...No matter how fit she is, or how flat her belly, her skin is
thinner and less elastic, her muscle tone less firm. Estrogen
replacement may slow down such changes, but it cannot stop or undo
them. It becomes more and more difficult for a middle-aged woman to
undress before a stranger, especially if he does not know her age and
she does not know what he expects. She may resort to subterfuge, to
soft lighting and luxurious underwear, or drugs and alcohol, to blur
the first impressions that she feels so crucial. And still the man,
nourished on a diet of inauthentic imagery of womanhood, may take to
the windowsill and chuck himself into the canal if he discovers that
he has a crone to his portion...
Germaine Greer, The Change
I already knew about 'subterfuge' from a young age, due to having an
unusual skin condition (ichthyosis)
. Aging increases
the degree of difficulty and decreases the likelihood that I can be
found attractive. My instinct for more than a decade has been to try
to create relationships based on mental interaction, but I have not
so far found 'equality' in attraction in this way. That does not mean
it does not exist or cannot be cultivated, but it probably does
represent that men and women are wired differently, and that it may
be difficult for women as they age to inspire an intense sexual
Feeling 'alive' may have a lot to do with one's ability to hope. If
there is an unspoken acceptance that women cannot realistically
expect to be truly desired as they age, how easy is it to hold onto
Women do not have equality when it comes to sexual attractiveness and
aging. They have body parts (breasts and hips) that are affected more
noticeably by time and gravity, they don't have as much muscle mass
to begin with, they are affected by different hormones, and their
bodies are often changed by childbirth or more harshly affected by
repeated weight gain and loss. A woman may try to make up for the
inequality, but the effort she must put in creates a different kind
of inequality, yet another one that men cannot understand - and she
is not allowed to complain if she doesn't want to forfeit her chance
of being perceived as sexy (complaining or drawing attention to the
matter of inequality isn't sexy - it just makes everything
uncomfortable, it's not convenient, and men are taught that they can
afford/deserve to look elsewhere if a woman is too neurotic/high
Losing sexual attractiveness is difficult for me; losing the ability
to bear children is not. I have never experienced the ticking of the
biological clock, and if I have any instinctual drive to be a mother,
it has been successfully sublimated into my relationship with
...Women's shyness colludes with men's lack of interest in
older women to produce our present ignorance about the avoidability
and otherwise of climacteric distress. This is not a tendency that
anyone would wish to encourage, but the medicalization of menopause
is equally undesirable...
Germaine Greer, The Change
Most people still don't want to talk about or know about menopause.
Most people probably don't know exactly when it occurs. That men
don't want to know about menopause, and don't see older women as
sexual beings makes it difficult to change the current status quo.
There is a lack of knowledge out there about the realities of aging,
but if you try to address it on an individual basis, in a
relationship you may be seen as making a man uncomfortable, giving
him more information than he wants.
For the most part, women are not nearly as unsympathetic to
men's adjustment to aging. Women still offer considerably more
support regarding appearance or psychological issues of all
descriptions. They do not expect equality in this area.
The taboo in talking about it is probably closely related to the
cliché of women lying about their age. The reality is that
when people know
the number, they probably do see the physical
reality differently. And it's like the idea of discussing the
physiological changes that occur near menopause might act like a
power of negative suggestion, ensuring that associations are
...When the only person a woman has a right to talk to is her doctor,
and only the doctor is obliged to listen, we cannot be surprised
that so many women seek consultations, thus putting themselves in
mortal danger, for the doctor must prescribe, and nothing a doctor
can prescribe will make an empty life worth living...
Overprescription of tranquilizers is the price we pay for pretending
that misery is disease and not an appropriate response to oppressive
circumstances. Though there is no psychopathology that arises from
the cessation of ovulation and the involution of the uterus, there
is a psychopathology that threatens the older woman's health. It is a
complex of sexism and agism complicated by greed, intolerance,
impatience and callousness. Giving women medicines to help them deal
with it is another case of medicating one person for another's
Germaine Greer, The Change
At present biodenticals, or hormone replacement that is individually
tailored are much-discussed as a viable option for women who are pre-
through-post-menopausal. I am not currently taking hormone
replacement, and am unsure as to whether I will seek it out. One
issue is that it would probably require an amount of monitoring that
might feel too restrictive to me. At present I am 44 and going by
family precedent may have another 3 years of so of having a period. I
still at present have a regular period. I have been depressed for so
long (since my teens) that I can't tell if I am experiencing
premenopausal symptoms. What I mean is that if I were to seek
treatment for something, I don't think it would be for premenopausal
Basically, I understand the point here. It's just... how do we deal
with agism and sexism in practical ways? What solutions are we
looking at? The desire for sex and intimacy is a very strong drive.
The idea that there might not be any way of satisfying this need
needs to be addressed. Are women supposed to be content with
focusing on other pleasures in life, while men still have the
potential to attract desire much later in life? The number one thing
women seem to want is: to be wanted. And this might be what is
behind a lot of sexual 'dysfunction' or non-responsiveness. How can
you make others want what they can't want? Many successful,
accomplished women have realized that while objectively they have a
lot to offer, men are still drawn to youth and beauty.
I think that when women go to extreme lengths to try to hold on to
youth it is less pathetic than brave. They are comprehending the
reality of the situation, and braving ridicule and uncertain results
in an attempt to forge a new path. Techniques to reduce the signs of
aging will improve as more women seek them out. I think women have to
let go of the attitude that it is 'superficial' or undignified to try
to gain some semblance of equality in the matter of sexuality in this
manner. If tools and techniques exist, it can be seen as adventurous
or daring to try them out, and it also contributes scientific data,
which will ultimately lead to refinement of these processes.
