Why Are We Laughing At The Idea Of Older People Having Sex?

Newsflash: plenty of old people still enjoy a vibrant sex life.

Why Are We Laughing At The Idea Of Older People Having Sex?

by Rebecca Reid |

Yesterday the internet video clip du jour was a video of a woman in her eighties, on ITV’s This Morning, leaving presenters Phil and Holly doubled over with laughter as she discussed her sex life. Specifically, that she and her partner regularly use an entire tube of KY Jelly.

Nothing but respect to Iris who would have been paid a reasonable fee to go on telly and talk about her sex life. But as the video racked up the shares with younger people all over the world claiming to be ‘screaming’ or ‘obsessed’, it’s hard not to wonder how - and why - we became so shocked and amused by the idea that older people have sex.

It might seem entirely innocent to laugh at the incongruity of an elderly woman enjoying sex, but we should pause to ask ourselves: why? Why is it funny that she’s enjoying sex? The big laugh seems to come from her line about using KY Jelly, but the fact is, when you're postmenopausal, your ability to self lubricate is reduced, and if you want to have sex which isn't blighted by dryness, you probably need lube. Lots of women suffer in silence because of embarrassment about vaginal dryness.

Perhaps it’s down to the way we are taught to regard ‘sexiness’. Sex is usually packaged up as thin, beautiful, young people lusting after each other. The majority of sex in media, from rom coms to porn, centres on young people.

Even where other aspects of diversity such as race or sexual orientation have been improved, ageism and the representation of sex as mutually exclusive with old age seems to endure. Which is odd, given the popularity of shows such as Grace and Frankie that show older women navigating sex, dating and relationships.

According to The Retirement Maze, a book about older age by Rob Pascale, 75% of pensioners have sex at least once a month. So while there is often a slowing of the libido as you get older, there is certainly no evidence to suggest that sex stops entirely once you qualify for a bus pass.

The purpose of sex (at least according to biology) is to procreate, so post-menopause you won’t be getting pregnant. But we all know that sex isn’t just about making babies - otherwise Tinder would have gone out of business the day it was launched. The NHS advise that older couples should keep up with their sex life, if nothing else because it strengthens the connection within your marriage.

While there is something innocently incongruous about discussing lubricant on breakfast television, when we see a clip like the one from This Morning, it’s probably worth questioning why the concept of an older person enjoying a vibrant sex life is so funny - and what message our amusement is sending. Afterall, older people have just as much right to enjoy their sex life as anyone else - as the old adage goes, practice makes perfect.

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