In a recent interview with Marie Claire, the 50-year-old French writer Yann Moix declared himself “incapable” of loving a woman age 50 or older. “I prefer younger women’s bodies, that’s all. End of,” he said. “The body of a 25-year-old woman is extraordinary. The body of a woman of 50 is not extraordinary at all.” His comments sparked a backlash, according to the BBC, because (obviously) they were childish and superficial.
But here’s what I’m more interested in: the heaving sigh of relief that his remarks no doubt inspired from women over 50. And even from women over the “extraordinary” age of 25. What a joy it is to be free of the attention of men like him.
I don’t know who Moix is or what he’s written or if he’s any good—and thanks to his comments, I am determined to never find out. But I do know that men like him often seem to think of their worshipful attention on 25-year-olds as a gift, when it is so often experienced as a burden. It’s the burden of being watched (always, constantly, distressingly). It’s the burden of second-guessing niceties (a door held open, a friendly smile). It’s the burden of encountering older men like Moix with their haughty connoisseurship of women’s bodies. It’s the burden of being those men’s fine wine (that, unlike the real thing, becomes irrelevant with age).
Insert the obligatory sentence about how everyone is entitled to their own sexual tastes and preferences.
When I think about my 25-year-old body, it was extraordinary in many ways. Ways that I entirely did not appreciate at the time, in no small part because I was too preoccupied with how it was received by men’s eyes. The thing about being watched is that you so often become complicit. You are watched, therefore you begin watching yourself. Now I have a body that is very nearly a full decade older and I am less so preoccupied with how it is received, in no small part because I have the distinct impression that is received less—particularly by men like Moix, those connoisseurs of youth.
With that lost attention there also goes some, not all, of that aforementioned burden. The world tells us that becoming irrelevant to men like Moix is a tragedy when I might venture that it is a gift.