In rats with an age comparable to a 90 yo human, you can produce new
nerve growth in the brain simply by introducing new challenges into
Marian Diamond, quoted by Deborah Blum in Sex on the Brain - The
Biological Differences Between Men and Women
I suppose the above quote immediately calls crossword puzzles to
mind, but there is theoretically an unlimited amount of activities
which could potentially stimulate new nerve growth.
Is the key to aging well that we remain active, mentally, physically,
While I am alive, I wish to have sexual and emotional interaction.
Sexual attractiveness would improve my odds, and would probably
contribute to the intensity of the experience. I have tried for years
to focus on the mental aspects of sexual attraction - it works that
way for me, but not for the men I have encountered.
Can we choose
who we will or will not become attracted to
according to a system of merit? Perhaps we cannot control attraction,
but we can control our responses to attraction, and choose to act on
attraction only when doing so accords with our own personally chosen
ideals, deriving a sense of meaning in so doing?
Most people do not want to analyze 'love', as analysis might take
away something 'special' or 'mysterious' about the process. But does
'love' really look so mysterious when the vast majority of people
fall for those of a similar level of attractiveness, intelligence,
education, religion, were born with a certain number of square miles
of each other, come from a similar ethnic background, the man is
usually taller and a bit older? And in cases where some of those
factors might be missing, each partner might have unusual 'flaws' or
'secrets' which the other addresses without calling attention to?
Such that the whole process ends up looking like a trip to the
shopping mall in which you inevitably purchase the item which best
suits your needs for the best price?
...We see the value set on animals even by the barbarians of
Tierra del Fuego, by their killing and devouring their old women, in
times of dearth, as of less value than their dogs...
Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species
I just found this quote appropriate and amusing.
As people age, many have experiences in which they must depend on
others for help. They cannot do what they did when younger, some
become ill, lose family members and friends, they retire, lose social
opportunities. I find it interesting that the elderly suffer from a
lot of things that are considered psychological or psychiatric
disorders. It reminds me of what I have said about feeling as if I am
already old. The impact of isolation and lack of social relevance is
hard on human beings.
I certainly don't like the idea of acquiring a partner through pity.
If someone feels sorry for the inequality in sexuality women
experience as they age, and sees it as their personal mission to
address it, it doesn't speak to the underlying desire that one's
individuality is the basis of attraction, and the foundation of the
relationship. Can you guilt people into feeling turned on by aging
women? Is it more subtle than that, that through drawing attention to
the subject, through educating the public, those who are empathetic
may find themselves drawn to learn in greater detail?
Can we realistically change society's view of the older woman? Is it
a valid first step to have a whole lot of sexy 'cougars' with great
bodies on tv? Does that open up people's minds to the idea that
older women are sexual beings? Or does it promote the idea that only
if you are very far above the norm in attractiveness do you stand a
chance of being perceived as sexual? And does it increase the
pressure on normal women - do the unrealistic images cause everyone,
including themselves, to feel they are failures for failing to live
up to what is 'evidently possible' for older women? Such that eating
disorders and body image issues will persist with greater intensity
or develop at theoretically any age since you are not allowed to let
yourself go if others have shown you don't have to?
Is it possible for both men and women to broaden their ideas about
what sexuality is?
Why do we have to accept aging? I think that it is valid to question
the quality of one's own life, to assess oneself and one's potentials
honestly and thoroughly, and to come to the conclusion that as an
individual you would prefer to make the effort to override the
survival instinct and society's insistence in the face of
overwhelming contradictory experience that prolonging life as long as
possible is to be desired in all cases.
...Why did I not die? More miserable than man ever was before, why
did I not sink into forgetfulness and rest? Death snatches away many
blooming children, the only hopes of their doting parents: how many
brides and youthful lovers have been one day in the bloom of health
and hope, and the next a prey for worms and the decay of the tomb!
Of what materials was I made, that I could thus resist so many
shocks, which, like the turning of the wheel, continually renewed
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
I have wondered why my apparently 'negative' attitudes and
maladaptive and addictive/excessive behaviours over the years haven't
resulted in serious health issues or accidents that would have killed
me by now. Is it really completely explainable by having really great
genes which I have abused, but not yet pushed over the line?
...Psychiatrists have no option but to blame people for their
own suffering; admitting that unhappiness might be justified would
undermine the entire rationale of medicating the mind. There can be
no suggestion that feeling tired and disillusioned at fifty might be
the appropriate response and that convincing yourself that you are
happy and fulfilled might be self-deluding to the point of
Germaine Greer, The Change
Greer suggested that the climacteric is a time to take stock, to
grieve the loss of your youth if you need to, and then decide what
you want to do with the rest of your life. I think that choosing not
to live it is up to the individual. No one can live your life for
you, and no one knows what it is like to live in your skin.
When we are young, we walk around not realizing what we are
broadcasting about ourselves, and then we learn to refine ourselves
and verbalize the complication that develops through our efforts at
refinement, and then we seem too tame or civilized, no longer
spontaneous, unspoiled. The essence of youth is lost. We can only
recognize or reconnect with it when we see it in someone who has not
yet lost it. Those who know us see through our tricks but are too
civilized and polished themselves to recreate the atmosphere of
innocence. Or it is simply too difficult to alleviate the
self-consciousness of knowledge.
My face is finished, my body's gone
And I can't help but think standin' up here in all this applause and
gazin' down at all the young and the beautiful
With their questioning eyes
That I must above all things love myself
Grinderman, No Pussy Blues