serene ambition™

transforming the culture of aging

Late-Life Libido

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/13/06

Ronni at TGB recently took a whack at being inundated by wrap-around sexually explicit media and how it can negatively stereotype older folks whose libidos are in a state of “natural” decline. I wonder if a declining libido is natural. If we know of examples of late-life lust, then it can’t be natural. It is a choice.

Now, if people simply lose interest or want to let it go, then I respect their choice. However, if they are buying into a story that they ‘can’t’ or if they feel unnecessarily foolish and embarrassed by shifting anatomy, then I say it is just another part of the “age-is-decline-and-loss” culture that so many folks buy into. It is a STORY about what is and is not possible as we age and one which, while perhaps well grounded, is not true. Has anyone read “Round-Heeled Woman” by Jane Juska? The only thing that limits late-life sex for those who want and enjoy it is the availability of an equally interested partner—and that limitation is true at any age.

I do agree with Ronni that our society’s fixation on ‘letting it all hang out’ is often in poor taste and can be annoying. It can even make the erotic become boring or transparent, which is probably why we keep ‘upping the ante’ so we can reconnect with a sense of titillation. But let’s not get sucked into thinking that everything we find offensive in society is some form of subtle ageism or that because we aren’t having as much sex as we used to that we are somehow marginalized from the mainstream. All my life, I have known people who haven’t been particularly libidinous and, as far as I can tell, it didn’t affect their self-esteem or how others related to them.

With all the problems in our world and the opportunity our generation has to ‘take on the intractable issues of our day’, I would put poor taste, offensive advertising and using sex to sell everything pretty far down the list. On the other hand, I would put practices that undermine the dignity of the individual near the top of the list. This might be reason enough to challenge some of the stuff we see in the media, but I don’t think that sexually explicit junk is an ageist conspiracy—even if an unconscious one. Using sex to sell us everything is obviously an attempt by the massive marketing machine that now encompasses all forms of media to manipulate consumers at the expense of values and content, but that’s another story.

If we don’t like the world the way it is, then changing it begins by our taking responsibility for the ‘way it is’. If we don’t like folks using so much sex in the media then we can ignore it or we can exercise mature and wise leadership to change it.

© 2006 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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