as a result "sexiness" has never been more narrowly defined. We might have Second Chance: America's Most Talented Senior premiering here, and talks of a seniors-only competition in Scandinavia, but, amazingly enough, this doesn't seem to translate to much respect. Or fewer old-sex snickers. The good thing is, after a lifetime of actual living, the old can probably just roll their wise eyes.

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Sex And The Old: We've Never Had It So Good [TimesUK]

Juliet And Her Romeo: Star-Crossed Senior Citizens [Guardian]

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DISCUSSION

I never thought that Blanche's sexuality was used for laughs because she was old. Just that she was...sexual. Not in a mean, slut-shamey way, either. It was like, Dorothy's cynical, Rose is kinda dumb but nice, Blanche likes sex, Sophia tells good stories and is everything we all want to be when we grow up. I mean, I think the whole Mona character from Who's the Boss? was definitely 'ha! ha! old! sex! funny!" in an annoying way, but then the gender problems on that show were myriad. But I never had a problem with the way Blanche was depicted. Because she was never the punchline, as much as the wacky situations were the punchline. Her age, gender, and sexuality weren't ever really the point of the jokes. But I haven't watched it in a long time, so perhaps I'm misremembering.