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Is sex a feminist issue?

(12 Posts)
biryani Wed 31-Aug-11 12:09:06

Just been reading Naomi Woolf's excellent book "The Beauty Myth" again. Great read- but mind-blowingly depressing, in my view.

Particularly depressing for me in particular is the chapter about sex, which encapsulates brilliantly how I feel at the moment. Ten years ago I would have taken her observations with a pinch of salt; now I'm agreeing with her.

At 51, I feel I can no longer compete in the attractiveness stakes. However, I am smart, slim and what polite people would call "good for my age". I am reasonably successful, well-educated and financially independent, with an interesting and full life behind me. However, I feel, as an older woman, that I do not "deserve" a good sex life.

As a feminist, Naomi has observed that images of women, whatever they are selling, are often used in a subtly sexual way. The expressions on the faces are set in a rictus of anticipation of ecstasy; arms are thrown skyward in a pose of sexual abandon; skin is lightly moistened and glowing in the aftermath of pleasure. The message is loud and clear: buy this product and you, too, can have what she's having!!

As a young woman, I would have striven, as many would, for this sort of perfection, however unnatural, and maybe have come quite close!! This made me feel "deserving" of the sort of attention that could potentially lead to the pleasure experienced by the girls in the ads. Now, however, I have no hope, however hard I try (and I try quite hard!!) of coming close to the perfection represented in the media; ergo I do not "deserve" a happy and fulfilling sex life. Thanks, Naomi, for pointing this out!

Am I being really obscure here? And, in thinking this way, have I allowed myself to become some sort of victim? What's your views on this?

HereBeBolloX Wed 31-Aug-11 19:15:11

Not sure what you're asking?

Are you blaming yourself for being influenced by the cultural message you've been surrounded by since birth?

If so, don't. Everyone is influenced by their culture, none of us are immune from the messages we're fed.

I'm not quite sure how to advise that you are entitled to a great sex life, are you single or do you have a partner? If single, then dating is great fun and you'll discover that there are loads of men out there who are interested in making sure you have a happy and fulfilling sex life. If not, then what does your partner think?

Hardgoing Wed 31-Aug-11 19:47:05

There have been some articles about the invisibility that apparently befalls women over 45 recently, I can't remember the phrase they used, but it was something like the Plankton Generation. It was incredibly offensive, but the fact that it was so obnoxious served to remind me that these stereotypes are there to put women down (even worse, written by women), and that the best way to deal with them is simply to prove them wrong. To go about your business, having sex or not as the opportunities present themselves, not to worry about being a perfect type of a woman in an advert, otherwise you could spend your whole life wishing you were someone else when you could be happy in your own skin.

I look back on the time I spent stressing about my looks and general lack of similarity to a top model as a profound waste of time. I suggest you do the same. Wouldn't it be a shame not to enjoy the next thirty or forty years, sexually or otherwise, because of some stupid airbrushed images?

biryani Wed 31-Aug-11 21:26:34

Thanks both. I think it's just that Naomi hit the nail on the head for me with this particular observation. I have a partner - we haven't had sex for years - this coincided with becoming menopausal, and a general feeling of unhappiness - and embarrassment - about how my body was ageing. herebe - yes, I've become influenced by unrealistic images and blame myself for not being tough enough to withstand their effects. hardgoing - I know I stress too much about this, although actually I am quite happy with myself in general. I fear that, as I'm older, others won't view me as an attractive proposition, so dating again, although potentially quite fun, would be out of the question whilst I'm in this frame of mind, daft though it may be. I'll google "Plankton Generation" - something else for us oldies to beat ourselves up over!!

HereBeBolloX Wed 31-Aug-11 21:34:15

Well if you haven't had sex with your husband for years, no wonder you're not feeling sexually confident.

Do you want to have sex with him? Does he with you?

Hardgoing Wed 31-Aug-11 21:42:17

Don't google Plankton generation, you are not pond life, that's the point!

My own experiences of being around older (50-95) women tells me that if you like the idea of dating, and are looking to make friends as well as perhaps meet someone new, that is a distinct possibility. I can't say too much without outing myself but several members of my family have found love (and fun and not horrid boring domesticated relationships) in later life, into their seventies and even offers in their eighties! However, they also spent significant portions of their time enjoying being single and making new female friends/enjoying family. There are no guarantees of either though, I think it's more about being open to life's experiences than necessarily getting a new partner.

Is it fear of not finding someone else or no-one finding you attractive that is stopping you leaving?

biryani Thu 01-Sep-11 14:59:26

Thanks both, for getting back again. herebe - sex just sort of fell off the agenda. I'm not sure why or when exactly, or how. It started after after a period of co-sleeping (yes, I know..) with DD and after that we always had separate bedrooms. I think I saw it as an opportunity to withdraw, and it happened to coincide with menopausal stuff, putting on a bit of weight, his long hours at work, and a general feeling of distrust towards him which I couldn't quite get to the bottom of. I think he may have been seeing someone else, but I have no proof, just a gut feeliing. So none of us seemed to want it, and that's how it's stayed. I lost my libido, but I feel more fruity now, but not towards him. I'm also angry at him for other reasons. hardgoing - I've already googled that plankton site - yes it's depressing, but as it's the Mail I'll happily take it with a pinch of salt! Your post is encouraging, though. I would leave if things were simpler, but I'm not desperate for a new partner. It would be nice to know, though, that I could still attract a man if I wanted to, so I think it's the fear of not being found attractive that bothers me more. Also, as i work from home at the moment, and don't have much of a social life, I don't get to meet new people as I should, so can't gauge things. And at my age, I can hardly go on the pull!

This is a bit of a ramble now, and sounding very non-feminist as well!!

Hullygully Thu 01-Sep-11 15:01:10

The sex is just a part of an unhappy life situation. You need to look at the whole.

HereBeBolloX Thu 01-Sep-11 21:51:25

I agree with Hully, the sex is a symptom of the problem, not the cause of it.

You can go on the pull, virtually. That's why god invented internet dating sites. However, you do need to sort out why you've got a crap marriage (sorry but it does sound crap, you don't sound happy).

There are loads of men out there who are nice and who will fancy you, you are not to old. But it sounds as if living with your DH has knocked the stuffing out of you and you need to shake things up. You've only got one life, you're half way through it, the second half can be as good and in parts better than the first, but you need to be brave and start feeling that you deserve better from life than what you're gettnig at the moment. I think first you need to sit down with your husband and find out from him, if he's interested in recommencing a proper married life with you (if that's what you want? I'm not sure if it is...) And also you need to get more of a social life - working from home can be incredibly isolating and you need to cultivate those friendships, go out to the cinema, invite friends round for dinner etc. - get out more, feel like you're participating more in the world. With or without your DH.

biryani Fri 02-Sep-11 15:13:57

Thanks herebe - that's really good advice. I know I need to get out more, but am wary of internet dating. I've read so many bad things about players, losers, cheats, liars etc. You are right - my relationship is crap, and it is dragging me down.

BertieBotts Fri 02-Sep-11 18:55:42

What do you feel about just being single for a while? Like an indeterminate period - so not saying you will specifically go out looking for someone in a year's time or whatever, but just being on your own, cultivating friendships as HerBex says, getting out, doing your thing, and not worrying about whether someone is coming around the corner or specifically looking but being open to the possibility of a relationship if one did come along.

margerykemp Sat 03-Sep-11 09:59:13

I think you need to move on from your marriage. Maybe start a thread in relationships to help you through it.

You do deserve a good sex life btw .

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